President Muhammadu Buhari is set to touch down in Lagos today to reclaim the electoral initiative in the country’s commercial capital that set the tone for his 2015 presidential victory.
President Buhari’s victory in Lagos and the Southwest zone largely contributed to his emergence as president after three earlier futile attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011. In all previous elections before 2015, he was either a distant second or third in the presidential elections in Lagos and Southwest.
However, after forging a collaboration with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other leading political actors from the region he, for the first time, triumphed in the zone, winning in all but one of the six Southwest states. As presidential candidate of the newly registered All Progressives Congress, APC, he polled a total of 2,433,193 votes to defeat President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP with 1,821,416 votes. The only exception at that time was Ekiti where he lost to Jonathan.
Ahead of today’s arrival of the president, leading APC officials were yesterday brimming with optimism that the president’s record in infrastructure and fulfillment of his three-point agenda would make way for him.
Party operatives yesterday mobilized supporters during road processions with calls on the population to turn out to receive the president and his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The enthusiasm nonetheless, party operatives were deeply concerned with claims about the party being under pressure on account of the reported challenges of the Buhari administration in the last three years.
After helping Buhari to power, stakeholders such as Tinubu were said to have been left in the cold as a cabal ringed itself round the president putting him away from those who helped him to victory.
The president has, however, in the last one year sought to repair the relationship with Tinubu with such assignments as unifying the party and recently naming him as co-chairman of the Presidential Campaign Council.
Though there were concerns that Tinubu has not taken to the job with aplomb as he is used to taking his political assignments, the former Lagos State governor is believed to be under pressure to ensure a comprehensive victory for the party in Lagos and the Southwest.
“It is only by repeating or escalating the victory of 2015 that can sustain Tinubu’s political currency not only with Buhari but even for his future,” one source said yesterday.
Tinubu is believed to be eying the presidency in 2023 and it is the belief of many political stakeholders that a comfortable victory for the party in the Southwest is the only platform that can guarantee him a strong voice in the negotiations in the event Buhari wins next Saturday.
Sources close to the national leader of the APC were also dismissive of suggestions that Tinubu would again receive the short end of the stick as after 2015.
“He (Buhari) cannot do worse, he cannot do worse. All those he (Buhari) relied on before disappointed him and he had to come back to Asiwaju,” the source said.
For the Tinubu associate, forging along with Buhari was the only option as he said that the PDP was certainly not an option.
Lagos State spokesman of the opposition PDP, Gani Taofeek, however, put Tinubu as being under a different kind of pressure as he alluded to the fact that the rejection of a second term for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State was an indication of lack of confidence in the party.
“We want to say that the APC has failed and this is a party that has given itself a vote of no confidence by not allowing a sitting governor to have a return ticket.
“So, what is the president coming to flaunt? Is he coming to flaunt a failure? As far as we are concerned the man who should be his first ambassador has been declared a failure by his own party,” the PDP spokesman said even as he asserted that the president’s exposure to governance had shown him to have also failed in his agenda.
Besides Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is also believed to be undergoing similar pressure to deliver the president. The vice-president has for days been embedded in the region and going on local government tours especially in his native Ogun State. Though there is no competition between the two sources affirm that should Buhari win and decide to pass over the mantle to Osinbajo in 2023 that the vice-president would need to show his electoral fortitude through ensuring he wins in Ogun State and other parts of the Southwest.
The expectations of the PDP and other opposition nonetheless, the APC was yesterday dismissive of any hopes for the PDP.
“Yoruba don’t like PDP, they don’t trust PDP, remember it was PDP that ceased their local government funds and refused to recognize the local governments,” Mr. Joe Igbokwe, spokesman of the APC told Saturday Vanguard yesterday ahead of the president’s arrival.
“It was PDP that refused to recognize Abiola for 16 years until Buhari came and recognized and gave him GCFR, all these things are there,” he added.
The argument of the APC chieftain was, however, countered by the PDP spokesman, Mr. Gani Taofeek who told Saturday Vanguard that the APC’s dismissal of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was a lucid testimonial of the party’s failure.
Besides the railway project, Mr. Igbokwe contends that the Yoruba would not toy with the idea of changing the Buhari -Osinbajo ticket on the ground that their man, Yemi Osinbajo is sitting as vice-president and the engine room of the government.
“With the vice-president in the saddle, the Yoruba are not stupid people. Do you know the amount of energy they put to chase the PDP out of the region? They don’t like PDP. If they don’t vote for APC where are they going to vote for?
“They need to defend that office, they need to encourage him. He has worked so hard, and in fact, he is the caterpillar of this government, and he has shown capacity and capability of the government,” the party spokesman said of Osinbajo even as he defended the records of the Buhari administration in security and anti-corruption.
“He has given corruption a bloody nose. Look at the case of the CJN, look at how he was able to drag the Senate President to the CCT.
“We have reduced the importation of rice by 90%. If you have destroyed the economy for 16 years, it will take time to rebuild. He has done more with little money; the APC spokesman said.
He, however, inferred conspiracy on the part of the opposition especially in the issue of the killings by herdsmen in the Middle Belt.
“People go to initiate those things so that they could blame them on the president. Have you heard about killings again,” Mr. Igbokwe said.
He was, however, drawn back when challenged on the appointments by the president but retorted that the president “has not violated any law in the manner of appointments, it is at his discretion on where he can pick his appointees. Or do you expect him to appoint someone from hostile territory as his defence chief?,” the APC spokesman said.
However, indicative of the PDP’s poor assessment of the security agenda of the APC government, PDP’s Taofeek told Saturday Vanguard:
“We are warning that this time around that the blood of innocent Lagosians should not be wasted because the last Lagos APC Mega Rally, three people were confirmed killed. A lot of Lagosians who are not partisan were robbed on the way, some were raped, and we have it on record.
He said that the APC had carried thuggery to official levels by incorporating the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW into its campaign machine. He also said that they would be used to rig the forthcoming election.
“The hoodlums were confirmed as card-carrying members of APC and this is the same set of people that INEC is telling us that they would give the service of the transportation of materials before and after the elections.”
“This is condemnable. All these point to the fact that the APC government does not want peaceful election, they have destroyed the judiciary by removing the CJN, they have attacked the National Assembly.
“If you didn’t know that these people (NURTW) were members of APC, but now you know, and the whole world know that members of NURTW are card-carrying members of the APC. We have the pictures, the videos and it is everywhere, and they have not denied, and up till now, INEC has not come out to say that we are now aware of this, we cannot do this. This is a blatant attempt to rig.”
“We have told the whole world that INEC has deliberately given the service for the movement of election materials to a group that is very, very partisan.”