By Henry Umoru
Following the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for next month’s election, the party as part of moves to kick start the campaign proper, in November inaugurated a 154- member Presidential Campaign Council with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Director- General of the Council.
The action was taken following the coming to an end of all the formalities as to the presentation and substitution of candidates by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC on December 17, 2018.
With INEC’s time table, campaigns for next month’s elections including the Presidential and National Assembly elections were to officially flag off on December 18, 2018.
Armed with this, the PDP started its Campaign first, leaving behind the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC that was even yet to constitute its presidential campaign council. To begin its business proper, the PDP started its zonal campaigns with the North West, using Sokoto State, this time, before the very eyes of the Presidential candidate of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari who hails from Katsina State, North West geo- political zone of the country.
At the kickoff of the 2019 campaign, however, the experience was interesting. The crowd that welcomed Atiku Abubakar and the PDP to Sokoto for the North-West zonal rally was unprecedented. The crowd jolted even members of the ruling APC, who wanted to downplay its essence.
While in Sokoto, Atiku who worshipped at the tomb of the revered Othman Dan Fodio, spoke the local language, just as he declared himself a ‘son of the soil’, saying, “I’m a Jack of all trades. I did almost all the businesses in this world. I’m a farmer, a businessman and a civil servant. I did everything in search of wealth, for this reason, among the presidential candidates; no one can help the youth better than me.
“My great grandparents are from Wurno, Sokoto State. I can prove myself by speaking Fulfulde to you now. I am Atiku Abubakar, your brother, a Fulani man. I present to you myself. I’m seeking to be Nigerian president, please vote for me. Don’t trust anybody to come and deceive you.
“Don’t let those whose cows for years are only 150 come and lie to you. My cows are more than thousands. Be mindful of those deceivers, liars and cheats, there’s nothing Nigeria needs more than to make sure that the youth and the poor are empowered.”
From the North West, the PDP campaign train moved to the North Central, December 5th, 2018, using the home state of Saraki, Ilorin, Kwara State as the ground for the campaign and from the North Central, the PDP moved to the South West, with Ibadan as the venue, December 6th, 2018.
While at Ibadan, the PDP said: “The South-West people have shown that nobody can buy their conscience with N10, 000 or sway them with ethnic preachment, especially the same persons who have been exploiting them and diverting their resources to enrich themselves and family members.
“As a geopolitical zone that plays leading role in most of the critical sectors of our national life and which has the highest convergence of all sections and interests across our nation, the decision to align with Atiku Abubakar signals the consolidation of the national consensus to vote him as the next president of Nigeria, come 2019.
“By this, Nigerians in the South West have reinforced the quit notice which the North-West, North-Central and other zones had already served on President Buhari.”
Having done three zones, the campaign train shifted to Kogi. The APC inaugurated their presidential campaign council on Thursday at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential villa.
Even as the PDP was the first to commence the campaigns ahead of next general and presidential elections, there were insinuations from some quarters that the campaign from the PDP, being in the opposition was not as aggressive and vibrant as people expected.
There are also insinuations that besides Saraki, other aspirants who contested with Atiku were not forthcoming in the campaigns as they were not seen around him, as it used to be in past. The question in the lips of many is that have those aspirants who contested with Atiku Abubakar last year October in Port Harcourt abandoned him?
The question became imperative as Nigerians expect that besides members of the National Working Committee, NWC led by the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, members of the board of Trustees, BoT, led by its Chairman, Senator Walid Jubril, very prominent stakeholders that should automatically be at each campaign ground, both zonal and states are those who contested for the position with the former Vice President.
Those who contested with Atiku last year were the Senate President Bukola Saraki; David Mark, his predecessor; Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano state; Aminu Tambuwal and Ibrahim Dankwambo, governors of Sokoto and Gombe states and Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa state.
Others were Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto; Jonah Jang, former governor of Plateau; Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna; Datti Baba-Ahmed, senator representing Kaduna north; and Kabiru Turaki, former minister of special duties and inter-governmental affairs.
As the campaigns are on going, some persons are of the opinion that the APC was out to muzzle up the PDP and that may have explained why some PDP Stakeholders may be docile in the campaigns and there are allegations that the governors on the platform of the party are also not prepared to contribute to the campaign.
Others are of the view that the PDP may not be too aggressive in its campaigns because of pockets of crisis in some states like Ekiti where there is fight between the former governor, Ayodele Fayose and the Senate Minority leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi representing Ekiti South over who controls the soul of the party in the state.
There are also insinuations that some members, stakeholders, aspirants, and especially the PDP Senators because they were sidelined and never consulted prior to the emergence of former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi as the Vice Presidential candidate of the party when all eyes and body languages were towards the deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the accepted Vice Presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar.
But speaking with Saturday Vanguard, one of the spokesmen for PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Prince Kassim Afegbua, however lampooned those attacking the PDP that its campaigns were not vibrant and aggressive, just as he said that the party should be hailed and commended for being the only party that is at the moment covering all parts of the country and selling its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the Vice, Peter Obi to Nigerians ahead of next month’s election.
Kassim vehemently disagreed with those who have the above opinions, saying that those were evil machination from those who are afraid of what he described as the overwhelming acceptance of the PDP in the country and as a party that would remove the serving APC from power.
According to him, those persons were also afraid of the intimidating posture of the PDP, especially from the point of view of the teeming supporters and admirers, adding that Nigerians will vote massively for the PDP because of what it has for the people, what Atiku has to offer when he becomes the President of the country, knowing full well of what the country requires at the moment like restructuring, creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, the economy, to create jobs, to empower the people, the youth and the women, amongst others.
Kassim who noted that PDP is the only party that is campaigning to Nigerians at the moment, however took a swipe at the APC, saying that as a ruling party, it was difficult for it to campaign because it lacked what to tell Nigerians.
On Vibrant Campaign, Afegbua said, “I don’t know how much vibrancy you want to see more than what we are presently doing. The PDP is the only party that is vigorously campaigning. The ruling party is rudderless and confused because they have nothing to showcase to the people.”
On insinuations that those who contested with Atiku are not in the campaign train, Afegbua said, “The presidential aspirants are all involved. They are busy trying to ensure they have stranglehold on their states. Politics is local and they have to be involved in the local campaigns to ensure they deliver their states.”
On PDP and the Governors, he said, “We are working together. The PDP is not broke. Don’t forget that there are campaign rules with respect to finances of political campaigns. The benchmark is 1b naira. We have resolved to abide with the rules of the games. The Governors cannot use public funds to run anyone campaigns. Whenever we need them at any point of the campaign, they will be available. But the beauty of the campaign so far is the fact that there is cohesion and unity.
“Saraki is the Director General of the Campaigns. Others have different responsibilities. Kwankwaso is busy in Kano. And making enough inroad. We need to reach out to everywhere because the message has to percolate down to the rural areas. The level of hunger is high. Poverty is everywhere. Hunger is killing people. Insecurity and kidnappings are rife.
“If you observe closely, only PDP is running a robust campaign. Others especially APC is sharing tradermoni to buy votes. They have nothing to showcase to Nigerians. They are just running from pillar to post looking for ways to rig the election.”