Home Features Olisa Metuh: The new opposition czar

Olisa Metuh: The new opposition czar



Political observers in Nigeria and beyond will certainly be amazed at the Olisa Metuh the see today. This is because they are probably used to a spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party  (PDP) who is media unfriendly or even arrogant.

They have not forgotten that as the publicity secretary of a ruling PDP, Mr. Metuh was so difficult that it was difficult to get his reactions on many issues, his position notwithstanding. But on the other hand his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Mr. Lai Mohammed was generally seen as man of the press. But having taken the seat of the opposition Chief Olisa Metuh has, in the past few weeks, become a roaring lion in his new business of criticism..

With him, the PDP has suddenly become proactive, raising issues for the ruling APC to respond to. This is contrary to when it would wait for the APC before it would respond and in some cases would refuse to comment, probably because it was the ruling party and not ready to join issues. Only on rare occasions then that Metuh would respond and even when he did, he was very careful.

Now, the party has no choice than to be in the news. It must react to issues. It must even be proactive. And suddenly, Metuh has woken up. He is now playing the role of the Spokesman. Shortly after the defeat, Lai Mohammed offered to give Metuh a free, six-week crash course on his new role as the opposition party spokesman in the spirit of cooperation and for the advancement of the nation’s democracy. But that kind of offer would hardly come again with the present form of Mr. Metuh.

Mohammed had said, Metuh will need the training to effectively carry out his new, tough task. It is now obvious that he needs to understand that for him to succeed in his new role, he must be credible, empirical, more sophisticated in language use and very passionate, in addition to being able to operate on a lean or zero budget.

President Buhari must have impressed many Nigerians when recently he rejected the purchase of bullet-proof cars worth of N40 million for his use even ashe also slashed his and his deputy’s salaries by 50 per cent. But Metuh was not among the impressed. Instead he saw it as an act of deceit, asking the president to face the true business of the day and stop what he called “cosmetic” governance.

Metuh said; “As the leader of the most populous black nation in the world, we believe you should not allow your Presidency to be pushed into the gimmicks of playing to the gallery and attempting to use the dramatization of promissory notes and pledges by foreign interests, false premature claims of victory against insurgency, dramatization of salary cut and rejection of official cars, all to gain cheap popularity and create an impression that the government is on course when in the actual fact, the new administration has not been able to locate a bearing since its inauguration in May.”

Commenting on the conduct of the April 11, 2015 governorship and state assembly elections, Metuh lamented that the process was characterized by brazen irregularities against the PDP in most states. He upbraided INEC and security agencies for the barefaced over zealousness on the part of some of their personnel to please the winners of the Presidential elections.

When former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso attacked the PDP, Metuh as a spokesperson for an opposition party lampooned the former governor and now a Senator, warning Kwankwaso to   be mindful of what he called his   incendiary utterances that were capable of destabilizing the National Assembly as well as   rubbish the prevailing political tranquility in the country.

Metuh who told the former governor not to be ungrateful to the party as   it was   “taken aback by the venom and bitterness in the statement especially coming from a former governor, an elected senator, a highly respected former member of the PDP, who also benefited hugely from the party as minister and two-time state governor.”

When Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara were elected Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively and the APC planned to sanction them, Metuh described such statements   as empty threats, adding that   such boasts by the leadership of the party were aimed at covering APC’s   naivety, inexperience and unpreparedness for governance.

When President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Hajia Amina Bala Zakari as Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the PDP immediately   rejected in totality such appointment, alleging   that the presidency plans to use her appointment to compromise the Election Tribunals in favour of the   APC.

Metuh, while addressing Journalists stressed that with her appointment, the public no longer have confidence and trust in INEC, alleging that she was made the acting INEC Chairman because of her very strong relationship with the presidency and a governor from the North West who influenced the position for her.

He said, “The PDP is particularly disturbed by the development in INEC where President Buhari, who knew all along that the immediate-past INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega would be leaving office by June 30, had to wait for him to handover to one of the national commissioners only to reverse it immediately, thereby injecting bad blood in the commission.

“The situation in INEC since the PDP government reformed and granted it operational autonomy has been peaceful, but Tuesday’s untidy overruling of Prof. Jega and the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman which, we gathered was influenced by personal relationship with the Presidency and one of the new governors of the North West, ostensibly to pave the way for the APC at the electoral tribunals, has completely eroded public trust in the commission.

“Whereas the PDP recognizes the right and powers of the President to appoint the Chairman of INEC and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), we reject attempts as in the case of the AGF to paint the process as transparent and objective when such was not the case, but brought to question the sincerity and commitment of the present administration to due process.

“ In INEC, the PDP states in unequivocal terms that we cannot, as critical stakeholders fold our hands and watch while the Presidency perpetuate actions that diminish the independence of the electoral commission.

“The PDP has declared the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as unacceptable and demand that President Buhari changes her immediately.

“ Our reasons include the fact that due process was not observed in the appointment and that Mrs. Zakari has shown in the last elections that she is manifestly bias in favour of the APC. Finally her appointment is a clear case of nepotism.

“ We ask, if they trusted Prof. Jega and commended him for conducting free and fair elections, why would they not trust him on who to hold forth in the commission until a substantive Chairman is appointed, rather than appointing someone who is retiring from the commission in the next three weeks?

“With the prevailing record of Mr. President on appointments, it is unlikely that a substantive INEC Chairman will be appointed in the next one year.   Is there a hidden agenda? Has Mrs. Zakari been handed a script to act given that we have cases in the tribunals in addition to the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa?

Metuh who insisted that the APC was derailing, said that it was unfortunate that   thirty- two days after   inauguration,   elected into power over three months ago on the basis of their numerous promises to the Nigerian people, strong indications have emerged that the party and President Buhari were not adequately equipped and ready to chart a direction for the enormous challenges of governance.

According to PDP, in the last one month, the APC and the government have failed to provide   the change as they claim, as Nigeria was presently witnessing avoidable tension, wrangling within the ruling party, disruption of legislative activities in the National Assembly, painful economic stagnation.

Warning the APC against the pronouncement   of voodoo achievements, the PDP stressed that the country was witnessing what it described as overall uncertainty in the polity all due to the apparent inability of President Buhari to provide good governance and leadership.

Metuh said, “today marks exactly thirty-two days of the inauguration of a new administration under the APC, which was elected into power over three months ago on the basis of their numerous promises to the Nigerian people.

“ Even though this government has continued to plead for patience, we are worried that indications from President Muhammadu Buhari and his party do not inspire desired confidence in the citizenry that they are adequately equipped and ready to chart a direction for the enormous challenges of governance.

“In the last one month, instead of a journey to change as they claim, all we have witnessed are avoidable tension, wrangling within the ruling party, disruption of legislative activities in our National Assembly, painful economic stagnation, pronouncement of voodoo achievements and overall uncertainty in the polity all due to the apparent inability of our respected President to provide leadership.

“ We have a President and a party that have since thirty–two days been unable to decide on rudimentary appointments such as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief of Staff to the President, ministers and his demand for 15 Special Advisers as approved by the PDP controlled Seventh Assembly since June 5, 2015.

“ Even the very little intervention made on appointments such as those of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Acting Chairman of INEC, have not shown our beloved President as an evenhanded and patriotic leader resulting in the confusion and crisis of confidence that have trailed the two appointments.