By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) at the weekend, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, commenced it’s presidential campaign after much anticipation and tackles from the opposition platforms.
The leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had earlier begun its own campaign.
As far as the February 2019 presidential campaigns are concerned, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) started ahead of time. The opposition party has since constituted and inaugurated its presidential campaign council and embarked on zonal rallies in North-west, North-central and South-west and South-East among others.
The PDP, knowing that it does not have the luxury of incumbency like it had almost four years ago, had to hit the ground running immediately the campaigns were formally flagged off by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on the other hand, took a much longer time in getting its presidential rallies much in the mould of the PDP, going. While some of their members would argue that the President’s unveiling of the Next Level, campaign theme, as well as activities of some of his campaign organisations like Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) and GOGAN serve the campaign need at the moment, the opposition, has been taking shots at the APC for failing to setup its Presidential campaign council.
Although, minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and Festus Keyamo, have long been appointed as director general and spokesperson of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, the opposition has been passing various kinds of remarks about the delay in the commencement of mass rallies.
While pundits aver that the reason for the delay of the APC in commencing with it’s campaign was because the ruling party was too engrossed in intra-party squabbles arising from it’s primaries, the PDP, specifically alleged that APC isn’t campaigning because it has preparing to rig the election.
The opposition party which having been accusing the APC of working with security agencies and the electoral umpire, alleged further that the ruling party was already aware of its loss of pre-2015 goodwill and hence was not prepared to canvass votes but to seize votes. For PDP, the circumstances before, during and election their losses of most post-2015 elections was indicative of their concerns. The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) comprising close to 50 parties had also raised this concern as well.
“As you can see the APC isn’t prepared to engage the people and seek for their votes because they know they have perfected plans to rig just like they did in most of the elections they won post-2015,” Mr Sunny Adeniran, a PDP member said.
“We are aware of their schemings to use security and arm twist INEC but we trust that Nigerians will resist them,” he claimed.
But the APC has since treated the allegation as empty and lacking in proof. While the ruling didn’t give as much attention to the claims of the PDP, an APC chieftain, said “the PDP are just afraid of what will befall them. So they want to drag us to their level. Can they not see that we have been campaigning?”
The party chieftain who hails from the South-east, but pleaded not to named, as only party spokesmen can comment on matters like this added “party’s campaign in different ways. And we have been doing so. As a matter of fact our completed projects, fight against corruption, fiscal discipline, sincerity in the fight against forces of insecurity are plain for all to see and we believe that Nigerians are seeing it. PDP should do it’s campaign on issues as we are doing,” he said.
Political pundits however aver that the 2019 presidential election would require more from the APC being the ruling party as well as the PDP, which also mismanaged the goodwill it enjoyed since 1999. So far it would seem like the two leading parties have engaged more in exchange of brickbats than actual engagement of the electorates, even though they had signed the peace pact on none-violent, issue based campaigns.
Beyond the unveiling of their 2018 campaign slogans and documents, the closest, the who leading parties have come to engaging the votes was at the recent Vice Presidential debates which was largely viewed by the elite.
Interestingly, APC’s declaration to start its presidential campaign in Akwa Ibom State attracted some drama. While the use of the staduim became a contentious issue, the disclosure by President Muhammadu Buhari that his said he will soon embark on aggressive campaign for the 2019 Presidential election which will focus on the three areas of on the fight against corruption, tackling insecurity and improving the economy which he campaigned on in 2015 sparked a reaction from the PDP.
He said the campaign will start by visits to each of the six geo-political zones of the country.
He said “The party nominated me and I will contest. We are watching the Independent National Electoral Commission very seriously and we are going out very soon we will go from geo-political zone to geo-political zone, to remind the people of our promises in 2015.
“Three fundamental things, security, because you have to secure the country before you can govern it and talking about what we have done regarding securing the country, the people of the North-east know better. The three fundamental things we campaigned with are still very relevant.
“On improving the economy, which we are still going to explore, we have done well in agriculture, and those who embraced farming are not regretting it and we have also addressed unemployment and we are very lucky, through that we are now attaining food security.
“The third thing with which we will campaign is the issue of corruption. I told you what I did when I was in uniform but now when I have to go by this system (Democracy,) where people have to be arrested and then prosecuted, taken to court and then with evidence.
“We will collect back what they had taken illegally and for doing that, people are calling me Baba go slow. I am going slowly but whatever the case, I will not stop pointing fingers at those who have abused trust by taking money that does not belong to them.
“I will keep on trying to do my best for this country and get back what belongs to the country. We are doing to do the roads, revive the railway and electricity with the little resources at our disposal. Fighting Corruption, yes, we are slow because the system is slow. It’s not Baba that is slow but it is the system so I am going by this system and I hope we will make it.”
Reacting the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization (PPCO) said that President Muhammadu Buhari, by anchoring his 2019 campaign on seeking solution for the same issues of economy, anti-corruption and insecurity, which he promised to tackle in 2015, has admitted failure, manifest incompetence and lack of capacity to deliver on promises.
“President Buhari therefore, has no business seeking a re-election in 2019, as Nigerians are no longer ready to follow any leader who has no solutions to the myriads of problems facing our nation.
“The economy was ranked one of the largest investments in the hub of Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with Fitch B.B rating.”
They added that the economy was plunged into a harrowing recession, wrecking the naira “from N160 to the dollar, under the PDP to N500, and then to the current N360.”
The spokesman of PPCO, Kola Ologbondiyan added that the economic policies scared away investors, collapsed businesses, destroyed over 30 millions jobs.
He also lamented that while PDP administration paid off our foreign debts and grew a virile economy, there is an accumulation of trillion of naira in debts, depletion of our foreign financial instruments and making our once thriving nation the poverty capital of the world.
PPCO further knocked the anti-corruption war saying it was a guise to hound opposition leaders while APC leaders accused of corruption go on under his protective cover.
“In the same vein, the world can recall that Transparency International (TI) 2017 corruption perception index amply showed that corruption in Nigeria has worsened” under this administration, he said.
As it stands, the remaining days of the campaigns promises far more intense battles. The challenge however remains the need to ensure that the narratives are issue based, non-violent and tailored to ensure that electorates make the right decisions in 2019.