Governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were conspicuously absent yesterday as President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the inaugural meeting of his re-election campaign council.
The session was held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governors are expected to function as state coordinators and council members. At the inauguration of the council, last week, Buhari had announced that APC chieftain and former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would head his campaign.
The party, however, faulted the insinuation that the governors’ absence was a mark of disaffection. In a terse statement, APC spokesman, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said: “The agenda for the meeting had to do with drawing the timetable and deciding on the messaging. It didn’t require everyone in the council to be present. Meanwhile, this is not the inaugural meeting. After the inauguration on Monday, there have been not less than three meetings of the council.”
In his opening address, the president said the meeting would outline the operational structure of the council, with a view to assigning responsibilities to its members. According to him, “Our main objective is to serve as the forum for collective decision-making, to enhance the effectiveness of the campaign effort.”
Buhari said the agenda included approving the terms of reference of the various directorates and organogram that would determine how members relate with one another and discharge their roles.
He added: “There is no doubt that victory is with us; it is ours. But that doesn’t mean we should rest even for a moment. Even though we are confident of winning, I urge you to work as hard as you can, so that we can maximise the scale and extent of our victory. I urge you to rise to the challenge of the great expectations this party and Nigerians have for you and the confidence that I personally have in the ability of all of you to deliver.”
Similarly, key APC stakeholders in the southeast including Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha were absent yesterday as party leaders met to fine-tune strategies for Buhari’s electoral victory in the region.
Others who were absent from the meeting convened by the zone’s presidential campaign council in Enugu included former Senate President Ken Nnamani, erstwhile governors Jim Nwobodo and Orji Uzor Kalu, and almost all ministers from the zone excluding Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
It was, however, attended by all the party’s governorship, national and state assembly candidates, state chairmen and other stakeholders.
According to the director, southeast APC presidential campaign council, Sharon Ikeazor, the meeting was to enable the members to harmonise winning strategies for Buhari in the zone.
She noted that with less than 40 days to the presidential poll, there was a need for the party to intensify its door-to-door campaign to sway votes for the president. Buhari has scored great infrastructural achievements in the zone and therefore deserves the people’s votes, she said.
On why Okorocha and some notable leaders did not attend the meeting, Ikeazor said governance would not stop because of politics. She said what was important was that some of them were represented and that the outcome of the meeting would be conveyed to them.
A former Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio, meanwhile, has expressed confidence that APC would win the February 16 presidential election.
He said the inaugural meeting in Abuja was to strategise on how to execute the project, stressing that Buhari’s achievements would be the focal point of campaign.
“I will say that APC is very poised, not just to undertake a very smooth and scintillating and enjoyable campaign but also to win the next election. We have very few weeks to the general elections. First, the presidential election, and we are quite ready. As you are aware, so far so good, we are running on the basis of our first term performance,” he said.
“The achievements of Mr. President are all there for people to see and I think the entire country is quite excited, quite unlike our colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who do not seem to have anything except criticism.”