by Bayo Adeyinka
Before you dismiss this article as flying a campaign kite for Goodluck Jonathan or written by a Jonathanian, please try to read it right to the end. The intention is to help the APC wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late as this represents the best opportunity ever for an opposition party to turn the table in this country.
The APC has often described the President as “clueless” but it seems that it is actually the APC that looks more clueless – strategy wise.
Here’s the meat of this discussion: It is almost certain that APC will give her Presidential ticket to a Northern candidate as it is believed the party might have zoned the Presidency to the North. Aspirants like Atiku Abubakar, General Mohammadu Buhari, Governor Rabiu Kwankaso, Sam Nda-Isaiah and Bukola Saraki have signified interest in the ticket overtly or covertly. The non-northerners who are believed to be interested are Adams Oshiomole and Owelle Rochas Okorocha. The APC seeks to leverage on the perceived massive discontent and clamour for return of power to the North. This article seeks to analyze the chances of the aspirants and the need for the APC to review her strategy so as to avoid an impending defeat.
GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI
He has a massive following in the core North and is over 70 years old. He has contested for the coveted office three times consecutively in 2003, 2007 and 2011 but it is my opinion that the law of diminishing returns has set in.
During the 2011 elections, one of his core supporters was reported to have told him that should he fail, he will not follow him to the tribunal and that will be his last time. That supporter, who incidentally founded The Buhari Organization (TBO) is also running for the same ticket. What should actually be GMB’s greatest strength is also ironically his greatest undoing. His massive followership in the North has given him the perception of a northern irredentist with suspicious fundamentalist leanings and thus alienated him from a large part of the South- in spite of all his efforts to address the perception which included choosing a well known Pastor Tunde Bakare as his running mate in 2011. APC will have serious difficulty selling the candidacy of GMB to the South.
But then, apart from the perception and other qualitative issues, let’s also crunch the numbers.
Though Buhari got about 12m votes in 2011, so much has happened since then that it seems he may not be able to repeat the same feat again.
Consider these: APC has been decimated in Adamawa State with the removal of Murtala Nyako and the defection of Nuhu Ribadu to PDP. Even his own party’s gubernatorial candidate in 2011, Gen Buba Marwa has defected to the PDP. Borno and Yobe, two of the four states where Jonathan couldn’t get 25% of the votes in 2011 are now under emergency rule. Is it a coincidence that the North East where Jonathan got the least number of votes (8%) and where GMB got the second highest number of votes (30%) is now under emergency rule with no end in sight? (If you want to understand how the 2011 numbers can help to project what may likely happen in 2015, I recommend Oluseun Onigbinde’s article for The Scoop – “Crunching the 2011 election result figures”.
The PDP has succeeded in polarizing Kano-another place where Jonathan didn’t get the mandatory 25% in 2011- with the defection of Ibrahim Shekarau and his appointment as a minister and the support of Kano politicians like Ghali Na’Abba and Tanko Yakassai. The Christian minorities in the north will also not vote for Buhari and you have them in Gombe, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba and Nassarawa States.
Furthermore, Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Aliyu Babangida of Niger State refused to decamp to the APC and it is expected they will hold their states for PDP. North Central will be an interesting place to watch also as it is not expected that recent decampments of certain politicians like Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara would have any significant impact on PDP’s electoral fortunes. The defunct CPC won the 2011 Governorship election in Nassarawa with about 3,000 votes though GMB did not win in the State. During the recent local government elections, PDP won 4 LGs while APC won 9 LGs. Moreover, the Deputy Governor refused to decamp to APC with the Governor and the State House of Assembly has 19 members while APC has 5 members. This shows that PDP is still very strong in Nassarawa.
Coming down South, nothing much seems to have changed so far. GMB could hardly muster 400,000 votes from the entire South in 2011 and it remains to be seen if this can be improved on in 2015. He got less than 1% of his votes from the South South and the South East while South West gave him a paltry 2.63%. You would obviously be naive to believe that Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State can swing any vote for the APC in that State. By the way, I expect him to return to PDP before the main elections.
So with North Central ( Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Nassarawa, Benue, Niger and F.C.T) being in the firm grips of PDP, the decimation of the North East (Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe states), South East and South South (Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross-River and Akwa-Ibom states) maintaining the status quo, the major focus will be the South West and North West. But apart from Osun State, GMB cannot win in any other SW State (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states) ; which now leaves only the North West states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa.
So what if GMB is paired with a popular South West candidate such as the highly cerebral Professor Yemi Osibajo or Kayode Fayemi as is being touted as his running mate? Will there be any significant change? I don’t think so. History has shown that the running mate has little consideration or appeal to the voters during elections. Tunde Bakare was of little electoral value in 2011. Do you recall who GMB’s running mates were in 2003 and 2007? It’s all about who the Presidential candidate is.
My wager is that if GMB is given the APC ticket, this will be his most disastrous outing ever. He will not even win more than 12 states and won’t get the required 25% in more than 20 states.
The only thing going for him is that he is a money bag. However, his perception as a corrupt politician as painted by Olusegun Obasanjo looms large. If APC picks him, then their claim to want to check corruption will be sneered at. Since charity begins at home, we have to look at Atiku’s Adamawa home base. PDP controls Adamawa now and Atiku couldn’t even salvage the state for his party. He will be roundly trounced by Jonathan in the state.
In addition, his image as a turncoat politician especially with his dumping of the Action Congress after he contested for the Presidency in 2007 left a sour taste in the mouth. He has moved from AC to PDP and then back to APC. He is believed to have registered the PDM as a back up plan. He got 2.6m votes in 2007 and came a distant third. He was also defeated by Jonathan during the presidential primaries of the PDP in 2011, garnering 805 votes against Jonathan’s 2,736- in spite of being selected as the northern consensus candidate. He doesn’t have the massive followership in the North that GMB enjoys. If he gets APC’s ticket, it remains to be seen if GMB will encourage his followers to vote for him. And as long as Obasanjo remains alive, he will frustrate Atiku’s bid to ever rule Nigeria. He will not even perform as well as GMB.
Apart from his home base of Kano State, he has not been reaching out to other parts of the country. His controversial statements such as the one in which he said that the South East does not need an extra state has further alienated him from other geo-political zones, especially the South. On the census and Festus Odimegwu brouhaha, this is what he said: “We are not happy about that appointment and think that it was a mistake. Festus shouldn’t be there in the first place. Why; because, you see, unfortunately, somebody read his CV. He had only one thing in the alcohol industry, all his life. And my guess is that he’s taking a lot of his products and that is why we feel that his appointment is a mistake”. He was at the forefront of the campaign for Odimegwu’s removal. He had his way then but it may be other people’s turn to have their pound of flesh now.
In November 2013, he ordered the breaking of 240,000 beer bottles as part of cracking down on what he termed ‘immoral conduct’. In a country where the nation is already polarized along religious divides, it will be suicidal if Kwankwaso gets APC’s ticket. Nothing will make Jonathan’s re-election easier than this.
A new face with with commendable performance in the private sector, Sam was the founder of The Buhari Organization. He is a Christian minority married to a Muslim and this should naturally stand him in good stead as the face of the party and a new Nigeria. However, he’s a new comer and doesn’t seem to have deep pockets. It also remains to be seen if the lords of the manor will hand over the ticket to him. He remains the best candidate from the North that APC can bet on – but will they?
I believe once he doesn’t get the ticket, he’s heading back to the PDP. He understands the local politics of Kwara State is at stake and he may soon dance to the same music he forced his father to listen to during his last days. He’s a career politician who knows where his bread is buttered. He must be flying a kite to negotiate some political concessions. It will be funny if APC even takes his bid seriously.
Eventually, that leaves APC with Adams Oshiomhole and Owelle Rochas Okorocha. To win, APC’s best bet is to present Adams Oshiomole who is from the same South South Region as President Goodluck Jonathan. This will pacify the South South people who know that head or tail, they win and is a repeat of the 1999 election when AD presented Olu Falae while PDP presented Olusegun Obasanjo. Comparatively, in terms of an election being close, the 1999 election remains one in recent political memory- with Olu Falae getting 37.2% of votes. In 2003, GMB got 32.1% of votes (against Obasanjo’s 61.9%). In 2007, the ratio worsened with GMB getting 18.6%. In 2011, GMB got 31.9% of the votes.
APC can leverage on GMB’s followership in the North to swing votes for Oshiomhole while the South West will find it easier to vote Oshiomhole than Jonathan. Essentially, only South South and South East will go to the wire and then it would have been a keenly contested election. With Adams for APC, it won’t be a walkover for PDP and maybe we can possibly have a run-off and an upset.