Ahead of next month’s presidential election, some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-East are finding it difficult to market the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari in the region, StateReporters news has gathered.
Though the region has witnessed a sizable number of leaders from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who have joined the APC after the 2015 general elections, findings across some states in the South East reveal that many of the leaders are wary of campaigning for President Buhari who is seeking re-election for another term.
Sources told StateReporters news that the hesitation of the APC leaders stems from the hostilities from majority of the youths who are sympathetic to the cause of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
It would be recalled that IPOB had last year called on President Buhari to bury his ambition to run for second term in 2019 general election or he would be unmasked.
An APC leader in one of the South-East states who spoke on condition of anonymity said while he was convinced that President Buhari had done enough for the region despite getting few votes in the zone and as such deserved re-election, it is difficult campaigning for him as many of the youths “are not willing to hear anything about Buhari or APC in the South East”.
He continued: “I still believe that President Buhari will score more votes than what he got in 2015 in the South East but I must admit that the hostility by some youths, especially the pro-Biafra ones, is not creating a conducive atmosphere to campaign for him.
“Many of them are saying what they want is restructuring and not presidential election. Some of them are even saying it is Buhari that brought ‘Operation Python Dance’ that killed many of their youths.”
Also speaking, another APC member confirmed to our correspondent that while many people believe President Buhari had done well, they were afraid to come out and identify with him, especially now that the campaigns has started.
“I must admit it has been challenging. Most of the youths don’t want to hear you talking about Buhari. They may even attack you and there is nothing anybody can do about it.
“It is very easy to do that when there is a major rally as everybody will troop out to see the dignitaries but after that, you are on your own,” he said.
However, speaking with our correspondent, Osita Okechukwu, a chieftain of the APC and Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), said IPOB could not constitute any threat to President Buhari’s campaign or re-election because they were a fringe group who were in the minority in the region.
Okechukwu said it was an erroneous impression that campaigning for President Buhari would be difficult in the South East based on the activities of IPOB.
According to him, the population of IPOB members was not up to two percent.
He said the position of the group concerning President Buhari should not be taken as the entire position of the South East region.
“There is nothing like that. It is an erroneous impression. What is the percentage of IPOB membership in the South East? Are they up to two percent? We are talking about election with PVCs and not about IPOB.
“This is a fringe group which doesn’t really have a say in the scheme of things. We cannot take the position of a fringe group to equate the position of the entire people. We are saying that since 1970, the second Niger Bridge has been on the drawing board.
“This is the president that brought the first bag of cement, the first shovel of gravel, first shovel of sand and so on. Nobody can dispute that fact.
“The dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha (road), the bail-out funds for salaries and pensions. Buhari is also the first person that paid the Biafran police who served during the Biafran war. So, these are the facts of the matter, it is not about propaganda.”
In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it was a fallacy that the governors of the South East were not campaigning for its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Speaking with our correspondent, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s National Publicity Secretary who described PDP governors in the South East as committed stakeholders to the Atiku presidency, said any governor campaigning against Atiku was campaigning against himself.
“There is no South-East governor that is not committed to the Atiku presidential project. These governors are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and they are working for our party.
“Those claiming these governors are not committed to Atiku’s presidential election, is there anywhere the governors have said ‘go and vote for Buhari or APC?’
“Has any governor in the South East publicly come out to tell the people ‘don’t vote for Atiku, vote for Buhari?’ I also know that there is no South East governor that will publicly come out and say ‘don’t vote for Atiku, vote for Buhari’.
“None of our PDP governors will do that because it is clear that injury to one is injury to all. If any governor says don’t vote for Atiku, such a governor is already campaigning against himself,” he said.