John Alechenu and Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday admitted that it was difficult for anybody to defend him or his government.
Buhari who spoke while receiving members of the Buhari Media Support Organisation at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however, did not disclose the reason why he believed it was difficult to defend him and his government.
But he said members of the group, who have been defending him and his government, had been doing so as a sacrifice.
This he said was because members of the opposition were in possession of what he described as incredible resources that the ruling party could not match.
According to him, this is why the opposition has been sponsoring mischief that his government cannot stop.
Buhari said, “I don’t think I can thank you enough for your steadfastness under very difficult circumstances. It is not easy to defend this administration and more in particular to defend me. But your consistency has given me a lot of confidence.
“I know you are doing it as a sacrifice: physical, mental and material, because as I keep on saying, the oppositions now are sitting on incredible resources which I am afraid we might not match it at all.
“For that reason, the opposition is sponsoring mischief from different angles which, in spite of the incumbency of government, we cannot absolutely stop. It is you that are fighting it and I cannot thank you enough for that.”
The President restated his earlier position that most of the people he jailed when he was a military head of state had been given back all that were seized from them before he was jailed.
Buhari recalled that he spent 18 months in detention and luckily, nothing was found against him.
He said because he was released to go and bury his mother who died while he was in detention, a journalist wrote that his mother had to die to save him.
The President explained, “So I can imagine what most of you here sitting, the sacrifices you have made in terms of materialism, even losing friends to continue to support me. I have been here for three years. You have proven to people that you are not here for material things. Your opinion is out of sacrifice and the strength of the moral courage you have is the strength of the physical, it is the strength of losing the friends you have.”
He added, “I am sure you are being asked: ‘this support you are busy giving Buhari, what the hell do you get out of it?’ That is why I commend your steadfastness and I am very grateful for it.
“And in this country, whether people like it or not, they will remain grateful for your courage because you have the courage to do the research, take your time to reply mischievous representation and we are very grateful.”
Opposition political parties react
Opposition political parties have reacted angrily to claims by Buhari that he lacked the resources to match opposition mischief.
The National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji Abdulsalam Abdulkadir, told Saturday PUNCH over the telephone on Friday that the present administration knew it had lost goodwill hence it has resorted to desperate measures.
He said, “What is happening is simply the fact that this administration has lost public goodwill. It is unfair to suggest that those of us in opposition have resources which is not available to the President.
“The resources available to us is the goodwill of the Nigerian people which money cannot buy.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the African Democratic Congress said the President’s statement is evidence that he has now realised that Nigerians especially the youth have left him.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ADC, Chief Anayo Arinze, told Saturday PUNCH, “The President’s statement is a statement made by a man that is already jittery that power is slipping out of his hands. It is the same feeling that made him go outside this country to describe our youths as lazy when he saw they have deserted him, he quickly signed the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill with a caveat that they should not contest against him.
“The Nigerian President is the most powerful President in Africa there is no way the opposition will have the kind of financial resources he has. What we truly have in terms of resources is the support of Nigerians. He should take a second look at former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has urged youths to contest for all elective offices including the Presidency in 2019.
This, the party said had become their non-negotiable right following the passage of the Not -Too Young –to- Run Bill into law.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan said this in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, in Abuja, on Friday.
He said the PDP also condemned as degrading and completely unacceptable, a declaration made by Buhari that Nigerians youths should not contest the Presidency in 2019.
Ologbondiyan explained that the President’s comments which some had described as a joke, if true, was one joke taken too far.
The PDP spokesperson said it was shocking that the President could choose the occasion of the signing of such a bill to make such a declaration.
According to him, the President’s comment is totally un-presidential, unlawful, discriminatory and further showcases the disdain with which he and his party holds the youths, who he had earlier described, without apologies, as lazy and lovers of freebies.
Ologbondinyan said, “The PDP would want Nigerians, particularly, the youths, to note that President Buhari’s position reflects the policy of his dysfunctional All Progressives Congress, not to allow our youths the opportunity to aspire at top levels.
“It is unimaginable that a President can sign a law and immediately seek to suspend it. President Buhari’s attempt to intimidate the youths from contesting against him in 2019 shows that he is not in support of the Not- Too- Young- To- Run law and only assented to it because he had no other option under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).”
He further explained that, “Like I said in an earlier statement, as a party, we urge Nigerians to stay alert and be wary of booby traps as well as land mines that this administration will set on the way to scuttle the quest for our youths to fully participate and aspire in our democratic process.”
However, the All Progressives Congress has dismissed what it referred to as tantrums being thrown by the PDP over the signing of the bill.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi told Saturday PUNCH that it was unfortunate that the opposition PDP has chosen to act as a killjoy by engaging in “petty and divisive politics” over the signing of a bill which most Nigerians of good faith identify with.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing this bill into law is indeed another promise kept. The party promised to provide opportunities for our youths to realize, harness and develop their full potentials for the benefit of our nation; this is indeed a promise kept.
In the same vein, two civil society organisations, the Campaign for Democracy and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, said that the law must be comprehensive and should apply to all elective offices in the country, noting that a selective application was improper.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The bill now passed into law should not sideline the senatorial or governorship seats. Both the legislature and the executive offices must be included. Otherwise, it is a deliberate plot of the elites to reserve some vetoes for themselves from the youths.
Also the CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “I believe that the law is lopsided from the beginning and the question we raised at the beginning of the bill was that; how young is the young?
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