THISDAY HEADLINE: Defections Can’t Halt Buhari’s Victory in 2019, Says Campaign Organisation

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The Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation has said recent defections from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will not affect the president’s re-election bid.

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The organisation said in a statement Sunday by its Director of Strategic Communications, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), that Buhari won overwhelming support in previous elections in many of the states where the defections occurred without the backing of the defectors, arguing that their movement to the opposition would have little or no effect on the outcome of the 2019 presidential poll.
Besides, it said with APC gaining a lot of ground in formerly opposition territories, President Muhammadu Buhari had nothing to fear.

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But the PDP in a swift reaction by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the Buhari campaign was deluding itself with salacious figures that were based on bogus assumptions.

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“It is imperative to state that the figures put forward by the Buhari campaign are all predicated on bogus assumptions that have no space for human behavioural patterns of responding to situations correspondingly with stimuli,” it said Sunday.

APC has been hit by a gale of defections, with 14 senators and 32 House of Representatives members leaving the party for PDP in one fell swoop last Tuesday. The next day, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State announced his defection to PDP and rumours are rife that at least two other governors and some key leaders of APC, including Senate President Bukola Saraki would also leave soon.

Owing to the defections, there are fears that Buhari’s 2019 re-election bid may be terribly hurt.

But the Buhari presidential campaign said the president would be re-elected with the combined votes of his diehard supporters and manynew converts he had won through his performance, especially in core opposition areas.

“The president won with large margins in the past in some states without the support of majority of the politicians from those states who moved recently to join the opposition party. Also, we are all witnessing the significant gains Mr. President is making in several places where he lost in the past, notably in the South-south and South-east,” the statement said.

“From the demographics we have now, the historic figures and the present realities that we know, these defections will have little or no impact on the chances of Mr. President’s re-election.”

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Keyamo stated that Buhari had always won with significant margins in 12 states, comprising Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Yobe and Niger, which have over 30 million registered voters in past elections, especially in 2011 and 2015, despite the states largely being controlled by political parties other than his.

“As we can see, any defection within these states would have little or no consequence on President Buhari’s chances as he had always won those states, irrespective of the party in power in those states,” Buhari campaign said.

It said in Kano State in 2015, the coming of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, then governor of the state, who was among the latest defectors, made minor impact on Buhari’s victory.

As for the five South-west states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, and Osun, three North-central states of Kwara, Kogi, and Benue, and Adamawa in the North-east, which the president lost in 2011 but won in 2015, Buhari campaign said the South-west states with voters strength of over 14 million out of the about 20 million from the nine states, were controlled by APC.

It said with Ekiti joining the APC-controlled South-west states, following Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s elections as governor, and all the political gladiators in those South-western states that helped to tilt the election in favour of the president in 2015 still solidly with him and more have joined, the president would have an even easier win in 2019.

“In terms of defections in the western states, the party has gained more than it has lost as the likes of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Fatima Raji-Rasaki, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Senator Gbenga Kaka, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, to mention a few, are now with APC,” the campaign said.

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It said in 2011, in Adamawa, Kwara, Kogi and Benue States with over six million registered voters, despite having governors from other parties in 2011, with current Senate President Bukola Saraki as then PDP governor of Kwara State, Buhari posted 670,080 votes.

In 2015, with only one APC governor in the four states, the president got 1,315,659 votes, gaining over 330,000 votes. With APC currently in charge of three out of the four states, the campaign organisation said the defections will have no effect, “especially with Senator Gbemisola Saraki and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, leading the efforts in Kwara State, and the APC structure in Benue State still firmly in the hands of Senator George Akume (the same structure on which Governor Ortom rode to victory), the defection of the senators from these states will have little or no effect on the difference gained”.

In the 15 states, comprising 11 states of the South-east and South-south, and Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, and Ekiti States, which the president lost in the 2015 election, the campaign organisation said APC currently controlls Edo and Imo States, in the South-south and South-east, respectively.

It said: “With the exemplary work of the president in the South-east and South-south, especially in terms of infrastructural developments, like the Second Niger Bridge and a whole lot of road constructions, APC is on the rise in these states and this momentum will surely rub off on the electoral fortunes of the president.”

The Buhari campaign also said while the “PDP harvest of defections is gradually winding down, the harvest of the APC is about to begin” with the expected defection of dissatisfied PDP members after the forthcoming primaries.

“In the final analyses, despite all the noise from our ‘noisy neighbours’, we may be in for a landslide victory for the president in 2019,” the Buhari campaign stated.

Meanwhile, the senator for Oyo North, Senator Fatai Buhari, and founder of One Love Family, Sat Guru Mahrajji, has said Buhari will still win in 2019 because of his performance. They said this in separate interviews with THISDAY at the weekend in Ibadan.

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