By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja

Barring any last-minute change of plans, the ruling All Progressives Congress APC would formally flag off its 2023 Presidential Election campaign on Monday, October 10 in Abuja, Vanguard has learned.

The development comes as the party and its campaign council gears up to receive its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu back to the country.

Vanguard had exclusively reported on Tuesday that Tinubu who has been in London for some days is expected back to Nigeria within the week.

Noting that it had already begun campaigns in several states of the country, it said the October 10 Abuja flag-off is however dependent on when it formally inaugurates its Presidential Campaign Council PCC.

Also, faced with partisan attacks on the health status of Tinubu, the APC has challenged presidential candidates of the country’s main opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and that of Labour Party LP, Mr Peter Obi to make public their own medical records for effective scrutiny.

The party leadership also pacified its Rivers state chapter which had threatened to ditch her over allegations that Southwest leaders of the party were hobnobbing with the PDP Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike to the detriment of the local APC.

Campaign flag-off

Director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr Bayo Onanuga told Vanguard on Tuesday that the campaign is a marathon and had already begun in Lagos, Katsina, Benue, Kogi and several other states.

He said for now, the tentative date for the Abuja flag-off is October 10 but that the PCC secretariat is still working on accommodating all interests to ensure a fair representation of all geopolitical zones on the council.

“The campaign, which is a marathon has started in many states such as Lagos, Katsina, Benue, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun. The flag off in Abuja is tentatively put at 10 October, but it will depend on when the PCC is inaugurated.

“The secretariat is still checking the PCC list to ensure all the geo-political interests are well represented”, said Mr Onanuga.

Also speaking in the same vein, National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Barr. Felix Morka said as the ruling party, APC does not have to rush into campaigns like other parties, saying it has fine-tune its strategies.

He said; “Our campaigns are ongoing already. Even though it is yet to be formally and globally inaugurated, but you know, make no mistake, the units and at ward levels in the local governments and states, efforts are underway. People are really bursting with energy to hit the road.

“The foremost symbolic thing will be done and the fact that we didn’t do it on the first day of the campaigns doesn’t take away from the seriousness with which we are going to attack this programme.

“As a matter of fact, again, we are also very keen not to have our voice and our efforts lost in the cacophony of the rest of the parties. So, we are taking our time and within a few days, we will get it right.

“By the way, I think we are actually entitled to take a bit of our moment to really fine-tune how the process should be as the largest party on this continent.

“There is a lot of activities at the polling unit level; like me who comes from Delta state, my phone is constantly buzzing with people trying to get involved in the unit and up to ward levels, local government, and state levels. So, what we did was not just at the national level. That is not what really matters. But at the unit level, people are filled with this enthusiasm to get involved because they know and are confident that we are going to succeed and that is not something about Abuja and the national presidential campaign council but also of the wards, units, local governments, and the states as well.

“The fact is that when you try to put together a campaign council for a ruling party, a party of over 40 million people, that is no joke. And in any event, this is a campaign council that every member of our party wishes to be involved in.

“What you are seeing is an overload of interest and enthusiasm and the desire of party men and women to be involved in the process. Those who call it a problem, I call it a sweet problem. That is what it is. I rather have that problem where everyone wants to be involved in the council than to have a problem where no one wants to be involved in the council which is the case for our own key opposition party the PDP. Many of those who were listed and given eminent positions in their campaign council say they are not interested. We have a situation where everyone in our units in our wards wants to be involved, but you know not everyone can be listed as a member of the campaign council otherwise, it becomes unwieldy and unmanageable. It is a sweet problem that we are trying to resolve”, Morka added.

Atiku, Obi health records

On the health status of Tinubu, the APC spokesman described him as fit as a fiddle.

He challenged both Atiku and Obi to make their own health records public. “Our candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is as fit as anyone. I am not saying this to be political. For the purpose of this discussion, you have raised the question of his health.

“What I am saying from my knowledge even though I am not a medical doctor, from observing him for being around him, engaging with him, and many times over the last few months that I have been at the campaign council, in meetings with him and observing him meeting with others, his schedule will make anyone else think that they are as fit as a fiddle to actually get dizzy.

“I have been around him for six hours uninterrupted. I have watched him go to meetings back to back and walk people to the door as they leave. We can have a conversation about the body being old or aged or being challenged while the mind is still very fit. We can have that conversation, but the point I am making is that from the question you asked, all I can say is that for a man of his age, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is strong and has his wits about him. Physically I have seen him pray.

“Not even people of my age or your age. Who can manage six hours of none stop meetings without a break? One team after the other. That is what he does every day at the council. Who says that the older you are the more vulnerable or the quicker you are to the grave? Who says that? And that is the assumption I find a bit disturbing. Because the fellow is an elderly person, therefore he is going to kick the bucket. My point is that there is no assumption that should inform our conversation around those who compete. I don’t know of any candidate in this election who has offered us their own medical records. Even the younger ones among them, no one has done that. I am not privy to that and I have not seen anyone”, he said.

Asked whether it would be out of place for the APC to set the ball rolling, Morka said it would not be a wrong idea, but that; “Atiku Abukabar should start it. Peter Obi may start it”.

“Anyone else may start it. It doesn’t mean that because we are a ruling party, therefore, the initiative to start it must come from us because that also played into this whole narrative that a particular candidate may have something about himself that should concern us. I rejected that because that doesn’t support my observation and is certainly not supported by natural occurrences. The people who are younger may even be sicker”, he added. 

On why Tinubu did not show up at the signing of the peace accord last week, Morka said the APC standard bearer had a prior engagement outside the country which could not have been shelved.

He said; “It is not because he was ill. That was not the reason he was not there. My point is that Asiwaju was absent from the peace accord not because of ill health, but because he had a prior, scheduled engagement to be held elsewhere and he was already out. And as you can see for the last couple of days we are getting a feel of what is going on with him. He is fine and I am sure he will be back in the country very soon”.

APC also expressed optimism that the Rivers state chapter of the party would be adequately carried along in the affairs of the presidential campaign council.

The state chapter had alleged that none of its nominees was included in the council.

“I believe they sent the names directly to the council but with you also understand that the council is still working on the list of its members. They haven’t released the comprehensive list. By the time that is done, you may find out that those who think they were excluded were not actually excluded”, he stated.

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