Campaign for the 2019 presidential election formally opened, yesterday, with the two leading candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP unveiling their plans and at the same time, hitting at each other’s policies.
Buhari at the unveiling of his campaign at a well attended launch in the presidential villa vowed to take the country to the next level against the background of what was claimed as 16 years of waste under the PDP.
He was immediately countered by Atiku who declared Buhari’s Next Level theme as a new level of propaganda, saying that the administration had failed in its three key promises to enhance security, employment and anti-corruption.
President Buhari at the flag-off of the campaign observed that education remained his biggest ambition in sight, but nevertheless acknowledged challenges, notably the farmers-herders clashes which he said have been aggravated by struggle for land, climate change among other issues, which he said were worsened through cynical manipulation by the political class.
Yesterday’s formal campaign flag-off by the President took place at the Presidential Villa and was witnessed by leaders of the APC, including governors, ministers, and senior government officials. Ahead of the president’s flag-off, senior operatives of the administration enunciated achievements of the government in the last three years. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said Saturday’s victories by the APC candidates in bye-elections in Kwara, Bauchi and Katsina signalled the acceptance of the Buhari administration.
He said: “We came in when Nigerians clamoured for change and the rest of the world looked up to our nation for direction. We came in when hope was lost. A leader with distinct integrity was needed for our nation. The journey has been tortuous but we have weathered the storm.” Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in his presentation, said that no other government since the Shehu Shagari administration had conceived the kind of housing programme that is presently being undertaken by the Buhari government.
He said the administration’s housing projects could be found in 34 states. Rotimi Amaechi, the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation and Minister of Transportation in his presentation said, whereas the PDP was in power for 16 years, the APC in power for three years had accomplished far more, including rail, roads and fiscal prudence.
Speaking on his mandate and quest for another four years in office, Buhari said: “The next four years will be quite significant for our country. Nigeria is faced with a choice to keep building a new Nigeria — making a break from its tainted past which favoured an opportunistic few.
“Our choices will shape us, our economic security and our future prosperity. Nigeria, more than ever before, needs a stable and people-focussed government to move the agenda for our country forward. Join us on this journey to the Next Level of a prosperous, strong and stable Nigeria! “Four years ago, we promised Nigerians real change in what we do and how we do it.
Nigerians sent a clear message in the last election and our platform offered a new ambitious plan for a secure, prosperous and corruption-free country. “We have worked hard to fulfil our promises and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people.
“Foundational work is not often visible, neither is it glamorous but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire. Judging by the prior depth of decay, deterioration and despair that Nigeria had sunken into, we are certain that these past few years have put us in good stead to trudge on the Next Level of building an even and stronger nation for our people. “First things had to come first.
We were a nation at war — but we delivered on our commitment to secure the territorial integrity of our nation in the face of a raging insurgency that devastated many parts of the North-East. “We liberated 17 local government areas from the grip of insurgency. Brokering and sustaining peace in the Niger Delta has also been crucial to stabilising the polity.
Despite the difficult circumstances presented by weak oil prices and reduced oil production, we delivered on our commitment to make public investments to spur economic growth, job creation, and broad based prosperity. “Agriculture continues to expand our economic base, as do our investments in deficient infrastructure across the length and breadth of this nation.
“We implemented a responsible and transparent fiscal plan for the challenging economic times that we faced. “The next level of effort focuses on job creation across sectors. From an enlargement of the N-Power programme to investing in technology and creative sector jobs to agriculture and revolutionising access to credit for entrepreneurs and artisans, there is scope for over 15 million new jobs.
“We believe that our people who are still in poverty have a direct way out and up through our expanded National Social Investment Programme. “We know that, to succeed, moral integrity and conscience must continue to form the dominant character of our nation and its leadership. Corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria.