The Federal Government is investigating sources of “subversive messages” on President Muhammadu Buhari’s health.
Purveyors of such messages will face “the full wrath of the law”, the government said yesterday.
For the second time in one week, the social media was yesterday awash with rumours on the President’s state of health, creating the impression of an orchestration of the issue.
Last week, a photograph of the President watching television in a sitting room in London was made available by the Presidency, after it denied that the President had passed on.
On Tuesday, factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator Ahmed Makarfi accused some All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders, who, he said, are interested in contesting certain positions in 2019, of being behind the rumour.
But Minister of Information Lai Mohammed yesterday urged Nigerians to disregard such messages being circulated via text messaging and the social media on the President’s health which he said were being orchestrated by those who felt threatened by the emerging order. He urged Nigerians “not to panic”.
He said there was “no iota of truth in the messages being circulated on the health of the President, who is hale and hearty, and the purported emergency meetings of the governors in Abuja or anywhere.”
He said the naysayers had also “resorted to the use of ethnicity and religion as tools to divide Nigerians, overheat the polity and cause panic among the citizenry.”
He said in addition, those behind the messages were “using fake news and disinformation to distort government activities.”
Mohammed said in a statement: “While opposition and criticism are all part of democracy, the crafting and circulation of subversive materials and scare-mongering are not, hence the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on those who are bent on subverting the state.
‘’The source/sources of the fabricated messages are already being investigated and the authors should prepare to face the consequences of their actions.
‘’The emerging trend of resorting to destabilisation and scare-mongering is not unexpected, considering this government’s clampdown on the corrupt elements in the society, the plugging of all financial leaks which has derailed the gravy train of the looters of public treasury and the enthronement of probity and transparency in the polity.
‘’While we will neither stifle press freedom nor abridge the citizens’ right to express themselves freely, whether through criticism or protests, the security agencies will neither allow any resort to violence nor a willful subversion of the state for whatever reason.”
The minister also told reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting the the rumour on the President’s health is a “silly thing”.
He said there were more pertinent issues to discuss in the country than indulging in irrelevances.
He said: “I don’t want to lend my voice to a very silly thing. I will not join this debate. I think there are more serious issues of state to discuss than this issue.
“It’s only in this part of the world that you wake up in the morning and you say the president of the country is dead. I will not join that kind of debate at all.”
President Buhari left Nigeria for the United Kingdom last Thursday on vacation. He is also billed to undergo medical check-up while on the trip.
The Presidency also yesterday denied insinuation that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo was being pressured to resign.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Mr. Femi Ojudu, said it was not true that Osinbajo was being held hostage by some governors who were said to have demanded his resignation from office.
According to the statement titled “State of the Nation,” Ojudu said Osinbajo was at his desk in his office and performing his routine functions, having earlier presided over a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The claim, he said was ridiculous. Ojudu urged the people to desist from carrying fake news.
He said: “I have read many ridiculous stories saying the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is being held hostage by some governors who are trying to compel him to resign.
“I have equally received several calls regarding this. The story is simply not true. It is a fabrication. Don’t be a purveyor of fake news .
“The Vice President is behind his desk carrying out his task. The Federal Executive Council presided over by him has just ended and he has been busy receiving visitors and holding meetings.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki also caution rumour mongers against dragging him into the matter.
In a statement, he said: “My attention has been drawn to a speculation on some online media about supposed meeting of some governors who held Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to ransom and sought for Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki to take over the Presidency.
“My first initial reaction was to ignore this empty rumour but after being inundated with calls from across the country and abroad, it became necessary for me to make clarifications from our own end.
“It is a good thing that the Presidency had dismissed the speculation and showed that there is no substance to it. However, i feel it should be known that those behind this baseless, empty and unintelligent mischief are those who do not love this country.
“Such suggestions as contained in the speculation can only bring ill-will, disunity and crisis to the country and i therefore advise the sponsors to desist immediately. More importantly, these trouble makers should refrain from linking Senator Saraki’s name to their evil plot.”