The Director of Media and Publicity, All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, in this interview with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS discloses that the loss of Lagos and upsets in some northern states are not enough to stop APC presidential standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, from emerging Nigeria’s next president

What is your assessment of the presidential election and the ongoing collation of results?

From the field reports we got so far, I will say they are okay. In my part of Ogun State where I voted, there was no single incident of violence. Everything went well. The BVAS worked well in my unit and the entire Ijebu Ode town. So far, I am also yet to hear anybody say they have an issue in that area.

What about the situation in Lagos?

There was a bit of confusion in Lagos. From what we heard, some new polling units were created and I think people who didn’t get to check their names on the wall got confused about where the unit they fell. I think the main confusion arose when they started asking around for their polling booths.

There was another incident in Eti Osa where some LP supporters ‘arrested’ INEC officials. It took the intervention of soldiers to free them in VGC (Victoria Garden City). But, of course, this can be said to be an isolated case. I cannot dismiss the fact that there were reports of violence in some areas. But generally, things are much more peaceful.

Secondly, the entire results in Lagos have been released and I must admit that there was an upset. But that is democracy in action. The demography that favours Mr Obi gave him the edge. The lapses are noted. I am sure we will do better in the subsequent elections.

Are you aware that Obi penetrated and won some areas that used to be your stronghold?

In an election circle, whether this year or in another four years, there will always be changes in the demography. You can find, maybe, young people moving down to the place and old people moving out. You will find all kinds of things going on there and these affect voting patterns, especially where they registered. This is what is experienced all over the world. Even in the United States, it is not unusual see Democrats moving. If they move to a particular area en masse, they will influence the results of polling. That is what we are experiencing in Nigeria.

What people are saying in Lagos is that our brothers from the South-East in the state decided to identify with Obi and that gave him victory. Of course, there are so many of them in Lagos, especially in areas such as Ikeja, Eti Osa, Amuwo, Alimosho and so on.

But there is evidence that Obi magic in Lagos is not down to one ethnic tribe. Isn’t it?

This one, essentially, was done by our brothers from the South East. But of course, I must also admit that there are some Yorubas who also believed that Obi is their candidate. As I said earlier, this is democracy and people are free to make their choice. The only thing is that this is a pan-Nigerian election where people in various states and councils will always make their choice.

Is it apt to say that youths had made the difference in this election as many predicted following the release of INEC voters’ statistics?

Well, everybody is entitled to his own opinion. Are there no youths in Ogun and Ondo states? What impact did they make? I said people have the right to make their choice. The youth alone cannot swing an election in a particular candidate’s favour. These same youths you talked about belong to various parties. So it is not a case of one party riding on the back of the youth to victory. Every party or candidate has its own youths wing and this will affect everybody.

With the ongoing collation and surprise results springing up, what are your expectations?

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From what the reports we have received so far from various states, we are on course to win. Where we are not even winning, we are getting a sizeable number of votes. The ultimate thing is to get the majority votes. Even if you like, win 12 or 15 states, you don’t have the plurality of votes or quarter of votes in 24 states, you have won nothing. It is only the candidate who meets that condition that will triumph. I believe that the APC is on course. As we speak, we have more than a quarter in 24 states already.

While Obi is battling your principal for the soul of states in the South, Atiku seems to overrun the North East and North West, especially with his victory in Katsina. Did you see that coming?

Won Katsina by a margin of about 9,000 votes? We actually saw it coming. It is something we call a tie because he only beat our candidate by just 9,000 votes. In truth, we actually thought Katsina would be a disaster prior to polling. But it turned out to be a very good hunting ground for us. Nobody was sure we are going to do very well in Katsina. But with 482,283 votes, that is massive.

Going into Saturday’s election, a lot of permutations on states’ voting strength in the North West and North East seemed to favour Tinubu. What changed?

Nothing changed. Our expectation in Adamawa, for instance, was to win 25 per cent. I don’t have the complete result now. From what I gathered, we didn’t do badly.

Is it a case of your political foot soldiers, lieutenants not doing enough or outright betrayal by some party members?

Again, this is democracy. People make their choices. We can’t blame anybody. That is why I said in politics, 24 hours is a long time. The people can decide to swing votes this way or that way. The important thing for us is that we are getting the spread we needed and also winning many of these states. Look at Benue, for instance. It was a surprise. People didn’t expect us to do too well in Benue. But we are pulling our weight there. We even beat (Governor Samuel) Ortom in the Senate. Imagine a candidate that is not well known beating a sitting governor. These are the things you expect in politics. Nobody expected us to pull any weight in Benue. And there we are, springing surprises here and there.

Look at the voting pattern since Saturday, where will you finger as your core strength?

We have shown it in the South-West. Even though Atiku snatched Osun State, you can see the gap is not so wide. He is not winning massively in Adamawa or other areas of the North. If you see the margin of votes between the APC and PDP in Lagos and Kano is about one million. So whatever advantage Atiku is bringing from the North, which has already wiped it off. Can you see the technicality of this election? We are winning Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Borno. I don’t have all the states we are winning at the moment. But we believe we are going to win at the end of the day.

What about your preparation for a run-off if this election enters a penalty shoot-out?

Which run-off? I don’t think this election will enter a run-off. It is straight off. It is clear that only one person is going to win on the first ballot and that candidate will be Asiwaju. We don’t hide it when we know an area we are going to lose. For instance, look at Lagos. How many votes and who is taking it away? It is Obi, not even Atiku. In some other places where you found out candidates are losing, look for who is occupying number two. So when I tell you we are winning on the first ballot, take my word for it.

Are you still convinced INEC can deliver on the 2023 general election?

So far, so good, it is doing its best. We know they are not perfect. I believe they are doing all the best they could in the circumstance. I also believe the introduction of BVAS has proved to be a game changer.

How are you taking the loss of APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, in his senatorial zone in Nasarawa?

A number of propelling factors came to play in the loss of Adamu in Nasarawa. But we don’t want to dwell much on that for now.