The camp of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, says it’s not losing sleep over the growing popularity of Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
However, the APC campaign team said it had devised strategies to stem the ‘Obidient’ movement ahead of the 2023 general elections.
An APC chieftain, who is also one of Tinubu’s strategists, while speaking to Sunday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, said a strategy had been devised to neutralise Obi’s influence.
He said, “Let me tell you what we are considering now to neutralise the movement. Two things will be involved in the electoral campaigns: issues and sentiments. There is always voter apathy in the South-West and if at all there is going to be an increase (in voters’ turnout) in the South-West now, it is going to be pro-Asiwaju because the Igbo people are stamping on our authority in our zone. I am not joking.
“Let me tell you about the ‘Obidients’, the ‘Obidients’ are a movement that cannot be swept under the carpet and I can tell you that they will shift the political terrain of this country.
“The campaign method of the Obi supporters will help the APC in Lagos. The average Yoruba in Lagos, even if they don’t like Asiwaju, they are bent on voting for him to silence the Igbo in Lagos at once. They reduced Obi’s chances by saying Lagos belongs to everybody; it is not a bonus for Obi. If there is going to be any increase, which I am sure voter apathy will reduce in this election, tribal and religious sentiments will play an important role. The turnout won’t favour Obi.
“The average Igbo man is also not talking about Biafra or IPOB now; they are talking about Peter Obi. So, definitely, the Igbo will come out to vote and they will vote for Obi (of the LP) and the PDP in the East. Our campaign now is that we don’t have a choice in Yorubaland and the South-West apart from the APC. The APC is the only party that has given us the opportunity to have a candidate.
“So, apart from Asiwaju, the South-West does not have any other person (in the presidential contest). That is the campaign I am going to personally lead now – sentiment. Without Asiwaju, the Yoruba will have nothing (after 2023). It is not about Asiwaju being good or bad, the Yoruba are stuck with him. I am not joking; it is common sense.”
The spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, also dismissed the prospect of Obi winning Lagos and some states in the South-West.
Keyamo told one of our correspondents in a phone chat on Friday that the average Nigerian knew that the ruling APC was the party to beat ahead in the presidential election.
According to him, the fact that the ‘Obidient’ movement and all Labour Party foot soldiers were able to manage a few successful solidarity rallies in Lagos doesn’t mean Tinubu is losing his strongholds in the South-West.
Keyamo said, “We are having no sleepless night at all. We are sleeping very well as we are confident of victory.
“Nobody is losing sleep that Lagos or any of our strongholds will be lost.”
The Deputy spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Hannatu Musawa, agreed with Keyamo.
In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, Musawa described the Obidient movement as a regional and social media creation.
She said, “I told you before that, constitutionally, you must have a geographical spread. As much as Obi is popular in the South, there are many parts of the country where he is unpopular. This election is going to be won and lost in the North. That is the bottom line. It is the reality, whether we like it or not. The Constitution and the Electoral Act’s requirement for election are not just to have a million people march for you. You need to have a fairly number of votes coming from a certain number of states.
“And for us in the APC, we know Obi doesn’t have that. I cannot see him winning any state in the North, with the exception of Benue, Plateau and, maybe, Taraba, that are needed to win a national election. I can’t even see him getting 25 per cent in any of the North-West states.
“We all saw the number of registered voters in INEC register when it came out, didn’t we? You will also agree with me that the majority of them are in the North. That is the reality on the ground and we have to work with that.”
Another APC chieftain, who also spoke anonymously, argued that Obi was making waves just because he is the only presidential candidate from the South-East.
He said, “These are people who originally did not want to be part of Nigeria; they are just showing interest now because Obi is involved. They did not believe in one Nigeria; they are just showing interest in one Nigeria now. Is that the zone you want to entrust Nigeria in their hands?”
The politician added that the ruling APC would exploit the crisis in the PDP to snatch votes from the South-East and the South-South where the opposition party has a stronghold.
Reacting to the report, Obi’s media aide, Emeka Obasi, disclosed that they were not ready to take issues with any member of the ruling party, especially those seeking their downfall.
According to him, his principal is a simple man whose campaign will remain focused on issues and inanities.
He said, “The issue there is that my principal, Mr Peter Obi, is not into this game for do-or-die. He has said it before and will continue saying it. He will rather do something right and lose than do something wrong to win.
“Nobody is stopping the APC from using whatever strategy they want to employ, provided it is within the law. If they campaign and do whatever they plan to do to win, it is their own problem. We are not trying whatever they deem lawful to do.
“Our own strategy is to campaign to the people issue-based by pointing out Nigeria’s problems and possible solutions to overcome them. That is what our principal has been doing. The more he talks, the more he visits and walk the talk. That’s how he’s winning converts.”