Nigeria’s electoral law expressly prohibits a candidate or his agents from engaging in campaigns along religious, tribal or sectional lines. Equally, all presidential candidates in next year’s general elections recently signed a peace pact in Abuja pledging to refrain from campaigns along ethnic lines both by themselves and by all agents acting on their behalf. But in desperation to win next year’s presidential election, president Buhari and his agents have decided on a dangerous and divisive strategy of pitting the two largest ethnic groups in the South against each other by promising both of them the presidency in 2023 in exchange for their support in 2019.
Although the president doesn’t say much, he relies on his aides and agents to do most of the talking and campaigning for him, like in 2015. Perhaps the reason is to give him room for deniability in future when the move backfires.
As far back as April 2018, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, while receiving the Ebonyi state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at his office, pointedly told them the Southeast will have a better chance of producing a president in 2023 if they give their support to the second term ambition of President Buhari. “Preach it to the other south-east states that the shortest way to Igbo presidency is to support Buhari in 2019,” Mustapha told the delegation.
“The dynamics of politics can change and people that you perceive today are not with you, will be with you tomorrow”, Mustapha said warning that “the region must support the party this time around in its own interest.”
In November, Mustapha, again, speaking on behalf of his boss after the president met with South East governors at the presidential Vila in Abuja minced no words when he reminded them that the region’s investment in the re-election of President Buhari in next year’s election will determine their fate in 2023
“You remember there was a programme in the South-East where Mr. President asked me to represent him and I threw the kite by telling the south-eastern states that their quickest and easiest means to the presidency is to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term. Meaning that they can short circuit the period in terms of only having him there for another four years and whatever they do in 2019 will determine what will happen thereafter, because politics is a game of numbers and it is like a cooperative society,” Mustapha stated matters of fact.
But while Mustapha is busy promising the South East the presidential ticket on behalf of the president, another powerful minister in his cabinet, Babatunde Raji Fashola – who holds the triple portfolio of minister of power, works and housing, is busy campaigning in his native SouthWest region also encouraging the people of the region to vote for Buhari in 2019 to guarantee a return of power to the region in 2023.
Speaking in his native Yoruba, Fashola asked the audience whether they knew that “power is rotating to the South-West after the completion of Buhari’s tenure” if the vote for him in 2019? Using a local proverb, he drove the point home: “Your child cannot surrender her waist for edifying beads and you will use the bead to decorate another child’s waist”. A vote for Buhari means a return of power to the SouthWest in 2023.” He concluded by admonishing the people to do what is necessary to ensure a return of power to their region. “I am sure you will vote wisely,” he said.
To show the level of desperation, even the vice president Yemi Osinbajo, has joined the fray. Few days ago, he also spoke in the same line as Fashola, in a house to house campaign in Oyo, charging the Yoruba nation to vote for President Buhari for a return of power to the South West geopolitical zone in 2023.
This is immoral and disgraceful. What happens if both regions mobilise their people and vote for the president in the hope of gaining power in 2023? In desperation for re-election, the president and his team are giving hostages to fortunes, deliberately contravening the electoral law by engaging in ethnic and clannish campaigns, endangering the peace and unity of the country and preparing the ground for ethnic tensions and recriminations in the future. This is not the behaviour of a statesman or one who has the interest of the country at heart. But how do they care; their main goal is to win the 2019 elections. Thereafter, the country can go to flames for all they care!