The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) Sunday clashed over the $460,000 forfeiture allegation in the US against the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The APC Presidential Campaign Council had accused the presidential candidates of the PDP and LP, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively of sponsoring fake news against its candidate, Tinubu.
Tinubu was said to have forfeited $460,000 in alleged drug money to the US government, but the spokesman of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, had said that the $460,000 was tax deducted from one of the 10 accounts linked to Tinubu in the US.
In a statement yesterday, the Director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, accused Atiku and Obi of forging the letterhead of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the signature of its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, to spread fake news against Tinubu.
INEC had on Saturday distanced itself from a purported investigation of criminal forfeiture against Tinubu.
In a statement purportedly signed by Okoye, he had said that the electoral body was liaising with the Northern Illinois District Court in the US to establish more facts about the case before taking a decision.
But in his reaction on Saturday, Okoye explained that the statement did not emanate from INEC, noting that it was the handiwork of mischief makers.
The APC Campaign Council, however, in a statement, said it was shocked when some media organisations reported that INEC was investigating Tinubu, stressing that it would no longer allow the “prevailing recklessness and utter disregard for professional judgment” to continue unchallenged.
Part of the statement reads: “The opposition PDP and its subsidiary, LP, having realised they have no sure path to victory in the February, 2023, presidential election upped their campaign of calumny, disinformation and misinformation on Saturday by sponsoring fake news against the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“They did it by forging the letterhead of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the signature of its National Commissioner, Festus Okoye.
“The forged statement purportedly issued by INEC was disseminated to deceive the gullible public that INEC was investigating allegations against Asiwaju Tinubu that they desperately hoped will ultimately lead to the disqualification of the frontline APC presidential candidate.
“We are not in any way surprised by the antics of the sinking opposition parties. What we found shocking was how quickly some compromised media organisations gulped the falsehood, hook, line and sinker, without attempting to verify.”
Respond to allegation – PDP campaign council
But the PDP Presidential Campaign Council has asked Tinubu to come out boldly and defend his reported link to the $460,000 he forfeited to the US rather than hiding behind a finger and sending his media aides to attack other Nigerians.
Spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday, said, “Our campaign insists that the burden before Asiwaju Tinubu is to cleanse himself of being linked to illicit funds by a court in the United States rather than searching for scapegoats and pointing the index finger on others whereas the remaining are pointing to his direction.
“Is it not absurd that rather than proving his innocence by personally telling Nigerians the truth about the forfeiture judgment, Asiwaju Tinubu is allowing his aides, who were not principal witnesses in the crime, to issue threats and vituperations on Nigerians?
“This accounts for why the campaign is singing discordant tunes on taxation while Asiwaju Tinubu himself is labouring to dismiss the case as ‘a rumour’. This is very laughable!
“Our campaign wants Asiwaju Tinubu to know that Nigerians are still waiting for him to address the very serious issue of alleged link with narcotics for which a forfeiture judgment was imposed on him.”
It’s a figment of their imagination – LP campaign council
Contacted, the spokesman of the LP Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, told our correspondent in a telephone chat that the allegation was a figment of their imagination.
He said, “This is a frivolous accusation. There is no way we will sit with the PDP and write a joint letter. It’s a figment of their own imagination. Our campaign is issue-based.
“We are not part of it. We are not even aware of the so-called letter. So we would advise the APC to stop personal attacks and focus on their campaign. Let them imbibe issue-based campaigns. They should stop attacking our candidate.”
He should quit race – Group
Meanwhile, a group, South-West Democratic Watch, has called on Tinubu to quit the presidential race over his alleged involvement in the matter of forfeiture of $460,000 drug money to the US authorities.
The group also urged President Muhammodu Buhari to distance himself from Tinubu over the matter in order to save his name.
In a statement issued yesterday by the convener of the group, Mr Olajide Thomas, and the secretary, Kazeem Omotilewa Benson, the group said: “The most decent thing for Tinubu to do if indeed he loves the country is to step aside from the contest.”