Tom Ohikere is a member of the Buhari Support Organization and a member of the Presidential campaign council. The former commissioner for information in Kogi state, in this interview with BSO media he spoke on the forthcoming Presidential election and related matters
The APC recently accused the PDP and Atiku Abubakar of Planning Massive vote buying at the coming election, what is your take?
We know the PDP has an antecedent of rigging elections throughout their sixteen years in power, they held sway by supplanting the peoples will through the most vile methods of elections rigging of which vote buying is a central instrument. So it is not a surprise to us, we saw the way they conducted their presidential primary like a bazaar where the highest bidder carried the day. It is no longer news that the event was marked by dollars spree, which saw Atiku Abubakar renowned for buying his way, clinched the party’s ticket. So we expect him to want to do the same with the presidential ballot, but I think it will be a case study in political history as we see which is stronger, financial inducement or charismatic cultlike following enjoyed by President Muhammedu Buhari. I am convinced that despite his propaganda and rented crowds, when push comes to shobe, he will be disappointed with the outcome. We know all those parading themselves as his henchmen are only doing so out of the prospect of financial gain unlike the good will enjoyed by Mr. President. So it is expected, he has always been desperate for power, so it is simple logic that such a man will go to any length including vote but buying but Nigeria Politics in 2019 has gone beyond that, and those who voted for president Buhari in 2015, despite the massive vote buying and rigging strategy of the PDP, will without doubt replicate that feat. So I will say it is the last desperate move of a sinking man.
How do you see the election postponement?
The postponement came to us as a Shock, we have prepared and ready, we know what we have done, the achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari is visible, we know what is on ground so we were prepared knowing we have the numbers. The masses have been responding positively to our numerous campaigns. So the postponement was surprising.
But we are not deterred and we would not be discouraged as the president and national chairman of our great party have exhorted us. The Independent National Electoral Commission have informed the nation that the reason for the postponement is logistical, we would be patient with them and we would be vigilant, to ensure that the vote of our people counts. We have been calling on our party faithful and loyalist for Mr. President not to relent, that now is the time when we must maintain our commitment to the cause of national regeneration, of which president Muhammedu Buhari is its champion. So the election postponement is not totally bad we have been using the remaining time to communicate to Nigerians the good deeds and the determination of the forces of retrogression to abort it. The people know what is at stake, so I believe they would come out en-mass on the rescheduled date.
What is your perception of the raging controversy on PMB order to the security forces to short ballot box snatchers?
I think it is the usual style of the PDP to want to misinterpret every good intention of president Muhammedu Buhari. I see it is a determined attempt to quote the president out of context. What the president said and intended is that the right and will of the Nigerian people should be respected, which can be threatened and compromised by thugs and miscreants, or other paid agents organized for that purpose. The PDP has been opposing or misinterpreting the directive of Mr. President, we know it is one of the tools in the art of election rigging, so they know that the president’s comment meant that elements that they may want to employ to do their bidding would most definitely be discouraged by such statement. I see nothing wrong with it, we know ballot snatchers and ballot snatching during election usually leave a trail of blood and injuries in their wake. So I think president may nor necessary intend for this perpetrators to be shot to death but as a way of deterring them, by letting them know that it would not be taken likely and to encourage the people to come out without fear or reservation to exercise their franchise. To let thugs and hoodlums know that instead of the lives of law abiding citizens exercising their right being put in danger, they (the hoodlum) would be threatened.
Do you have confidence in the ability of INEC to deliver free and fair election?
I know the chairman of our party has been calling for the reshuffling of some RECs of the INEC but think on the whole I have confidence in the ability and capacity of INEC to deliver a free and fair election, they did it in 2011 and also in 2015 so I think the INEC has been making steady progress over time . Despite the postponement and logistical challenges, and the determined attempts of those who have in the past won elections by other means, to subvert the will of the good people of Nigeria, I think the Independent National Electoral Commission can deliver an election and outcome that will be acceptable to the people of Nigeria. INEC knows we are watching, Nigerians are watching, the International Community is watching. The INEC chairman Professor Yakubu Mahmoud knows what is at stake, he know that is reputation is at stake, he knows that he would be harshly judged by history if he does otherwise or fall short. So I believe on their part INEC is making frantic effort to ensure that things are put in place to conduct an election that reflects the will of the people, and limits to the barest minimum any disruptions or inconsistencies that may mar the outcome and public perception of their independence or neutrality. So I think INEC can and we are ready, the APC is ready, The President is ready and come 23rd of February, he will be confirmed as the president of Nigeria, God’s willing.
Why are you convinced President Muhammadu Buhari would emerge victorious?
Despite the fact that both candidates in the forthcoming Presidential election are northerners, President Muhammadu Buhari has the edge among northern voters who constitute the bulk of the Nigerian electorate because of the aura that comes with his image as a man of “ integrity” unequalled in the Nigerian political scene. President Muhammadu Buhari is the only politician who can pull massive crowds at rallies out of admiration without necessarily mobilizing them in what is called rented crowds. Even some political pundits believe that the droves of people who attended the presidential rally of the PDP would not necessarily translate into votes, for a man many see as an aloof oligarch condescending only because it is election times in the quest for his ultimate ambition.
Despite the attempt by Atiku Abubakar to portray himself as a modern, detribalised Nigerian, many in the south south and Southeast seems not to be convinced as the president has been winning endorsement and making incursions into new areas that are traditional strongholds of the PDP.
Just early this month no fewer than 1,000 pastors under the auspices of the National Inter-Faith and Religious Organizations for Peace (NIFROP) also joined the train by given their wholehearted support to President Muhammadu Buhari re-election bid.
Before the postponement, various newspapers and pollsters have been calling in favour of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari but as the jostling for ascendancy continues with the resumption of campaigns, some pundits believe that the time remaining is to small to cause any significant change in the balance of support among the candidates.
The strategy of the President and the leadership of the party is to communicate in clear terms where the nation is coming from and where it intends to go. That the people will have to choose between Egypt and Canaan. Between the era of unfettered corruption and impunity, of which Mr Atiku Abubakar was a key element, a factor that brought about disaffection between him and his then boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the vision of a lawful and orderly society. While their opponents have accused the President of wrecking the economy, the president has retorted that it is corruption that has permeated every critical sector under the rule of PDP that wrecked the economy, from whence he is trying to revamp it and that until it is defeated the nation’s economy can not proceed on the path of sustainable growth and development. There are several international indices and researches that points to corruption being the bane in Nigeria’s quest to be one of the leading world economies.