PDP’s uphill task of ousting APC at the presidential poll
In Nigeria’s election history, opposition candidates had never defeated incumbent presidents until 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari ousted the erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling PDP in reality.
Although PDP successfully conducted a presidential primary last October, where former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, emerged its presidential standard bearer, political observers say the party has not been able to prove that it has the capability to dislodge the incumbent president in the next election.
A cursory look at some of the factors that may likely dim the PDP chances of defeating APC show that the party would need to address what some observers describe as its disconnection with the Southwest.
If there is any region out of the six geopolitical zones that PDP will likely have it tough in the February election, the Southwest area will be number one.
For instance, majority of Yoruba PDP stakeholders are yet to get over the fact that their zone was denied the position of national chairman of the party contrary to the zoning arrangements agreed to before the party’s convention held in December 2017.
Before the convention, there was a battle for the national chairmanship position between factions loyal to Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff and those of chairman, Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
The Supreme Court eventually resolved the matter in favour of Makarfi, which raised the hope of the Southwest zone of getting the position of national chairman.
Unfortunately, the equation at the convention did not favour the Yoruba, which led to the defection of the likes of former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, one of the contestants for the position and those loyal to him to Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Members who did not leave PDP such as former Deputy National Chairman and another contestant from the Southwest, Chief Olabode George, automatically became lukewarm to the party’s affairs.
Professor Taoheed Adedoja, from Oyo State, who also contested for the post, challenged the outcome of the convention in court, which produced the incumbent National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
Beyond the lukewarm disposition of the Yoruba party stalwarts for losing the national chairmanship position to the South-South, the Modu Sheriff-led faction also became inactive in the party, as some of them even defected to APC.
With the Southwest felt marginalised, the choice of former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi by Atiku did not go down well with a majority of party stakeholders from Obi’s Southeast zone.
A PDP member told The Guardian that these harmful developments weigh heavily against Atiku and the party’s chances in 2019 on the ground that most Southwest members might either show lackadaisical attitude to their party’s electoral fortune or simply further defect to the ruling party.
As the second largest voting catchment in the country, PDP might have made a serious error of judgment in sidelining the Southwest.
It was also alleged that Atiku’s disposition towards the Southwest since he got the PDP presidential ticket has not been cordial, just as the Director-General of his Presidential Campaign, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is also being accused of sidelining core Yoruba people in the campaign team.
Although, George denied any unbecoming disposition by Atiku towards the Southwest, saying, “It was part of the political propaganda of the ruling party to frustrate the PDP in the second largest voting area.”
He, however, expressed concerns that more efforts should be put in place to penetrate the Southwest if the former vice president hopes to get enough support from the zone.
From what The Guardian gathered, a majority of Yoruba leaders in the PDP are, at the moment, unhappy that they are not carried along in the scheme of things.
The Southwest has also expressed fears that it might be marginalised under Atiku’s government just as it experienced under the Jonathan-led administration.
Atiku’s promises on restructuring
ONE of the reasons some Yoruba leaders, especially Afenifere, declared support for Atiku is due to his promise to restructure the country if elected.
But the restructuring campaign appears to have been doubled down somewhat drastically since the former vice president got the PDP presidential ticket.
Atiku appears lately to be diplomatic on how he uses the slogan for campaign in most of his outings. This was particularly obvious when he visited some northern states recently, where the subject is not popular. He did not bother to sell it to them.
The Guardian further learnt that some Afenifere leaders might have realised that Atiku simply used restructuring to get their support to penetrate the region, and that he might not have the courage to implement it, like Buhari, if he is elected.
As a result, some of them seem to be tactically withdrawing from openly supporting the party. A faction has distanced itself from endorsing Atiku.
In the last few days, some Southern and Middle Belt groups have been calling for the postponement of the election, perhaps having realised how impossibility it would be for Atiku to win the election based on the restructuring agenda.
To make the matter worse, PDP also failed to do necessary follow-up of Bode George Colloquium held in Lagos, where critical Southwest leaders, who were not members of the party, pledged to support Atiku primarily because of his promise to restructure.
One of those present at the colloquium lamented that the zone did not need any soothsayer to tell the Yoruba they are not needed in the PDP.
While speaking on Atiku’s promised restructuring yesterday, erstwhile Lagos PDP chairman, Mr. Moshood El-Salvador, said the former vice president was manipulating the Southwest and Afenifere with the promise to restructure the country if he wins.
According to him, “The northerners know that restructuring is a Southwest agenda and under our democratic setting, there is no way a president can restructure without carrying the National Assembly along. I see no way how he is going to restructure Nigeria and, moreover, he cannot win if his emphasis is on restructuring.”
Desperation of the ruling party to retain power
IF there is anything certain APC will do in the coming elections, it is the party’s clear determination to retain power at whatever cost.
While it is obvious that there are some within PDP, who do not totally support Atiku, even though their alternative is not Buhari.
On the other hand, the good thing about APC is that every member of the party, irrespective of their differences, grouses or fears, considers the president as a rallying force. This is an edge the incumbent has over Atiku, which may likely give Buhari victory on February 16.
Flashback at what played out in the last Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections, it is not uncertain that the ruling party will deplore everything at its disposal to clip the wings of the main opposition in the presidential election.
The ruling party allegedly introduced ‘vote-buying’ to suppress other parties in Ekiti and Ondo governorship elections, while the rerun in Osun State witnessed the deployment of massive federal security agencies.
In the case of the repetition of ‘vote-buying’, Atiku and PDP may not have what it takes to match the federal might.
This is just as it is being insinuated that Atiku’s source of funds to contest the election has been blocked by the Federal Government.
According to a source, “The Federal Government has tactically entered into agreements with countries where the opposition candidates stashed their money and we are waiting to see how they will bring the monies into the county to contest the election?”
Recently, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing the media in Lagos, confirmed that the government was using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intimidate most PDP governors ahead of the election, saying, “We are aware, but I believe our governors will not succumb to intimidation.”
Other critical factors that will affect Atiku are the lackadaisical disposition of the Southeast and South-South governors to his candidacy.
Less than three months to the elections, none of the governors in the Southeast and the South-South geo-political zones has shown serious commitment to ensuring PDP’s victory at the presidential level.
As a matter of fact, it is being rumoured that most of the Southeast governors have given directives that nobody should link their second term ambition with the presidential aspiration of Atiku.
It is also difficult to see or hear any of them campaigning for their party’s presidential candidate.
The coming election is also going to be a race between two northerners, Buhari and Atiku, while the race for the vice presidency will be slugged out between the southwest that currently has the incumbent and the Southeast.
The calculation is whether the Southwest, which has an estimated 14.8 million registered voters, can afford to trade away the post of vice president with the numerous ministerial slots at its behest for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Atiku is promising.
But Chief George said despite all the challenges, PDP could still use the remaining period to launch itself back if it capitalised on the abject poverty in the country to appeal to the electorate.
He appealed to Nigerians to compare cost of living now to what it was under PDP, noting, “I believe we were better under the PDP regimes than what the three-year rule of APC has plunged the country.
“The 2019 election is not about individual, region or ethnicity, but the destiny of our future generations. If we miss to do the right thing now, we might pay the unexpected price.”
The opposition party can also play on the alleged ethnic sentiments that the Buhari-led government is in favour of his Fulani people to the disadvantage of other ethnic groups, and the deplorable state of security, especially Boko Haram insurgency, Fulani dominated herds/farmers’ clashes and other lapses to get the support of the electorate.
In the final analysis, it could be said that the ruling party has over 70 per cent chances of retaining power if it plays up its power of incumbency, federal might and funding strength.
However, Atiku’s PDP can still stage a surprise win if it capitalises on the prevailing common denominator of extreme poverty and hardship in the land that APC has proven itself to be helpless about in its three years of leadership misadventure at the centre.
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