The picture of what the presidential contest is going to look like next year is now clearer with the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress electing President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, former head of state, as their presidential candidates, respectively on Thursday, December 11
| By Olu Ojewale | Dec. 22, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT IS now official. President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, are the main candidates that will slug it out at the presidential election slated for February 14, next year. President Jonathan and Buhari were both formally given the mandate to represent their respective parties at the conventions held in Abuja, for the PDP and Lagos, for the APC. While President Jonathan had a very easy passage because he had been adopted by the party hierarchy ahead of the convention, Buhari had to participate in keenly contested primaries before securing the APC presidential ticket.
Needless to say, the special national convention of the PDP held at Eagles Square, Abuja, on Wednesday and Thursday, December 10 and 11, could be passed for a formal coronation of the president and his running mate. At the convention, all the 2812 delegates who registered for the convention voted for the president. In his acceptance speech, President Jonathan said: “I stand before you to accept your nomination as your presidential flag-bearer. I will give my all. I will not let you down. I will not fail the PDP and above all, I will not fail Nigeria.” He also disclosed that Namadi Sambo, vice-president, would continue as his running mate. In his message to the nation, President Jonathan promised to give his all to ensure that the living standard of Nigerians improved.
He called on Nigerians to unite against insurgency, saying that bickering among selves would only serve as morale booster to insurgents that the country was divided in the war against terror and could also demoralise the armed forces. “For this reason, we must remain united. I believe that together as a people and with God on our side, we can defeat terrorism and emerge even stronger and more united as a country,” he said.
While assuring Nigerians that election would hold in every part of the country as planned next year, the President stated that the security of lives and property of Nigerians remained a priority of the federal government. He commended the Nigerian armed forces and security services for their loyalty and commitment to the nation and pledged that government would continue to ensure they had the best in equipment and training.
The president acknowledged that the opposition would employ every means including intimidation and false accusation to get to power but he appealed to the PDP members not to descend to the same level but to remain focussed on the mission at hand to secure the country’s future. “Let me emphasise again that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. We must eschew violence even in the face of the most outrageous act of desperation. We must make sure our supporters have their voter card or get them motivated and eager to make their mark for our children, for a stronger economy and for the security of the country’s future,” he said.
Despite the harsh economic condition, the president insisted that his government was capable of handling the economy. He disclosed that his capable economic team had already mapped out strategies to manage the current oil price volatility and its threat to the nation. President Jonathan used the opportunity to highlight his various economic policies and programmes and their benefits to Nigerians.
According to him, the country’s fight against corruption is on course and would be won.
The APC was not that easy for Buhari whose emergence as the party presidential flag bearer was largely seen as victory of integrity over money. Before the 8000-strong delegates started voting, there were unconfirmed reports that Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president and one of the contestants, had paid for hotel accommodations of about 4,000 delegates and gave each candidate N1 million as pocket money.
While Abubakar was said to have dealt with delegates directly, Buhari, with the support of Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, reached out to governors, urging them to vote for him. All the five aspirants were given 10 minutes each to address the delegates, but it was only the retired general’s speech that drew loud ovation and capped with a standing ovation. Importantly, Buhari said the nation’s current multiple crisis prompted his current presidential ambition and not selfish desires.
He said: “I have always served Nigeria to the best of my ability. I have always tried to give more to the nation than it has given me. This is the principle of service that has guided my public life. Thus, I am not a rich person. I can’t give you a pocketful of dollars or naira to purchase your support. Even if I could, I would not do so. The fate of this nation is not up for sale.
“What I will give you and this nation is all of my strength, commitment, sweat and toil in the service of the people. What I can give you is my all. I do not intend to rule Nigeria. I want to democratically govern it with your help. I seek a Nigeria where Christians and Muslims may practise their faiths in peace and security; a Nigeria that is just and where corruption no longer trespasses into our institutions and national behaviour and a Nigeria where our diversity could be used for our national prosperity. Nigeria is our home. Let us now turn it into the great nation we know it can and should be.”
In any case, Buhari won the contest with 3,430 votes, beating Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State to second with 974 votes and Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president came third by winning 954 votes. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State placed fourth with 624 votes and Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership newspaper, was fifth scoring 10. There were 16 void votes. Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti State and returning officer for the primaries, who formally announced the results, said the election was keenly contested. According to him, 7,214 delegates were accredited for the convention, but 6,008 delegates actually voted.
Abubakar, in his remark, pledged his support for the party and Buhari to ensure his and bring about the necessary change. He congratulated Buhari, whom he described as an embodiment of development in the country. “I have no doubt that you will work with dedicated and qualified Nigerians to protect our citizens, improve our economy, create jobs, improve education, reform governance and fight corruption. You will indeed, bring the change Nigerians have been yearning for,” Abubakar said. Both Kwankwaso and Okorocha, in their remarks, promised to support Buhari to win the presidential election next year.
In his acceptance speech, Buhari thanked his opponents for putting up a good fight. He said the contest would send a message to Nigerian voters that the APC was ready for a democratic change. The general promised to meet with opponents in the next few days to confront the challenges ahead. Buhari said that his emergence was not because he was the best but he had been given the responsibility to fulfil the yearning of Nigerians for a positive change.
He said his government if elected would be based on five cardinal objectives. “We will govern Nigeria honestly in accordance to the constitution of the country,” he said. According to him, the government would secure the territorial integrity of the nation, tackle corruption and see that no one is discriminated against on the basis of religion or gender, among others. Buhari, therefore appeal for support so that the change the party has been clamouring for could come into fruition. I need your support; I need your help to become president of Nigeria, so that government may come to serve you; so that it may bring relief to the broken and weary among us and so that we may usher in a new Nigeria meant for us all. A Nigeria which is a birthright of everyone with exclusive position of no one,” he said.
Speaking with reporters after the voting, Governor Ahmed of Kwara State, said he was satisfied with the planning, conduct and outcome of the contest.
Now that the two major parties have their candidates, it is the expectation of all that the election itself will bring about a good omen to the country.