By Ehichioya Ezomon
Forty-two days (since November 18, 2018) after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the start of presidential campaigning for the 2019 general election, President Muhammadu Buhari (and the All Progressives Congress (APC)) finally launched his bid for a second term in office on Friday, December 28.
The rally at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom State, followed the composition of a Presidential Campaign Council (PCC). Co-chaired by Buhari and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, serve as co-deputy chairs, while Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, retains his position (as in 2015) of Director General of the council.
Polity watchers had wondered when, and if ever, the campaign would get off the ground, considering that Buhari had not utilised a single day within the timeframe for outside rallies.
There were no political events staged in Katsina, his home state; his immediate constituency, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja; or elsewhere in the 36 states, to re-introduce himself to the voters for the February 16, 2019, poll.
Contrarily, his main challenger and candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had held an introductory campaign in his home constituency of Adamawa State, and zonal rallies in Sokoto (North-West), Ilorin (North Central), Ibadan (South-West) and Gombe (North-East).
This made the PDP and its supporting Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) to claim that Buhari and his APC-controlled government were stalling because they had no achievements to showcase, and ask to be returned to power in 2019.
But the Buhari camp had poo-poohed the opposition as crying more than the bereaved. Debunking its insinuations, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told journalists that the APC had been campaigning without holding massive rallies, but focusing on local issues that win votes.
Mohammed’s words: “I don’t think it is correct to say my party is not campaigning. Nobody is campaigning as hard as my party. I stay in this office (in Abuja) and I watch our campaign in Gombe, Kano, Enugu or Imo. There is nowhere that our party is not campaigning.
“If you are talking about special campaign, maybe because the ban was just lifted and things are yet to pick up. But to say my party is not campaigning is wrong. We are campaigning very hard and believe me, what wins elections is not the jamboree. What wins election is actually understanding the local issues and this is being done very well.”
Besides, the spokesman of the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), Festus Keyamo, responding to a query that the APC was lagging behind others in vigorous campaigning, asked: “Must our campaign be modelled after their own?”
According to him, “INEC gave us till February 15 (2019, for electioneering). What we decide to do with it is our own business. Have you not seen the Vice President (Prof. Osinbajo) campaigning, going from community to community, and door to door?”
Well, the waiting game is over, and the hustings have begun in earnest for candidate Buhari and the APC. Yet, it wasn’t that there’s no galvanising of the voters for the president in the intervening period. The Presidential Villa had assumed a rallying point for the hundreds, if not thousands of groups canvassing for him in the balloting that commences at 8 a.m. on February 16.
Going by the saying, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain,” the Buhari support groups were going in droves to The Villa, to meet the president and declare their readiness to repeat, and even surpass the 2015 feat of helping him to the exalted seat, after he failed in previous attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
Notwithstanding alleged “disagreement” over the composition of a campaign council, Buhari, perhaps, relished, and cashed in on the assurances of these groups, to conserve energy and resources for a gruelling second stanza of electioneering after the Yuletide – barely 45 days from today, December 31, to the poll
As the campaigns have taken off, whatever strategy adopted for his re-election should be one to ensure a resounding victory for the president, as the opposition against him is overwhelming, and “getting better at their game” to stop him in his tracks to 2023.
Unfortunately, the opposition’s cause(s) is wittingly or unwittingly helped, and aided by the machinations of aggrieved, dissatisfied and disgruntled members of the APC, on the pretext of the fallout from the congresses and primaries conducted in May and August/September 2018.
These protestations, and division in many states, including particularly in Ogun, Imo, Zamfara, Rivers, Kaduna, Adamawa, Oyo, Cross River and Ondo are what the opposition banks on to whittle the APC overall supports on Election Day. The party should take heed, and reconcile before it’s too late!
Last Line: Reactions to ‘APC and countdown to 2019 polls (9)’.
Below are reactions (via SMS) to my Monday, December 24, 2018, article in which I raised the issue of “total disrespect” that the National Assembly caucus of the PDP accorded President Buhari when he presented the 2019 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the chambers on Wednesday, December 19, 2018:
P/N: +2348034091040 (2:48pm, Tuesday, December 25):
“Has the institution of the presidency any respect left? Real Nigerians are angry. ‘Who’ is in charge in rock.”
P/N: +2348037427957 (2:38pm, Monday, December 24):
“Your write up this morning on page fourteen of Daily Telegraph is your personal opinion. Eighty percent of Nigerians were happy with what happened. Does the president have any regard for the National Assembly? Does your president have regard for the judiciary? Which president has governed Nigeria the way Buhari is doing since 1960? Your write up does not hold water at all. Ik. Jos.”
Thanks for your comments. We welcome reactions devoid of intemperate language. Keep texting!
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.