The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has advised President Goodluck Jonathan to reschedule his planned official visit to Lagos state on 18 April as it coincides with the party’s national convention.
The opposition party in a letter signed by Lai Mohammmed, a member of the party’s National Convention Planning committee, expressed concerns that the coincidence of the President’s visit and its convention might led to chaos in the state due to the perception that the move is a ploy by the federal government to further frustrate the ingoing merger plans of some opposition parties.
“As Your Excellency is very much aware, the National Convention of our party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), will hold on the same day at the Onikan Stadium in Lagos. Adequate notice of the Convention has been given through the media and other channels. We are concerned that based on precedence, the visit of the President may lead to the closure 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,” the letter read.
“This may lead to frustration and provocation on the part of these supporters, who would have travelled hundreds of kilometres from their destinations” the party warned.
It further adds that “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 PDP-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.”
Members of the ACN are expected to endorse the merger of the party with other political party to birth the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2015 general elections.
According to ACN, “the implication of what will be perceived as a calculated attempt to disrupt the convention and, by extension the merger, combined with the frustration that many of our supporters who have travelled far distances will feel for not being able to easily access the venue of the convention, may lead to a breach of the peace, the consequences of which no one will be able to fathom.”
The party therefore appealed to the Governor of Lagos state to use to advise the President to “either reschedule his visit or use a mode of intra-city transportation, like helicopter, that will not engender closure of roads on a very busy day in the city.”
“We are very sure that even the President will not want to subject his compatriots to avoidable suffering just because of a visit that can either be rescheduled or carried out in an unobtrusive manner on a gridlock-prone day” the stated party wrote.
In a swift reaction to the ACN’s allegation that the PDP-led government is frustrating the party, the presidency said it finds 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, Babatunde Fashola by the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai 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 Action Congress of Nigeria convention and merger with some other political parties.”
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, the presidency said 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 of the Federal Republic.
“A courteous and simple discussion of the phantom potential conflict of programmes with appropriate officials of the Presidency would have sufficed to inform the ACN and its officials that President Jonathan is only transiting through Lagos tomorrow on his way to the commissioning of the WEMPCO Cold Roll Steel Plant in Ibafo, Ogun State.
“In point of fact, President Jonathan’s visit tomorrow which was scheduled long before the ACN convention will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the convention as he will only touchdown at the airport, transit to Ibafo (miles away from the ACN convention venue) by chopper and return to the airport the same way for his flight back to Abuja.
The statement said it is certain that Governor Fashola was already aware of President Jonathan’s itinerary in Lagos tomorrow 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 of the Federal Republic.
“President Jonathan is President of the whole of Nigeria. It is strange and intolerable that any political party would as much as suggest that the President is not welcome in any state, city or local council in any part of the country at any time or date.
“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.”