November 3, 2018

How we’ll resist rigging in 2019 — PDP chieftain

With barely four months to the 2019 general elections, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, says it is optimistic of its chances of winning the Presidential elections as well as taking over the reins in some states currently under the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC. For the major opposition political party in the land; all that is required to effect a change of leadership at the centre is a free, fair and credible election.

In the past three and a half years, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has left Nigerians with mixed feelings about its stewardship. While a vocal majority insists the bulk of promises made prior to 2015 elections have not been fulfilled; loyalists of President Buhari believe the first citizen has done fairly well, enough to earn him another shot at the exalted office. For the PDP however, Nigerians, having tasted life under its leadership for 16 years and close to four years of the ruling party, have a decision to make, a decision it says would either make or break the nation.

In a chat with  Saturday Vanguard  earlier in the week, a chieftain of the PDP and former military governor of one of the North-West states premised his party’s chances of sweeping the polls on what he called “the sorry state of affairs in the nation since the APC took over in 2015.” In his words, the worsening security situation in the country coupled with the economic squeeze that is yet to abate is enough reason for Nigerians to push for a new party. That said, the retired brigadier general argued that for the PDP to reclaim power especially at the centre, it will have to go the whole hog to ensure that voters are not intimidated and harassed. So, how does the party intend to this, considering the fact that security is an exclusive preserve of government?

President Buhari

“You are right to say the federal government controls the Nigeria Police and the military but that is not an absolute truth. I think the PDP as a party has realised how important it is for us to reclaim power and to do that, we cannot afford to fold our hands and watch manipulations to go on. We are going to have our people stationed at every polling unit to monitor the electoral process and unlike the daylight robbery which took place recently in Ekiti and Osun states; we will go the whole distance to ensure no party is given an undue advantage at the expense of others,” he said, adding “stopping APC from rigging will dimply mean winning the election.”

Collaborating this view, a party official told our correspondent that the party is partnering with local and international bodies to check rigging and intimidation. This according to him will include the deployment of software in Information and Communication Technology, ICT, use of internally trained election monitors and party agents among others who would traverse the length and breadth of the country including very remote areas during the elections.

“Our anti-rigging strategies are scientifically and technologically-driven and I am not going to disclose them here. But I can assure members of the PDP and indeed Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora that we will be working with a team of internally-trained election monitors during the general elections. If elections are holding in other parts of the world without credibility burden, the same thing will be replicated here in 2019.

“However, the onus to conduct free polls lies with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The eyes of the world are on INEC and if it fails, we will all suffer the consequences. They should not be afraid of Buhari losing the election because truth is, he will lose. But he can be victorious in defeat by simply congratulating the winner just like our hero of democracy, President Goodluck Jonathan did in 2015,” he said.

While the party continues to raise issues bordering on INEC’s capacity to remain an impartial umpire, the party chieftain added that the security agencies would have their part to play, warning that any form of partisanship on the part of military will be resisted.

His words: “In almost 20 years of democracy, elections are still a source of worry to many Nigerians. Many voters, for fear of their lives, leave city centres to their villages during election times. But we are saying come 2019, the Nigerian Police and the military that will be mobilized for election duties must protect all of us. We won’t accept any form of pandering to the wishes of the APC as they have done in recent times. If they fail to demonstrate their neutrality; they should be ready for the outcome because we are not scared of their arms and ammunition.”


Atiku and his

Dubai team

Presidential flag bearer of the PDP in the 2019 general elections and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar took his quest for the highest office in the land to a new last week when accompanied by a horde of associates, he flew to Dubai, United Arab Emirates where he has remained at the time of filing this report.

In Dubai with Atiku was Reno Omokri, arguably President’s Buhari most vocal critic in the last couple of years. Although no official information has been provided on outcome of the meeting; indications are rife that the ruling party was rattled, sufficient enough to provoke a reaction from the APC national leader, Ahmed Tinubu, who on Wednesday remarked that the PDP candidate could strategise as far as in a jungle, warning that at the end, he would lose the elections.

An aide of the former Vice President told Saturday Vanguard that Omokri is likely to sell Atiku’s candidacy to Diaspora Nigerians, given his visibility in the social media.

“Omokri is an asset to the PDP any day. He has proven his worth times and again especially when he worked with the former President. Even at the end of the Jonathan administration, he did not abandon the party. I am sure this depth of loyalty is what has again brought him before our Presidential candidate,” he said.

Apart from Omokri, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi, spokesman, Atiku Presidential Campaign Organization, former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, lawmaker representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Segun Shouwunmi a host of other personalities were in Dubai with the PDP flag bearer in what has been dubbed a strategy aimed at avoiding the distraction back home.

Upon their return, these associates are expected to play strategic roles in the campaign machinery of the PDP presidential candidate. An aide of the former Vice President who did not join the Dubai train said a few appointments will be made in a fortnight to set the stage for the marketing of Atiku candidacy.

“This is not the first time meetings like this will hold outside the shores of our country. So those who are making a mountain out of it have clearly shown that they are jittery of the fate that awaits them.

“Time for elections is almost here. In two weeks time, there will be some announcements of who will be in charge of what in the campaign team,” he said.