Buhari wants free, fair, credible polls – Bulama


Arc Waziri Bulama is the deputy director-general of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council. In this interview with journalist, he speaks on the campaign funding the party, Tinubu’s epileptic appearances at campaign grounds and why Buhari’s health won’t be an issue. BODE OLAGOKE was there.

How has the campaign progressed?

Yes, we are a few weeks away from the general elections. So far, we have carried out a very robust campaign, very engaging sensitisation and mobilisation across the country. We have reached out to Nigerians in all the nooks and corners of this country.

Our campaign is carried out in a multi-pronged manner. All the stakeholders are engaged in reaching out to Nigerians in all parts of the country to explain to them, first to come out and vote and secondly to understand and appreciate the achievements and efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC since 2015, when Nigerians gave us the trust to manage the country.

Our aim and target in the campaign has been to ensure that the vote counts. We are taking Nigerians very seriously and working hard to get every vote because the instruction Buhari gave to the campaign council is to ensure free, fair and credible elections. He wants the votes of Nigerians to count.

His instruction is that we should be civil, very descent and respectful of Nigerians, reach out to them because their votes which must count and will determine who govern various strata of the Nigeria society, including the presidency.

That is why our campaign is carried out on many tracks and as you can see, the party is up and doing. The presidency and the presidential campaign council are also up and doing. The president himself has been visiting and engaging the states. The vice-president is also in the streets visiting Nigerians in their homes, markets and shops.

The wife of the president launched a very strong campaign exercise called Women and Youth Campaign Council. She with other first ladies is equally reaching out to Nigerians. We also have thousands of voluntary groups and associations working hard to mobilise support for the presidential candidate.

We have thousands of voluntary groups registered with the Buhari Support Organisation. We also have other thousands registered with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). All hands are on deck to reach out to Nigerians.

We are very happy with the response we have received from Nigerians and as you can see, there is a great deal of enthusiasm around our campaigns, everywhere our leaders go out in the streets and on campaign grounds. And the response we get is not only happiness and appreciation, but also gratitude.

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has not been regular at campaign grounds as expected, what is your explanation to this?

The presidential campaign council is organised and structured in such a manner that all our leaders are part of the campaign organisation. For you to understand the role assigned to Asiwaju Tinubu, the campaign is structured to suit every member.

You can recall that the reason Mr President said that Tinubu should co-chair the campaign is because he would not want to allow the state duty to suffer during the campaign. Therefore, on issues that require his attention, but will not available because of state duties, we should reach out and refer to Tinubu.

Organising the campaign has many issues around it and we must know that organising a campaign is an ad-hoc exercise and a temporary arrangement with the main of mobilising and sensitising to bring out as many Nigerians as possible to participate in this election.

We have issues of campaign message, issues of logistics and many other activities involved in carrying out the campaign. So, it is because of these that the president said where we don’t have access to him or is not available to take certain decisions in respect of the campaign; we should get across to Asiwaju.

We have so far done that successfully, we have carried out a very seamless exercise and Asiwaju has appeared in many cities and made interventions as the leader of our party and as a statesman. If there are issues that require his message to Nigerians, he appears and makes those states.

He was in Maiduguri two weeks ago where he made a long appearance addressing the crowd. He also appears wherever necessary. He was in most other outings across the country. I want to say that our campaign is cohesive, focused and united. Our leaders are one and committed to the success of President Buhari, success of our party and the success of all the candidates contesting on the platform of our party.

What is Mr President’s health status?

I think the president, from the way he works in this campaign, has shown that he is stronger than many average men in this country. This is a man at that age, flying from city to city and at least two cities every day of the week, commissioning projects, meeting traditional rulers, stakeholders and still returning to attend to other state functions and other groups in the Aso Villa.

He again flies out the following morning, showing no sign of stress, no sign of weakness. President Buhari is healthy, very strong and alive to the task and proudly giving the kind of leadership and presence we need in this campaign.

What is your take on the submission by some analysts that this election will be won and lost in the North-west and South-west considering the volume of PVCs in those geopolitical zones?

The APC is very strong throughout the country and at the moment we have 22 sitting governors, six in the North-west, six in the South-west, four in the North- east, four in the North-central, one each in the South-south and South-east. We are very strong in these states and very strong in all the remaining 16 other states.

The APC has grown from strength to strength as a party from its formation in 2013 till date. Many serious politicians and stakeholders have moved into the APC and made it stronger in those areas where it was not strong initially.

We are very happy that stakeholders, senior politicians and community leaders throughout the country and in all the six geopolitical zones have confidence in our party. Our party is very strong because the stakeholders in our party have confidence in the leadership of our party.

All our party men and women throughout the country have respect, love, support and admiration for President Buhari, regardless of their local differences. Our party’s leadership, particularly the National Working Committee (NWC), is respected by all the stakeholders of this party.

We have managed diversity very well; have managed the differences, aspirations and ambitions of all these leaders very well. It is as a result of the hope, promises and unity in the party. I don’t want to say anything bordering on region and any identity politics.

The APC is a national party, very strong throughout the country, but ost dominant in the North-west and South-west and more clearly we expect to have more votes there because of the presence of the governors and because the two zones have the largest number of registered voters.

While the North-west has 20 million, the South-west has 16 million registered voters. We are not taking anything for granted. We are going to fight for every available vote.

How do you place the observations that the campaign team is trying to pitch the South-east against the South-west over whose turn it is to produce the next president in 2023?

As for the speculations or postulations for the 2023 presidency, as a policy in the campaign council and the party, our minds have not actually gone there. What we have focused on is the success of the 2019 general elections and to present to Nigerians the reason they should vote for the APC and Buhari.

We have fulfilled the trust they gave to us in 2015 in the governance of this country in way that is useful to the citizens of this country. We strongly believe that we have met that target and our focus, therefore, is 2019 general elections.

Can you tell us the source of the campaign fund of your party, the APC?

Let me say that ours has been an issue-based campaign. We have engaged Nigerians because they are very important stakeholders in the project. We are persuading them with respect and regard to show and discuss with them on the condition of Nigeria between 2015 and 2019, particularly in those areas president’s undertaken to improve security, stabilise the Nigerian economy, to prevent impunity, waste and mismanagement.

We have not wavered from that. These massive crowds you see in our campaigns are not paid crowds. They are people that respect President Buhari and the APC leaders. They come to appreciate what these leaders represent.

These leaders symbolise selfless service, humility, justice and fulfilment of the promises they made to all Nigerians. Sincerely, there is no inducement and financial gratifications offered to these people to come out for the campaign. It is entirely voluntary.

Let me add that since Buhari’s entrance into politics in 2002, his efforts in campaign have always been propelled, sponsored and financed by voluntary donors. Every political activity has been funded by individual donors and contributors.

Don’t forget that the fund to purchase form to re-contest did not even come from him. It was the efforts and contributions of the youth called Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors. They made contributions throughout the country to raise the money for the form.

Up till this moment, this campaign is propelled by voluntary support and willing participation. Therefore, these crowds are not sponsored or bought crowds. Again, our previous elections from 1999 till 2015 under the previous ruling party, have witnessed expenditure of huge sums of money.

They used to influence the institutions of the state to interfere in elections. But the APC under President Buhari has adopted a different approach to election management. Our model is to reach out to every Nigerian voter to persuade him or her to vote for the APC.

You know that the election system in Nigeria from the watershed of 2015 till date has been a reference point because the APC under President Buhari has allowed INEC and other stakeholders in the election process to diligently do their work to the best of their ability.

And that is why INEC has successfully conducted 195 off season elections from 2015 till date and they have been found to be qualitatively better than the elections under previous parties. There was nowhere APC leaders directly imposed any condition or result anywhere.

Of course, there are few cases of complaints of use of influence or money, but that is not an issue you tag to any political party. Some candidates must have induced voters, but these cases are limited and generally the elections have been better.

So, what we expect is that the 2019 elections will be largely influenced by the freewill of Nigerian voters and by their desire to exercise their franchise, realisation of the powers vested in them by the constitution as the owners of Nigeria.

This is what we expect will influence the election, not money, not parties, not institutions but issues of national interest and the power of our citizens because President Buhari wants Nigerians to be respected. He made it clear in Enugu that he does not want anybody to cheat. He wants Nigerians to be respected and for their votes to count. He valued that much more than his own victory because it is the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

What is your take on the speculation that President Buhari is more concerned about his re-election than bringing peace to the party, especially in many states currently enmeshed in crisis?

President Buhari is a statesman leader in politics. He is cautious of what history will say of him. He is cautious of the fact that as a leader, he has to carry everybody and all interests along. He does not impose any condition. As the very worst, he ruled this country as a military leader and did what he did, but today he is in power again on the basis of the votes of all Nigerians.

The APC leadership deserves commendations and credits for staying united, cohesive, focused for a party that is only six-years-old. The party is composed of leaders that are very strong and popular in their states, but our party has been able to hold strongly after conducting successful congresses.

The specific cases of Zamfara, Imo, Ogun and Rivers states are just few exceptions out of the 36 states. We conducted harmonious primaries and successful candidates emerged and we are carrying on successful campaigns in all the remaining states. The leaders in these states are important members of our party. We will certainly overcome these problems. We are happy that there is harmony in the party in 96 per cent of the states.

What input has APC made towards improving the electoral reforms it benefited from?

The reforms we saw in the election management in this country were a collective advocacy promoted by all stakeholder groups in Nigeria. President Buhari has been an apostle of ensuring that votes count. He has been advocate for free and fair elections.

It is wrong for a party to claim glory for the new electoral reforms because it was a programme carried out by all Nigerians. What the APC and President Buhari have done since 2015 was to ensure that the momentum was sustained and improved on judging by the elections conducted.

We have succeeded in ensuring the independent of INEC and that it is well-funded as can be testified by the chairman who admitted that it has taken delivery of all the resources needed to carry out the exercise successfully throughout the country.

There is no predetermined condition placed on anybody and no attempt to manipulate the institutions of the state like the police, army and INEC. There is no plan whatsoever to release huge sums of money from the government to manipulate or influence or gag anybody. This election is not characterised by huge deployment of money.

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