•Obi has narrowed Atiku’s chances in S/South, S/East in favour of APC
By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Gideon Obhakhan was a former commissioner in Edo state and now Secretary of the Media and Publicity Directorate at the Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC.
In this interview, he speaks on the move by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP to use the courts to disqualify the APC Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu among other issues.
The campaign has lasted almost four months, as a member of the Presidential Campaign Council, how would you rate the campaign?
So far, it has been very good. It is easy to sell a candidate that has a good past. With the development that Tinubu brought to Lagos, selling him has not been a problem for us and we have been comparing ourselves with other candidates from other political parties. And in the campaigns we have shown what we are going to do. So in terms of general assessment of how far we have done, it has been very good. We are getting more and more acceptability, some of the grey areas that people had concerns about, we have been able to clear them. If you look at how we have gone through the number of states we have campaigned, the acceptability is there, the acceptance is there. People are beginning to get more details about the party, more details about the candidate. So, there hasn’t been any form of violence, which is also very good. People are in the field articulating issues and talking about what APC holds for Nigeria and what we have done before. So, with the kind of past we have, with the records of the current administration, ad are able to sell our candidate and our party to the public and it is positive up to this point.
One of the major issues against your candidate is this issue of his personality, his businesses and his growing up. How well would you say you have been able to deal with that?
The main things they have been talking about have always been issues about age, issues about health. But when you look at the number of times we have answered it, you will know that it is just the antics of the opposition to try to drum the lies they have to make it look like it is true. You know if you say somebody is not fit, are you a medical doctor? Do we have a medical report that shows him not to be fit. Tinubu is the frontrunner in this election. He has campaigned in most states than every other candidate today. If you look at the tight schedule that he has, on a daily basis he goes from state to state, he climbs the podium and stands for a long time. Sometimes he goes to two states in a day. Generally speaking, if you say somebody is sick, how would that person be able to meet up with the daily schedules, going from state to state without rest? And it is not that he just goes to campaign and goes to sleep, he still goes around attending town hall meetings, meeting with stakeholders. So the issue of health is just one cliche that people have held unto especially, the opposition, who don’t have anything to campaign with and they want to continue to repeat it with the hope that when they continue to repeat a lie, it will eventually become the truth. It just shows the emptiness in the programmes they have because they don’t have anything to sell. They will rather go tarnishing the image of the front runner in this election.
Another one is about education, I think it is in the public domain where some of these so-called social media influencers had to travel all the way to the United States and the guy came back to say he wasted $4,000 trying to prove that Tinubu did not go to school, that he was proven wrong because he got the details from Chicago State University that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu attended university. So if somebody comes tomorrow and keeps talking about educational background, we tend to ignore because it is a distraction, which we are not ready to be part of. So in terms of personality, I don’t know what can be more than the track record that he has behind him in Lagos to prove that his personality is okay. Lagos was like a slum when he took over and he turned it around, and today, it is the fifth largest economy in Africa. So issues of personality are distractions which we are not ready to hammer on. But I can tell you that Tinubu is fit, he is educated and his integrity is intact and he is ready to take Nigeria to the next level.
Hajia Naja’atu Mohammed recently resigned as Director of Civil Society Organizations in the PCC. According to her, Tinubu suffers from dementia and cannot even carry a tea cup. Are you not worried about that?
First,, let me say that the last time I checked, Naja’atu Mohammed was a graduate of History and not a medical doctor. So when a historian starts to talk about somebody’s health, and people take it seriously, then I just get concerned.
How do you judge a human being by just looking at him and then you know, this person has X Y ailment. So I think those are conjectures. And if you look at her follow up comments, you can deduce the reasons she is behaving the way she is behaving. Okay, let us just take our minds back to when she became part of this project. I am quoting from her account. She was an ardent supporter of Muhammadu Buhari, prior to the election in 2015. From 2015 till date, if my calculation is right, it is about eight years. So it took you eight years to find out that the person you are supporting is not doing well. That smacks of mischief. Now you were a member of the campaign council. The campaign council was set up sometime in October 2022. It took you four months to know that the candidate you are supporting is not well and therefore you have to resign. Again, that to me smells of mischief. The question is, what was she asking for that she didn’t get? And just this morning on television, she complained about how they were not inviting her to join the campaign trail, that is a contradiction on its own.
So it means that if she was being carried along on the campaign trail, Tinubu would have been well. So these are just people who are desperate to occupy certain positions in the campaign organization. Tinubu knows his audience. He knows his team. He picks people and builds them up. But I don’t think Tinubu is also the kind of person that you will force yourself on and even with your arrogance and your pressure to get all that is available. The campaign team is structured, there are different directorates. Everybody has his or her own role. She was in charge of Civil Societies. Those who plan campaigns are Events and Protocols. People like us are spokespersons in the Public Affairs directorate. We do not have to be in every campaign ground to be able to project the candidate of my party. So, when you sit down and you want everything and you can’t get it and you become a medical doctor overnight, then I just feel that whatever she says should not be taken seriously. I just put practical things on ground, when did Buhari’s failure in her own words start. Is it two months, three months to the end of the administration or when? When did she decide that conscience matters? Is it after eight years of being a part of the party? So when did Tinubu have health issues by her own assessment? When did she become a medical doctor to know that Tinubu is suffering from those medical conditions she talked about? But as far as I am concerned, leaving doesn’t change the fact that APC will win the next election come next month, February 25.
The PDP has launched an assault on the APC, seeking the disqualification of your candidate, are you worried?
It is obvious that it is just a knee-jerk reaction to what APC Presidential Campaign Council did when the issue of this Special Purpose Vehicle SPV came up. You are aware of one Michael Achimugu who has come up with revelations regarding how Alhaji Atiku Abubakar while he was vice president connived or collaborated whatever term you want to use with his former boss, President Obasanjo to set up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) with the creation of illegal companies. Marine Floats is one of them. There was some kind of silence when that information came up, and the PCC of APC, came out and brought it to the open and demanded that the ICPC, EFCC, and Code of Conduct Bureau call for Atiku’s investigation and possible prosecution depending on the outcome of their investigations. Now, instead of coming out to address those specific issues and prove whether it is Atiku’s voice or whether there was SPV, they started by blackmailing or branding the whistleblower as a blackmailer. But the question to ask is that if a blackmailer brings out an armed robber to the police station, should the policeman set the armed robber free because the armed robber was brought by a blackmailer? The answer is no! So I think PDP should occupy themselves with response to the topical issues rather than trying to beg the question, so to speak. As far as I am concerned, we are not talking about issues, dead issues that they are raising and getting distracted. We are going to focus on the issue of the SPV. You are aware that Festus Keyamo, SAN has already approached the court to compel these agencies to call Atiku and ensure that he answers the right questions. For me, those are distractions, we are going to take it with a pinch of salt.
What is the state of APC in the South-south, seeing as the PDP has its vice presidential candidate, who essentially is an Igbo man from the South-south. What strategy will APC be using to gain a landslide victory in the South-south and South-east?
Coming to our chances in the South-south and South-east, let’s even say everybody wants to be objective in the South-East, the issue of second Niger bridge has been muted for over four decades. Now Buhari administration has delivered a project worth over 3 billion. So, for me any easterner should give some credits to Buhari for that activity. Now if you look at South-south in terms of chances of us winning, Peter Obi is from the South-East, like you said (Ifeanyi) Okowa is from South-south. South-south has traditionally been a PDP zone over the years. As of today, there is no single governor in the South-south who is APC. But if you look at the ‘Obidients’ so to speak, they are more in the South-south and South-east. So, it is even a blessing in disguise that Obi is in the race for APC, because the votes he is going to get are simply PDP votes. For me, that just kills it for us. They are going to reduce the votes for PDP, which will be shared. Of course, we are still going to make a huge impact. Look at the PDP G-5 governors and the negative impact it is having on PDP. Of course, with those votes leaving PDP, it is increasing the gap that APC is going to win, because it is already overdue that APC is going to win.
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