The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has faulted the notions held in certain quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari has abdicated his responsibility to lead the presidential campaign of the party.This follows concerns that the President may have handed over his campaigns for this year’s election to the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to enable him attend to governance.APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, explained that Buhari would surely partake in the party’s campaigns across the country, notwithstanding his tight schedule.
But National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, described the scenario as scandalous, saying: “There are three ways one can explain this: It is the character of the man to shirk responsibility or we have a zombie in the Villa, whom the cabals are in complete control of, or this whole clone or body-double thing is not a mirage. Certainly, something is wrong.
“First the rumours of body-doubles and cloned Villa occupants, and now they are no longer disguising or pretentious about it. It has been made clear that Tinubu doubles for Buhari when campaigning to capture power.” In the same vein, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) insisted that Tinubu’s appointment speaks volume that Buhari is unfit to administer the country.Its convener, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who addressed reporters in Abuja, yesterday, argued that it was odd for the President to hire a proxy to canvass for votes for him ahead of the February 16 presidential poll, claiming that Buhari’s lackadaisical approach to the campaigns underlines the fact that the APC has perfected the plot to rig the poll.
However, Dean, School of Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Professor Rotimi Olatunji countered: “The whole idea of setting up a presidential campaign committee or team to manage elections is not strange and represents part of the best practices in political campaign planning and management. Afterall, a campaign should be well-coordinated, purpose-driven and goal-directed. This is why presidential and governorship candidates often appoint directors general to coordinate political campaigns.“That Buhari has named Tinubu as the overall coordinator of his second-term bid is not strange. What will be strange is to totally abdicate the responsibilities in this connection.
“It will be strange if the President fails to show up at campaign rallies. After all, it is the President that is seeking the mandate of Nigerians, not Tinubu. Nigerians will like to hold their ‘eventually’ elected leaders accountable, based on their campaign pledges, not those of their surrogates.” APC wondered why Buhari is being misunderstood over his resolve to mandate Tinubu to lead its campaign council across the country, saying the role assigned to Tinubu was aimed at ensuring that issues relating to governance are not compromised on the alter of political considerations as the elections draw closer.
Issa-Onilu said: “The President himself said he would be actively involved in the campaigns, but that the wellbeing of Nigerians is more paramount to him than the politics of his re-election for another term of four years. That explains the decision to mandate the national leader of our party to oversee the day- to-day running of the campaign council.
“You don’t expect the President to be involved in the planning of campaign logistics involving transportation, food, drinks and entertainment by artists at the campaign grounds. This was what he meant. The President, who is the leader of the party, remains the leader and would do everything to ensure the successes of our campaign.”He maintained that Tinubu has the wherewithal to lead top notchers of the party to ensure its success at the elections.
Similarly, the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Mr. Hilliard Eta, said Buhari acted in the best interest of Nigerians.Making reference to the decision by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to mandate Senate President Bukola Saraki to lead its campaign, Eta said Buhari’s decision was in order.He stressed: “The President did not say he was not leading the campaign; he simply said he doesn’t want governance to suffer. He has every right to delegate his responsibility to anybody he deems fit can handle the job, and that was why he settled for Tinubu.”
Differing, Nwosu said: “The nation has been governed by proxies for the last few years and APC has allowed it. So, it is left to the Nigerian voters and people to decide during the elections. Buhari is never available to the people who elected him. This is why leaders of other nations treat us with contempt. Political leaders and investors all over the world mock us all the time.”
Reminded that the President said he took the action because he doesn’t want governance to suffer, the ADC chief said: “How low could governance get? All indicators score Buhari’s government as the lowest since the Nigerian nation was founded.”According to CUPP: “It is becoming increasingly clear that while the opposition, and indeed, a majority of Nigerians are preparing for elections next month, the APC is preparing for rigging. That was why its presidential candidate, who is the incumbent President, refused to append his signature to a Bill that would give the electoral process integrity and credibility.
“They are even reportedly planning what they described as low-key campaigns while they plot how to insulate their candidate from campaigning and debating with opponents and tell Nigerians why they must trust him with their lives for another four years.“Buhari has, indeed, said Tinubu would do the campaigns on his behalf. We hope he was misquoted, otherwise, Nigerians should simply ask him to step back from the contest and let his party put Tinubu forward as its candidate. Buhari would go down as the first candidate in history to hire a proxy in a presidential contest.
“He is the one contesting, he should not be afraid to be the one to interface directly with Nigerians. We urge Nigerian people to insist that Buhari must show that he is fit and able for the nation’s top job by leading his own campaign and by being at the presidential candidates’ debate.“Anyone who is afraid to come out and debate shoulder-to-shoulder with opponents and speak directly to Nigerians is not deserving of the mandate of Nigerians. lt would be nice to have Buhari mount the rostrum in all the 36 states and see him debate with our candidate and answer questions on his stewardship so far and what else he has to offer. We look forward to that day.”
To Olatunji: “If eventually Buhari fails to show up on rostrums and eventually gets elected for the second term, then there are grave consequences for the body politick. “The first implication is that in future elections, any individual, competent or otherwise, can contest for any elective post in the land without presenting the electorate the opportunity to assess his/her level of competence or preparedness to lead, which is what public campaigns offer for democratic practices.
“Secondly, failure to openly participate in campaigns implies that Nigerians cannot hold Buhari accountable for any electoral promises or manifestoes. “The third implication has to do with the health status or stamina of the President to continue in office. If he does not consider himself fit to campaign, will Nigerians consider him fit to lead?” On why the deviation from the norms, the university don said it is in the realm of conjectures, though he believed the President would actively participate in the campaigns.
“After all, if you watch the other rival presidential candidates, it is the associates that take turns to speak profusely, while the real candidates just round up the campaigns. Recall also that that was the trend with him when he contested the 2015 election.” He does not believe that by appointing Tinubu as his overall campaign handler, Buhari would have actually abdicated his democratic responsibility of engaging in public campaigns for the post.
“But if he does, which will be both strange and unfortunate, personal considerations, including his popularly known health history, the rigours associated with traversing the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the strategic need to put one of his best feet in front (Tinubu) may have added up to produce that decision, although none of these reasons will be tenable or acceptable to Nigerians.” He added: “If Buhari is not physically fit to showcase his programmes and strength before Nigerians, he is probably not fit to rule the nation in the next four years.
“Undoubtedly, for a President whose first term was hugely negatively impacted due to long periods of medical vacations, with the current age of the President, insinuations that he may be trying to avoid the rigours of campaigns across the vast Nigerian geographical space may be plausible.“This will also lead to further suspicion that in the circumstance, the President does not intend to submit himself to public scrutiny, either on his physical well-being or that of his programmes.”