The spokesperson of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has alleged that the All Progressives Congress, APC, spent N5 billion to set up a speaking engagement for its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, at Chatham House, London, last week.
Mr. Buhari on Thursday presented a paper titled “Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition” at Chatham House in London.
Addressing a press conference on Sunday in Abuja, Mr. Fani-Kayode insisted that Mr. Buhari was actually in the U.K. for medical purposes and that his presentation was hurriedly arranged while he was in London and his party paid for it.
“The APC leaders begged for the speaking engagement and we are reliably informed that they paid for it.
“The information at our disposal indicate that no less than N5 billion was budgeted for the London jamboree,” Mr. Fani-Kayode said.
The spokesperson also claimed the people in the hall at Chatham House on the day were sponsored.
He said 1,500 persons applied to attend the function but only 200 were allowed in.
He added that the audience was carefully selected and that most of them were Nigerian students studying in the Republic of Ireland on a scholarship by the Rivers State Government.
“The students were threatened that their scholarships would be withdrawn if they refused to participate in the rally,” Mr. Fani-Kayode said.
“This was the show of shame that General Buhari has got himself involved in.
Sadly Chatham House offered its prestigious platform to sell a bad product to the world.
The campaign spokesperson also said part of expenses for the speaking engagement included numerous foreign consultants, air tickets for the huge delegation, the contingent of governors, hotels bills, the purchase and renting of vehicles and other logistics.
“We challenge the APC and its leaders to contradict this information,” he said.
The spokesperson also challenged Mr. Buhari to face President Jonathan on a debate in Nigeria, since the APC believe he did well during his outing at Chatham House.
He said it is surprising that Mr. Buhari is willing to talk to a foreign audience, as if he is seeking election in the United Kingdom.
“The ‘arrangee’ Chatham House event is another ploy, like the purported London interview, to hoodwink Nigerians and prevent General Buhari from debating in Nigeria. But we insist, General Buhari must debate in Nigeria
“As a party, we are happy over this latest development as it will no longer give Buhari any excuse not to debate when he returns to Nigeria. The APC no longer has any hiding place, but to put General Buhari through a similar coaching course like in the UK, to debate in our beloved country on any media of choice with our candidate, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan” he said.
Too late a democrat
Mr. Fani-Kayode said Mr. Buhari has “finally” admitted that ”democracy is a journey”.
He said it is a pity that it has taken Mr. Buhari 31 years to admit this and voice it.
He said if Mr. Buhari had appreciated that point 31 years ago, he would not have betrayed his own Commander-in-Chief, President Shehu Shagari, and remove him in a coup d’état and take his seat.
He quoted the former head of state’s speech at Chatham House, where he said, “It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation – that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.”
Mr. Fani-Kayode said, “We are glad that Buhari is now saying the right things but sadly it is too little and too late.
“The fact of the matter is that he went ahead to truncate that democratic journey and took Nigerians through the darkest period of the most primitive and barbaric form of military rule.
“If he were in South America or Pakistan he would have been either jailed or hung for what he did to the Nigerian people 31 years ago.”
He said it was unfortunate that Mr. Buhari did not take advantage of his Chatham House address to apologise for truncating democracy in Nigeria and that the opposition candidate has done nothing in 31 years to help consolidate Nigeria’s democracy.
“We challenge him to tell Nigerians and the international community anything tangible that he has done in the last 31 years to consolidate democracy in Nigeria.
“Can General Buhari give what he does not have? Can he come to power through the ballot box after taking it through the barrel of a gun?”
The campaign mouthpiece also said contrary to postulations, Mr. Buhari’s outing in London was not all successful.
He said the retired general goofed when he said at Chatham House that he would draw foreign investors to Nigeria.
“If the APC and General Buhari were (not) in sane and in their right senses, they would have known that under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria has become one of the most preferred destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the world,” he said.
He, however, expressed joy that Mr. Buhari admitted that under Mr. Jonathan, Nigeria is now the largest economy in Africa with a GDP valued at $510 billion and the economy rated 26th in the world. He said that was the first time Mr. Buhari admitted that anything good was happening in Nigeria under the watch of President Jonathan.
The former minister, however, added that “General Buhari lied when he said that the Jonathan administration “has created two economies…one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery.”
“General Buhari should have gone further by naming those he knows who live in “their tiny island of prosperity” and who are bankrolling his presidential campaign, having told the whole world that he paid N27 million for his nomination form through a bank loan.
“Regrettably, General Buhari failed to admit the fact that but for the menace of terrorism which he and his party tactically support, our economy would have grown even faster and done even better.”