AHEAD of tomorrow’s meeting of merger-seeking opposition parties in Abuja, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, has accused the Federal Government of hatching plans to discredit and silence Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and other key opposition leaders involved in the ongoing plans to form a formidable platform to confront the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in 2015.
Vanguard gathered that barring last-minute hitches leaders drawn from six leading opposition parties will meet in Abuja tomorrow to hammer out modalities for a merger. Parties involved in the talks are the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC;, All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP; Democratic Peoples Party, DPP;, All Progressives Grand Alliance and Labour Party.
To frustrate the move, the ACN, in statement issued in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the paranoia over the merger plans had driven the PDP-led Federal Government to resort to imprudent and crude tactics aimed at tarnishing the image of key opposition leaders, especially ACN leader Asiwaju Tinubu and his CPC counterpart General Buhari, as well as their close political associates.
It said Tinubu was particularly a prime target of these evil machinations, because of his status as the leader of the country's second biggest party, his progressive credentials as well as his electoral value, adding that as far as the PDP-led government was concerned, getting him out of the way was the best way to ruin the merger plans.
However, the Presidency, yesterday, described the ACN allegations as false, baseless and malicious, insisting that comparably, the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government had been the most tolerant of the opposition, freedom of speech and freedom of association. In a phone chat with Vanguard, Dr Reuben Abati, Special Adviser (Media) to President Jonathan, said the opposition leaders were afraid of their own shadows because the government had done nothing to suggest it was going after anyone.
He said: "This government has been the most tolerant of the opposition. It has been the most tolerant of freedom of association and freedom of speech. This Federal Government has not done anything to put pressure on anybody compared to past governments. This Federal Government is committed to democratic principles. If they (opposition) are afraid of their shadows there is nothing we can do about it. Their allegation is completely baseless and malicious."
However, Mohammed said in spite of "the deceptive aloofness" of the president, "the race for 2015 has started in earnest and it is a do-or-die affair, and all means foul and unfair are on the table to cripple the opposition, by ensuring that nothing will be left of the integrity of its key leaders even if they are fortunate to make it to 2015." He added: "These opposition leaders are considered as constituting a clear and present danger to the electoral fortunes of the PDP in 2015, hence must be stopped at all costs and by whatever means."