The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, has lambasted his All Progressives Congress counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for giving rice gifts to civil servants on the premises of the government secretariat ahead of next Saturday’s governorship election.
A stampede occurred during the struggle for rice at the government secretariat on Thursday shortly after Sanwo-Olu and other APC leaders met with civil servants.
In a statement by his Director, Media and Publicity, Felix Oboagwina, the PDP candidate said Sanwo-Olu’s gesture was appalling.
Agbaje described Sanwo-Olu’s meeting with civil servants at the government secretariat as an abuse of privilege and an attempt to manipulate the civil service which ought to be apolitical.
He said, “We find the invitation and the rice gift appalling, opportunistic and illegal. In a political contest of the nature in which Sanwo-Olu and the rest of us are involved, he has been offered an undue advantage. An uneven playing field has been created. And this is condemnable and contemptible.
“The gesture goes against Nigeria’s bureaucratic statutes that forbid civil servants from romancing politics. For crying out loud, there are still regulations preventing civil servants from involvement in politics. That invitation and the rice gifts are a violation of those extant rules.”
Agbaje said the APC designed Sanwo-Olu’s rice gift to bury 20 years in which Lagos officials had been treated like trash and subjected to sordid conditions like nepotism, over-taxation, denial of promotion, delayed promotions and deprivation of leave and end-of-year bonuses.
He alleged that civil servants who maintained neutrality and refused to show up for the meeting stood the grave danger of being marked down for discrimination and intimidation.
According to him, it was to maintain neutrality and decorum that soldiers and Police were similarly barred from involvement in politics, and politicians prevented from campaigning in uniformed personnel’s barracks and formations.
“It is a shame to see civil servants struggling and hurting themselves just to get a small bag of Sanwo-Olu rice, but it is even more shameful to subject the crop of Nigeria’s middle-class to such an indignity,” Agbaje said.
The PDP candidate also berated the APC for sending police and thugs to bar a “Free Lagos” Press Conference slated for the Lagos Airport Hotel in Ikeja.
“It is the mother of all ironies that, on the same day that APC organised an illegal meeting for its candidate, it was sending a combined team of cops and hoodlums to dislodge an event organised by bona fide Nigerian citizens,” Agbaje noted.
On Police and thugs aborting the event organised by the Orange Movement for a Free Lagos State, Agbaje said the cancellation violated the fundamental rights of the citizens to associate and hold opinions, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
The event ran under the theme, Setting Lagos Free from Bourdillon Bondage, #OtogeLagos.
The statement read in part, “It is an assault on freedom of speech. And every day, we witness the frontiers of Nigerians’ freedom being eroded by a privileged minority that takes special delight in subjecting citizens to impunity and corruption.
“The APC further assaulted our collective freedom by Thursday’s order to Police to bar an event where Nigerians wanted to legitimately express themselves.
“We roundly condemn the APC for this. And we call upon all Nigerians and the international community to condemn this high-handed and draconian clampdown.”
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