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Campaign Watch: Candidates Still Dwell on Mudslinging, Less on Issues

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With less than 36 days to the presidential election, the major candidates in the election, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, (NNPP); Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, (APC); Peter Obi of the Labour Party, (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) have intensified their campaigns across the nooks and crannies of the country.

Two of the candidates, Obi and Kwankwaso were at the Chatham House in London last week where they were able to tell the world the programmes they have for Nigerians when elected as president.

Obi said if elected he would dismantle inefficiency and eliminate transactional policies that breed corruption in government.

He also hinted on how he would address the high level of poverty in the country, especially in the northern part of the country where it is more prevalent.

Obi said equity, justice and fairness would solve the problem of agitations in the country, noting that his administration would prioritise securing Nigeria by first engaging all aggrieved groups in the country for talks.

He noted that improving security, agriculture and education would be some of his top targets for the region.

The presidential candidate of the Labour Party also vowed to dismantle the structure holding Nigeria captive and preventing the nation from advancing.

According to Obi, the, “structure currently in Nigeria is that of criminality and it has impoverished the West African country.”

He said: “You have heard them say we don’t have structure; that is the structure we are trying to destroy, structure of criminality that Nigeria is being held captive; that structure is the structure that has impoverished Nigeria. We will dismantle it. It will not be there. I assure you.”

Kwankwaso on his part listed “improving non-oil revenues, improving crude oil production to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, (OPEC) targets, targeting inflation, preventing corruption, wastages and theft” as some of his policy agenda.

On the over 130 million Nigerians living in abject poverty, the NNPP flagbearer revealed: “We have a practical plan to lift Nigerians out of poverty” and even “ensure those lifted out of poverty do not return” there.

He also outlined his party’s plan for tackling social issues, noting that both out-of-school children and girl-child education will be on the front burner.

He said the party’s plan is actually a revolution. “Our revolution in the education sector will be guided by the philosophy that education is a public good.” Against this backdrop, “we shall reform the education sector in its entirety. We will eradicate illiteracy in Nigeria.”

One feature of the major candidates’ campaign however is that they have refused to dwell more on issues, what they will do for the people and how they will ameliorate their sufferings. Rather they engaged in ‘destroying’ themselves and raised personal antecedents that are seeing as disadvantageous.

More pronounced is Tinubu and Atiku who have been throwing muds and bricks at each other in the past couple of days.

This is however not in compliance with the INEC’s directives at the commencement of the campaign.

INEC had warned that political parties and candidates should not embark on campaign or slogan tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly, especially such which is likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.

INEC also said abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions should not be employed or used in political campaigns.

It could also be recalled that as a way of ensuring a peaceful campaign, and peace before, during and after the election, a peace accord was signed by the political parties participating in this year’s election.

But as they are currently on the field, the candidates have forgotten about the peace accord they signed and they are heating up the polity, making many concerned Nigerians to fear for the election.

Tinubu versus Atiku

Atiku and Tinubu have since the commencement of the campaign attacking themselves with vituperations as they have engaged in a credibility battle.

The tempo became higher recently when Tinubu asked security agencies to immediately arrest and prosecute Atiku over a recent revelation of alleged collusion with former President Olusegun Obasanjo to loot public funds.

However, Atiku has described the call for his arrest and prosecution over alleged corruption as diversionary, irresponsible, and a sheer attempt to divert the attention of Nigerians from the issues affecting the country.

It could be recall that in an audio recording which was recently released and went viral by Atiku’s former aide, Michael Achimugu, the former vice president is alleged to have explained how some organizations were set up to divert public funds through a special purpose vehicles (SPVs).

Atiku was alleged to have been heard in the video admitting that while serving as deputy to Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, he founded the SPVs with the aim to “carry out certain activities” in a deceitful bid to avoid being linked to corruption.

Director of Public Affairs and chief spokesperson of the APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo (SAN), said Atiku must apologise and renounce his presidential ambition.

Keyamo said Atiku has a case to answer.

Reading from the text of the World press conference in Abuja, Keyamo stated: “Atiku does not enjoy immunity because he is a presidential candidate. We are saying this because they may be reluctant to act on the perception of the persecution of a presidential candidate it may invoke. However, facts are sacred.

“In other serious clime where situations like this arose, the law enforcement agencies acted decisively. You may recall in 2016, in the middle of campaigns for the exalted office of president in the US, the case of the private email of Hilary Clinton was referred to the justice department for likely prosecution a few weeks to actual voting, though she was actually cleared.

“That is what we want the authorities to do in the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He has to be arrested, invited. He is not God. He does not enjoy immunity because he is a candidate.

“All monies should be recovered from the marine float account. In the voice note, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar can be heard boasting that the issue of that account was thoroughly investigated by the EFCC, yet he was smart enough to escape.”

Keyamo said that the issue of the Marine Float Account was not new to Nigerians, adding that Atiku, then, was smart enough to escape.

“In the light of these very grave revelations, we call on Atiku Abubakar to immediately tender an unreserved apology to the Nigerian people and step down from the Presidential race forthwith, whilst handing himself over to the law enforcement agencies.

Keyamo, also in a five-page petition dated Monday, January 16, 2023 to the chairmen of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), accused the PDP candidate of four major infractions.

He alleged that Atiku colluded to fleece the country of public funds using what he termed as “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs).

Keyamo insisted that with the public revelations of a whistleblower, Michael Achimugu, and pieces of evidence, Atiku has a case to answer.

However Atiku lambasted Tinubu for trying to divert the attention of Nigerians from the issues affecting the country.

Atiku said the recent call by Tinubu for his (Atiku) resignation over an allegation by Micheal Achimugu over alleged corruption was diversionary and irresponsible.

Speaking, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council Spokesperson, Senator Dino Melaye, described Achimugu as a serial blackmailer who is in court for such an offence.

He added that Achimugu’s petition was written from the office of Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Keyamo, who is one of the spokesperson of Tinubu’s presidential campaign council.

Melaye said Atiku’s team will no longer respond to the claims by Achimugu, adding that he was sent to distract Nigerians from the issues facing them.

He said, “We will not be concerned about the frivolous issues anymore. They commissioned this blackmailer to distract us. We will not fall for it.”

Melaye noted that Tinubu should be the one to withdraw from the race because of the enormous corruption allegations leveled against him.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba said, “It is indeed ironic that an embattled Tinubu, who is beleaguered by uncountable cases of fraudulent activities, including perjury, forgery, treasury looting, corruption and narcotic-related conviction can attempt to impugn on the unimpeachable integrity of the PDP Presidential Candidate.”

Ologunagba added that Atiku is one of the most investigated public officials in this country, saying it is also on record that in all the investigations undertaken over him and his affairs, Atiku was never found culpable in any of the allegations.

Bakare versus Tinubu

The Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC) and Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Tunde Bakare, stirred the hornet’s nest penultimate Sunday when he warned Nigerians to reject presidential candidates who believe it is their turn to rule, shun debates, forge identities, slander and eliminate opponents.

During his state of the nation broadcast in his church in Lagos on Sunday, January 15, 2023 , Bakare said there was good and bad politics and that the aim of bad politics is to secure power at all costs, pointing out that even when promises of good governance are present in the manifestos of the practitioners of bad politics, such promises were merely a smokescreen to conceal their true motivations.

He enumerated the types of bad politics which he said included politics of entitlement, elimination, intimidation, slander, betrayal and exploitation.

“Avoid those who practice the politics of entitlement: This is the “emi lo kan” type of politics that insists on one’s turn even if circumstances do not align. Politics of entitlement also manifests as perennial candidacy, not with the intent to serve, but to gratify long-term personal ambitions. It could also manifest as insistence on a given political office as a reward for what one considers a lifetime of sacrifice to the nation.

“Politicians with a sense of entitlement evade political debates and do not consider it imperative to communicate with the electorate. Entitlement politics will breed an imperial presidency that is distant from the people and has no sense of responsibility or accountability to the people. Such imperial governance will slide towards dictatorship and will be intolerant of dissent. Entitlement politicians set low performance benchmarks for themselves when they secure power and are content with projecting molehills as mountains of achievement.

“Politicians who practice good politics talk to the people they intend to govern; by communicating, they allay fears, restore hope, and assure the citizenry. They are open to interrogation and they do not avoid debates or evade difficult questions.

Though Bakare didn’t mention any name during the broadcast, the Tinubu’s camp realized he was referring to their principal and they took a swipe at Bakare describing him as a paper weight politician.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) described Bakare, a chieftain of the party, as a political paperweight who does not deserve serious attention.

The Director, Special Media Projects/New Media at the PCC, Femi Fani-Kayode, said: “Bakare got zero votes at the convention.”

Responding equally, the Special Adviser, Media, Communications and Public Affairs at the PCC, Dele Alake, described Bakare as a man without political relevance and a political neophyte.

Firing back, Bakare said he is proud of the zero votes he got in the primary election.

He added that getting a zero vote in an election is a badge of honour compared to not having a true identity and original certificates.

He said, “Can someone tell these people that scoring zero in a primary election with one’s true identity and credentials intact as well having original certificates from well-known schools: Primary, Secondary, colleges, and University within and outside of this nation is a veritable badge of honour, absolutely legit and unquestionable.

“One of the Special Advisers that I thought had some semblance of nobility had to utter outright lies and falsehoods to satisfy his paymaster.

“He said that I did video asking members of our church to vote for their candidate and then turn around to ask them not to vote for him. Unfortunately, there is no such video containing such falsehood.”

Bakare further said contrary to the claim of Tinubu’s campaign team, he did not endorse Tinubu or asked members of his church to vote for him.

Kwankwaso versus Obi

Rabiu Kwankwaso took a swipe at Peter Obi, the standard-bearer of the Labour Party (LP) while speaking at Chatham House last Wednesday when he said he is more qualified than Obi to become the next president of Nigeria. He described Obi as a trader while he has a PhD.

The NNPP candidate also said he withdrew from the discussion of alliance with the LP because the party was “carried away by media hype” and built on “ethnicity and religion”.

Citing his qualifications, the former governor of Kano said he is ready for a discussion with any presidential candidate who has better qualifications than him.

“I’m a PhD holder in civil engineering. I check your candidate for what he has. I have been in the system for over 30 years now. I was a civil servant for 17 years. I wasn’t a trader,” he said.

“I was deputy speaker of the house in 1992; I was in the constitutional conference elected delegates. I was governor of Kano state for eight years. I was in the senate. If anyone wants Kwankwaso to withdraw, let’s bring criteria and select the best.

“Anytime I have a better candidate, I’m ready to talk to him. If you have a party which is based on ethnicity and religion — that is the difference between the Labour Party and our party, which is a national party.”

But the Labour Party in its reaction through its Chief Spokesperson, Dr Yunusa Tanko said what Kwankwaso said of the LP is a wrong perception.

“These things can also be said of Kwankwaso and his party. If it is about ethnicity, Kwankwaso is also from a particular ethnic group. If it is about religion, he practices a particular faith too. Where Kwankwaso falls short is that neither he nor his party has the contents that our party and presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, have. We have content and most Nigerians know this”, he said.

Also speaking, the Director General of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Akin Osuntokun, said if any Nigerian leader deserves an ethnic tag, that person would certainly be Kwankwaso.