2019 campaigns take the air
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday returned from France, where he had gone to participate in the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum.
His arrival ushered a string of events on Thursday in the Villa. The President hosted members of his campaign team and supporters in “Buhari Unity Band” (BUB) meeting, as part of activities to kick-start the campaigns.
The rubber wristband in national colours of green and white was unveiled and launched at a colourful ceremony in the Banquet Hall of the Villa.
Campaigns for the 2019 general election officially opens today (Sunday), in compliance with the timetable by the country’s election umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), although there have been clandestine and unofficial votes solicitation by political parties and their candidates in the guise of ‘consultations.’
Presidential candidates of the many parties can now officially launch their campaigns to unfold their manifestos.
Against this background, another group, Good Governance Ambassadors of Nigeria (GOGAN) were also in the Villa to launch the campaign wristbands, branded with national unity messages, though personalised with Buhari’s photos and eulogies. Any observer would be quick to notice it’s all about Buhari and little to do with ‘national unity.’
Inscribed on the wristband are jingles like: “Sai Baba, Say No! To United Looters” and “Nigerians Say: Yes! To Peace and Unity;” bearing the Nigerian coat of arms against a white middle background. Organisers sold each band for as much as N2,000.
In his brief remarks, President Buhari expressed worries about prevailing threats to unity in the country as election draws near.
He underscored the fact that no nation can make progress without unity, even as he recalled that Nigeria had surmounted threats to its unity in the past, and the prevailing pockets of challenges to national unity would also be overcome.
He said those who subscribe to the idea of the wristband would be known as ‘unity ambassadors’ and he encouraged Nigerians of goodwill to wear them.
In the launch booklet, National Coordinator of GOGAN, Felix Idiga said “with President Buhari, Nigeria now has a true symbol and builder of national unity” while “disgruntled elements have been fanning and sowing seeds of discord and disunity amongst Nigerians in an attempt to bring down the Buhari administration.”
According to Idiga, “the birth of BUB is to humiliate and shut down the malicious plans of the opposition and every dissenting voice,” adding that “the senseless looting of the national treasury unites desperate politicians regardless of their different ethnic and religious groups.”
Chairman of the occasion, and Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, was represented by Senator Abu Ibrahim, at the event which took place just a few minutes after Buhari met behind closed doors with visiting President of Guinea Bissau, Jose Mario Vaz.
Also present were Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, members of the National Assembly, the Federal Executive Council, Civil Society Organisations, members of the diplomatic Corps, as well as Presidential aides, among others.
It is safe to predict that more of such events and visitors would throng the Villa as the polls draw nearer. The contest by supporters to have the President’s ears and eyes will become louder in days and weeks to come.