With a threat by the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) to sue the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the battle between the two major contenders in next month’s presidential poll may soon shift to the courtroom.
The BCO yesterday asked the PDP and Atiku to show within seven days proof of their allegations that President Buhari and members of his family own substantial shares in Etisalat Nigeria and Keystone Bank.
Relying on sources, Atiku had in a statement issued in Abuja last week by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, claimed that members of the first family had become big players in the financial sector after acquiring mouth-watering shares worth $1.916 billion (equivalent to N307.5 billion) as well as purchasing about N3 billion worth of shares in the new Pakistani Islamic Bank.
The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation called for an investigation into the alleged diversion of military funds for the acquisition of shares in 9Mobile in the telecom firm and the bank.
But the BCO said that the allegations made by Atiku and his party, beyond mere politicking, were too weighty to be ignored or considered as electioneering gimmicks.
In a reaction by its Director of Communications & Strategic Planning, Mallam Gidado Ibrahim, the BCO said the PDP and its candidate should be ready for a court action.
Relying on the provisions of the law, the President’s support group maintained that the ball was in Atiku’s court to provide evidence of the allegations of sleaze against Buhari and his family because the burden of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.
Ibrahim said in a statement: “The BCO has been taking note of the smear campaign mounted against President Muhammadu Buhari by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in which they accused the first family of owning shares in Keystone Bank with total assets of $1.916 billion (equivalent to N307.5 billion) and Etisalat Nigeria, as well as purchasing about ¦ 3 billion worth of shares in the new Pakistani Islamic Bank.
“These are very weighty allegations and we are not saying the former vice president and his party have no right to blow the whistle, especially under an administration with a whistleblowing policy in place.
“But following the provisions of the law, the burden of proof (onu probandi) is always on the person who brings a claim or alleges.
“We therefore urge Atiku and his party, PDP, to show proof that the President and members of his family have shares in these companies.
“At least, with such evidence, they would have done great service to Nigerians by exposing corruption. But if they fail to do so within seven days, the BCO will be left with no other option than to drag them to court on behalf of President Buhari where they will be compelled by the law to provide evidence or pay for damages.”
Reiterating its stance that the opposition should engage in issue-based campaigns rather than resorting to hate speeches and campaign of calumny against the President, the BCO said it showed that the PDP and its standard bearer have nothing to offer Nigerians.
Ibrahim continued: “Atiku is certainly feeling the heat of facing reality and has resorted to the principle of ‘attack is best form of defence’. There is no hiding place for him. Those who misgoverned the country in the past should be shamed rather than rewarded. That is the only way Nigeria can move forward.
“No amount of unfounded allegations against President Muhammadu Buhari can stop Nigerians from voting a leader they have come to trust and believe in for these past years.
“We will, however, refrain from making further comment on this issue since it is going to be a subject of litigation. But, if Atiku and his party think this will end on the pages of newspaper, they should prepare to meet us in court if they cannot prove their allegations.