BY Mohammed ISA, additional report by Ajibola AMZAT
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has told all All Progressive Congress, APC, candidates vying for elective positions in the upcoming general elections in 2023 that his government would not do anything to favour or help them win at the polls.
The President said the candidates are on their own and that all of them, including Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential flagbearer, governorship, senate, House of Representatives and state assembly hopefuls, should go and work hard and not expect the Presidency or the government to manipulate the electoral process for their benefit.
President Buhari made this declaration recently when he met with APC governors who visited him at the Presidential Villa, to seek his support especially for the party’s presidential candidate, but also for governors and others seeking office in the 2023 election.
Present at the meeting, which is said to have lasted less than an hour, were Abubakar Bagudu, governor of Kebbi State and chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Babajide Sanwo – Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Eric Igwe, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State.
Our source, one of the governors at the meeting, said the state chief executives from the APC had gone to Buhari to canvass his support for Tinubu and governors seeking election in the 2023 polls but they were shocked when the President told them that he would not offer them any help other than campaigning for some of them.
It was learnt that Governor Bagudu who spoke for his colleagues had asked Buhari directly how he could help Tinubu and the governors in their election bids and, to their chagrin, the President fired back “What kind of help are you asking about”?
“We were shocked when the President told us that we were all on our own and that he would not do anything to twist anything for anybody” said the source, adding “…simply, he told us that anybody who wants to stand for election should be ready to work hard and campaign hard to win the hearts of the people in order to win.”
Buhari is said to have further told the governors that he would not subvert the people’s will, having come into office on the strength of the popular support of the people.
“You see, Mr president believes that he came into office by popular ballot. He sincerely believes that, that Nigerians really wanted change and thus voted him into office. He defeated a sitting president and the former President, Goodluck Jonathan easily conceded without rocking the boat.”
“President Buhari told us invariably that he would not do anything to subvert the will of the people to help our presidential candidate or anybody else. He kept a straight face and told us matter-of-factly that we are all on our own.”
The APC lost the governorship elections in Anambra and Osun but won in Ekiti.
Buhari had said earlier that he wanted Nigerians to know that his government respects them, and will allow them to vote who they want.
“We all witnessed what happened in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States. What happened in those states gives me a lot of hope that we are succeeding,” Mr Buhari said.
The source also reasoned: “Mr President wants to leave office and become a stateman like others before him like President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. I think he particularly likes the respect that former president Jonathan enjoys today with the singular action of conceding defeat instead of creating a crisis when he lost in the 2015 election. He wants to be a statesman and he thinks that manipulating the election would tarnish his image badly.”
It was gathered that with the president’s disposition, leaders of the APC have decided that they will keep Buhari mostly in the dark about their campaign strategies.
“You do not win elections just by campaigning and sitting down hoping to win. Your opponents will plan all kinds of things to undermine you and win the ballot. The President does not realise that. So, we won’t be telling him about our strategy because he would destroy it or work against us,” said a national officer of the APC who spoke to The ICIR last week.
The source, who does not also want to be named said that in the past when Buhari found out about underhand moves by his party’s officials to strengthen their candidates’ hands at elections, the president had frustrated such efforts.
He gave one example.
“In 2017, during the governorship election in Anambra State, we had done so much to intimidate and undermine the chances of Willie Obiano, the APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance) candidate. The police commissioner, DG, DSS had been changed so that he could not use them. Even some of his police details had been withdrawn.”
Unfortunately for the APC, President Buhari went on a state visit to the east and Governor Obiano went to the airport in Enugu to receive him. He told the President what had happened and that the IG had even withdrawn his orderly.”
“The President was very angry and there and then called the IG, the DG, DSS and the Chief of Army Staff to return all the officials that had been withdrawn or changed. And that was how the plan against Obiano failed and he won re-election. We can’t let that kind of thing happen again.”
Mr. President will support only candidates of APC in 2023, but will not use state apparatus, says Keyamu
Meanwhile, Director of Public Affairs of Tinubu Campaign Organisation Festus Keyamu, SAN, has reiterated that President Buhari is the Chairman of the APC Campaign Council and leader of the party, and has made it clear that he would support APC candidates.
He urged the media to ignore rumour that the president would work against the interest of the party.
However, he noted that the President would not use state resources, or manipulate the state institutions in favour of any canidate.
“What I can confirm to you which is ordinarily known to everybody is that Mr. President would not manipulate State resources or State institutions in favour of anybody.”
The ICIR also contacted the Director of Media and Publicity of the campaign Bayo Onanuga, asking whether he is concerned about the position of the president.
“Not at all,” he replied.
He added that “The president had said before he would support APC candidates.”
At the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA 77 on Wednesday, President Buhari has pledged to conduct a credible election before he leaves office in May 2023.
“As President, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I would like to leave is to entrench a process of free, fair and transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.”