Architect Waziri Bulama is a stalwart of the All Progressives Party (APC) and the deputy director in charge of co-ordinations of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in the 2019 general elections. In this interview with GABRIEL ATUMEYI, he addresses the 2019 general elections and related matters
The general elections have come and gone, from the benefit of insight, why do you think the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari emerged victorious?
The APC won the election because Nigerians appreciated the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Secondly, Nigerians appreciated the modest achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC government in the last four years, between 2015 and 2019. The third reason of course, among many others, is the fact that the APC is the biggest party in the country, it is a broad-based party, that has spread and representation all over the country. As we went into the election, we had 22 sitting governors. So the structure, spread and strength of the party mattered. We had the spread, we had the strength and we had the structure. Another thing that also counted for us, is the fact that we carried out an issue-based campaign, targeting a populist approach, where all our leaders embarked on direct and heavy mobilisation of Nigerian citizens, and Nigerians where sufficiently aroused and motivated to participate in the election, to see reason and to vote for us. What worked for us, is the fact that votes in this election counted. President Muhammadu Buhari’s marching orders to the Presidential campaign council is that he wants to see free, fair and credible elections. A legitimate election that would add value to our democracy, which would show that this government is committed to free and fair election is more important than anything else. So seeing that, we went ahead to directly and heavily mobilise Nigerians. The President himself visited all the 36 states of this country, the vice President also visited all the states in this country, going to shops, markets and homes. The wives of the President and vice President, all our leaders, our senators and our governors came out to mobilise the people. Our target was to have credible, legitimate elections. So why we won is because our strategy was based on direct mobilisation of Nigerians. So Nigerians came out and voted for APC and APC won the election. We called out Nigerians to come out and exercise their constitutional franchise, since they are the owners of Nigeria. The people who rule Nigeria should be accountable to them.
The second thing the President directed us to do, was to assure Nigerians that votes would count this time around. That the voting environment would be free of violence, intimidation and terrorism, to allow Nigerians to vote. We also presented tangible evidence, deliverables under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Improvements in security, preventing waste and theft of government resources and the provision of infrastructure. All parts of the country have seen much improvement in the provision of power, provision of roads, provision of rails. There have also been improvements in managing fuel supply, kerosene supply, and fertiliser supply. A situation where Nigerians get their salaries as and when due, where pensioners get pension as and when due. These are tangible achievements under President Muhammadu Buhari, which we presented to Nigerians and Nigerians appreciated it and gave their mandate to Buhari to govern them for the next four years. So he won the election clean, fair and square.
The main opposition party and their candidate believe that the election is not credible, that it was militarised, and are challenging it in court. How do you see that claim?
This is just the usual song of the losing party; they would like to give some reason to their followers. The fact that this election was credible was attested to by the domestic and international observers, and NGOs. That this election was one in the history of this country where votes counted. This time around votes mattered. There was no evidence of pre-determined results or cases of writing and announcing results. There was no evidence of collation centres being invaded and taken over, there was no evidence of the practices aimed at brazenly or openly intimidating Nigerians to have the opportunity to write results. This was not the case in this election. That was why people even in the APC lost the election; because votes counted. There are many people in both parties who never lose election but they lost because this time around votes counted, and we knew, those of us in the Presidential campaign office, that there is a serious commitment on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that votes count. Of the 195 off season elections carried out between 2015 and 2018 were adjudged to be relatively better than elections under previous governments. We knew that the 2019 election was one election where votes was going to count and the President would ensure that votes count even if he was going to lose. Anybody who understands the thought of Mr President would know that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the rule of law, of ensuing that there is accountability, transparency and openness in management of elections in this country. He always use to say that the reason why he won the 2015 election was because of the automation of the electoral system in 2015, that led to the introduction of the electronic card reader which prevented rigging and outright fraud in announcing results. We know that he was determined to build on the achievement of 2015, and he did. The militarisation of the election grammar was mainstreamed by the PDP establishment into the national narrative or national discourse is completely false. Since 2003 when he went into the mainstream politics. He has always been an advocate of one man, one vote. As the 2019 election approached, his position to the security agencies, is go and do your work. Don’t intimidate Nigerians, don’t support APC, don’t support me, I have only one vote. Create an enabling environment for Nigerians to come out and vote, and that was how the security agencies acted. He urged them to act professionally to forestall the illicit designs of unscrupulous politicians and militias to harass Nigerians or interrupt the electoral process. He instructed them to be strict even with members of his own party, urging them to arrest and prosecute. We know that even APC stalwarts have been taken into custody when they were seen to have to have run foul of the law.
So the so-called militarisation of the election is just the opposition seeking sympathy vote, there was no militarisation as such, and no bandits hijacking the election which used to be normal between 1999 and 2015. So there was no militarisation.
Inconclusive elections seem to be prevalent in the 2019 polls, why would you say 2019 election was better than previous elections in Nigeria?
INEC had free hand to carry out the task before them, the government in power, President Muhammadu Buhari allowed INEC to freely carry out the mandate given to it by the constitution. INEC itself displayed sufficient competence and capacity in managing these elections. The idea of inconclusive elections was a step taken within the framework of the Electoral Act to prevent fraud and rigging, it was not selective, it was not pre-determined, it happened in areas controlled by all parties, whether the PDP or the APC. After all is said and done, at the moment, everybody is now sure that INEC managed this election transparently and openly. There was accountability in the work of INEC. But going further, INEC itself has its own constraints, they may have learnt their lessons from this election just as they had from previous elections. Well, we believe that most of their observations and observations made by other Nigerians and collectively with all stakeholders in Nigeria will trigger necessary reforms that will improve the performance of INEC in subsequent elections in the future to see that elections are transparent, free, fair and open. INEC under the leadership of APC and particularly under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has carried out their work without interference; they have 100 percent empowerment, resources, power and authority to do their work as demanded by the Nigerian constitution. We are very proud and happy that this happened under our government.
How would you rate the leadership of the APC going into the 2019 election?
The leadership of the party in my opinion deserves distinction in the way it managed the party going into this election and coming out successfully. The campaign was structured and organised in a way that it operated with a sense and unity of purpose, there was coherence, it was purpose driven. All leaders and stakeholders were united, and we went in and won the Presidential election. The result of the 2019 election showed that the APC has grown stronger in many areas it was thought to be weak. The APC presidential candidate scored 25 percent of votes in 34 of the 36 states of the federation, except in Enugu and Imo States. Even in some states it scored as high as 80 percent.
This thus shows that Nigerians appreciate the APC as a party under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. This shows that the APC is strong and rooted in all the states. According to the constitution the winner should score 25 percent in two third of the states of the federation but it is clear the President with his victory by far surpassed the threshold. It is a remarkable achievement in Nigeria’s political history. So the leadership of the party deserves commendation. Going forward the party will build on its achievement to be a platform of unity for our country Nigeria.
Moving away from the successes of your party, let’s talk about their defeat, why it lost Bauchi State which use to be its stronghold?
Well, at the moment I wouldn’t say we lost Bauchi entirely, of course, there are some states like Adamawa, Bauchi, Sokoto, Rivers which we ought to have taken, but somehow disaffection within the ranks of the stakeholders in the party, that started with discontent emerging from the congresses, primaries was carried into the elections. These things were not resolved and eventually the party was polarised in these states. You know there was no harmony in those states as we have at the Presidential level, so by leaving and taking the membership of other parties or by avoiding coming out to vote gave the opposition the edge. We know what happened in Bauchi State where some of our members pitched tent with PRP and NDP, and the polarisation led to the reduction in the total number of votes available to us. In Imo State we had the same thing, we split up into about four camps of different parties and we eventually lost to the PDP. The AA, APGA were all former APC members. I believe the party will learn from that and find a way of improving unity and harmony in the party, by promoting inclusiveness, justice and fairness so members would have no reason to go out and undermine the party in annoyance, to fight the party back. To create an environment where all the stakeholders have reason to play politics within the framework provided by the party. Not all persons can be governors and senators at the same time, so the party will have to enhance its mechanism of accommodating such situation. The ultimate objective of politics is public service and improvement of the life of Nigerians.
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