Campaigns for this year’s elections are heating up for all elective posts across the country, but there are unusual campaign moves or oddities across board.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, there had been generally intense campaigns by all political parties ahead of general elections. In the 2011 and 2015 elections, there were serious campaigns by the major political parties. For instance, in the build up to the 2011 poll, there were serious colourful, intense and even vicious campaigns in some cases. In 2015, the PDP and APC engaged in ferocious campaigns. Campaign trains were in full gear as politicians both in PDP and APC pulled out resources, hired aircraft and procured many vehicles for campaigns. It was reported that former president Goodluck Jonathan alone had over 300 volunteer groups that worked for his re-election.
However, the same cannot be said of the 2019 elections, as campaigns across the country seem to be on low ebb. It is believed that the presidential campaigns and some governorship campaigns are being hit by lack of funds.
A few days ago, President Buhari told his ministers that he would not approve the use of state funds for his campaigns and urged them to use the social media to convince the people to vote for him.
In 2015, millions of Nigerians donated to Buhari through different methods, including purchase of recharge cards. It is not clear if such gesture would be repeated.
A legion of presidential candidates
When Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, only three political parties, the PDP, APP and AD fielded presidential candidates. In 2003, the number of presidential candidates rose to 20. The 2007 presidential election had 18 candidates, while 20 candidates contested in 2011. Although there were about 26 registered political parties in the build-up to the 2015 elections, only 14 contested the presidential election. For 2019, the number of political parties has risen to 91 with an unprecedented 73 candidates set for the presidential contest while over 80 million with youths in the lead are ready to cast their votes.
Tinubu’s role in Buhari’s campaign
The outsourcing of the re-election campaigns for President Muhammadu Buhari to the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is considered a new aspect that could form part of events that would shape this year’s election.
Buhari publicly announced the hand over of his campaigns to Tinubu during the inauguration of his Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) on Monday in Abuja.
“Tinubu, my co-chairman, will be fully in charge, and is going to be on 24-hour vigil. That is to say, the operational buck of this campaign stops at his table, and I therefore urge all of us in the leadership of this campaign, in the field operations on the campaign trail and in the secretariat to consult with Asiwaju whenever guidance is needed, “ he said.
It is doubtful if a Nigerian president had ever handed over his re-election campaigns to a party chief. If anything close, it was the reverse, whereby a president took over the campaigns for his anointed candidate. At the build-up to the 2007 election, former president Olusegun Obasanjo took over the campaigns for late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. At a presidential campaign rally in Abeokuta, Obasanjo called Yar’Adua who was then receiving medical treatment abroad, to dispel rumours of his death.
Aisha Buhari’s “super” campaign team
Unlike in previous elections where wives of presidential candidates moved around with their husbands for campaigns, the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, has introduced a new initiative with the launch of her own campaign team. Perhaps, as a gift to her husband, Aisha changed her stance on Buhari’s second term bid with the constitution of a powerful campaign team of about 700 members on New Year’s eve.
The constitution of the team is a sharp contrast to her earlier position regarding the president’s second term bid. Twice, she was in the news expressing reservations on the administration of her husband. The first was in 2016 via an interview aired on the BBC. Late last year, she raised an alarm that her husband’s administration had been hijacked by two people as against the over 15 million that voted for him in 2015. The campaign team has membership from across the country. So far, her campaign efforts have manifested in Kano and Nasarawa states. While she was in Kano in person, she was represented in Nasarawa.
Battle for 2023 before 2019 elections
The battle for the 2023 presidential race rages on even before the conduct of this year’s election. A new twist has been introduced to this year’s poll. The South East and South West are eyeing the presidency come 2023 and handlers of President Buhari’s camaigns are using it to woo the two zones. Many pundits wonder how a few individuals could usurp the mandate of millions of people by assuring of handing over power to a certain region in the next four years when they too are seeking a fresh mandate.
Weeks ago, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the South West would produce the president in 2023 if Buhari wins the forthcoming election.
Osinbajo’s statement is in sharp contrast to that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who had on two occasions assured the South East that they would produce the president in 2023 if they support Buhari’s re-election.
Worried by the development, members of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Wing were at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on January 4 to demand a categorical statement from Buhari regarding where power will shift to in 2023.
Government’s Trader Moni scheme
The Trader Moni, a social intervention program under the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is an issue worth mentioning in the campaigns. From state to state, Osinbajo has popularised the scheme visiting markets, interacting with women and dishing out N10, 000 interest-free loans to petty traders. Considered as vote-buying by the opposition, especially the PDP, the program would go down as one of the unusual moves in this year’s electioneering campaigns.
Okorocha/Amosuns’ open stance
Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State who are rounding off their second terms in office have already secured tickets of their party, the APC, to vie for senate seats. But the two politicians after intense fighting with the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who opposed anointing their successors, have helped to secure the tickets of other parties for their choice candidates.
Amosun recently presented his preferred candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, to President Buhari at the villa. Akinlade will vie for the Ogun governorship on the platform of Allied Peoples Movement (APM. It is the same with Governor Okorocha who secured the ticket of Action Alliance (AA) for his son in law, Uche Nwosu.
Ruling party not fielding candidates in a state
This is the first time a ruling party has been barred from fielding candidates for all positions in a state. This would most likely happen in Zamfara State unless the court decides otherwise. INEC wielded the big stick on the ruling APC in Zamfara when it said the party would not have candidates for the governorship, national and state assemblies as a fallout of a protracted battle between Governor Abdulaziz Yari and the G8 led by his deputy, Ibrahim Wakkala Mohammed, Senator Kabiru Marafa, Dauda Lawan Dare and the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali among others.