President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week kick-started his presidential campaign in Uyo for the South-South states joined by fellow partymen – Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman, its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organization, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who also served in that capacity in 2015, its flagbearer for Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere and his counterparts in three other states who were presented with the symbolic flags, among others.
It was Mr. Buhari’s first visit since he assumed office as president of Nigeria in 2015. He last came on January 6, 2015 when he came to seek for votes as the candidate of the then opposition All Progressives Congress. Since then, the president has neither visited the state to inaugurate a federal or state government project nor come on a working visit to assess the welfare of the people he swore to protect.
Curiously too, the president’s speech betrayed the usual campaign rhetoric which often offer some form of promise and hope particular for a people yearning for a federal presence in their domain.
The president appeared to have summoned courage not to yield to the temptation to mention any project he did not execute neither made any commitment he would never fulfil.
His central message focused on his achievements in the war against insurgency in far away North-East and a pledge to improve the economy and tackle unemployment. Interestingly, his pledge came on a day the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics reeled out labour figures showing the country’s unemployment rate rising higher to 23 percent by the third quarter of 2018.
Even what is claimed as the administration’s highpoint – the fight against corruption – is far less satisfactory. The anti-graft campaign is widely perceived as a witch-hunt programme within and outside the country. Despite claims of huge amounts being recovered, the government is yet to give a comprehensive account of its recovery haul, or explain what has been achieved with such funds. At one point, government said it was paying loots back to the poor through a sketchy conditional cash transfer.
Thus, the Uyo message besmirched the APC campaign and appeared out of sync with the expectations of the people. Perhaps the attendees would have loved to hear that work has finally begun on the Calabar-Itu highway or the Calabar rail project for which funds have been appropriated in the past two years. They probably would have been pacified to know that the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) in Ikot Abasi will receive similar attention as the Ajaokuta Steel Plant with $300 million, or the Ibom Deep Seaport which has laid waste due to avoidable politicking.
Agreed that the Buhari administration has been fair to Akwa Ibom in terms of political appointments, this can hardly rub off on the generality of the people outside the personalities in those positions.
Clearly, what would have benefitted Akwa Ibom and the South-South Zone would have been the promise, for a second time, that Mr. Buhari and the All Progressives Congress would immediately reconsider its stance on the raging issue of restructuring.
Nearly four years after winning elections, the APC seems to have jettisoned the agitation for restructuring the country. It’s more than one year since its high powered committee led by Governor Nasir el-Rufai submitted its report to the party, and it may just end up gathering dust until whenever the party is finally defeated.
But the APC should understand that the implementation of the report on whose promise it rode to power, would do a whole lot of good to the entire country. If implemented, some of the items therein, for instance, resource control and state police would have contained the frequent armed banditry in places like Zamfara, Kaduna and Boko Haram crisis in Borno and other parts of the North-East.
The APC government must realize that it has sacrificed the goodwill of Nigerians on the altar of selfish politics and would need a self-assessment as it goes into the general elections. It would be foolhardy for the party to revel in self illusion in the believe that it holds the ace less it stumbles into the fate that befell the PDP.
As for Akwa Ibom State, the APC will have a tough fight to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. The state has remained one of the strongholds of PDP since1999 and not much has changed since then.
A former APC chieftain Dr. Effiong Edunam corroborated this truism in an exclusive chat with Daily News. “My honest perception is that as a fighting force, the party that exists organizationally at the grassroots is PDP. APC has a lot of sympathy in the hearts of people driven by the sentiment of change, but it lacks the organizational framework to translate the goodwill in people’s hearts into actual votes”.
Edunam who defected to the PDP penultimate week maintained that “because most of the kingpins of APC were the master riggers of PDP, it seems the strategy of APC is essentially to exploit the inadequacies of the system to their advantage”. How that will pan out remains to be seen.