By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council has said the party and President Muhammadu Buhari are targeting bulk votes from states in the North-west and South-west zones of the country due to their strength and dominance in the areas, which have the largest number of voters in the country.
The campaign council has also insisted that contrary to fears being expressed by the opposition parties, the ruling party has no plan to manipulate the elections starting on February 16 as it strongly believes that votes of Nigerians must count.
Addressing journalists at the weekend, the Deputy Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Waziri Bulama, said the confidence of the party is buoyed by the dominance of its governors in the two zones, which have the largest number of registered voters.
He said though the presidential campaign team is targeting to reap high votes in those zones where it has strong presence, the party is not relenting in its efforts to win over every available voter.
“The APC is a national party – very strong throughout the country but most dominant in the North-west and South-west and more clearly we expect to have more votes there because of the presence of the governors and because the two zones have the largest number of registered voters,” he said.
According to Bulama, the North-west boasts of about 20 million registered voters, while the South-west has 16 million registered voters.
He also said the APC is very strong throughout the country, adding that at the moment it has 22 state governors, six in the North-west, six in the South-west, four in the North-east, four in the North-central, one each in the South-south and South-east.
Speaking on the campaign strategy being adopted by the APC, the party chieftain said the ruling party has a multi-pronged approach to reach out to Nigerians in all parts of the country.
He said their focus is first to sensitise Nigerians to come out and vote and secondly to understand and appreciate the achievements and efforts of Buhari and the APC since 2015.
“Our aim and target in the campaign has been to ensure that the vote counts. We are not taking anything for granted. We are going to fight for every available vote,” he said.
On the concerns about the Buhari’s health and fears about his ability to sustain the rigours of the national campaign, Bulama said so far the president has been able to prove that he is strong, having campaigned in many states.
Bulama also dismissed claims that the APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, may have pulled back from campaigns, stating that the former Lagos State governor has indeed played pivotal roles in the ongoing campaigns.
“He was in Maiduguri two weeks ago, where he made a long appearance addressing the crowd. He also appears wherever necessary. He was in most other outings across the country. I want to say that our campaign is cohesive, focused and united. Our leaders are one and committed to the success of President Buhari, success of our party and the success of all the candidates contesting on the platform of our party,” he said.
Bulama further responded to the PDP’s claim that APC is seeking to undermine the independence of INEC despite being a major beneficiary of electoral reforms by previous administration.
Bulama said there is no attempt by Buhari to manipulate the institutions of state like the police, army and INEC during forthcoming elections.
He said: “We have succeeded in ensuring the independence of INEC and that it is well funded as can be testified by the chairman, who admitted that it has taken delivery of all the resources needed to carry out the exercise successfully throughout the country.
There is no predetermined condition placed on anybody and no attempt to manipulate the institutions of the state like the police, army and INEC.
“There is no plan whatsoever to release huge sums of money from the government to manipulate or influence or gag anybody. This election is not characterised by huge deployment of money.
“So, what we expect is that the 2019 elections will be largely influenced by the free will of Nigerian voters and by their desire to exercise their franchise, realisation of the powers vested in them by the constitution as the owners of Nigeria. This is what we expect will influence the election, not money, not party, not institutions but issues of national interest.”