By Mike Ebonugwo
It is no longer news that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had, after the February 23, 2019 polls, declared President Muhammadu Buhari re-elected, having scored majority votes to defeat his closest rival.
But while the Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, continue to roll out the drums in celebration, the story of that electoral triumph cannot be told without the key role played by the Re-elect Buhari Movement, RBM, which mounted vigorous campaigns for the Buhari’s re-election prior to the polls. Indeed, Emmanuel Umohinyang, the Convener of the Movement, who has been in a buoyant mood since Buhari’s re-election at the polls, sees the development as a mission accomplished by his group.
An elated Umohinyang spoke on this and other related issues in an encounter with Sunday Vanguard.
Nay-sayers, wrong projections and prophets of doom
Expressing his feelings on the outcome of the presidential election, he said: “There is nothing wrong if people look at the outcome from different perspectives. What is important is what perspective majority of Nigerians look at it from. Don’t forget that the nay-sayers had predicted all manner of things. Some funny characters had also used the pulpit to dish out what they call prophesies.
Projections were made and people had thought the 2019 elections most likely would end in blood bath, and that the country may not remain the same after the presidential election. But ours is a country that has a history of overcoming challenges. We had overcome these same group of people in 2015; so I am not surprised because I know that Nigeria is a country that has strong faith in God and we also know that with God we are majority. So those projections may not have ended the way they thought. We have been able to rise against those evil projections.
“The 2019 presidential election has come and gone. It is behind us now. A winner has been declared and the celebration of the winner will tell anyone that indeed that is an election that has more to do with the people, not necessarily with the few elites who feel things should normally go their own way. I think generally the election was peaceful, but for a few skirmishes in a few states. You cannot fault the credibility of that election. We should commend INEC, the Federal Government and Nigerians. Particularly, we must commend the President for ensuring that not only was the election free, it was fair and above all it was credible as attested to by local and international observers.
President Buhari’s performance critical in his re-election
Asked to identify the factors that aided Buhari’s re-election, he had this to say: “I think performance is one of the major factors. I have said before that this president would win the election with a wide margin. I wasn’t surprised. If you look at the opposition, most of their campaign was carried out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Election is conducted on the field. Most of those who make Facebook their past time don’t have PVCs. About 75.5 million Nigerians collected PVCs nationwide according to INEC, but when you look at the actual voting, you can see the statistics. What that tells you is that collecting PVCs is just a step, voting on the day of election is the issue.
“It was an election between the rich and the poor, and this president in the last three and a half years has shown that he is a president who has come to close the gap between the rich and the poor. Some of the lofty achievements of this administration have been targeted at the poor. You could see how the people reacted to it.
Are you talking about the Trader-Moni, Farmers-Moni, the N-Power? A while lot, even though the opposition criticized it as vote-buying. Also, don’t forget what the government has done with the Sukuk bond. The second phase of that bond was over-subscribed. What occupies the president’s mind is what can benefit the generality of Nigerians. That kind of government will not be popular with the elite, but it is popular with the people, and the people came out to vote en-masse to demonstrate that this is a government of the people by the people and for the people, which gave definition to democracy itself. I want to assure you that this president will not let them down as he demonstrated thus far.”
Endorsement does not win election
Umohinyang also spoke on the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, candidate, by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, describing it as a none issue as far as the election was concerned. “Remember, I had said at several fora that endorsement does not win election. It was not just the farmer from Ota that endorsed Atiku Abubakar, we also had factions of Ohanaeze- Ndigbo, Afenifere, even a faction of Northern Elders Forum, the Middle Belt Forum and PANDEF.
“Endorsement is good, but it doesn’t win elections. Most of these people who do endorsement do it for personal gains, not necessarily for the interest of their zones. You saw it on February 23 that the endorsement counted for nothing. In all the geo-political zones of the country, the president had an impressive outing, including the South-East. What this tells you is that it is better a president to focus on the people instead of focusing on a few elites, and that is what the president has done in the last four years. I want to assure you that with this renewed mandate, the president will not only improve the well-being of our people, he will ensure that they are protected. He will ensure that those who have stolen our commonwealth are brought to account,” Umohinyang stated.
2019 election: A referendum on honesty, integrity and due process
Speaking further on the election, the RBM leader also posited thus: “Every four years we go out to cast our votes is a celebration of democracy. It is also a referendum on performance. The 2019 election was more or less a referendum on honesty, integrity and due process. It was a referendum on political office holders. However, there are areas of concern. You cannot take the people for a ride at all times. Performance is the only indices to be re-elected.
Akpabio contested and lost to INEC
“But let me digress a bit. We have also seen in a state like Akwa Ibom that it was not a case of non-performance when we had Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio losing to Chris Ekpenyong, a former Deputy Governor of the state. Akpabio’s four years in the Senate has even over-shadowed the under-performing governor of the state. Akpabio’s four years in the Senate has brought joy and laughter to the people of that geo-political zone. His four years in the Senate has been like twenty. He spread constituency projects to all parts of the state.
Unfortunately, he contested the last election against INEC, not against the opposition. It was an election that in years to come, historians will write history out of it. It was an election that was bastardised. It was an election that one prays will be expunged in the annals of our country. I have never seen such in my entire life. I have never seen where a REC will sit in the comfort of his office, where a REC will threaten EOs who do not do his bidding. A situation where we cannot place our trust in our electoral system, means we are doomed”.
Lessons from election
On the lessons from the election, he said: “The people have sent a message to the political actors that performance is the only ground to be re-elected. The people have sent a message to the political actors that they cannot be taken for a ride. The people have sent a message that if you give them money they will collect it, but that they will vote their conscience.
For the first time, we have had presidential election where the president did not give a dime to anybody. Go and find out from all the support groups, not a kobo was given to anybody for this election. But the support groups were not bothered with that because it was our conviction to support and project the activities of Mr. President that we all came together. It is quite different from the 2015 era when billions of naira was spent on bribing all manner of people in the name of getting re-elected”.