Buhari Loyalists Move to Establish Foothold in S’South Zone  

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

An advance campaign team for the President Muhammadu Buhari 2019 re-election bid has commenced efforts to win the support of the people of the South-south zone.

Ahead of President Buhar’s formal campaign launch for the second term, prominent individuals and groups were already being enlisted under the umbrella of the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) with a view to helping to set up campaign structures across the country.

The president’s lobby team is targeting to establish operational bases in the six state capitals in the South-south zone from where they would coordinate efforts to gain the desired support for the 2019 presidential election.

In what seemed like a political strategy to gain more grounds in the South-south states based on the uncertainty trailing the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) support bases in the Southwest and North Central zones, Buhari’s men are urging the people of the zone to vote for the president for a second term to enable the presidency come to the Southeast or the South-south to complete their second term.

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY yesterday, a stalwart of the APC and a leading figure in the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief G.G. Anabs Saro-Igbe, said the BSO offices will be opened for business today simultaneously in Calabar, Cross River State; Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and in Benin-city, Edo State.

He said the group had already opened offices in Warri, Delta State; Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

“The campaigns have not started officially but what we intend to do is to open our offices that will be used to drum support for the second term bid of President Buhari.

“On Monday, we will open our offices in Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo States, and we are expecting have about 3,000 supporters, just for the opening ceremony, later we will talk about campaigns,” he said

Giving his reasons for wooing people to support the re-election of President Buhari, Saro-Igbe who is the Coordinator of the BSO in the South-south zone, said the president has kick-started some key projects in the zone that needed to be completed.

He said: “Considering the situation in the country, our reasons are very simple. We believe in zoning in the Nigerian politics, so we want President Buhari to complete his second tenure and for the North to conclude their second tenure of constitutionally provided eight years so that the presidency will be zoned to the South-east or South-south to complete our second term.

“Secondly, you will agree with me that the Niger Delta has been in trouble since Buhari came. There have been one of two crises which led to the formation of PANDEF and with that, I think peace has returned to the region.

“Thirdly, the Maritime University that triggered the crisis in 2016 has resumed. Fourthly, our son was there and he didn’t deem it fit to implement the Ogoni clean-up even though he left without completing his second tenure, but Buhari came and flagged off the operation, putting all the infrastructures to start the cleaning,” he stated.

The APC chieftain further maintained that the president has been able to rescue the economy from recession and is on the verge of stabilising the entire sectors of the economy.

“We believe that it is also in a good direction. We also see that for some time now, the Nigerian economy has been turbulent but the President Buhari-led administration has been able to stabilise it.

‘So above all’ if we don’t support him, we are giving the North another eight years. What I mean is if we say that we want to bring another candidate from the North, it means giving him another eight years because the new person will insist on his mandatory second tenure which makes it 12 years for the North and we in the South-south had only done one tenure or five years. “So these are some of the reasons why we must support President Buhari to complete whatever he has started. We do not know if the next person that will be coming from the north whether he will be Fulani or Hausa and we don’t know the agenda of that person and we don’t want that to continue in the country,” the PANDEF chief noted.

When asked if his role in the President Buhari campaign project will not conflict or undermine the peace efforts being facilitated by PANDEF in the Niger Delta, Sara-Igbe said PANDEF is a none partisan organisation with members cutting across the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and members of all other political parties.

“But individually, we all have political interests. PANDEF is not a political organisation, and I am not speaking for PANDEF. I am speaking as a member of my political party and somebody who believes in President Buhari, and therefore it has nothing to do with PANDEF,” he said.

On whether he has assessed the mood of the North to know if they comfortable with a second term for Buhari, he said: “We don’t need to go and ask the North, it is our own destiny we are carrying on our hands, if you look at this government, the South-south is out of the government and we don’t want to continue to be out of the government, we want to be part of the government, and we want to participate and be seen as key players.”