Atiku Begins Race against Buhari Monday in Sokoto 

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  •   14 directorates, 8 spokespersons rolled out for campaign
  •   Saraki: FG’s position on Atiku’s US Visa, signs of a government about to fall  

By Adedayo Akinwale, Mercy Apollos in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

The Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, will on Monday kick off his bid to wrestle power from President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 16, 2019 Presidential election, with a campaign rally in Sokoto State.

The Director General of the Campaign Council and President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki disclosed this at his inaugural press briefing in Abuja, where he also solicited the support of the media as the party begins the journey of “Getting Nigeria Working Again”.

He said there was no doubt that the issues confronting Nigerians today were beyond partisan consideration. 

According to Saraki, “The campaign council has been inaugurated. We are commencing our campaigns on Monday in Sokoto. Thereafter, we are going to take our message to all the 36 States and the FCT, the 774 LGAs and all the wards in the federation.”

He explained that as part of the party’s grassroots campaign plan, the candidate and his running mate would participate in road shows, town hall meetings, special interactive sessions with traditional institutions, business communities, professional groups, trade unions, market women and men and other interest groups and stakeholders across the nation.

Saraki noted that in the forthcoming elections, the issues that have to be addressed among others are: “Is the economy better or worse? Are more people richer or poorer than they were in 2015? Are there more people suffering from hunger now than in 2015? Have there been more job losses now than in 2015? Are our people safer now than they were in 2015? Are our military and other security agencies better equipped or motivated to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency and other security challenges than in 2015?”

Other issue-based questions that would drive the campaign, he further added are: “Is the country more united now than it was in 2015?; Is the infrastructure in the country better than it was in 2015?; Is there less corruption in the country than in 2015?; Is the fight against corruption fair to all or a tool deployed against political opponents?; Are people deriving the benefits of the Rule of Law and personal liberty as enshrined in the constitution now than in 2015?”

Saraki posited: “An election is a referendum on the incumbent. If Nigerians are unable to answer any of these questions positively, they must vote out the incumbent.”

In a related development, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council yesterday released the Operational Directorates, as well as names of eight spokespersons for its 2019 Presidential elections campaign. 

According to the statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the campaign council named former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke as Deputy Director General, Operations while former Presidential aspirant, Taminu Turaki, SAN, was named as Deputy Director-General, Administration.

The spokespersons of the campaign organisation include Buba Galadima, Akin Osuntokun, Osita Chidoka, Senator Dino Melaye, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje, Segun Sowunmi, Kazeem Afegbua and Umar Sanni. The directorates include: Contact and Mobilisation headed by the National Organizing Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu; Youth, Hon. Udeh Okoye; Women, Mariya Waziri; Finance, Hon. Abdullahi Hussaini MaiBasira; Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan; Policy/Research, Dr. Garba Umar; Intelligence, Amb. Ahmed Magaji; 

Others are Field Operations/Logistics, Hon. Gbenga Oduwaiye; Support Groups, Dr. Nathaniel Yadunma; Special Duties, Dr. Baraka Sanni; Communication and Strategy, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; Legal, Emmanuel Enoidem; CUPP & Inter-party, Senator Ben Obi; CSOs; and Diaspora, Prof. Isah Odidi.

Saraki also dismissed the protest by the federal government that the United States of America should not grant visa to the PDP presidential candidate, describing it as the rantings of a falling regime. He said: “I think it was a panic action by government. How does granting somebody visa become endorsement, it’s more like a panic action because the government is panicking.”

The federal government through the Minister of Ministry of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed had on Thursday warned the US government not to give the impression that it was endorsing one particular candidate over the other, though it admitted that it was the prerogative of the US to determine who to allow entry into its territory.

Saraki asserted: “They should allow the normal process to go by; but again as I said, that is a panic reaction of a government that is scared and is worried that it is about to lose election and is trying to see how they can hustle around and that is otherwise, a desperate act to go along those issue.”

He said he believed that the APC was not going to talk about issues during the campaign, but insisted the campaign of PDP would be issue-based, adding: “It’s all about making this country better; it is not about calling people names. They will do that, but we are going to stay, as they go low, we will go high, we are not going to go low with them.”

 He also carpeted the federal government intervention to provide soft loan to traders under the Trader Moni initiative as “Sophisticated vote buying”, pointing out that it was designed to buy votes through the back door; a reason permanent Voters Card numbers of recipients were taken by the All Progressives Congress regime before disbursement.

According to him, Tradermoni programme had been going on for the last few years, but wondered why the ruling party was giving out money few weeks to the election.

 US Consulate: Atiku’s US visa status confidential 

Meanwhile, the United States Consulate in Lagos, yesterday, said the issue of US visa for anyone, irrespective of social standing in the society, is strictly a confidential matter, which the US Government will not discuss in public.

The Public Affairs Officer (PAO), US Consulate, Lagos, Mr. Brussel Brooks, said this in Ibadan while speaking with journalists at the end of an education forum organised for 150 teachers and students drawn from various public schools in Oyo State.

Brooks said the case of Atiku’s US visa status had been an issue in the papers for some time, stating that the position of the US Mission had remained the same throughout any discussion of the issue, which is that visas are a confidential matter.

He said: “We don’t discuss individual visa’s status of any person, whether a highly rated official, a presidential candidate or an average citizen.

“Anyone who applies for a visa should know that there will be some records that are confidential. It is classified as private document by the United States Government, and we never discuss them in public.”