by Kolapo Olapoju
The leadership of the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Presidency are yet again in the middle of a verbal warfare, the latest in the series of exchanges in the past few months.
National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun threw the first punch by lashing out at the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing it of tolerating and condoning corruption in the country, which he says is partially responsible for the spate of insurgency.
Oyegun stated that widespread corruption is evident throughout the country and that the president has so far, done little to curb the situation. He said the last six years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in government, has witnessed more corruption than ever before.
Oyegun spoke at a press conference in Abuja, where he said that various reports of investigation of corrupt practices in the national pension scheme, the power sector, the NNPC, the Central Bank, government ministries and departments were yet to come to fruition.
He said: “Nigeria since independence has experienced varying degrees of corruption to the extent that it has been one of the recurring reasons for change of national leadership. In spite of strong public disapproval of corruption, the cancer of corruption has continued to spread.”
“In the last sixteen years, corruption has grown exponentially to the point that the world has come to stigmatize Nigeria and Nigerians as synonymous with corruption. Our national institutions have been compromised and the continued survival of the country is threatened.”
“The operation of the national budget and the maintenance of the military forces have been so severely compromised by corruption that national development and security have been massively undermined under the Jonathan administration of the last six years.”
The Presidency, not one to turn the other cheek, issued a quick rebuttal to the statement by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, describing as unsubstantiated and frivolous the comments by Oyegun.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said Odigie-Oyegun’s statement only confirmed the Presidency’s position that the opposition party is wont to play politics with everything.
He wondered if corruption was also responsible for terrorism in other countries where insurgents were operating.
He said, “We have always made a point that the APC is and has been playing politics with everything. He is talking about corruption being responsible for terrorism and insurgency, that does not sound like an educated position. Is it corruption that is also responsible for terrorism in Syria, Afghanistan and Columbia? He is using a serious national challenge of terrorism to play politics, it is very cheap.”
“The security forces are doing their best to put an end to terrorism and insurgency and nobody can doubt the fact that President Jonathan has shown great determination in combating the terrorists and ensuring the protection of lives and property. The APC chairman sounded in his statement as if he does not live in Nigeria, so he found it difficult to appreciate the efforts that are being put into the terrorism war.”
Speaking further, Abati stated that those who were quick to accuse the present administration of tolerating corruption were in actual fact, the most corrupt persons in the country.
“Most of those who comment about corruption are probably the most corrupt in this country. Should we ask him to do an assessment of the states that are run by the APC because it is not enough to just talk about body language and make some kind of spurious allegations.”
Abati also recalled that when the government wanted to deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry in order to wipe out corruption, it was the APC chiefs who were against the move.
He said: “He wants to turn the issue of corruption into a campaign issue. He wants to use it to malign the integrity of the Presidency and the government. He does not sound convincing at all because if anything, this administration has combated corruption. I always give an example that the whole idea of the deregulation of the downstream sector was to check corruption in the downstream sector.”
“Was it not Odigie-Oyegun and his bedfellows who opposed that effort by this government to deal with that issue? He has no moral basis to talk about corruption. In fact, they were the ones championing corruption in the downstream sector by insisting that government should not clean up the downstream sector.”