*Fear of EFCC – Investigation
* Lack of cash, intrigues affecting campaigns – Agbakoba
* How to guarantee free, fair polls – Ikokwu
By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
AFTER what seemed like eternity, campaigns for the 2019 general polls are gradually assuming momentum.
Before this week, the December 3, 2018 launch of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential campaigns in Sokoto, and the December 28, national campaign flag-off of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, were arguably the only major campaigns.
The political atmosphere is still devoid of high-wire poster wars, litany of campaign adverts in newspapers, interesting campaign jingles on radio and television, road shows and rallies that were the orders of the day in past elections.
Less than 35 days to the February 16 presidential election, the leading parties are yet to publish their campaign itinerary. With 33 days left for serious campaigns, according to the electoral law, it will take a miracle for the parties’ campaign trails to tour the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. At best, most of the parties will make do with zonal rallies. As of now, less than five of the 59 presidential candidates have advertised their campaigns in newspapers and carrying out visible campaigns. A host of others are making waves on the social media. It is arguable whether or not popularity on the social media will translate to actual votes on election day.
Behind lacklustre, tepid campaigns
Paucity of funds, fear of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other anti-graft agencies going after those funding political activities, and lack of readiness on the part of the political parties were some of the factors that mitigated against the commencement of the campaigns as the numerous candidates made do with in-house consultations and small-scale town hall or market visitations. Recently, the EFCC declared its readiness to monitor movement of funds in banks to ensure that politicians did not use public funds to fund political campaigns.
But it even goes beyond that. There had been signals that they would also monitor huge sums being transferred to any quarters and this, we gathered, has cowed some people who wanted to campaign elaborately.
“They will come after you if you make huge withdrawals. They want to trace everything and this has affected campaigns especially those of opposition parties,” a top politician said. This has been corroborated in many quarters.
Though slow, serious campaigns begin
However, the scenario is changing and the political atmosphere is getting astir. The ruling APC, main opposition PDP and some of the other parties have raised and inaugurated their presidential campaign councils. Also, state chapters of the campaign councils have been set up.
On Monday, the PDP held a rally in Kogi, which drew a tumultous crowd. The PDP in Kwara also flagged-off its campaigns on Tuesday at Pilot Primary School, Bode Sadu, Moro Local Council, Kwara. The PDP took its Presidential campaign rally to Minna, the Niger state capital, and Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, on Wednesday and Thursday. According to the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, the party observed, yesterday, as a campaign-free day. Today, PDP’s tour of North-Central would be completed with a visit to Plateau State.
On Tuesday, the APC in Lagos kicked-off its campaigns at the Skypower Grounds, Ikeja although the exercise was aborted mid-way by violence that claimed no fewer than three lives with many others sustaining injuries.
The APC flagged off its campaign in Yola, Adamawa state, on Wednesday.
The South-East Directorate of the APC presidential campaign council held a stakeholders meeting at Bon Hotel Sunshine, Independence Layout, Enugu on Wednesday and mapped out plans on how to deliver the zone to President Muhammadu Buhari and other APC candidates in the zone.
As the campaigns gain momentum, it is hoped that politicians will shun campaign of calumny, mudslinging, and engage in issue-based campaigns that will deepen democracy in the country. They are expected to tell Nigerians how they would tackle the myriad of socio-economic, political and developmental challenges bedevilling the country at all levels.
In Kwara, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the son of first Republic minister, has been campaigning and has outdone his PDP opponents. He is APC governorship candidate and has done road shows and door-to-door campaigns aside visiting many local government areas and embarking on philanthropic activities. He is fighting to dethrone the Saraki dynasty, an uphill task he admits but hopes to achieve with his ENOUGH IS ENOUGH slogan.
Lack of cash, intrigues affecting campaigns – Agbakoba
Asked his take on the prevailing low-key campaigns, former President of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and human rights lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, who is playing key roles in the quest of the opposition to snatch power, fingered paucity of funds. ”Nothing much is happening because both sides (APC and PDP) don’t have the money. There is no cash at hand. There are also political intrigues and realignments but a lot of actions are expected this month,” he said.
How to guarantee free, fair polls – Ikokwu
To credible and rancour free polls, Second Republic Politician, lawyer and an elder of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Guy Ikokwu, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to use the smart card readers, ensure results are released and pasted at the polling booths, and thereafter transferred electronically to the state and national collation centres to avoid alterations. He picked holes in the INEC’s insistence on transmitting results manually, which he said was a recipe to falsify figures.
He said: ”As the grand patron of Ohanaeze in Lagos, the minimum position of our people with southern leaders in the South-South, South-West and Middle Belt, and elders in the far North, to guarantee free and fair election in Nigeria is that INEC must use card readers as done in previous elections in the states and national.
Electronic transmission of results
”The results at the polling units must be signed and given to the parties and candidates’ agents at the polling units and transferred electronically immediately to the state and national collation centres as was done during the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
”A free and fair election reduces rancour and friction. Candidates must not be asked to go to court after being marginalised with fictitious results. In a clean, free, and credible election, only in one or few instances do you have candidates going to tribunal to question the result or outcome of the election. That is what we are pleading so that Nigeria move forward and remain as one entity and country.”