Opposition leader risks jail term, Nigeria government warns

Minister Mohammed said the posters and the hiring of US lobbyists, have triggered questions about what Atiku is up to.
Candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar (L) speaks with PDP Chairman of Board of Trustees Walid Jibrin as they attend an emergency National Executive Committee party meeting in Abuja on February 19, 2019, ahead of rescheduled general elections. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP)

Nigeria’s opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar, has been warned of “dire consequences” by the government if he continues to subtly subvert constituted authority by lobbying foreign governments to refuse the recognition of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23 presidential election.

The country’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, at a Thursday briefing in Abuja alongside presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, asked the opposition leader to await the outcome of his legal challenge in court instead of printing new publicity materials including posters that have been posted around the capital city, depicting him as winner of the election.

A billboard bearing Atiku Pukka campaign of the former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP) is seen along a highway in Abuja./News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

“As you must have noticed in recent times, posters bearing the picture of former Vice President and the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, with the inscription ‘THE PUKKA, H.E. ATIKU ABUBAKAR, THE REAL AND THE RIGHT’, have surfaced across major streets in Abuja,” Mohammed said.

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The government said the appearance of the posters coincide with media reports that Abubakar, popularly known by his first name Atiku, had hired a US lobbying firm to convince the United States not to recognize the re-election of President Buhari until the Supreme Court has ruled on the suit filed by him and opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Minister Mohammed said the posters and the hiring of US lobbyists, have triggered questions about what Atiku is up to. “Is he starting a fresh campaign after the elections have been won and lost?”, the government spokesman asked.

“As a self-avowed democrat, he should realise that the only lawful channel for challenging the result of an election is through the courts.

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Resorting to self-help, as he seems to be doing now, is an act of desperation and the consequences are dire.”

Reports in local media had said that Atiku is currently lobbying the United States for support in his quest to challenge the outcome of the presidential election, and has paid $30,000 over a 90-day contract for a US law firm to provide “legal, consultancy and public advocacy services to encourage Congress and the Executive” to wait on recognizing a winner of the Nigerian election until after the legal challenge is “impartially and independently resolved.”

“We disassociate the former Vice President of Nigeria from the said posters in circulation. The campaign season is over. The tainted electoral victory by the incumbent is being challenged in court.” A statement emailed to News Central by Paul Ibe, Atiku’s spokesman said while denying the allegations as mere propaganda by the ruling party and its government.

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Atiku went on to dismiss as “total fabrication the latest allegation instigated by the Buhari campaign that he spent $30,000 to hire a US lobby group to persuade the US Congress to stop the inauguration of President Buhari.”

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