By Emmanuel Mogbede, Martins Odeh
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) not to be complacent but to prepare, strategise and win the 2019 elections, to prevent the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from taking Nigeria backwards.
He made the appeal at the APC national Secretariat Wednesday in Abuja while submitting his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to contest the presidency in 2019.
Although Buhari did not mention PDP in his short speech, the reference was unmistakable as he referred to those who ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2015.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the forms were purchased for the president by the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors’ Network on Sept. 6. at the cost of 45 million.
Buhari had in April declared his intention to seek re-election at the APC National Executive Committee (NEC).
President Buhari while submitting the forms, said; “I m here in person among friends and colleagues to put my name forward to my party, the APC, seeking nomination to contest the presidential election in 2019.
“I am taking this step with all humility, sense of responsibility and unquestionable desire to serve and protect the interest of all Nigerians.
“Let me today, appeal to party members not to be complacent but to prepare, strategize and win 2019 elections.
“We must not allow those who brought the country to its kneels from 1999 to 2015 to come and take us back”.
National Co-coordinator Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors’ Network, Sunnsi Musa, said the group paid for the forms because the President is not a multi-millionaire cash wise.
“But he has millions of supporters who are always ready to come together to pay for his nomination form.
He said the group embarked on the project based on the recognition that the President has started laying a foundation for a better Nigeria and deserves a second term in office.
He expressed gratitude to those who contributed towards the purchase of the forms.
The President assured them and Nigerians generally that if nominated, and re-elected in 2019, he would continue to serve the people to the best of his abilities.
Mr Adams Oshiomhole, the APC National Chairman used the opportunity to present to President Buhari his new party membership card.
He also told the president that the APC under his leadership, took advantage of modern technology to come up with a new membership data base, saying that the party currently has 15.6 million registered members.
“Today to talk about the size of our party, the largest party in the world and in Africa, we need to have evidence that can be verified by a third party or by members.
“We have taken advantage of technology to produce what I believed is the best or the first in Nigeria.
“We now have as at last week when they started printing of membership register, about 15.6 million registered APC members across the country “he said.
The APC national chairman added that the party membership data base was designed to ensure that the membership status of anyone could easily be verified at the touch of a bottom.
Oshiomhole further added that with the development, the party had credible and verifiable persons to conduct direct primaries on the basis of its membership register.
However, he said the party would not in any way nullify or change the decisions of its National Executive Committee (NEC) at its sixth meeting, which allowed for indirect primaries, for logistics reasons
He said the APC will strive to give practical expression to its decision as transparently as possible.
This, he added, would ensure that the APC would not only be the largest, but the smartest, most democratic and most cohesive party in the country.
Meanwhile, the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) on Wednesday reiterated that President Buhari’s acceptance of N45-Expression of Interest and Nomination forms donation from a group of professionals did not contravene any law.
Presidential aspirants of the APC under the aegis of “Coalition of 2019 APC Aspirants’’ had asked the president to reject the offer, claiming that it violated the Electoral Act.
The coalition had noted that the gesture from the Consolidation Ambassador Network (NCAN) had particularly violated Section 91(9) of the Act.
But, Malam Gidado Ibrahim, BCO’s Director of Communications and Strategy, said in a statement in Abuja that the criticism was laughable.
According to him, the president has not contravened any provisions of the Electoral Act.
“The statement issued on behalf of APC presidential aspirants by Dr SKC Ogbonnia, Chief Charles Udeogaranya and Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, criticising the president for accepting the forms bought for him was mischievous and miscalculated,’’ he said.
Ibrahim, therefore, urged Nigerians to ignore the outburst by the APC aspirants, describing it as the “ranting’’ of anti-democratic elements in the country’s political space.
“The Buhari Campaign Organisation wishes to ask Nigerians, and indeed, the teeming supporters of Buhari not to be distracted by the purported group of the APC presidential aspirants.
“The President Buhari we know and who Nigerians know further and better is highly law-abiding and always wishes to act in accordance with all provisions of the extant laws of the country.
“Buhari is not known to be going zigzag or cutting corners in any matter. Rather, he is highly straightforward and upright in his private or official conduct.
“Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) relied on by the aggrieved persons states that an individual or other entity shall not donate more than N1 million to any candidate.
“It is imperative to note that the APC has yet to select its presidential candidate for the 2019 presidential election; Buhari is still an aspirant.
“He was, however, offered presidential nomination form and not any cash worth over N1 million,’’ Ibrahim said.
On the call for the country’s restructuring, Ibrahim urged Nigerians not to be gullible, adding that advocates of restructuring had ulterior motive not in tandem with national interest.
He said those advocating the restructuring were mostly politicians who had the opportunity to improve the fortunes of the country but decided to squander it instead.
“President Buhari is already restructuring by halting unnecessary stealing of the nation’s patrimony, preparing to re-issue oil blocs to capable developers, especially to people from that region suffering from environmental degradation.
“The president is irked by the wide gap between the rich and the poor and he is determined to narrow that gap at all cost,’’ Ibrahim said.
He assured Nigerians that Buhari would ensure that the right things were done irrespective of their consequences to his aspiration.
Ibrahim said that the president had vowed to conduct the 2019 general elections in line with the rule of law.
According to him, the mounting suspicious against the president’s readiness to ensure a free, fair and credible election should be extinguished.
“It is noteworthy that Buhari is going into the 2019 elections as an incumbent enjoying the support of a lot more governors, senators, House of Representatives members, House of Assembly members and local government chairmen.
“Equally, the odds are no more stacked up against the president as he will see to true free and fair elections as witnessed in elections conducted in the last three years.
“We expect the soaring popularity of the president to be reflected in the 2019 elections,’’ Ibrahim said.