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PDP/APC match-up: The racing for 2019 with old, tired permutations

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John Odigie Oyegun, APC National Chairman

John Odigie Oyegun, APC National Chairman

“We will cash-in on the mistakes of the APC.” It captures the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hopes for, and visualization of their chances against the All Progressives Congress in the 2019 general election, now the main concern of politicians.

Other variants of PDP leaders’ portrayal of their sudden optimism are: “APC has no plan to govern this country;” “the future of PDP is bright;” “APC is not serious with the so-called war against corruption;” “APC is guilty of corruption as PDP and Nigerians now know.”

Take a question like re-organization and re-strategizing by coming up with a new name and new faces with more attractive antecedents: a prominent PDP Board of Trustees member, Chief Ebenezar Babatope, said on telephone:

“PDP has a future. The problem of my party (PDP) is we are currently led by visionless politicians. PDP will bounce back to glory; more so, APC has no solution to Nigeria’s problems.

“There is no need for any change of name. We can reorganize the party on the basis of our party’s constitutional provisions. We must face the democratic reality that our party was defeated in a democratic election.

“If we work very hard, our party will be returned to power by the same electorate that voted us out of power. Change of name or forming a new party is too simplistic a solution to the current travails of the PDP.

“I believe the future of the PDP is bright. The signals to this conclusion relates to the fact that the PDP has performed reasonably well in elections held in Nigeria in the last one year. It is my honest view that the APC is not serious with the so-called war against corruption.”

“The APC is as guilty as PDP in the corruption allegations. The Nigerian people are now getting to understand the falsehood and deceit associated with APC anti-corruption programme. I agree that PDP has very serious problems of leadership and internal democracy. We shall however,return to power after correcting these mistakes.”

Still, important questions include, how PDP could correct its mistakes and whether their ambition to return to power in 2019 can fly.

2019 political posturing

In one year of governance, APC/President Muhammadu Buhari haven’t broken the popular opinion that the Nigerian political class could not produce a leadership or pursue programmes capable of putting smiles on the faces of the people.

Yet, the APC has quickly assumed indomitability. Its leaders are full of insistence and encouragement to Nigerians that “things will get better” or “we will get there.”

In particular, National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, sounds upbeat at all times: “APC will not fail you.” “Buhari is marketing Nigeria to the world.” “All the problems cannot be solved in one day…what Nigerians want is to be sure that we are getting it right and that we are on the proper path towards their long frustrations towards ameliorating their condition and that is what they will get.”

Ali-Modu-Sheriff-1PDP on its part aims to bounce back and take back the federal government, its emergent crop of leaders making early moves by zoning and rotation of political offices.

They are not new being a splinter of old faces and familiar elements thrust up with former President Olusegun Obasanjo eight-year-start-up of the current democratic dispensation from 1999. They are unmindful of Nigeria’s changing political dynamics.

Zoning/rotation of plum political offices

PDP leadership already lazily cedes the 2019 Presidential contest to the North in the belief that since Buhari hails from the Region (North-west), it is the way to overcome the President and his party.

No thought was spared for the reality that things could change. They are even unmindful of the role of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in using dictatorship and manipulation of the levers of office to keep them in power for 16 years.

PDP could not have dominated power for three consecutive terms without challenge and defeat even within its ranks as the APC came to personify in 2015.

Now, PDP is without an Obasanjo. In the 2015 Presidential election, Obasanjo preferred Alhaji Sule Lamido, the former Jigawa State governor to substitute former President Goodluck Jonathan slugging it out with Buhari.

Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

OBJ’s failed bid was an underlining current in the former President quitting the PDP and publicly tearing his member card.

Rotation/zoning

Political parties use rotation to attempt creating national representation/balance in sharing offices along the country’s assigned six geo-political zones. Political leaders and their godfathers also use the opportunity to install themselves and preferred candidates.

In PDP first move to overcome the shock of its defeat by APC in the 2015 election, it set up the Ike Ekweremadu (Deputy Senate President) committee, which promptly zoned the Presidency to the North.

The party had simply presumed that since Buhari is from the North, PDP had to give its slot to the Region to make the headway. No thought was given to how far Buhari could go by 2019: whether he would perform well in office or not to warrant him meriting being returned, and indeed, whether he would go for second term or not.

PDP imagines that they would make hay if they could split the three zones of the North (North-west, North-east and North-central) with Buhari or his successor in 2019, by at least taking a half or one of the three zones.

South-east and South-south

PDP believes the two zones are safe. It is unencumbered by the spate of defections to the APC, especially in the South-South. It even assumes that, by 2019, it would harvest cross-carpeting as well.

Banking on the South-South seeming commitment to ensure that Jonathan, who hails from there, is not humiliated in 2015, PDP calculates that 2019 could hardly be any different.

The PDP has been immensely buoyed by recent post-electoral court decisions, notably Supreme Court 2016 Governorship contest rulings in AKwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa and Rivers states.

PDP and Southwest

PDP has, by their preliminary use of zoning, exhibited a lack of understanding of why Buhari defeated Jonathan or why Buhari, who had ran for the Presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011 without success, made it the fourth time.

Take this against the background that, Buhari in failing in his previous three attempts, had consistently won the North – indicating that he was the most popular politician from the North.

What accounted for the President’s 2015 victory was: added to Jonathan’s perceived failed governance, Buhari successfully struck an alliance with the Southwest and this enabled the galvanization of their change mantra that Nigerians quickly bought into.

Once the Southwest and the far North (North-west and North east) decided to run together, PDP could only sail into close haul. For 2019, PDP has to find an answer.

In 2019, both PDP and APC have to handle the entire south with astuteness beyond all the talk about office sharing. None of them has conveyed any assurances to the populace down south on the vexed question of meaningful restructuring of the country’s federation – something that could weigh heavily voter-behavior in the Region.

PDP Governors and Modu Sheriff

As PDP gets set to hold its first National Convention, after its defeat, it is faced with the question: where now are the movers and shakers; the powers-that-be that made things happen in the past.

These were the forces that zoned offices and installed candidates. They brought out an Alhaji Bashir Tofa in the Second Republic for the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) – PDP precursor in 1993 and ex-President Obasanjo for the PDP in 1999.

Put this differently: who will PDP produce to match Buhari or his successor in 2019? Or, even if Buhari decides not to run and opts to back a successor whom can PDP push forward in the North to contest against Buhari/APC

PDP is un-mindful of current political temper in the country. It seem that if by 2019 Buhari could achieve even only two of his election promises, particularly steady supply of electricity and good roads, the Nigerian electorate would choose to stick to the APC.

Indeed, in the matter of zoning, the PDP, in some ways, is faced with the challenge similar to that faced by the old Social Democratic Party (SDP) of the Second Republic. Then SDP was locked in “a little-to-the-left-and-a-little to the right” election face-off with NRC.

In 1993, the NRC had the backing of the Northern political establishment, including the Military leadership cadre. The SDP on the hand, like the PDP now against the APC, needed an outstanding Presidential material with charisma, national visibility/acceptability and personal material wealth if it must make headway.

Thus, emerged the late business mogul, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola(MKO), global operator, arguably then Black Africa’s best-known philanthropist, a Muslim from the South-west who had endeared himself to Christians and Muslims alike, and defeated Tofa (NRC) even in the latter’s ward in Kano. Who is PDP’s Abiola?

PDP makes false start

Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, former two-term Governor of Borno State (North-east) was literally dredged up and drafted by PDP governors as PDP interim National chairman.

A statesmanship was initially built around his coming, raising in the ranks of the party that he would deploy his rumored enormous wealth to help stabilize and reorganize them for the future.

Now leading the party in the preparations for its first National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Sheriff has moved the PDP into pre-emptive firestorm of doubts and suspicions, including that he, along with Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State is scheming for a joint presidential ticket.

Sheriff and the party zoning committee of select PDP Governors chaired by Akwa Ibom’s Udom Emmanuel now have to do a lot of peace talking around the issue of zoning while many other questions are left aside.

The Port Harcourt Convention may hold as planned on the 21st of this month. It may be shifted.

Ironically, the PDP would seem to have copied the NRC, which also held its Convention in 1993 in the garden city.

But PDP is unlike NRC, which had an agreed out sharing formula before they arrived PH. On the contentious question of National Chairman now tearing PDP apart, the NRC had deftly settled for South West and, indeed, the personality (the late Dr. Hameed Kusamotu).

Sheriff is being alleged to use his position of interim chairman to be made substantive, and in the hope that by the time the party holds its mid-term Convention in 2017, he would have prepared the stage for his emergence as Presidential flag bearer, presumably to run with Fayose – a scenario that has led even APC politicians to laugh at PDP.


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