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Personal attacks as nature of presidential campaigns to come

By Kehinde Olatunji
08 November 2018   |   4:20 am
As the 2019 presidential election draws nearer, there are indications that the campaign would be characterised by personal attacks and brickbat.

National Auditor Allied Congress Party of Nigeria ACPN, Dave Okagbue(left); National Secretary ACPN, Paul Isamade; Presidential Candidate ACPN, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; National Chairman ACPN, Gani Galadima and National Chieftain ACPN, Ike Ezechukwu at Ezekwesili’s World Press in Lagos PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

As the 2019 presidential election draws nearer, there are indications that the campaign would be characterised by personal attacks and brickbat. Already, opponents of President Mohammadu Buhari are pointing at loopholes in virtually all policies of his All Progressives Congress (APC) government. But what seems to be lacking is clear identification of the lapses and solutions to them.

Prominent among the critics in recent time is the candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. The one-time vice president of World Bank has on every available platform condemned the candidates of both Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), describing them as incompetent and corrupt.

She maintained that the emergence of both Atiku Abubakar (PDP) and Mohammadu Buhari (APC) would amount to recycling of ‘political fraudsters’, which has slowed down the economic growth of the country.

However, many Nigerians, think that the battle for Aso-Rock Villa is between the two vilified candidates (Buhari and Atiku), given their wide range of experience, political sagacity, structure and financial stamina to woo voters.

Ezekwesili thinks otherwise, insisting that such opinion is only for the ignorant, and ought to fade off in the polity.

According to her, the thought that some people are in control of some parts of the country, and so, will influence the election, is totally false.

Citing example, she noted that the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s political strength is grossly overrated.

Specifically, she noted that Tinubu, who most people think controls Lagos State, does not have control of Alimosho, the largest council area in the state, adding the he was only able to deliver 86,897 votes out of the 650,000 registered voters in Alimosho in the last presidential election.

“Tinubu is believed to wield much power in the South-West. He worked for the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Tinubu and his like in #APCPDP control only as much as we let them. Alimosho, for example, is the largest council area in Lagos State, with over 1.2 million residents, according to official census figures. In 2015, only about 650,000 of these people registered and obtained their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs).”

She added that it was because the people were faced with the unattractive choice of voting for PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan, or the anyone-but-Jonathan candidacy represented by Muhammadu Buhari, a great many voters chose to abstain from 2015 election.

“At the end of the day, they only managed to conjure up 140,000 votes between them, in almighty Alimosho. This says something loud and clear that Tinubu, with all of his ‘might’ and experience in so-called grassroots politics, could, at the end of the day, deliver only 86,897 votes for his candidate Buhari and their party. Where then does the source of this his widely reported power come from? Isn’t he grossly overestimated?”

Ezekwesili, in skepticism, described the two parties as Siamese Twins that could not be separated by any doctor. She maintained that for those who have been saying that the 2019 election is anyone but Buhari would be surprised as they would be forced to sing the same song of anyone but Atiku in 2023. She maintained that both parties are not two but a single party fielding one single candidate, “and that candidate’s name is BuTiku. Yes, you heard me right, BuTiku.”

She noted that any attempt to choose between the two is like asking somebody to choose between death by poison or death by gunshot. “God forbid. We cannot reject one oppressor and hand over to another. We do not love bondage. We do not enjoy suffering. God in heaven forbid.

“I just laugh when I hear some people say our citizens movement will split opposition votes. But the PDP is not in opposition to the APC. The candidate of the PDP has over the past 14 years gone from PDP to AC, AC to PDP, PDP to APC and now back to PDP. These people are brothers and sisters of iniquity and impoverishment, merchants of failure and disappointment. Don’t believe that 419! They are both part of a political ruling class that has held us bound, manipulated and diminished us for decades.

“Now they are auditioning to extend their streak of failure for another four years? God really forbid! The real opponent that the Nigerian people have in 2019 is this old political order that takes and takes and takes, and never replenishes anything.”

‘Obytiku’s visit’
Following Ezekwesili’s meeting with one of Nigeria’s former military rulers, Ibrahim Babangida, at his residence in Minna, Niger State, a lot of criticisms from Nigerians have assailed that visit, prominent among the critic is the presidential candidate of African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore.

Recall that Ezekwesili has been a critique of all previous governments in the country but on Monday, Ezekwesili tweeted that she met with Babangida to discuss how Nigeria must be taken out of the clutches of the old order in 2019.

“I had a very candid conversation with former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, in Minna after my speech on Human Capital Development at El Amin School. I made it clear that Nigeria must be taken out of the clutches of the Old Order. This is our mission,” she tweeted.

Reacting to this, Sowore maintained that her meeting with the former military ruler should not have held. “Our dear Ezekwesili wants to stop corruption and mis-governance in Nigeria but then holds a secret session with the Godfather of corruption and bad governance, IBB. Nigerians, Ezekwesili creatively coined BUTIKU. I love it! But this single visit is OBYTIKU.”

Ezekwesili warned against derogatory campaign
However, a group of Atiku’s supporters, under the aegis of Atiku for Better Nigeria, has warned Ezekwesili to desist from using derogatory remarks against Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party, advising her to concentrate on her campaign and stop tagging other contestants and political parties as fraudsters.

The group, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Benita Dike-Israel, advised Ezekwesili to learn the ropes in politics so as to avoid “falling into the abyss”.

They argued that by painting Atiku and the PDP black, Ezekwesili was indicting herself and biting the fingers that fed her since she was a minister under the PDP regime.

“Ezekwesili should learn not to be rude to Atiku or bite the fingers that fed her. For her to say that the PDP and Atiku lack knowledge in economy and (are) into 419 politics is self-indicting. That means her period, as Minister of Education and Solid Minerals added no value to the party that appointed her and to Nigeria as a whole; that also means that her immense credential amounts to naught and (she) has nothing new to offer. After all, a river is as good as its source; for whatever is built on void is void.”

The Atiku supporters argued that by joining politics, Ezekwesili, who had been spearheading the campaign for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls through the #BringBackOurGirls movement, had “diluted her fame and goodwill among ordinary Nigerians and friends of Nigeria.”

According to the group, people will now begin to see Ezekwesili’s campaign for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls as “a mere ruse, smokescreen and cheap opportunity to feather her own political nest.

Whereas it is her constitutional right as an eligible Nigerian to contest the election, yet she should understand politics as a game of persuasion and lobbying rather than (using) pressure group tactics of brick batting and (using) foul language. She can politicise without being rude and judgmental.”