Gideon Obhakhan, a former Commissioner for Education in Edo State, is the Secretary of the Public Affairs Directorate, Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council. In this interview with select journalists, Obhakhan spoke on why the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu will win the February 25 election. He also said that Naja’atu Mohammed’s criticism of Tinubu was for selfish reasons. BENEDICT NWACHUKWU was there. Excerpts:
The campaign has lasted almost four months, as a member of the Presidential Campaign Council of APC, how would you rate the campaign?
So far, it’s been very good. It is easy to sell a candidate that has a good past. With the development that Tinubu brought to Lagos, selling him has not been a problem for us. And we have been comparing ourselves with other candidates from other political parties. And most of the campaigns we have had showed what we are going to do.
So, in terms of a general assessment of how far we have done, it has been very good. We’re getting more and more acceptability, some of the grey areas that people showed concerns about have been cleared.
If you look at how we have gone through the number of states we have campaigned, the acceptability is there, and the acceptance is there. People are beginning to get more details about the party, more details about the candidate. So there hasn’t been any form of violence, which is also very good. People are in the field articulating issues and talking about what APC has for Nigeria and what we have done before.
It’s positive up to this point. Some of the major issues against your candidate are those of his personality, his businesses and his growing up. How well would you say you’ve been able to deal with them to convince Nigerians that they won’t have issues when the election comes?
The main things they’ve been talking about have always been issues about age, issues about health. But when you look at the number of times we have answered it, you will know that it is just the antics of the opposition to try to drum up the lies they have to make it look like it’s true. You know if you say somebody is not fit, are you a medical doctor?
Do we have a medical report that shows him not to be fit? Tinubu is the frontrunner in this election. He has campaigned in more states than every other candidate today.
Generally speaking, if you say somebody is sick, how would that person be able to meet up with the daily schedule, going from state to state without rest? And it’s not that he just goes to campaign and goes to sleep, he still goes around attending town hall meetings and meeting with stakeholders.
So the issue of health is just one cliché that people have held onto especially, the opposition, who don’t have anything to campaign with and they want to continue to repeat it with the hope that when they continue to repeat a lie, it will eventually become the truth.
It just shows the emptiness in the programmes they have because they don’t have anything to sell. They will rather go tarnishing the image of the frontrunner in this election. Another one is about education; I think it is in the public domain where some of these so-called social media influencers had to travel all the way to the United States. And the guy came back to say he wasted $4,000 trying to prove that he did not go to school, that he was proven wrong because he got the details from Chicago State University that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu attended the university.
So, if somebody comes tomorrow and keeps talking about his educational background, we tend to ignore the person because it’s a distraction, which we’re not ready to be a part of.
So, in terms of personality, I don’t know what can be more than the track record that he has behind him in Lagos State to prove that his personality is okay. Lagos was like a slum when he took over and he turned it around and today, it’s the fifth largest economy in Africa. So, issues of personality are distractions which we are not ready to hammer on. But I can tell you that Tinubu is fit he’s educated and his integrity is intact and he’s ready to take Nigeria to the next level.
Hajia Naja’atu Mohammed said the APC presidential candidate suffers from dementia. Are you not worried about that?
First and foremost, let me say that the last time I checked, Naja’atu Mohammed was a graduate of history and not a medical doctor. So, when a historian starts to talk about somebody’s health and people take it seriously, then I just get concerned.
First, how do you judge a human being by just looking at him and then you know, this person has XYZ ailments? So, I think those are conjectures.
And if you look at her follow-up comments, you can deduce the reasons why she is behaving the way she’s behaving. Okay, let’s just take our mind back to when she became part of this project.
I’m quoting from her account; she was an ardent supporter of Muhammadu Buhari, prior to the election in 2015. From 2015 till date, if my calculation is right, it is about eight years. So it took her eight years to find out that the person she was supporting is not doing well.
That smacks of mischief. Now she was a member of the Campaign Council, the campaign Council was set up sometime in October 2022, and it took her four months to know that the candidate she was supporting was not well and therefore she had to resign. Again, that to me smells of mischief.
The question is, what was she asking for that she didn’t get? And just this morning (Thursday) on television, she complained about how they were not inviting her to join the campaign trail, which is a contradiction on its own.
So, it means that if she was being carried along on the campaign trail, Tinubu would have been well. These are just people who are desperate to occupy certain positions in the campaign organization. Tinubu knows his audience. He knows his team. He picks people and builds them up.
But I don’t think Tinubu is also the kind of person that you will force yourself on and even with your arrogance and your pressure to get all that is available. The campaign team is structured, and there are different directorates. Everybody has his or her own role.
So, when you sit down and you want everything and you can’t get it and you become a medical doctor overnight, then I just feel that whatever she says should not be taken seriously.
I just put practical things on the ground, when did Buhari’s failure in her own words start? Is it two months, or three months to the end of the administration or when?
When did she decide that conscience matters? Is it after eight years of being a part of the party? So when did Tinubu have health issues by her own assessment – when did she become a medical doctor to know that Tinubu is suffering from those medical conditions she talked about?
But as far as I’m concerned, her leaving doesn’t change the fact that APC will win the next election next month, on February 25.
The PDP had launched an assault on the APC, seeking the disqualification of your candidate, are you worried?
It is obvious that was just a knee-jerk reaction to what the APC Presidential Campaign Council did when the issue of this Special Purpose Vehicle came up.
You are aware of one Michael Achimugu, who has come up with revelations regarding how Atiku Abubakar, while he was vice president allegedly connived or collaborated, whatever term you want to use, with his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, to set up Special Purpose Vehicles with the creation of companies that they were using to loot public firms. Marine Floats is one of them.
There was some kind of silence when that information came up, and the PCC of APC, came out and brought it to the open and demanded that the ICPC, EFCC, and Code of Conduct Bureau should call for Atiku’s investigation and possible prosecution depending on the outcome of their investigation.
Now, instead of coming out to address those specific issues and prove whether it is Atiku’s voice or whether there were SPVs, they started by blackmailing or branding the whistleblower as a blackmailer.
But the question to ask is that if a blackmailer brings out an armed robber to the police station, should the policeman set the armed robber free because the armed robber was brought by a blackmailer, the answer is no! So, I think PDP should occupy themselves with responses to the topical issues rather than trying to beg the question, so to speak.
So, as far as I’m concerned, we are not talking about issues, dead issues or they are raising and getting distracted. We’re going to focus on the issue of the SPV. You are aware that Festus Keyamo, SAN, has already approached the court to compel these agencies to call Atiku and ensure that he answers the right question. So, for me, those are distractions, we are going to take them with a pinch of salt.
What is the state of APC in the South South and what strategy will APC be using to make inroads into the South South or to gain a landslide victory in the South South and South East?
Coming to our chances in the South South and South East, first, let’s even say everybody wants to be objective in the South East, the idea of the Second Niger Bridge has been muted for over four decades.
Now Buhari’s administration has delivered a project worth over N3 billion. For me, every easterner should give some credit to Buhari for that activity. Now if you look at South South in terms of our chances of winning, Peter Obi is from the South East, like you said (Ifeanyi) Okowa is from South South.
South South has traditionally been a PDP zone over the years. As of today, there is no single governor in the South South that is in the APC.
But if you look at the ‘Obidient’ so to speak, it is more in the South South and South East. So, it is even a blessing in disguise for APC that Obi is in the race because the votes he is going to get are simply PDP’s votes.
So for me, that just kills it for us. So they’re going to reduce the votes for PDP, which will be shared. Of course, we are still going to make a huge impact. Look at the G-5 and the negative impact it is having on PDP. Of course, with those votes leaving PDP, it is increasing the gap with which APC will win the election. APC is going to win.