Out of Romanus UgwuAbuja
there The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) remains concerned and concerned after the two crucial meetings of the party’s key stakeholders failed to address the multiple teething problems hampering the launch of its presidential campaign more than two weeks after the political party’s ban was lifted campaigns.
On two consecutive Wednesdays, the APC National Working Committee (NWC), the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), and the leadership of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), including presidential and vice-presidential candidates Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, participated in retreats on the Dialogue on how to proceed to ensure a smooth election campaign.
What dominated the agenda of the crucial sessions, it was noted, included the controversy over the composition of the campaign council list, the deliberate deviation or paradigm shift from the party’s manifesto, perhaps the icy relationship between the party’s national leader, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and presidential candidate Tinubu , particularly the rift over who will control the campaign funds.
While observers attributed the standstill of the first meeting in the party’s national secretariat to the absence of the then-British presidential candidate and his running mate, the second meeting unfortunately did not produce the desired results despite Tinubu’s presence.
Although PCC spokesman Festus Keyamo had defended the delay in starting the APC’s long-awaited campaign, citing the consideration of the diary of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is understandably the campaign chairman, some party members were concerned, believing that it is the irreconcilable differences between the gladiators in the ruling party that cause the real problem.
Defending the delay in resuming the campaign, Keyamo said: “We also agreed on all the fundamental issues. We just want to take the leader of the party, Mr. President, and take to the streets,” adding, “As for the PDP launch campaign, APC will allow the little boys to continue, the big boys are coming back.”
But political observers have argued that if it were Mr. President’s diary delaying the launch of the APC campaign, could it also be responsible for the endless delay in the release of the comprehensive campaign list and the inaugurations of the councillors?
A member of the APC NWC commented on the situation, telling the Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity that there was more to it than the ongoing delay in launching the presidential campaign would suggest.
“I think we may have been sparing with the truth by blaming the entire blame for the delay in starting our campaign on President Buhari’s availability. I am sure Mr President is now freer than our candidate. I want to believe that failure to resolve certain issues that are already public knowledge cannot be wished away.
“I don’t think the issue of the campaign list has been finally resolved. If it had been resolved, the comprehensive list would definitely have been released to the public to confirm our seriousness, as other political parties have done. One may also wonder curiously whether it is the same schedule of Mr. President that could also delay the dismissal and inauguration of the Campaign Council, which is an integral part of our campaign activities.
“But the good thing is that we still have enough time. I want to reassure party members and supporting Nigerians that if we weed out all these gray areas, APC will come out with a bang. Nigerians will hear us loud and clear when we bang the drums,” the party leadership assured.
Aside from the reasons given by the PCC spokesman for the delay in starting the campaign, another pre-campaign burden on the ruling party is the disagreement on the manifesto presented by the party’s candidate.
One of the strongest points of disagreement, according to sources at the tripartite meeting held last week, was the fierce opposition and objection by key interest groups to the manifesto presented to them by the presidential candidate.
Although the PCC spokesman argued that the manifesto had 90 percent support from stakeholders, two points, sources claimed, became a source of disagreement during last week’s meeting.
The first was the allegation that Tinubu dominated the manifesto on Lagos affairs, relegating the petty achievements of President Buhari’s government to insignificant levels.
And the second reason was the strong objection to the manifesto by most governors and some members of the party leadership for the lack of a conscious attempt to reconcile it with the documented party’s own, leading to the establishment of a harmonization committee to settle the differences to balance.
“All we did during the meeting was review our draft manifesto,” noted PCC spokesman Keyamo, explaining that “our candidate is not the type to act alone.
“He carries everyone with him. He presented the draft of the manifesto to all those involved for inspection. And guess what; Almost all stakeholders gave this draft more than 90 percent pass grade.
“We cannot give you the content because we will not take it away from our candidate. He will present it himself to Nigerians on a specific date and occasion. We have set up a small committee charged with the responsibility of paring down the Manifesto documents to key highlights in news form that we can sell even to the market women and street vendors in the simplest language. We don’t want to present Nigerians with a very complicated document that they cannot understand in simple terms,” he said.
Another PCC member allied himself with the spokesman in dismissing suggestions that Tinubu was presenting a manifesto dominated by Lagos content rather than the achievements of the Buhari-led APC government, arguing in a conversation with Sunday Sun that stakeholders would not have approved of it if there had been any prejudice against it.
“There is not an iota of truth in such claims that Asiwaju submitted a draft manifesto with Lagos content. It’s unfounded. I can confirm that the governors and NWC have graciously approved the manifesto,” he said.
If the Tinubu leaders managed to wriggle out of the controversy over the inconsistencies in the manifesto, the disagreement over campaign funds between the party leadership and the campaign council has remained unresolvable.
According to the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Moaka, the discussion on campaign finance was left in limbo, stressing that; “The issue of the campaign fund is an ongoing matter. Our campaign funding is really important because there’s not much going on without it, but that’s an issue we’ll be discussing in due course.”
However, a member of the PCC insisted that the party’s leadership must do what is necessary and, speaking to our correspondent, demanded that the party should not even make a fool of itself in fighting over who controls the campaign fund.
He insisted: “I would like to ask if the leadership does not want to support the candidates, what will they use the money they have raised from selling nomination forms for?
“The money runs into billions of naira and yet they claim they will not support the candidates. It is wrong. Even if they claim that they are wrongly using it for the renovation of the national secretariat, the renovation cannot eat up all the billions they have collected from the aspirants. The ideal is that the party must support candidates no matter how small, especially candidates in states where our party does not have a governor.”
Controversy aside, the conspicuous absence of the party’s national leader Adamu during last week’s crucial meeting has likewise heightened curiosity about the deteriorating frosty relationship between him and the presidential nominee.
Morka argued that Adamu, who was so well represented, did not avoid the meeting and said he was in touch almost throughout the meeting.
“The national chairman was not absent from the operation; he was adequately represented by the Vice National President in the North and his counterpart in the South. He was in contact with all stakeholders who attended the meeting. Although he informed the candidate of his inability to attend the meeting, he was effectively represented,” Morka defended.
For those who blamed the presidential candidate’s health for the delay in launching campaigns, the PCC claimed that specific logistics, not Tinubu’s speculated health issues, were to blame.
“We plan because the essence of it is to roll campaign drums, only to have them sit out, as did the opposition party, which is still grappling with an internal crisis. We want to dot all of the i’s and cross all of our t’s before we begin.
“Asiwaju’s health has nothing to do with the delay in starting our campaign. That’s just logistics. It is also not correct to claim that he did not take part in important events due to health reasons. He was there at the State House launch of the APC Women’s Campaign Council. He will attend an event in Kaduna earlier this week.
“Last week on Thursday he held a series of review meetings with relevant stakeholders to refine his campaign platform. Our campaign will not be dictated by outside forces or media pressure,” said the PCC member.