Though the campaign train of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, has been gathering momentum around the country, JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM writes that the absence of aspirants who contested in the primaries with him on the campaign tour raises questions
Less than 50 days to the presidential election, the quality of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the number of chieftains of the party showing solidarity with and campaigning for their flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shetima raises some doubt.
While most of the APC governors have been at the vanguard of the presidential campaign, the party cannot be said to have been unified as major party chieftains who contested the presidential ticket of the party are still staying away from the campaign. The presidential campaign which started on September 28, 2022 till date cannot boast of top party leaders who would have brought colour to it in APC.
Naturally, after an internal contest of a political party, one major way to see and agree that those who lost to the winner of the contest have accepted the result of their internal contest is to join him to fight the external enemy. Unfortunately, this is not the situation in APC, though it can also be said if the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Invariably, both APC and PDP Presidential Campaigns could be said to be suffering from the same cancerous disease that those who contested with the candidates of the party are yet to accept their defeats.
In APC, about 23 aspirants contested for the presidential ticket and the former Lagos State governor and National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu defeated them all. Tinubu scored over 1, 400 votes to defeat the former Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi who came second. The incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo came third.
The result of the primaries conducted on June 8 last year trickled down to the point that some persons scored zero. They scored zero because they were not delegates to the convention and couldn’t vote for themselves.
The primary was a painful one to many of the contestants hence the reason they have distanced themselves from the campaign of the party, a source said. This pain was actually expressed at the convention ground as some persons decried injustice in the APC political structure and since the return to Nigeria democratic governance.
For some, money was the determining factor for the winning of the party’s presidential ticket. This view was elaborated by the Minister for Transportation Rotimi Ameachi when he said that those who collected money and voted a candidate were finding it difficult to support their candidate.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari has not been too visible in APC campaign, which has been held so far in Jos, Imo, Kano and a few other states. The objections raised over the issue must have informed expression last year on the issue.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, late last year, the President “assures the All Progressives Congress and its candidates in the elections next year that he is ready at all times to campaign for the Presidential Candidate and all party candidates with “full energy and conviction.”
“This is to dispel expressed concerns in certain quarters that the President has not featured in campaigns since the national launch in Jos, Plateau State and to stress that while he remains committed to party politics, the functions and duties of the President will equally be upheld at times.”
Citing the President’s remarks to the Nigerian community in Washington DC in the course of his recent visit to the United States, the Presidency said Buhari “is ready to campaign for the party’s victory in the general elections next year. The President noted that the APC campaigns have so far been the most aggressive in recent history.
He expressed satisfaction over the campaigns, which he said “have been impressive and of a high voltage,’ compared to the opposition that seems to be playing catch-up. He expressed strong optimism that the party will win all the elections fairly and squarely.’ But apart from the flag off in Jos on November 15, 2022, Buhari had not appeared at any of the campaigns, obviously in order to lead by example having told his officials not to abandon governance for campaign.
Meanwhile, President Buhari, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Campaign Council, is now set to fully participate in the last lap of the presidential campaign.
In a press statement on Thursday, the PCC said: “In the latest Campaign Time Table released on January 5, 2023, the President is billed to join the Campaign Train in at least ten States. The states are Adamawa State on January 9; Yobe State on January 10; Sokoto State on the 16th of January; Kwara State on the 17th of January; Ogun State on the 25th of January; Cross Rivers State on the 30th of January; Nassarawa State on the 4th of February; Katsina State on the 6th of February; Imo State on the 14th of February and the Grand Finale in Lagos State on the 18th of February.
“The PCC expresses its profound gratitude to President Buhari, the leader of our great Party, for his sterling and inspirational leadership at this time and for galvanising our teeming members and supporters across the country.
“We urge our party faithful and supporters to turn out en masse, as usual, in the forthcoming campaign rallies. The zero hour is nigh; our spirits must be high; we must not relent in this our collective march to our victory that is divinely ordained”.
Some APC chieftains who spoke to Sunday Telegraph attributed the absence of the key contestants to the “fact that they are yet to come to terms with the defeat.
They are still holding some grudges against Tinubu.”
“One of the chieftains said: “Many of them thought they were Buhari’s anointed candidates, they never knew Tinubu had his game plan which was the support of the governors. Look at Amaechi for instance; he went as building a university.
They never expected Tinubu to win.
“Look at their appearance before the Chairman of the screening John Odigie Oyegun, and the expression on their faces. The point is that some of them might even be sponsors of the online campaigns against Tinubu, but as party loyalists, it is time to unite behind the party for success in the polls,” he said.