By Funsho Arogundade
It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2019 Presidential elections. What is, however, news is how his victory came about. For the critics of that election, especially those in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the victory of Buhari was the result of a one-day rigging adventure. The PDP did not reckon with the fact that while it was grand standing and making noise all over the place, the Buhari team was working quietly in the background. Because it did not raise the kind of alarm associated with the PDP, many thought the APC presidential machinery had gone to sleep. It was a wrong assumption, as they would later learn from the result of the presidential election.
What this group of individuals fail to realise is that the victory came from the work of a broad-based team of individuals with different skill sets carefully selected from diverse professions and groups, and with a clear mandate of delivering Buhari and his running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, at the polls.
This team, named the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PPC), was put together by Buhari, in consultation with the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and other critical stakeholder groups across the country. The PPC was sub-divided into various directorates to oversee specific aspects of the electioneering processes that would ensure Buhari’s successful outing.
Nothing was left to chance in the work of this team. Even the inauguration ceremony of the team was well timed. The composition of this team was not done until the tension that arose as a result of the unopposed adoption of President Muhammadu Buhari as the party’s presidential flag-bearer of the party was successfully managed. This was to allow for better cohesion in the party, which would be necessary if the party was to emerge victorious in the presidential election.
Buhari even noted this in his speech at the inauguration ceremony of this team when he said, “having waited for all the dust raised in the nomination exercise, and the carefully worked out reconciliation processes to ensure some measure of healing, we are better placed to put together an all-inclusive campaign council that will effectively engage the entire voting public throughout the length and breadth of our federation, and deliver a resounding victory for us at the general elections. And to the glory of God, this is exactly what happened!
Those in contact and mobilisation directorates traversed the nooks and crannies of the country touching almost every household selling the candidacy of President Buhari to the electorates, and the strategic communications directorate anchored its communications on the performance of the three-year-plus administration of the incumbent, as directed by Mr. President.
“Our campaign will be anchored on our performance in the last four years. There is no doubt that our party has succeeded in taking Nigeria to a new level of enduring peace, economic growth, political stability, justice and progress,” Buhari charged in his team inauguration speech. The team showed the electorate the comparative difference between 2015 and 2019 in the areas of security, economic development and fight against corruption, the three major electoral promises made by Buhari in 2015.
One directorate that stood out in the PPC in the area of innovation was the Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring (DEPM). Reaching to over 80 million voters across the country could be daunting, but not to be compared to monitoring and collating results from the 119,973 polling units and 57,023 voting points nationwide. This is where the DEPM showed its prowess for novelty. It built the trust and confidence of the rank and file who formed the crux of its workforce.
The directorate’s approach to its duties was built on empirical research and verifiable evidence which it brought to bear on its interventions. It was a game-changer and a major boost to the eventual victory that the party recorded in Presidential election, where Buhari scored a whopping 15,191,847 votes, beating the main opposition, PDP by 3, 928.869 votes.
Knowing the task ahead of it, the team recruited and trained over 15,000 frontline party agents across the 36 states and the FCT, and provided training materials to over 550,000 party faithful nationwide. The training sessions came in handy in tackling the menace of fake news and in managing the logistics of collation and reporting of the electoral outcomes during the Presidential elections.
The directorate, headed by Babatunde Fashola with Rotimi Amaechi serving as the Director General of the Buhari Presidential Campaign and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as co-chairman of the campaign council, fostered partnerships with other directorates and leveraged the under-utilized assets of the party for teamwork and coordinated, coherent campaign strategy. It built a vast network of support groups especially, the progressive governors’ forum.
The team set a new record in the utilisation of technology in election planning and monitoring. It established a Situation Room manned by highly skilled diverse team who optimally utilized the benefits of social media, call-centre operations, online portals for real time reporting and feedback.
Working in concert with the national party structure, state party chairmen, state coordinators/gubernatorial candidates, national assembly candidates and the Director of Organisation, the National Situation Room collated and managed over 200,000 datasets from polling units to state level using an exclusive online portal. It made over 81,000 calls from the national situation room to party agents and stakeholders across the 36 states and the FCT.
Every election victory comes with lessons for future use. The re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari has a lot to offer those who would be managing campaigns in future election. These lessons are in the areas of utilisation of technology including new media and online/internet facilities, network of stakeholders, and the use of empirical research and analytics for reach, reporting, feedback. These were the game changers and the most evident boost of the Presidential Campaign Council.
*Arogundade, a journalist, writes from Lagos