President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that he was not in doubt that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would clinch victory a second time in the general election slated for next month.
He, however, stated that a lot depended on members of the presidential campaign council, who must work tirelessly to justify the victory which would come the way of the party pretty soon.
Buhari said: “I would like to appeal to you to dedicate and commit yourself once again to the task at hand. There is no doubt that victory is with us: it is ours, but that shouldn’t mean we should rest even for a moment.
“Even though we are confident of winning, I urge you to work as hard as you can so that we can maximise the scale and extent of our victory.
“I urge you to rise to the challenge of the great expectations this party and Nigerians have for you and the confidence that I personally have in the ability of all of you to deliver.”
He expressed this optimism despite the absence of some prominent governors of the party who may have shunned the maiden meeting of the campaign council held at the Banquet Hall of the State House.
The governors had been mandated to serve as coordinators in their respective states.
Ordinarily, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who is the Chairman of Progressives Governors’ Forum, and Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who doubles as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, were expected to be in attendance, given their roles in the party.
Others who were spotted at the inauguration ceremony at the International Conference Centre but failed to attend Thursday’s meeting included Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo; Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos; Bindow Jibrilla of Adamawa, among others.
Although the president didn’t feel perturbed, the meeting was summoned to set agenda and to approve the structure and operational modalities of the Presidential Campaign Council.
The members were expected to be armed with clear terms of reference, detailing the various directorates and organogram that would determine how each member would relate with one another, so as to avoid conflict of interests.
Those who turned up included Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the co-chairman of the campaign council; the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who is the deputy chairman of the council.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the Director General of the campaign team; Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Director General (Operations), and Waziri Bulama, the Deputy Director General (Coordination) were in attendance.
Also in attendance were the zonal directors for the campaign council: Senator Aliyu M. Wamakko (North West); Senator Muh’d Ali Ndume (North East); Senator Abdullahi Adamu (North Central); Sola Oke (South West); Sharon Ikeazor (South East), and Senator Godswill Akpabio (South South).
The attendees also included Sen. George Akume, Vice Chairman (North) and Sen. Ken Nnamani, Vice Chairman (South), among others.
Adams Oshiomhole, the APC chairman, while reacting to the absence of the governors, said they might have been engaged with campaigns in their respective states.
Asked why the governors failed to attend, he said: “Because they are governors, they are governing their states.
“Don’t forget that elections are not defined in Abuja, it will take place in the 36 states and I am sure there are other APC members who are campaigning for the House of Assembly, various federal House of Representatives, and Senate constituencies, governorship constituencies.
“So, it will not be helpful to bring them all to Abuja. Here it is about policies, it will be consummated and translated to practice across the 36 states, the 774 local governments and wards.”
The APC chairman said the meeting was convened to review the programme of activities, calendar of campaigns, outline various interests group within the country, especially the business community, youths, women, people with disabilities and special interests groups.
According to him, the whole country serves as the president’s constituency, so he will have to visit each of the 36 states with appropriate message, reminding people of his achievements.
“You know, in the country today, given the challenges of survival people tend to forget where we are coming from, they just look at where we are. There is a saying that except you know and remember where you are coming from, you cannot appreciate where you are.
“Even in the life of a man, those who look at those in their front will never thank God enough but when you look at your back and see those behind, then you will appreciate that you have made a lot of progress,” he told State House correspondents.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign appeared dead on arrival in the South East as Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the only South East governor of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), failed to attend the first strategy meeting of the zonal campaign council in Enugu.
Others who were noticeably absent include former Senate President Ken Nnamani; former Anambra State governor, Chief Jim Nwobodo; four ministers from the South East, Chris Ngige (Labour), Geofrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs), Anthony Anwuka (Education/State Minister) and Okechukwu Enelama (Trade and Investment).
Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology, was the only minister from the South East that attended the closed door strategy meeting convened by Ms. Sharon Ikeazor, the Director of Buhari Campaign Council, South East.
The meeting was earlier scheduled to start by 10am but was delayed for several hours following the absence of some key stakeholders.
It eventually commenced by 1p.m when it was obvious that Okorocha and other key stakeholders were not coming.
Some inside sources, who confided in journalists, blamed the absence of notable South-East APC leaders on their dissatisfaction with the appointment of Ms. Ikeazor, seen as a political rookie without any electoral antecedents as the Director of Buhari Campaign in the South East.
Most of the APC leaders were said to have seen her appointment as an attempt by President Buhari to add salt to the injury already inflicted on Ndigbo by his administration.
The meeting, however, went ahead without the array of South East APC bigwigs.
Answering questions from journalists after the first session, Ms. Ikeazor played down the absence of Okorocha and others from the meeting, saying that government could not ground to a halt because of politics.
She said Okorocha had his representatives at the meeting who would report back to him.
“You noticed that not all ministers are here. Governance cannot ground to a halt because of politics,” she said.
On the resolutions at the meeting, Ikeazor said since there was no longer time, they had resolved to adopt a targeted approach to see that Buhari won the South East.
She said: “We have less than 40 days to the presidential election. There has to be a targeted approach. That is why I have called the meeting today.
“It’s a strategy meeting. So, we strategised and harmonised our strategies in the five Eastern States for us to be able to deliver Mr. President and make a significant change from past elections we have always done.
“And that targeted approach is door to door campaign, group to group campaign; going into motor parks, markets, talking to our people one on one. This is no time for rallies.
“We need to engage the populace, come down to their level and talk to them. And we can achieve that.
“That is why you saw the large turnout. Everyone from each of the five South Eastern states – candidates, party members, National Working Committee members, zonal leaders, our elders in the party, down to the National Assembly, stakeholders – are strategising for Buhari to win,” Ikeazor said.
Notable among others at the meeting were Senators Benjamin Uwajumogu and Andy Uba; the National Vice Chairman, South East, Emma Eneukwu; National Auditor, George Muoghalu; Osita Okechukwu, Hope Uzodimma, Uche Ogar, and Emeka Wogu.
Meanwhile, as the clock ticks to February 16, the day of the presidential election in Nigeria, the Federal Republic of Germany has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to brace up for the task of delivering a credible, transparent poll, saying the entire world demanded nothing less.
Walter Lindner, German Secretary of State, presented the demand of his country in company of Bernhard Schlagheck, the German Ambassador to Nigeria, during a courtesy visit to the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Thursday in Abuja.
He reminded the INEC boss that the 2015 general election was a watershed in the annals of elections not only in the country but also on the continent, serving as a valuable lesson for other nation states.
He stressed that the 2015 election had set a standard on which the coming election would be measured, and urged the electoral body to remain neutral.
Lindner, who pledged his country’s support for a smooth process, pointed out that as Africa’s economic powerhouse, with over 200 million people, Nigeria was of utmost interest to Germany and the rest of the world.
He added that the political stability of the country was a global concern, stating that whatever happened in Nigeria negatively would have serious repercussions for the world.
The INEC chairman, in his response, vowed to surpass the record of the 2015 general elections which resulted in a peaceful transition of power from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Making the commitment, Yakubu said INEC was determined not just to repeat the feat attained in the 2015 polls but also to improve on it to further affirm the maturity of Nigeria in democracy and reinforce the confidence of Nigerians as well as the international community in the electoral body.
He said: “We are aware that in 2015 Nigeria conducted election that is acknowledged and praised around the world. We have been beneficiaries of your elections.
“Each time we travel on election observation around the world, people turn to us not only to praise the achievement of Nigeria in 2015 but also to learn from the experience of Nigeria.”