The fight for supremacy between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2015 elections has taken a new dimension.
The two biggest political parties in the country have resorted to tossing allegations at each other over the lingering insurgency by the Boko Haram sect in the North-East.
These accusations and counter-accusations by the PDP and the APC have apparently been aimed at tainting each other, with the hope of reducing the electoral value of each other ahead of the election.
Having killed over 3000 people since it started attacks in 2011, Boko Haram is regarded by most Nigerians, as a dangerous enemy. Therefore, any individual or organisation linked with the group risks losing reputation and becoming unpopular.
In the past few years, the leaders of the APC, even before the merger was consummated, have been the greatest critics of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and his party, the PDP.
APC has blamed Jonathan and PDP for every negative event in the country, and the PDP as well as the presidential spokesmen have always responded to the attacks with equal vehemence.
The latest development started about two weeks ago with the PDP saying the opposition was sponsoring insurgency.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, in a statement, said the insurgency in Nigeria was the product of political opponents, whose aim was to distract and detract Jonathan, and portray him as not performing.
Metuh said Jonathan was being persecuted because he hails from a minority ethnic groups.
Even after the APC denied the allegation and asked the ruling party to provide evidence, the PDP insisted that the actions, utterances and body language of the APC had continued to give it away as the face behind the insurgency in parts of the country.
The PDP in the statement argued that it was not a coincidence that an unprecedented violence broke out after former Head of State, Gen. MuhammaduBuhari (retd.) lost the 2011 presidential election.
Metuh added that the Sheik Lemu committee, which investigated the death of hundreds of people in the post-2011 election, established Buhari’s culpability. The PDP also accused other leaders of APC from the North of supporting insurgency
In his response, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, said PDP’s accusations were nothing but a ‘poorly-veiled attempt to cover up its blatant incompetence, poor leadership and sheer cluelessness.’
Mohammed said the PDP’s claim that the Boko Haram insurgency and other internal crises in different parts of the country were being sponsored by the opposition because the President hailed from a minority group was false.
He added, “The PDP has recently been making outlandish statements and accusations that are capable of destabilising Nigeria.”
As a continuation of the crossfire, Buhari, an APC chieftain, said the ruling party was responsible for the formation of Boko Haram.
Buhari, who spoke through the former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said Metuh was showing as much desperation as Joseph Goebbels in the last days of the Hitler regime.
Fashakin noted that the former National Security Adviser, late Gen. Andrew Azazi, was unequivocal in his assertion that the power play in the PDP led to the Boko Haram insurgency, and that led to his sacking because of the “the discomfort caused within the PDP hierarchy.”
Analysts believe PDP’s attack on Buhari is a deliberate attempt to convince voters, especially in the South, not to vote Buhari in 2015, should he emerge APC’s presidential candidate.
Apart from the purported link between the 2011 post-election violence, Buhari and five others were nominated by Boko Haram to serve as mediators in its proposed negotiation with the Federal Government in November 2012.
The announcement was made by Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, who was purportedly the second-in-command to the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Abdulaziz described Buhari and others as “trusted” Nigerians it (Boko Haram) would be ready to negotiate with in Saudi Arabia.
Buhari, however, rejected the offer, stating that he knew no member of Boko Haram and did not believe in their cause.
He said apart from the sect, which was led by late Mohammed Yusuf, there was a second and a third Boko Haram.
“The second Boko Haram is the criminal gang attacking market places, killing and maiming people. But I said and I still maintain it that the biggest Boko Haram is the Federal Government itself because it has all the powers to stop anarchy particularly in the northern part of the country,” Buhari said.
According to a political analyst and senior lecturer, Department of Local Government Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Francis Fagbohun, the two largest political parties resorting to playing politics with Boko Haram insurgency, while Nigerians are being killed by the sect is a sad development.
He said, “If you look at our antecedent in Nigeria, you would realise that they (PDP and APC) are actually trying to taint each other’s image ahead of the election. I’m not surprised that both the PDP and the APC are politicising Boko Haram insurgency.
“My position is that nobody should play politics with the insurgency which has led to the death of thousands of people. I don’t believe insurgency should be a subject for political campaigns.”
Fagbohun added that instead of accusing leaders of the APC of knowing anything about Boko Haram, the PDP-led government should arrest and prosecute them if it has evidence.
“Security is one of the most important businesses of the state. Government should arrest Buhari, if it has evidence against him. In fact, Nigerians should tell the government that it is even guiltier, if it allowed Boko Haram to continue killing people; if it knows the brain behind it. Where is the power of the state? Are these people untouchable?” Fagbohun said.
He added that there would be more mudslinging between the two parties as the election approaches.
“I just hope it does not get to the level where they would start eliminating themselves. Instead of getting more matured, it seems Nigerian politicians are going round in a circle,” he said.
Similarly, a senior lecturer, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja, Prof. Dauda Saleh, said the insurgency resulted from failure of leadership in the North-East.
Saleh, who is from the North-East, said Boko Haram was homegrown and could not be blamed on the President or the APC.
He said, “As far I’m concerned, Boko Haram is homegrown. It is a phenomenon that is restricted to the North-East and it is spreading to other parts of the country. It is wrong to accuse the President of being behind this crisis.
“The failure of leadership in the North-East region at both the state and local government levels contributed to the emergence of these extremist religious groups, who have taken up arms to challenge the authority of the state. Nobody should blame the President or the APC.”
Saleh also noted that attempting to link Buhari with Boko Haram would not affect his political clout in some parts of the North.
“As far as I know, it would be very difficult to link Buhari with Boko Haram because anybody doing that would lack evidence to connect him with the sect. Whether we like it or not, Buhari has a cult-like followership in certain parts of northern Nigeria. Therefore, with or without Boko Haram; accusations or no accusations, Buhari is still popular among the people,” he said.
Saleh added that apart from leadership failure, insurgency also had to do with the opposition to Jonathan’s government. He however said it would be wrong to say Boko Haram was being sponsored by the APC.