According to a report by The Independent, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday said Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was diverting funds budgeted for the Ministry of Information to run campaigns for President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
But in a swift reaction, the minister debunked the claims of the party, saying it was only jittery and raising false alarm having realised that it would be defeated again in the forthcoming elections.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, said while many chieftains of the PDP were being prosecuted for allegedly using public funds to prosecute the 2015 general elections, the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) was currently bidding for contracts in various ministries without following due process, claiming that it will use the proceeds of the contracts to work for Buhari’s re-election.
According to the PDP, the national leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, also gave approval to the BCO to go and look for such contracts.
Ologbondiyan said: “As a matter of fact, all the issues bordering on spending government funds for campaign purposes are all in court and awaiting judgment.
“But having said that, it is a known fact that the Buhari Campaign Organisation is bidding for contracts in various ministries and they even have the approval of their party hierarchy to go and look for such contracts.
“Even as we speak, the Federal Ministry of Information fund, monies budgeted for the ministry for national assignment, is being used to organise campaigns for President Muhammadu Buhari.
“But as the PDP will always say, there is nothing to APC as a party because it is manifest that they came into government without a plan and, as such, cannot implement anything.
“As we speak, the referendum for Buhari’s re-election in 2019 is the manifest failure of his administration. He came on a three-prong promise: to revive the economy, but he has run the economy into recession.
“He promised to chase insurgents out of our country from the fringes where PDP chased them to, but now insurgents are attacking our military formations.
“He also promised to fight corruption, but we all know what the likes of Babachir Lawal have done to his anti-corruption fight. We all know what the NHIS boss has done to his anti-corruption fight. We all know the level of corruption operating under his nose at the Villa. Nigerians have realised that they voted for failure.”
However, the minister, in his response to PDP’s claim, said the opposition party, having realised the success the policies of the Buhari administration such as the School Feeding Programme has achieved, was beginning to panic and make unfounded claims that the funds earmarked for the Information Ministry were being diverted for election purposes.
According to the minister, the funds being used for the programmes were budgeted for and were being used judiciously to achieve the aims of the programme without undue interference from APC appointees.
Lai Mohammed said: “I usually don’t respond to the PDP because they really don’t have anything tangible to say. I think the PDP is just waking up to the realisation that they can’t win this election if the campaigns are based on issues.
“Our Social Investment Programme didn’t start last year. It didn’t even start in 2016. It started right from day one when we came to office.
“This Social Investment Programme is the most apolitical programme of any government you can ever find.
“As a matter of fact, the truth of the matter is that APC politicians and appointees are very unhappy with the scheme because it does not follow the normal line of political patronage. People involved in this programme are completely apolitical. You apply online and if you are successful, you are chosen.
“There is no way it can be manipulated. At a point in time, some political appointees complained that you don’t do this. But the vice president and his team insisted that it is a social investment programme and it must be apolitical.”
“The PDP is now suddenly frightened by the success of this programme. That is the honest truth. When this programme started in 2015, PDP thought it was impossible to achieve. Today, this programme comprises of four major components.
“There is the school feeding programme. Today, this programme feeds nine million, three hundred thousand pupils, one meal per day. It covers 26 states, about 60, 000 primary schools and in the process, it has employed over 97,000 cooks.
“So, the PDP is definitely frightened by the success. A government that feeds nine million, three hundred thousand pupils in every school day and, in the process, employs over 97,000 cooks is a government that has left an indelible mark in the sands of time.”