Political fireworks marking the formal flag-off of the 2023 electioneering season commenced yesterday, as candidates and their political parties intensified their bid to win the hearts of Nigerians.
The top presidential contenders including Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) expounded on their plans and programmes.
Atiku who spoke during the official inauguration of the PDP presidential campaign council (PCC) and national campaign management committee (NCMC) promised to ensure an inclusive and prosperous economy to lift the poor out of poverty.
On his part, Obi assured that he will tackle hunger and insecurity, just as Adebayo declared that he will reinvent the better life programme of MKO Abiola’s ‘better life programme’.
However, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) held prayer sessions even as it remained undecided about whether its presidential campaign would kick off.
Meanwhile, some PDP governors and other party stakeholders in the camp of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday shunned the official inauguration of the PDP presidential campaign council.
Those who stayed away from International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, venue of the inauguration, include Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue); Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Wike.
Others are former governor of Ekiti, Ayo Fayose; former governor of Plateau State, Jonah David Jang; former governor of Cross River State; Donald Duke; former PDP deputy national chairman (South), Chief Olabode George, and former minister of Information and National Orientation, Prof Jerry Gana, among others.
The group had last week in Port Harcourt pulled out of the PDP presidential campaign council, insisting on the resignation of the PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu.
It said Ayu must resign to create a way for a southerner to become the party’s national chairman for them to rescind their decision.
But speaking during the inauguration of the campaign team and public presentation of his books, Atiku extended the olive branch to all aggrieved members of the party.
He said the task ahead is beyond coming together to inaugurate a presidential campaign council, noting that the task is to rescue and rebuild Nigeria.
Atiku said. “But to rescue and rebuild our country, we must first take over the mantle of leadership from the party that drove us into this mess. To do this, we must all be united in purpose and come together to fight and win all the elections slated for next year.
“Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP. And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rescue, rebuild and reposition our beloved country, Nigeria”.
He also lamented that under the APC-led federal government, Nigeria has witnessed a frightening descent into anarchy, adding that “our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust, to mention a few.”
Atiku also claimed that the current government has failed at the very essence of what makes a government: “the security of lives and property of its citizens. Our security challenges are legion, and I do not need to bore you by rehashing them here.
“Our economy is in shambles, growth has stagnated, and our people are facing massive existential challenges daily. Hunger is the norm today in our country,” he stated.
He assured that when elected, he will restore Nigeria’s unity through equity, social justice, mutual collaboration, and consensus among the diverse people.
Atiku pledged to “build a strong and effective democratic government where the safety and security of our people and their property is our primary and singularly most important responsibility.”
Chairman of the PDP PCC and Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, charged Atiku and other members of the party not to mind the doomsayers.
Emmanuel assured that the campaign council would carry and publicise the message on how to rescue and restore the hope of Nigerians.
He said, “I want to say here, don’t mind the doomsayers, I read everywhere all those doomsayers saying PDP here, PDP there, but I want to assure you that PDP is a solid Rock and we know that no matter the wind it will not move the Rock.
“So irrespective of the wind that you see around the rock, it will not move the rock. The rock remains as solid as ever. Please don’t mind the doomsayers. We want to assure you that we are campaigning to win. Nothing is acceptable to PDP outside victory”.
On his part, director general of PDP NCMC and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, assured the PDP presidential candidate of victory.
Urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free, fair and credible elections, Tambuwal assured that the campaign team will hit the ground running and work as a family.
Ayu who was represented by PDP national vice chairman North, Amb Umar Ilya Damagun, said the inauguration marks the beginning of the opposition party’s mission to rescue the country from the APC led federal government.
PDPO governors who attended the event are Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State; Douye Diri of Bayelsa State; Godwin Obaseki of Edo State; Ahmadu Fintri of Adamawa, and PDP vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
Others include: Former Vice President Nanamdi Sambo; former presidents of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gali Na’abba; House minority leader, Ndidi Elumelu, and former national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus among others.
PDP NEC member Raises Alarm Over Plot To Derail Atiku’s Campaign
Meanwhile, a PDP national executive committee (NEC) member yesterday raised the alarm over a plot to scuttle the campaign of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Addressing journalists at the venue of the inauguration of the presidential campaign council of the party, the party national officer and a NEC member, Chief Chinemerem Madu, fingered a national vice chairman of the party as the brain behind the plot.
He also alleged that the national vice chairman, whose name he didn’t mention, has confessed to have been heavily bankrolled and had been approaching and offering members of NEC sums ranging from N25 million to N28 million each to address a damning press conference with fabrications aimed at derailing the presidential campaign.
He said, “Members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are alerted of furtive moves by a compromised National Vice Chairman and a couple of members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to derail our Presidential Campaign and scuttle the deserving victory of our Presidential Candidate, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar at the 2023 general elections.
“This National Vice Chairman and his cohorts who confessed to have been heavily bankrolled are approaching and offering members of NEC sums ranging from N25 million to N28 million each to address a damaging press conference with fabrications aimed at derailing the Presidential Campaign.
“The said National Vice Chairman had approached me personally as a member of NEC to inform me of plots to orchestrate a heavily funded Press Conference to be addressed by select NEC members seemingly calling for the resignation of the National Chairman, Sen. Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, but actually targeted at frustrating the Atiku Abubakar Presidential bid.”
Reacting however, the Atiku/Okowa campaign said it is focused on the rescue Nigeria project.
As statement by campaign spokesman, Daniel Bwala, said, “Our attention has been drawn to a press statement by Chief Chinemerem Madu, a NEC member of our dear party of an alleged plan by some persons both within and outside the party to conduct press conference or issue a press release, calling for the removal or resignation of the National Chairman of our great party.
“Whatever the plans are, they are intended, in the statement of Chief Chinemerem, to create a distraction from the collective efforts by the party and its members to execute a rescue Nigeria project.”
We’ll Match Word With Action, No More Excuses – LP’s Obi
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, yesterday urged Nigerians to pray for a peaceful election, saying there would be no excuse, as he would match word with action if he emerges president in 2023.
This came just as the Middle Belt Forum has adopted the presidential candidate of the Labour Party as their sole candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
Speaking during the forum’s unveiling of the LP candidate and his running mate, Yusuf Datti, as their candidates for the 2023 presidential election at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, Jos, Plateau State, Obi pledged to provide security to protect Nigerians.
He said, “We want to tell you that 2023 is nobody’s turn, it is your turn to take back Nigeria. As we start campaigning today, I want you to put Nigeria into prayers; I want you to pray for a peaceful election, I want you to pray for a free and fair election because the suffering is too much.
“Now that the campaigns have started, they will come to share your money. That money is your own and that is why you are hungry, that is why there is no food; that is why there is no security; that is why there is no employment. But we are assuring you that we are coming to tackle hunger in Nigeria, we are coming to provide security.”
He assured the crowd that he will match words with action if elected into office in 2023, adding that the era of giving excuses and blame games are over.
On his part, chairman of Middle Belt Forum and convener of Middle Belt for OBIDATTI 2023, Dr Pogu Bitrus, said the region has resolved to support Peter Obi for the 2023 presidential election.
He said, “We are here to tell Nigerians that the Middle Belt is fully in support of Peter Obi for the 2023 presidency. We did not just arrive at this by sentiment. It was after a serious consideration of issues in Nigeria in collaboration with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Afenifere, the Niger Delta Forum and other socio-cultural groups in the country.
The Nigeria Labour Party (LP) disclosed that the rally organised by the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for their presidential candidate in Jos which had over 3 million people in attendance is a show of acceptability.
I’ll Reinvent MKO Abiola’s Better Life Programme – SDP’s Adebayo
On his part, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate, Adewole Adebayo, yesterday said he is determined to implement the better life programme Chief Moshood Abiola promised Nigerians in the 1993 presidential election which made Nigerians vote for him enmasse.
He said SDP is united to function as a political party that meanswell for Nigeria.
The party said it has resolved every internal crisis in the party, and it is going into 2023 general elections as a united party.
Addressing journalists in Lagos, leaders of the party who assured the electorates of a better life and performance in the forthcoming poll emphasized that every difference in the party has been resolved in the interest of the party.
Speaking at the briefing, the party presidential candidate, Adebayo urged the electorate to trust the party and vote for it, because it will deliver on its promises.
On the qualities the party possesses which stand it out from every other political party, Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, a member of the Board of Trustees, said SDP is the political party every reasonable Nigeria should be happy with.
He maintained that the objective of the party is to deliver service to the people, and that its candidates are not seeking public office for personal gain.
“What is happening in Nigeria is divine. If SDP should come on board it will bring changes and usher in an improvement in the lives of the people. SDP is a party the electorates should be happy with,” Senator Ikeyina said.
In the same vein, former minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, and Dr Olu Agunloye said the party chose to reconcile every aggrieved member so that it can commence its campaign as a united party.
Agunloye said, “I am part of the struggle and the reconciliation. That we have chosen to commence our campaign this way is commendable. I have the belief that SDP will win the election.”
APC Holds Prayers, Campaign Kick-off Date Undecided
The issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket yesterday reared its again at the inter-faith special prayer by the All Progressives Congress (APC) grassroots mobilization groups to kick off of the Tinubu/Shettima campaign in Abuja, with party stakeholders downplaying the matter.
But as party big wigs attended the prayer session organized by the Asiwaju Grassroots Foundation, it was however not clear when the presidential council would officially flag-off the party’s campaign.
One of the presidential aspirants of the party, Senator Ajayi Borooffice, who spoke at the prayer sessionm said Nigerians are not looking for a religious messiah, but a leader who can salvage the country’s ailing economy.
Borooffice who represents Ondo North senatorial district at the National Assembly also explained why he stepped down at the party’s primary for the presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He said, “I’ve been with Asiwaju for a long time and I know that he’s the person who cawn salvage the economy; that can provide the leadership that will solve the problem of our country. So, I had no choice than to step down and to support him. I’m supporting him with full heart, with full strength.”
Borooffice noted that, while the 2023 elections are going to be very strategic and scientific, the APC would have to do a lot in information analysis and to plan strategy.
According to him, what Nigeria needs at the moment is a leader who can solve the problem facing the country.
He stated: “Just like Bishop Kukah said; we are not looking for a religious messiah. We are looking for a leader that can lead Nigeria; that can provide leadership; that can solve the problems of Nigeria. Hunger doesn’t distinguish between Muslims and Christians. Suffering does not distinguish between Muslims and Christians; bandits do not distinguish between Christians and Muslims. We need somebody who can solve the problems of Nigeria and that man is Asiwaju.
“I happen to be very close to his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who is an ordained pastor in the Redeem Church. We are members of the Christian legislators’ fellowship in the National Assembly. Every Wednesday at 8:30, we come together, all Christian staff and Senators and Senator Oluremi Tinubu plays a major role there.
“So, I cannot see Senator Oluremi Tinubu giving out a wrong decision that is against the interest of christians.”
Acknowledging that the Nigerian economy is in a shambles, Borooffice however said Tinubu is the man who can wriggle the country out of the economic morass.
“This is the man that can build the Nigerian economy. The Nigerian economy is in trouble. I’m a Senator, I can’t give you details, but we are praying that even in 2023 that we will have a budget. But Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the person who can re-engineer the economy of Nigeria,” he added.
Earlier, the director general of Asiwaju Project Beyond 2023, Realwan Okpanachi, said the project was a brain child of Asiwaju Grassroots Foundation.
He noted that they had realised long before now that Tinubu is a smart leader that a country should have.
Okpanachi explained that the prayer session was to seek the face of God as the campaign kicks off for the 2023 elections.
Candidates To Sign Peace Accord Today, Tinubu Likely Absent
Meanwhile, candidates of political parties contesting the 2023 presidential election will today sign a peace pact.
A former head of state and chairman of the National Peace Committee, Abdulsalami Abubakar, had last Thursday stated this in Minna after a meeting of the committee members.
But presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would be absent at the signing of the peace pact.
A source close to the APC presidential campaign council however told LEADERSHIP last night that Tinubu who is in London would be represented by his running mate and vice presidential candidate, Sen Kashim Shetimma.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar had last Thursday stated that during electioneering, politicians and their supporters create incitements which could endanger the nation’s peace.
He noted that the attacks by politicians and their supporters on their opponents had moved from issue-based campaigns, thereby relegating civility to the background.
Stressing the need for the peace pact, Abubakar said the first peace accord would hold today, September 29, 2022, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, to commit all political parties, presidential candidates and their spokespersons to peaceful political campaigns and rallies devoid of violence, incitement and personal insults, but defined by issues at the heart of national development and progress.
“The second Peace Accord will come up shortly before the elections, and it is intended to commit candidates to accept the outcome of the votes as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair and credible,” he added.