After a lull in political activities at the presidential villa and in the governing APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, last Friday, broke the political cessation by kick-starting his campaign in Akwa Ibom State. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH writes.
When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted the ban on campaigns in November last year, it was expected that political activities will pick up almost immediately. While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, commenced his zonal campaign in a frenzy, mum was the word from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential flag bearer, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
For the opposition, the quiescent from President Buhari’s campaign was too awkward to be considered an ordinary silence. Jolted by the apparent complacency, the PDP accused the APC of planning to rig the 2019 elections.
On his part, sensing the disquiet his silence was causing in the opposition camp, President Buhari, during a Christmas homage paid him by Christian faithful in the FCT last week, announced that he would soon embark on aggressive campaigns for the 2019 polls.
The president noted that because the three areas of focus where he campaigned in 2015 are still very relevant, he would focus on the fight against corruption, tackling insecurity and improving the economy. According to him, the campaigns will start by visits to each of the six geo-political zones of the country.
And on Friday last week, precisely December 28, 2018, he kept to his words when the presidency announced the membership of the APC campaign team. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, businessman, Femi Otedola, and national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu were named among members of the APC Presidential Campaign Council for the 2019 elections.
The council, which is chaired by Buhari and co-chaired by Tinubu, has Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, as deputy chairmen. Also on the council are all serving and former governors and members of the National Assembly of the party.
The inclusion of Dangote and Otedola in the president’s campaign team caused a stir since both businessmen are not known to be card carrying members of APC. The opposition made a storm in a tea cup out of it that the presidency was compelled to clarify the status of Dangote named under the sub-head ‘Advisory Members’ in the APC Presidential Campaign Council.
According to a statement by the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, Africa’s richest man, not being a card-carrying member of APC, cannot and is not a member of the PCC. “He is also a member of the Peace Committee, and thus cannot be in a partisan campaign council”, Adesina added.
Later that Friday in the afternoon, the president kicked off his much anticipated campaign in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, with an assurance to Nigerians that they will not regret voting the party back to power in 2019.
Addressing a mammoth crowd at the Goodswill Akpabio Stadium, he said there are no more freebies under the APC government, hence Nigerians had better work and earn a living because “no more hand out”. He also expressed his gratitude for the large turn out of Nigerians to kickstart the campaign.
Buhari challenged other presidential candidates to counter the APC performance in security, fight against corruption and revamping the economy. He said four years ago, he promised to clear up terrorists who before today, were holding a number of local governments hostage. He noted that now, all of the captured areas have been freed, adding that his administration has regained food security and Nigeria no longer imports rice.
“I am standing here to express my gratitude and appreciation to the party for organising this get-together to start the campaign against next year. If you could recall, in 2015 when we travelled the length and breadth of this country, we based our campaign on three fundamental issues -security, economy and fighting corruption. I want those who want to challenge us at any level, at any constituency to doubt our contributions towards our undertakings.
“First, insecurity in the North-east has been really defeated in the sense that when we came, we met boko haram in about 17 local governments in Borno and Yobe states. They are not physically holding any local government now. They resorted to indoctrinating our young ones, especially girls. They braced them up in explosives and instructed them to expose themselves in churches, in Mosques, market places and motor parks, but I assure you that we are going to clear them off in our country.”
The president said that Nigerians would always be informed on the progress being made to recover stolen funds and that Nigerians won’t regret voting his government into office. He noted that his administration has delivered on his promises in 2015 hinged on security, economy and fighting corruption, even as he urged the electorate to give him another term in office to consolidate on his achievements.
On corruption, he said, “We have said those who are corrupt will be investigated and prosecuted; we have recovered cash, properties and with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) monies can now be traced”. Urging Nigerians to vote the APC, he assured that they will not regret it, saying “no Nigerian will regret voting for us.”
On his part, national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole noted that in the coming elections, one of the issues that would take precedence is character of the candidates. “My task today is simple; we have a president who can go to America; not those who can’t go to America. We are honoured that you are flagging off your campaign in the South-south.
“I noticed that in the last 48 hours, they were trying to look for mud to throw at the president. The world knows who the president is and we all know what they are. Nigerians should take note. The PDP candidate has already put in notice that he is going to sell the NNPC. We in the South-south will not support any candidate that will sell the NNPC”.
Oshiomhole also presented the APC flag to the gubernatorial candidates of Akwa Ibom, Nsima Ekere; Cross River, Senator John Eno; Delta, Great Ogboru and Rivers, Tonye Cole. Responding on behalf of the candidates, Ekere promised to work for the success of the party in the coming elections, both for the presidential and gubernatorial polls.
In his remarks, minister for Transportation and director general of the Buhari Campaign Council, Rotimi Ameachi, said Nigerians did not hear from him for a long time because he had been busy in the last four years.
“Four years ago, we were running around; we promised three things: economy, security and fight against corruption. Anybody who said we promised to make one naira to one dollar or that we promised to reduce the price of fuel must be a magician. We are not voodoo economists.”
The minister noted that the Buhari administration never knew the PDP had stolen all the money in the treasury until they came on board. “We thought they had conscience. Even as ministers, we felt the pang of changes. When we came, things were bad. The factors we met made us slip into recession. We promised to fight corruption”, he added.
He appealed to Nigerians to give the APC another chance to complete the assignment given to them, saying, “we will create employment; I urge you to come out enmasse to vote for APC and Buhari.”
The national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, said the flag off of the campaign was successful judging by the mammoth crowd that graced the event. He also knocked the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, for criticising the 2019 budget proposal, describing his response as shallow and full of contradictions.
While stating why the president is seeking reelection, Tinubu urged Nigerians to vote for Buhari for the sake of this country. “As the largest producer of oil, we will continue to support you to develop your infrastructure. We are strongly determined to change the course and redirect the vessel of this country. This is what Buhari and the APC are all about.
“Vote for your future and not for corruption. For 16 years they had you in darkness. If they had concentrated on electricity alone, there would have been development. They say they want to come back. No backwardness for Nigeria, for Akwa Ibom. We will rely on you to develop our country and continue to fight corruption. Victor Attah and Akpabio came and developed the state but since Udom came in, happiness has frozen”.
On his part, Senator Godswill Akpabio said, “Uyo is the capital of APC in the South-south. The 2019 general election is about integrity versus others.” He noted that President Buhari has put his thumbprint on all projects and initiated new ones even as he advised the PDP to surrender before the elections.
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