I am often so keen about the beginning of every event because a good or bad step over and over again determines the end of the journey. I have not ever been in agreement with the byword that the end justifies the means. It should rather be the opposite that the means justifies the end. But that is by the way. My interest by this piece is to juxtapose the beginning of the presidential campaigns of the two main contestants in the forthcoming February 16, 2019 presidential election, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
If the beginning actually matters, then the inaugural/flag-off campaigns by the duo at Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital on Friday December 28, 2018 for the APC candidate and for the PDP at Sokoto, the Sokoto state capital on Monday December 3, 2018, are markedly great signs of the success or failure of the candidates. Assuredly, only one of them will be declared winner, even if there is a bye-election. But I personally do not see anything that will cause a bye-election for the Presidential contest. Buhari will comfortably emerge victorious. I do not need to bet it. And for those who claim that it is going to be neither Buhari nor Atiku in 2019, every citizen has freedom of expression, including hallucination.
A political analyst recently pinpointed 11 reasons why Atiku will be no match for Buhari. Out of the eleven points advanced including the buying in hard currency of the PDP presidential candidacy in Port Harcourt, choice of unpopular Peter Obi as alleged gay partner, lack of access to federal funds for the first time to run campaigns, conglomeration of same characters who misled former President Jonathan and basing campaigns on too much lies, my interest was captured by a point that Atiku’s 8-years of leadership of Nigeria as the second in-command did not convince the masses even in his own northern part of Nigeria that he was for Nigeria. He was seen to have taken Nigeria as a private enterprise, thus as testified by his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, lacked the ability to differentiate between governance and personal business. Another valid point is that PDP had never won a free and fair election. And except the PDP can rig the 2019 presidential polls, there is no hope for it.
Some pointers to my stand are quite convincing. The flag-off campaign by the PDP was a disaster because, despite the so much noise and announcements, it ended up with largely a rented crowd. This is an event that was held in a PDP governor’s state; that is a state controlled by a PDP governor who was rigged out of the party’s presidential primary election in Port Harcourt. It can be recalled that the state governor, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal sprung a surprise by coming second in the PDP primaries contested by twelve strong stalwarts.
Despite the presence of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, campaign moderator, Senator Dino Melaye, former governors Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna, Babangida Aliyu of Niger and Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano, the event was nothing to write home about. Some attendees were heard saying “Sai Buhari” while melodramas were held behind the scene by APC members pouring water on the streets and sweeping the pathways with brooms. The unimpressive Sokoto outing for northwest zone was followed by another badly attended Kwara outreach for southwest zone, leading to accusation by the PDP that the APC has plans to manipulate the elections for not beginning its campaigns on time.
However, Abu Shekara, the director general, media and public affairs to the Sokoto state governor made frantic efforts in his write-up in Daily Trust entitled “Sokoto PDP flag off: Gainers and losers” to placate his PDP folks of the huge success of the event. In short, he did his paid job as he proclaimed the rising political profile of Tambuwal and PDP. But in a swift response to this, a Sokoto citizen Usama Dandare, dismissed the claim. In his article published in Thisday newspapers of December 15, 2018, Dandare described the claim as a blatant lie. “I was in Sokoto when the flag-off campaign was held and didn’t notice any of such crowd. In fact, I didn’t even know there was an event of sort going on in the state until a friend of mine informed me that Atiku Abubakar was holding a campaign rally at Kangiwa Square.”
According to him, he quickly rushed to the said venue and to his dismay, all he saw were thugs carrying all sorts of weapons and destroying people’s vehicles who they perceived to be opposition members while others were busy selling hard drugs at the main entrance of the square. He said he had to park his car at a nearby building belonging to FOMWAN for fear of being attacked and trekked several metres to the venue. “I saw an empty field with half-filled canopies and some jobless youths roaming about while others were busy playing football. If what I saw was what Abu Shekara meant by an unprecedented crowd, then I am sorry”, he noted. He boasted that the people of Sokoto state will not allow any unproductive politician to toy with their future again, so they are patiently waiting for Tambuwal at the polls to hand him the greatest surprise of his life.
On the other hand, the Uyo event for the south-south zone was held in an opposition state, a state controlled by the PDP. It was powered by the former governor of Akwa Ibom and senate majority leader, Obong Godswill Akpabio who saw the beautiful attractions to join the progressives in a grand style. Who is Governor Emmanuel Udom to dare Akpabio? There can be no comparison between the Sokoto and Uyo events. The Sokoto was a monumental failure; the Uyo was huge success. That is the bare truth. Though the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO) has described the Uyo event, as a mockery of President Buhari, it cannot be detached from the many lies PDP has proven excellence in.
The PPCO went further to claim that the president’s wife, Aisha Buhari, has abandoned her husband’s 2019 re-election bid due to her stand not to support him for a second term if he failed in his first tenure. This is another lie. Why must PDP live on lies? No wonder, Nigerians have realized the boomeranging deception of the party. Let me here affirm my attendance at the launch of “Together Nigeria” by Aisha Buhari, a campaign strategic movement for the re-election of her husband in 2019. The advocacy event, launched in Abuja second week of December, was attended by all great Nigerian football legends, super artists and business entrepreneurs across Nigeria. I must confess that it was a great opportunity to have physical glimpse of great Nigerians who have made the country proud in all fields of life.
The truth is that even majority of the key PDP supporters are aware that failure awaits the party in 2019. But something of nothingness ties the elements together. Another glaring truth is that Atiku has some money to spend to buy followers. He so much believes in the power of money, confident in his power to influence situations. So, like his party has been extremely known for, all his hope is on any electoral lapses that may give way to rigging. Buhari, despite being in charge of the national treasury, has no money to give away to buy followers. He depends on his achievements which are speaking for him. While the PDP’s associates look on to Atiku for all campaign expenses, Buhari’s associates are willingly spending for his re-election campaigns. I have spent my own money for Buhari’s campaign despite the fact that he does not know me. Many Nigerians have done same. It is the love we have for him, for Nigeria and for our future generations.
As the political campaigns go on, Nigerians have to understand that the choices before them have become clearer. According to Festus Keyamo, it is between a man who wants to get Nigeria working again but has always refused to pay his taxes as at when due and a man who has never cheated the Nigerian state. Ant to me, it is between the like of the businessman in the Shakespearean masterpiece “The Merchant of Venice” and the Daniel who came to judgment in the same drama.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]