Search on Atiku’s aircraft, plan to intimidate him –Sowunmi - 9IJA TALKS

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Search on Atiku’s aircraft, plan to intimidate him –Sowunmi


Spokesman for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation, Segun Sowunmi, in an interview with WILLIAMS BABALOLA, speaks on the recent search on the plane of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by security operatives at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja
Is there anything wrong with security personnel checking Atiku at the airport?
There is a thin line between what is legal and what is embarrassingly intrusive and overboard. They have the right to search, but they don’t have any right to grope or make a mess of the individual. They have the right to do their job but they also have the moral responsibility to do it in a civilised and appropriate manner.
Why do you consider the search an abuse of power by the Office of the President?
If you ask me whether it’s excessive of the Presidency to give such order, the answer I will give you is yes. If Nigerians don’t see it as excessive, you won’t see the outrage. But if you are asking me if it is excessive on the part of the individual man, President Muhammadu Buhari, then I’ll tell you that I consider it to be very petty to make such an accusation. Because obviously, we are aware of how security operatives can go overboard without the consent of the President.
The All Progressives Congress said the security search or check is not an unusual thing; that Alhaji Atiku is blowing the issue out of proportion. What is your view on this?
Let’s first of all tell ourselves one basic truth. Government and its operators don’t have to come to say they are right all the time. Government must understand that it is the right of all citizens in the country, including Alhaji Atiku, to complain or raise concerns on issues. The first responsibility of government is to take that concern seriously. Probably, write a letter to empathise with the person in question, something to show that the agency is working. Atiku has nothing to gain in claiming what does not exist or what was not over the board. After all, he has been in and out of that airport thousands of times and he has not experienced anything like that. Even when he was in the race for the party ticket, he travelled in and out of the country without issues. Now, the stakes are a bit higher; he is now the presidential candidate of the major opposition party. Perhaps, that may have necessitated the excessive sycophantic demonstration of loyalty that sometimes can make even the principal, that is Buhari, feel embarrassed. When we say they have the right to search, no one should take that right away from the security agents, especially at our entry point. But they also have the obligation to be responsible, disciplined and civil. If a foreign head of state is visiting us, for example, would they do that kind of stuff? If they can’t do that to any head of state, why should they do it to a former vice president of our country? We are more interested in other issues like who is going to create jobs; who is going to fix the economy; who is going to open up the space and make Nigerians to get better value for themselves. Those are the kinds of things that interest us.
Atiku was accused of moving illicit cash from Dubai. How true is this?
God forbid! I think there is a myth around Atiku which is a bit funny and propagated by rumour-mongers and those who like to lie. There is no evidence that it happened or it can even happen. I even sometimes believe that there is an exaggeration of Atiku. He is a normal person. He has been in government for a while and has been out of government for a very long time. He has been busy doing some other things. He is a politically-exposed person; he is now the candidate of the major opposition party. The fact is that Atiku is contesting to be president, not as a very wealthy man, but as an ideas’ man. You can see from the strength of what he is saying. He is pushing an idea of let us create more jobs. He is pushing an idea of let us take job creation seriously. He is pushing an idea of let us expand the economy and make it more efficient. He is pushing an idea of let us restructure to give value to every part of Nigeria. He is pushing an idea of let us unite the country. He is pushing an idea of let us run a nation every Nigerian can be proud of. Atiku wants to make the country work again; every other thing is hogwash.
Does Atiku Abubakar intend to take any legal action on the issue?
I think he is way too focused and mature to worry about a matter like that. Let me give you the background. This matter was just a minor comment that he put on his twitter handle. And because of the general outpouring of love for him, Nigerians are taking it to another level; the matter is out of our hands. If Nigerians are angry about it, then we can’t stop them. If people are empathising with us about it, what can we do? I know that lessons will be learnt.
Do you have the fear that the Presidency will use security operatives against opponents in the 2019 polls?
With what obtains in the country now, I believe we must encourage them to be above board during the 2019 polls and allow Nigerians to exercise their franchise without harassment, intimidation or any of those things that can mar the quality of the process. Nigerians can remember that in the 2015 elections under the PDP, we demonstrated to the world that our democracy is very valuable. Therefore, it must be improved upon.  We cannot go to the 2019 polls and act like we are in 1992 or 1993.

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