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Nonagenarian Clark drops a bomb, accuses Lai Mohammed of stoking division, hatred among Nigerians

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“Therefore, I am of the opinion that he should be charged for spreading an unhealthy information and fake news against an innocent Nigerian who is very prominent and has proven his worth in the country. Lai Mohammed used the exalted position of the office of the nation’s Ministry of Information to commit this perfidy.”

Mr Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, has been dragged before the court of public opinion and the Presidency by an elder statesman and nonagenarian, Chief Edwin Clark over his recent comments stoking ethnic hate and divisions in the country.

According to Clark, Mohammed’s attempt to damage Obi’s reputation and rising profile was dead on arrival and “an exercise in futility.’’

“For the eight years now, since the inception of President Buhari’s government, rather than uniting the country as his job implies, by creating an atmosphere for Nigerians to live together as brothers and sisters of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has instead, caused divisions in the country.

“I had on several occasions condemned this conduct of his attempting to suppress, gag and intimidate the press. He has used the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as an agent of his Ministry.

“The NBC is no longer the independent organisation which it used to be, treating the press as a noble profession, made up of noble practitioners. A case in point is the five million naira fine slammed on Channels Television without even the rudiments of natural justice, in this case fair hearing, which is a basic procedure of justice to ensure fairness.

“Rather, slamming media houses with fines without hearing from the media houses is the trial that has now become a constant weapon of intimidation and harassment of the press.

“Lai Mohammed, as his duty as Minister of Information entails, who ought to treat the media as the fourth estate of the realm, as it is done all over the world, in civilised places, has rather decided to wear the “oga” toga. The media is very critical and plays a very important role in any democratic set-up,’’ Clark said in a statement obtained by Persecondnews on Monday.

He has, therefore, called on the President to call the nation’s spokesmen to order, noting that the “nation is already too tensed; those whose responsibility it is to douse the tension should not be the ones stoking the embers of fire that will flame up the country.”

Clark, erstwhile Minister of Information under the military, also stated: “And any responsible government should bear this in mind. This fact was not lost on me when I was appointed into that position during the General Yakubu Gowon administration.

“Even though it was a military government, I understood that as “spokes person” of the country at the time, whatever I said or did, could either make or mar the unity, peace and oneness of the country.

“That was my guiding principle. And without being immodest, I think it paid positively. I reproduce here under what General Yakubu Gowon the Head of State has this to say about the role I played in his Government;

“EK’s commendable performance in Benin made him my first choice for Federal Commissioner for Information replacing his colleague Chief Anthony Enahoro, who had vacated the post in 1974. Colonel Ogbemudia released Chief E.K .Clark from his post and E K soon stepped into the large shoes left behind by Chief Anthony Enahoro.

“E K quickly settled into Lagos and the role displaying mettle and competence by embarking on a vast schedule of publicity and information programs that he felt were vital and important. Included within EK’s plans were programs for post war healing, restoration of national and mental trust and confidence and a bold future economic development plan from 1975-1980. EK was dutiful, loyal and patriotic within his role as Federal Commissioner of Information. I will always be grateful to EK for commitment to myself and my government”.

“One of my priority assignment at the time, was to make the press know their country. What was the use of talking about a place, as a press man/woman, if you do not know anything about the place. How do you produce a balanced reportage?

“For instance, because there is no use talking about Kano, Kaduna or Enugu, without knowing these places, I took the press men in a plane to various parts of the country for them to know their country.

“During this period we ate and drank together and visited various parts together. With all modesty again, I wish to state that even though my tenure was short, I made remarkable progress in bringing the government to the people.

“So, for me to see what Lai Mohammed is doing with the office today is disappointing. His recent sojourn to the United States of America (USA), on the issue of Interim National Government (ING), to damage the reputation of Mr. Peter Obi’s rising profile, to me, is an effort in futility, because Lai Mohammed did not base his accusations on any report or information given by any state agency, but on mere propaganda targeted at destroying the reputation of an innocent citizen.

“If I may continue further, why will the Minister of Information take more than usual interest in not only scandalizing and lying against Peter Obi but using his privileged position to circulate same to the country and entire world. If we were to talk further about those who have held strong positions against the current political situation in the country; why has the Minister avoided to take notes of the views of other persons such as our respected elder statesman and colleague Chief Afe Babalola who stated thus as supported by Premium Times online news of April 18th 2022;

By April, 2022, Nigeria was actually facing a crisis of all dimension economically, insecurity corruption, lack of direction.

“Because there was no courageous, competent Nigerian leader, and the question was, were do we go from here. There was very few politicians in the corridor of power who believe that Buhari administration has performed exceedingly well.

“It was during this period of uncertainty that many Nigerians came out patriotically, felt they should speak out, even though they were not partisan politicians, and one of those is Chief Afe Babalola, an honest and self made Nigerian, it was during this period he made an honest and sincere contribution, and that it maybe difficult to have a free, fair and credible elections.

“It was at this juncture of a failing Nigeria that he suggested that Nigeria should have an interim national Government. I have known Chief Afe Babalola for a very long time, we were both in NPN.

“At this Juncture I will like to reproduce his statement on the interim National Government. Legal icon and elder statesman, Afe Babalola, says an interim government should replace the current administration at the expiration of President Muhammed Buhari’s tenure in 2023”.

“Mr Babalola, the founder of Afe Babalola University, told a news conference in Ado-Ekiti on Monday that the interim government should be in office for six months to chart a new course for Nigeria.

The legal icon had come under severe fire from a cross section of Nigerians for his controversial position, including the Governor of Imo State, Mr Hope Uzodinma, who noted that the call was an invitation for anarchy.

“One of the proponents of the interim Government is Rev. Chris Okotie, and even today being Easter Sunday, he spoke extensively about it. Bola Ahmed Tinubu also in one occasion said that cabals plan to disrupt 2023 elections, introduce interim government; stated in the People Gazette News of 4th February 2023 which I reproduce here under; Bola Tinubu says there are plots by powerful forces in government to use violence to disrupt the 2023 general elections and impose an interim government.

“They want to provoke you to violence, so that election will be disrupted and postponed, and they can cunningly introduce an interim government, that’s their plot. But this will backfire because we are wiser,” Mr Tinubu said.

“The former Lagos governor and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) made this statement while speaking at a rally in Ekiti on Friday. This comes two weeks after Mr Tinubu accused the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari of using the fuel and naira scarcity to sabotage his presidential bid.

“His media aides would later deny, saying that the verbal attack in Abeokuta was not targetted at Mr Buhari. Like Mr. Tinubu, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna also said the cabal in Mr. Buhari’s regime are plotting to ensure Mr. Tinubu fails in the February 25 presidential election.

“However, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disputed the assertion, saying Mr. Buhari was in support of the APC presidential candidate.

Even within Government circles, this subject of interim government was discussed in the open by Senior Special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu recently on 17th February 2023 in which he debunked such a plot and I reproduce hereunder;

“The Presidency on Friday said there are no plans by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to extend his government beyond May 29, 2023, or install an interim government.

“Let us clearly, specifically and emphatically state that there is absolutely no truth to the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari is working towards an interim government or even worse, the truncation of democracy- democracy that he has helped to keep alive not only here at home, in West Africa but throughout the continent,” a statement signed by Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu read on Friday.

“According to Shehu, the talk of an interim government and truncation of democracy is way off the mark. Those who peddle it stand to gain nothing—nothing at all—but the creation of panic and the incitement of the public against the federal government,” the statement read.

“It described the narrative as a dangerous dimension by “people who are afraid that they may lose their elections. Indeed, since this fourth Republic which we have since 1999, other national leaders have said more serious and what may even be regarded as incendiary statements in the course of the elections.

“This forced me on 9th May, 2015 to write a letter to the then Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. AminuTambuwal in reaction to a Motion that came up at the floor of the House. At that time, some members of the House had in a selective manner, insisted that Alhaji Muhajideen Asari Dokubo and one Kingsley Kuku should be investigated over statements that they made.

“However, as I noted in that letter, several threats were made to the survival of this country including by such persons as Alhaji Lawal Kaita who at the time was over 80 years and a former Governor of Kaduna State stated among other things, “the north is determined, if it happens, to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other southerner who finds his way into the seat of power on the platform of the PDP.

“Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses incumbency power to get the nomination from the governors of the PDP, we will frustrate him out.”

Clark also recalled how Lawal Kaita was quoted by the African Herald Express as saying that a Northerner must emerge in 2015 or Nigeria will divide.

Kaita had said: “We hear rumours all over that Jonathan is planning to contest in 2015, well, the country will be prepared if the country remains one. That is if the country remains, if not everybody can go his way.’’

According to the elder statesman, more troubling during the same era that General Muhammadu Buhari then a candidate for the presidency of this country under CPC stated threatened that “there may be no Nigeria. I draw with Somalia so many times (Somalisation of Nigeria).’’

“It was the same line of thought that my friend and former Minister of Finance and who at a time, also served as Governor or Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Adamu Ciroma stated “like you know, Hausa land was in crisis for over 200 years and God brought Usman dan Fodio – – – for me I have no doubt and I have not lost my faith that God can bring someone to clean the mess we are in now.”

“He made the statement in 2013 when there was a sitting president. Similar statements questioning the existence of the country, directly threatening the office of the President and the occupier of the office during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan were made by other leaders especially from the North such as National President of Arewa Youth Forum, Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, public commentator, Farouk Aliyu, and these were widely reported in both the main stream and social media.

“It is therefore highly hypocritical within government circles today, statement that were being made to ensure that there is diligent dispensation of justice with regards to the largely flawed 2023 elections that didn’t threaten the existence of the country are being tagged treasonable.

“Even more regrettable is the fact that an innocent stakeholder in the person of Peter Obi, presidential candidate of Labour Party who has not uttered a word is being mischievously dragged in.

“Moreover, rather than mention the names of those who have been raising this question while dragging the name of Mr. Peter Obi who has been totally silent on the subject matter if not for cheap political gain.

“Like I said, Lai Mohammed did not base his information on any credible intelligence report from the state agencies, but on propaganda and falsity. Therefore, I am of the opinion that he should be charged for spreading an unhealthy information and fake news against an innocent Nigerian who is very prominent and has proven his worth in the country.

“Lai Mohammed used the exalted position of the office of the nation’s Ministry of Information to commit this perfidy. Mr. Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the just concluded presidential elections, has never taken the laws into his hands. He is going about his case, in the constitutionally provided way. He was the first to seek redress in court over what he felt was an unfair and unjust manner of conducting elections. It is his constitutional right to do so.

“Muhammadu Buhari, in the number of times he contested and failed elections, did same. We all know that at no time from the beginning of the current political season did his Excellency Peter Obi the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party make any statement that in whatever manner constituted a breach or threat to the peace and security of this country.

“The question that Lai Mohammed needs to answer is to tell Nigerians on what platform, at what time and in what manner did Peter Obi make the supposed treasonable or seditious remarks? Also, Lai Mohammed’s conduct is even more damaging to the Muhammadu Buhari’s government. It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari has stated time and again, that he will handover to a president who will emerge victorious in a free, fair and credible election.

“It is more disturbing and surprising when one realises that Lai Mohammed is a lawyer and ought to be in a position to give proper professional advice to the Government which he serves on, what the situation of the law is.

“I for one who found myself as Federal Commissioner for Information a position which he holds today after nearly 50 years. My instincts and training as a lawyer were always brought to bear in the overall interest of the country and the direct duties which I perform. This is the least of standard which we expect him to uphold in the interest of our noble profession.

“As Lai Mohammed knows well, most Nigerians are today very keen observers of what is going on in the country. We have also continued to watch and followed closely actions, inactions and utterances by the key political actors and their close associates.

“It is therefore totally unacceptable that a minister in charge of a sensitive government department as dissemination of Information should constitute himself to become the purveyor of false information, innuendos and even fake news,’’ Clark also stressed.

Calling for the prosecution of Mohammed, Clark said he had constituted himself to become the mastermind and disseminator of fake news, adding that it leaves no option than to call on the Attorney General of the nation to undertake thorough investigation of the activities of the Minister and charge him to court.

Clark further stated: “Lai Mohammed as Information Minister and chief propagandist of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was cut to size and became very uncomfortable for the growing popularity of Mr. Peter Obi’s appeal to the exuberant Nigeria youths who practically demonstrated their support for Mr. Peter Obi and the obedient that came in droves to take back their country.

“The impression that gained ground at the time was that Obi was only popular on social media and not on ground, but Obi’s performance within the short time he entered the race made him the man of the moment in the presidential election. Lai Mohammed therefore in his usual characteristics carried fake news within and outside Nigeria to discredit and tarnish the reputation of Mr. Peter Obi.

“It is criminal, unpatriotic and wicked for anyone to draw the name of Mr. Peter Obi who fully participated in the 2023 Presidential Election and who has gone to court to express his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the presidential election and his popularity which has spread to all part of the country as a wildfire has no doubt caused a great embarrassment to the Federal Government.

“What is being alleged as a discovery of a plot to overthrown the Federal Government by DSS is malicious and untrue. Finally, one cannot help but note that Lai Mohammed’s actions are targeted against perceived political opponents and enemies. I wish to strongly advise Mr. President to call his spokesmen to order.

“The nation is already too tensed; those whose responsibility it is to douse the tension should not be the ones stoking the embers of fire that will flame up the country.’’

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