by Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, let me start by congratulating the leaders and members of the newly registered political party, All Progressives Congress (APC) of Nigeria, on their well-deserved victory. You will agree with me that it was never a smooth ride for them, and they were forced to fight like wounded lions, every step of the way, against all manner of forces that attempted to frustrate their efforts and derail their mission. Even at a time many of us wondered what was so special about a name, and an acronym, that at best stood for a popular pain-killer, the leaders of the merging political parties stuck adamantly to their guns and refused to be intimidated by the powers that control life and death in Abuja. It speaks volumes about the uncommon bravery of those the PDP, the ruling party at the centre, are poised to duel with sooner or later.
Now that APC has crossed the Rubicon, believe me, the big game is just about to start. Already the rhetoric is changing. The tone and tempo of politics is set to be modified and returned to the good old interesting days of NRC versus SDP pre-1993. There is nothing that makes politics more exciting than having two giants in the ring. What we’ve had all along was a mismatch where a heavyweight champion was flexing its muscles in front of several flyweights whose combined strength did not even amount to a proper lightweight! Compared to PDP, the other parties in opposition were like pests, or minor irritants, that could easily be swatted and squashed! With this miraculous registration, the days of a lone King Kong punching the wind in the arena are over. The two major warriors can now stand shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball and square up to each other.
It would certainly be naïve of the PDP to underrate the potential of APC and the combination of General Muhammadu Buhari, now a Grand Admiral in contesting elections, and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a civilian General in his own right and a veteran of many political wars, marshalling the affairs of APC from the rear. Those two men, with their politically savvy and die-hard troops in tow, have what it takes to give the PDP apparatchik and foot soldiers a run for their money. What gives me the confidence is the assurance I’m getting from the inner caucus of APC that General Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu have chosen to play backend roles this time around as kingmakers. This sacrifice on their part will certainly yield better fruits and bountiful harvests. It is bound to upturn the permutations of those who are hoping, willing and ready to use the perceived weaknesses of both great men against them if ever they present themselves as candidates. But with the decision to make the big sacrifice, they would be able to concentrate their attention, energy and resources at mobilising voters all over the country. The APC can only stand to gain more converts and instant ovation as a result.
Those who want APC as replacement to PDP are of the opinion that by 2015, PDP would have spent a total of 16 years in power. It is their belief that in those years, Nigeria frittered away enough resources that could have brought true transformation to our nation because of the profligate nature of the PDP leaders. They argue that the time has come to try some other people and certainly a new and different political party. But the antagonists of APC consider that line of thought as preposterous and untenable. They wonder how a party that is likely to poach and field a candidate, and possibly a running-mate, from PDP can reasonably claim to be a new party. Their supporters are pleading with Nigerians to stick with the devil they know and not risk a new government that might make matters worse for the country. They are taunting APC as a coalition of frustrated and disgruntled politicians. It is for APC to rise above such base mocking and focus solely on the gargantuan task ahead. Nigerians want to see a Party that discusses issues and solutions not one that spews forth bitterness and hate.
The war of words is expected to escalate in the coming days and weeks as the gladiators warm up for the battle royale. It is not clear yet how the game would play itself out or how PDP would respond to this affront on its supremacy and erstwhile invincibility. For sure, President Jonathan would have to take some urgent and drastic steps to shore up what is regarded by many people as his lethargic style of governance. He may be forced to sack and sacrifice some of the controversial and or lacklustre members of his kitchen cabinet. He would have to jazz up his team with more accomplished and competent people. The anticipated shakeup is expected to be as powerful as an earthquake if and when the President decides that he has the liver to do it. He would have to close his eyes and ears to close family members and friends with vested interests in who should or should not come in. According to close insiders, this reshuffling is long overdue and the time has come for decisive action in order to steal the thunder from APC.
In the calculations, the President is said to be considering new realignments based on the current realities. The South West is aggrieved that it has not fared well in the present equation. No Yoruba man is known to occupy any of the top ten positions in a country where ethnic considerations and jingoism reign supreme. And the South West is too strategic and very enlightened to ignore because of its huge votes and educated voters. The region is very similar to the swing States of America.
I’ve no doubt in my mind that it would have been almost impossible for Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to win the last Presidential election had he not secured the tacit support of Bola Tinubu & Co. in the South West. The breakdown of talks and negotiations between the CPC and ACN was all Dr Jonathan needed to coast home to victory and the PDP flag-bearer wasted no time in relocating to Lagos to caress and cajole the South West power-brokers into supporting his dream. The rest is history.
But somehow, it seems the PDP has mismanaged the goodwill that gave it the victory it recorded in 2011 almost on a platter of gold. As I write this, PDP appears to be in utter disarray fighting within and without on all fronts. Not since the First Republic have we seen a party fighting such a war of attrition and self-immolation as if under a demonic spell. It appears that the leaders of the PDP and in particular the President and his cronies have not imbibed the lessons of history.
For all you care, and hate him or love him, Bola Tinubu is currently the most significant politician in Yorubaland today, while General Olusegun Obasanjo is the biggest national figure from the South West. Truth is Tinubu is a one man riot squad who controls the biggest army of old and young members of the electorate in his region. He’s very intelligent and skilful. He understands how to meander his way in the forest of a thousand daemons. As tough and irreconcilable as President Obasanjo was in his days as civilian President, one man he could not cow was Tinubu. Lagos was starved of its statutory allocations yet Tinubu ran the State on auto-pilot. He even cruised at an altitude that would have many Captains green with envy.
Tinubu did not stop there. He deployed humongous energy and resources to wrestle the states taken by the PDP in the South West and took them back one after the other. Like the legendary Ijesa warrior, Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, Tinubu has carried his political exploits across borders and certainly beyond the South West with a most formidable ally in Edo State, Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and Kwara State has always been just a fingertip away from being captured by his Party. Unless something happens soon, Governor Rotimi Amaechi may be thrown willy-nilly, or inadvertently, to the APC free of charge by a rabidly vengeful PDP.
The President and his strategists would really have to wake up from the day-dream that the 2015 Presidential election would be easy to win. With the birth of APC, the forces against them are now bigger and stronger than ever. The PDP has enough enemies to contend with in the South South where the President comes from. The problem is not just about personal squabbles but the lack of visible development in the region despite the fact that they have the President, Petroleum Minister, Minister and Ministry of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Development Commission, Presidential Amnesty Programme, and so on. The physical appearance and infrastructure remain as rickety as they were three years ago and no miracle can improve them in the next two years.
The South East that gave total support to the President at the last elections may yield some ground to APC this time, especially with the influence of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. No one is sure if the full weight of APGA would be thrown behind President Jonathan now that Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State has reconciled with Chief Victor Umeh, Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
The confusion in the polity extends to the North Central, especially in Kwara State, where the position of its kingpin Senator Bukola Saraki and his successor in office, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is not clear. The Governor is one of the pro-Amaechi supporters in the crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors Forum. Not too far away, Jos has been a notorious trouble spot with sporadic attacks and counter attacks in the area. The unrealistic insistence of Governor David Jang of Plateau State that he won the Nigeria Governors Forum election may also weaken the fortunes and chances of President Jonathan in this Zone.
Many parts of the North West are groaning under incessant terror attacks. Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi have been ravaged and savaged by terrorists. President Jonathan may have to rule out and write off that zone in his calculations of States to win in the next election, especially if the Opposition fields a Northerner as it is certain they will.
Let’s move across to North East. The situation here is even more volatile as the hotbed of radical terrorism. Borno, Adamawa and Yobe where the President has declared Emergency rule are too shaky for him to win. Out of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, the President would be lucky to win two of them comfortably today. But even those two zones can’t match the votes that may pour in for a Northern candidate from the North West, North East and South West.
This is why the APC is in an upbeat mood. You can’t blame them; a house divided against itself like that of PDP is a wandering avenue for lizards and rodents. But APC should not be over-confident. What binds PDP together is very strong, access to power and money, a surfeit of it for that matter. When the time comes, you can expect PDP to open the taps of wealth at its disposal and wave the whiff of cash as usual to catch a largely impoverished populace. The APC would have to wage an unprecedented campaign using mass communication and the preponderance of information technology to counter the humongous financial arsenal that PDP will ultimately deploy. APC must ignite a passion in the youths and first time voters. It must appeal to women as never before, not just as voters but as candidates, even as high as Governorship level. If a country as small as Liberia could produce the first female President in Africa, APC should be more gender-sensitive and positive.
The candidates it chooses will determine the shape of things to come. I pray the two parties will engage in campaigns of issues and not that of calumny.
Nigerians and Nigeria will be better for it in the long run. May God bless our nation.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu