Jonathan’s visit to Lagos causes rift between ACN, Presidency

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The Presidency and the opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) have gotten in an exchange of words over the visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Lagos State enroute to Ibafo, Ogun State where he would commission a cold roll steel plant built by WEMPCO.

The ACN has said that the primary purpose of his visit is to scuttle their national convention which will be holding today at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos, an accusation the Presidency says it is “false, baseless and another in the series of wolf crying that has become ACN’s trait.”

In a letter to the Lagos State Governor, BabatundeFashola (SAN) and signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN said Jonathan’s visit might lead to the closure of roads in the city, thus preventing its supporters across the country from coming for the convention which is meant to afford the members the opportunity to discuss the merger plan by opposition parties.

It said it feared that inability of its members to access the venue of the convention could  lead to “a breach of the peace, the consequences of which no one will be able to fathom.”

The party therefore urged Fashola to  advise  Jonathan to either reschedule his visit or use a mode of intra-city transport, like a helicopter  if he must go ahead  with the visit.

The letter read, “We are  concerned that based on precedent, the visit of the President may lead to the closures of key arterial  roads in the city, which could prevent thousands of our supporters coming to Lagos from all parts of the federation from making it to the venue of the convention.

“In particular, the timing of the President’s visit and the attendant disruption of traffic in Lagos may be seen as a continuation of perceived attempts by the Peoples’ Democratic Party -led Federal Government to frustrate the merger of our party with other progressive parties, which is a key item on the agenda of our national convention on Thursday.

“We are, therefore, appealing to your Excellency (Fashola) to use your good offices to advise the President to either reschedule his visit or use a mode of intra-city transportation, like a helicopter, that will not engender closure of roads on a very busy day in the city.”

The party said that the President would not want to subject Nigerians to “avoidable suffering just because of a visit that can either be rescheduled or carried out in an unobstructive manner on a gridlock-prone city.”

However, the Presidency in its response said that Jonathan’s trip to Lagos had been scheduled long ago and was not going to have any effect on the ACN convention.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati said in a statement made in Abuja yesterday, that a courteous check by the ACN officials would have revealed that the President was not visiting Lagos, but would rather just touch down at the domestic wing of the MurtalaMuhammedAirport in Ikeja, transit to Ibafo by a chopper and return to the airport the same way for his flight back to Abuja.

He said,  “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   by Alhaji  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 ACN  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.

“It is certain that Governor Fashola was already aware of President Jonathan’s itinerary in Lagos tomorrow(today) 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.

“Furthermore, the Presidency completely rejects the insinuation in the deliberately leaked letter that the President’s visits to Lagos are always disruptive. 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.

“We have no doubts whatsoever therefore that Governor Fashola will prove to be much wiser and more mature than the ACN spokesman, and consign his letter to the dustbin.”

Another presidential spokesman, Dr.DoyinOkupe,who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, accusedMuhammed of not having the least understanding of the workings of   government.

“I find it difficult to explain how Alhaji Mohammed expects Gov. Fashola to control or obstruct the movement of the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The insult contained in his letter to Gov. Fashola is a product of   a confused   politician.

“We know for a fact that Gov. Fashola is of a different and higher breed with proper upbringing. Nigerians must now know Alhaji Mohammed for what he truly is—a scare-monger.”

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