by Stanley Azuakola
From Maiduguri, the capital of Borno on Thursday, the message was loud and clear – What the president cannot do, we can do very well.
In a surprise move, opposition governors from the All Progressives Congress, visited that troubled state as part of their ongoing attempt to keep tongues talking about their new party.
In all, eight governors, Rochas Okorocha (APGA Imo), Kayode Fayemi (ACN Ekiti), Babatunde Fashola (ACN Lagos), Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (CPC Nasarawa), Ibikunle Amosun (ACN Ogun), and Rauf Aregbesola (ACN Osun) and host governor, Kashim Shettima (ANPP) were present, as well as the Deputy Governor of Yobe, Abubakar Aliyu (ANPP).
Only Governors Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara were absent at the meeting. They however reportedly sent messages of solidarity.
So what was the visit about and what did they achieve? Here are 5 things:
1. Pre-empting the president
The ability to out-manoeuvre your opponent is key in politics. And with the visit, the APC governors did that very successfully.
For a while, questions have been asked about President Jonathan and why, despite the fact that Borno state has arguably been the most troubled state since he became president, he has not deemed it fit to visit the state since he became president.
Earlier this year, the government of that state, accused the FG of ignoring the state because the state government is of a different political persuasion to the government at the center. The FG strenuously denied that allegation. And even the vice-president was dispatched to the state to help thaw the ice. But still, the president hasn’t showed.
There are reports though that the president might visit the state in the coming weeks. But, the APC governors did it first, and undoubtedly, to the press and in the court of public opinion, that might count for something. Even if it doesn’t, constantly repeating it helps the APC score some political points.
2. Another avenue for publicity
Even though the APC is a new party, it cannot be said that it is an unknown party, especially because of the heavyweights involved.
However, considering that it hasn’t yet started the hard work of actively getting Nigerians to buy into their idea and ideology, it needs all the positive publicity it can get. And with the visit on Thursday, it sure will get lots of that in the coming week.
Already, they are milking it. The Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola wrote on his Facebook page after the meeting that: “Our (APC Governors) visit clearly underscores the need for COURAGE, CONSCIOUSNESS, COMPASSION and DECISIVENESS which is presently lacking in the country. The progressive Governors forum a.k.a “APC GOVERNORS” has demonstrated what is needed to stabilize Nigeria and bring security to bear.”
Of course, his post was a gross exaggeration of the impact of their visit, but what do they care, they’ll claim it anyway.
3. Endeared themselves into the heart of the people
The APC governors reportedly visited a market and a female school. Very strategic.
According to Gov. Aregbesola, “they walked freely among the masses to a rousing welcome and great admiration.” Another score for them.
4. Opportunity to do some good
In their communique read at the end of the visit, the governors said they “collectively donated N200 million to Borno and Yobe State governments for emergency relief and support in the light of the Boko Haram insurgency affecting the two states.”
N200 million is a drop considering what is needed to get that state back on track. But it’s a sign of goodwill. People remember things like that, especially if the money is used for the purposes for which it was actually donated.
5. Shaping the conversation
The potency of the visit in redirecting the national conversation cannot be overemphasised. Through their visit, the problem of insecurity in the country was put back on the front-burner of national conversation. And of course, if insecurity is mentioned in Nigeria, whether in a PDP or an APC state, it ends up putting the government at the centre and the president, who is the Chief Security Officer of the country on the wrong foot.
The interesting thing is that despite the fact that the APC communique carried an upbeat tone on the security situation, it still cannot make the president look good. A win situation for the opposition.
They said in their statement that: “In solidarity with the government and people of Borno and Yobe states, we are pleased to witness an upsurge of tranquility and happy that the situation has calmed down considerably in Maiduguri, contrary to the image of rampant violence that has been painted to the whole world. We have discovered the people are going about their businesses without hindrance. We wish to commend the efforts of our brother-governors in the two states and the security agencies for the restoration of peace and stability.”
6. Chance to talk some more about their party
A visit to Maiduguri was done and yet, over 70 percent of the communique was about the forum’s “irrevocable commitment to the emergence of the new party, All Progressive Congress (APC),” and commendation of “the Central Merger Committee of the APC on the progress so far made in the establishment of the new party, particularly the recent inauguration of three major committees on constitution, manifesto and legal/INEC compliance,” and how they wished to “inform Nigerians that we shall soon embark on a national outreach and sensitization activities and we call on Nigerians to support our effort to rescue the country from a visionless leadership.”