The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had as spokesman of then opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) warned then president Goodluck Jonathan against blocking roads whenever he is coming to Lagos state.
Mohammed was on the entourage President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos, a visit that virtually shut down the state.
But Mohammed, in a statement in 2013, lamented that Jonathan’s visit to Lagos usually creates heavy traffic gridlock and grounds movement.
He suggested that the President takes a chopper from the Muritala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja to Eko Hotel & Suites on Victoria Island, where he is billed to attend a centenary event.
The other request is for the President to postpone his visit in order not to create a traffic chaos. The ACN has scheduled its National Convention to hold at Onikan Stadium, one of the presidential routes leading to Victoria Island.
Mohammed said at the time: “We have been compelled to write a letter to the Lagos State governor asking him to please prevail on the President to reschedule his visit.
“Anytime Mr President is coming to Lagos, our roads are closed, and traffic congestion is at its highest. The whole city is shut down for the entire day.
“You can imagine when we’re expecting about 10,000 people from different parts of Nigeria to our convention, all heading for the same place. It’s going to be chaos.
“So, we’re appealing to Mr President, through the Governor, to please reconsider his visit.
Reacting, then presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati accused the ACN of crying wolf where there was none.
He said the President would only be transiting through Lagos, en route Ogun State.
Abati said the presidential visit would not in any way disrupt the ACN convention, wondering what informed the party’s letter to the governor.
He alleged that the opposition spokesman was trying to re-order the itinerary of the President.
Abati said in a statement: “We find it hard to believe that any patriotic and right-thinking Nigerian would have written the kind of publicly circulated letter reportedly sent to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola by the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in which he attempts to dictate President Jonathan’s itinerary, mode of transportation within Lagos, and motive, and even suggests that the President’s visit could have been designed to frustrate a planned Action Congress of Nigeria convention and merger with some other political parties.
“The allegation is not only baseless, but another in the series of ‘wolf crying’ that has become the sole strategy and pre-occupation of the ACN. It is clearly a deliberate, further attempt to undermine, ridicule and debase the office of the President of the Federal Republic.
“A courteous and simple discussion of the phantom potential conflict of programmes with appropriate officials of the Presidency would have sufficed to inform the ACN and its officials that President Jonathan is only transiting through Lagos tomorrow on his way to the commissioning of the WEMPCO Cold Roll Steel Plant in Ibafo, Ogun State.
“In point of fact, President Jonathan’s visit tomorrow which was scheduled long before the ACN convention will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the convention as he will only touchdown at the airport, transit to Ibafo (miles away from the ACN convention venue) by chopper and return to the airport the same way for his flight back to Abuja.
“It is certain that Governor Fashola was already aware of President Jonathan’s itinerary in Lagos tomorrow since in keeping with protocol, the Presidency always briefs state governments well ahead of time on all Presidential movements to their states.
“Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s letter was therefore pointless and serves no purpose other than distasteful muck-raking.
“The paranoia displayed by the ACN in its plea to Governor Fashola concerning an imaginary plan to scuttle a political merger is beneath the politics of inclusiveness this administration has encouraged in its interaction with the state, as with all other states of the Federal Republic.
“President Jonathan is President of the whole of Nigeria. It is strange and intolerable that any political party would as much as suggest that the President is not welcome in any state, city or local council in any part of the country at any time or date.”