•Says February election battle to define nation’s soul
•Nigeria needs a man like our candidate, Buhari declares
•Osinbajo, Mustapha, Fashola absent
•Our allegiance is to Nigeria, INEC chairman insists
Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
One hundred days to the February 25, 2023 presidential election, the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, yesterday, officially began his campaign at the Jos Township Stadium, in Plateau State, where he described next year’s election as a fight to define the soul of the nation.
Tinubu declined to succumb to pressure to dwell on what he termed “fruitless past or tomorrow of fantasies”. However, he slipped out of excitement, when he chanted “God Bless PD…”, before he realised his Freudian slip and quickly reverted to his “APC”.
President Muhammadu Buhari led other party faithful, including National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, governors of the party, ministers, National Working Committee (NWC) members, and other party leaders, to the event.
Buhari told the gathering that Nigeria needed a man like Tinubu to sustain its current development.
But Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Tinubu’s erstwhile ally, were absent at the Jos rally.
Ahead of the general election next year, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, reiterated that the loyalty of the commission was to Nigerians and its allegiance was to Nigeria.
Tinubu, in a statement by his media office, signed by Tunde Rahman, said if elected president, unlike other parties, who were either dwelling on a fruitless past or tomorrow’s fantasies, his administration hoped to continue the course of progress already started by the Buhari administration.
Tinubu stated, “February 2023 is more than an election. It is a fight to define the soul of the nation and to determine our collective fate. Do we adhere to the ideals of broadly shared prosperity, competence, peace, justice and compassion toward all? Or do we toss these ideals away, lashing ourselves to the divisive politics of the past or to those whose ranting show they cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy.
“One party wants to take us back to a past that never should have been. Another party wants to take us to a past that resides only in its candidate’s head. Neither the old road nor the fantasy road is good enough. Instead, we forge the wiser path towards our approved destination – an even better Nigeria. This is what the election is truly about.”
To ensure overall energy security and resource mobilisation for the country, Tinubu promised to continue the on-going exploration works in all frontier basins and, especially, speed up the development of the commercial oil found in Gombe/ Bauchi states.
The presidential candidate commended the Buhari administration for the massive development in the agricultural, infrastructure and power sectors in the last seven years, noting that those foundations now require more builders to make it a massive structure. He called on all Nigerians to embark on the journey with him.
Tinubu added, “Here, I thank President Buhari again, because he has truly established a strong foundation for the things we are now to do. Truly, the foundation has been set. It is now time to call more builders forward to further construct the national edifice that will be our best home. We, the APC and the Tinubu/Shettima team, seek to make permanent a covenant of progressive good governance with the people.”
Tinubu noted that under this hopeful pact, he would assemble the best team and build on progress in the agriculture sector by establishing commodity boards, guaranteeing minimal prices for strategic crops, while also promising to create agricultural and industrial hubs in all zones.
According to him, “You shall also see water catchment and irrigation systems to help farming while mitigating the dire effects of drought and flooding brought about by a changing climate. We will encourage urban employment through a national industrial plan that employs a series of measures, including tax and employment credits.”
He stated that his government would continue with the current government’s infrastructure expansion initiative.
The APC candidate said, “Most importantly, I will give utmost priority to extinguishing terrorists and violent criminals. We shall augment our military, police and security personnel while providing them with better tactical communication and mobility. We will employ hi-tech aerial surveillance to track and attack these menaces.
“These evil forces seek to destroy our democratic way of life. I have news for them. We will defeat their destructive way of life. They shall be utterly defeated and vanquished from our soil.”
Tinubu also said, “I am deeply honoured for the presence of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari. As campaign chairman, he promised to lead from the front. A man of his word, President Buhari has done what he said and more.
“Mr. President, you have provided exceptional service to the nation and party. Your contributions are both positive and enduring. When the history of this period is objectively written, it will smile upon you and treat you with utmost kindness.”
Earlier, Tinubu and his entourage paid a courtesy call on Gbong Gwon Jos, Jacob Buba, who described both Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, as tested people with records of achievements, adding that what the country needs at this time are tested people.
Buhari, in a release by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, declared that Nigeria needed the services of a person like Tinubu. The president joined the crowd to endorse the Tinubu-Shettima ticket, urging party members to march to deliver them now that the party has decided.
Speaking while handing the APC flag to Tinubu, Buhari said the country needed a man like him. The president urged the party faithful to campaign on issues and the abilities of the candidate and his running mate, Shettima.
The president reiterated his earlier assurances that he would be at the forefront of the campaign because of his belief in the party. He said only APC could lead Nigeria to the fulfilment of its historic purpose and working together with the leadership of the party, the campaign council, and its teeming supporters, the goal would be achieved.
Buhari, who spoke later at the palace of the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, also reiterated his earlier commitment to ensuring that every vote counted.
The president stated, “No election winner will be denied his mandate, irrespective of the party to which they belonged.” It was, apparently, in response to the campaign director-general, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who announced the intention to recreate the old Social Democratic Party (SDP)-Moshood Abiola historic victory in 2003 in a campaign that took off from the same city 30 years ago.
The military government of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled that election.
In his speech, Shettima commended Nigerians for believing in APC to lead the country to progress after years of backwardness under the PDP administration.
“Hope is back,” the APC vice presidential candidate declared.
He praised the party chairman, Adamu, for steadying the ship of APC since assuming office as national chairman, adding that the campaign started in Plateau State, a place that properly shows Nigeria’s vast potential.
Shettima said, “One can see greater prosperity and jobs in an economy humming with activity. From the farmer in the rural area to the city boy in a bustling urban centre, each will have productive work to do and a decent home to return to.
“One can see a Nigeria where all who want to, will be able to build a decent life from the fruits of their individual and collective endeavour. From this fine vantage point, we see how far we have come. We also see how far we must go and the road that will take us there.”
Adamu and Chairman, Progressives Governors’ Forum, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, while addressing the rally, commended Buhari for his achievements. They said the president would be leaving behind important legacies in democracy, good governance, infrastructure development, and economic growth, particularly, in the area of agriculture and food security.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan said the legislators were in the grassroots and represented the people, so, “We would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the National Assembly retains 75 per cent APC members to see that the next president enjoys a harmonious and good working relationship.”
Lawan said Buhari was the most successful president of the country since the return to democracy in 1999, having executed more projects and signed more bills into law than his predecessors.
“We have registered over 42 million Nigerians as members of our party, and we are sure of victory,” the senate president added.
Curiously, while Osinbajo’s absence at the rally had been interpreted variously as the fallout of an alleged rift between him and Tinubu, Mustapha was believed to have stuck to the president’s order weeks ago that cabinet members should concentrate on governance, and Fashola, allegedly, had a commitment many months ago that he could not forgo on any account.
Unfortunately, the rally did not end on a good note, as a lawmaker representing Mushin Constituency II in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Sobur Olayiwola Olawale, otherwise known as “OMITITI”, died at the event.
Olawale, 60, was said to have slumped and was reportedly rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He was a second-term lawmaker and was part of the Eighth Assembly between 2015 and 2019 and the current Ninth Assembly, whose tenure would end in 2023.
Until his death, Olawale was Chairman, House Committee on Local Government Affairs, having previously served as Chairman of the Committee on Home Affairs.
Other prominent personalities at the Jos rally included Speaker of the House Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Governors Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Sani-Bello (Niger), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Professor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), and Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa).
Others were Lagos State Deputy Governor Femi Hamzat; former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former Bauchi state governor, Mohammed Abubakar; former Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former governor of Borno State, Modu Ali-Sheriff; and former Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.
There were also wife of the APC presidential candidate, Senator Oluremi Tinubu; wife of the vice presidential candidate, Hajiya Nana Shettima; wife of Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu; Director-General for Lagos APC campaign council, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon; ministers; and members of APC National Working Committee.
Meanwhile, Yakubu, in a statement, said, “I have said repeatedly, the commission’s allegiance is to Nigeria. Our loyalty is to Nigerians, who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections supported by technology, which guarantees transparent accreditation and upload of polling unit results for citizens to view in real-time on Election Day.
“It is for these reasons that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) were introduced. There is no going back on the deployment of BVAS and IReV for the 2023 general election.”
According to him, “It is exactly 100 days today before polling units open at 8. 30am on Saturday 25th February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and two weeks later, on Saturday 11th March 2023 for state elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly).
“Once again, another general election is upon us, the seventh since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. Over the last 23 years, we have made a steady progress in the twin areas of electoral reform and election administration.
“Although a lot of work still lies ahead, it is generally acknowledged that our elections are getting better and citizens’ confidence in the process is increasing.”
He promised that INEC would continue with its regular engagement with political parties, civil society organisations, the media and other critical stakeholders.
Yakubu said, “Nigerians deserve the right to know about the progress we are making and the challenges (if any) we confront in our preparations for the general election. Accordingly, in a couple of weeks, the commission will start bi-weekly media briefings followed by weekly briefings, as we get closer to the election. In the week leading to the election, there will be daily briefings.
“I seize this opportunity to call on all citizens to participate fully in all electoral activities, particularly, the on-going display of the Register of Voters for claims and objections, as well as collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs). I also call on political parties and political leaders to conduct their campaigns peacefully, eschewing divisiveness, rancour and violence.”
He explained that Nigerians were aware election was a multi-stakeholder activity, and stressed, “We will continue to play our part diligently and conscientiously. We appeal to all stakeholders and, above all, citizens, to play their own part so that working together, we can have the elections that Nigerians yearn for, and which the world expects (from) Nigerians.”
In a related development, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, advised supporters of politicians not to kill themselves while demonstrating support for their candidates in the forthcoming elections.
Kukah, who is also Convener of the National Peace Committee (NPC), noted that rival politicians were friends fighting for their piece of the national cake.
The cleric disclosed this yesterday while featuring on national television.
He said, “These politicians are struggling and they’ve lived their lives struggling for the national cake, which they will distribute among themselves. It is, therefore, in the interest of ordinary Nigerians to know that they have to vote to stay alive.”
Kukah also said followers and supporters of politicians “must understand that these politicians know themselves”, regardless of their grandstanding and posturing.
He advised supporters of political parties and candidates to be more restrained and wise.
Kukah urged people to figure out how to manage their passions in politics, saying they should not take seriously the grandstanding of the politicians.