By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is today fighting to stop a possible slide of the country into a one-party rule under the suzerainty of the recently emerged All Progressives Congress, APC. It is an ironical change of fortunes for the party whose officials once boasted of running the affairs of the country uninterrupted till 2059.
Following its loss of the presidency and control of the two chambers of the National Assembly two weeks ago, the PDP is now on the verge of losing control of a number of states it had won in 2011 and some states that had continuously been under the control of the party since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
The PDP’s fight for relevance was as at press time also being compounded by apathy on the part of party activists demoralised by the spate of defections by party grandees in several states following the loss of the presidency. A number of party officials who have not defected have recoiled from the political space and others in a practical abandonment of the embattled party have left the country on holidays. The party is now especially prone in Kaduna, Benue, Adamawa, Niger and lately, Plateau, states that the PDP had controlled almost unchallenged since 1999.
However, Lagos, Imo and Rivers States at present under the control of the APC, were becoming staging posts for PDP chieftains to reinvent its winning formula. Indeed, for the first time since 1999, the PDP is this weekend making its boldest attempt to win Lagos State and is being helped by the controversy that followed the assertions of the Lagos monarch, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.
PDP’s national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh told Saturday Vanguard that the party would take at least two of the Southwest states, including Lagos besides all the South-South and Southeast states in contention this weekend. On the most optimistic note, Metuh declared that the party would win 20 governorships on the premise that this weekend’s elections are essentially local given that religion and ethnicity that supposedly played against the party in the presidential contest have been discounted.
“We believe that there is no way we can win and maintain the number of states that we had, but we believe that we can get up to 20 states because the politics is local, and we believe that there is enough.
“Last two weekends, things were done on the basis of religion, ethnicity in the north. Now the candidates are Muslims, and the candidates are northerners; there is no way that they will not look at the credentials. If you look at the credentials of what the governor of Gombe has done, governor of Jigawa, governor of Katsina. We believe if you look at what they have done, we believe that we will win the north. Of course, South-South and Southeast is a no go area for them,” Metuh said as he declared that the party was not afraid of the country turning into a one-party state.
He, nevertheless, expressed concern on what he claimed as intimidation of party members to abandon the party.
His assertions nonetheless, the PDP’s chances of retaining control of Kaduna were, however, brought into question two weeks ago when the party was almost totally overwhelmed by the APC in the home state of the sitting vice-president, Arc. Namadi Sambo. The party polled 27.7% of the total votes cast compared to the 64.5% of the votes polled by the APC. The result of the election Saturday Vanguard learnt had so demoralised the party activists who were before now depended on votes from Southern Kaduna region of the state.
However, recent alliances forged by the APC and its gubernatorial candidate, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai with some Southern Kaduna political chieftains were said to have put the party in near equal footing with the PDP in its traditional foothold, a development that has sunk morale among PDP activists in the state.
Benue State, which had continuously been governed by the PDP, is also being threatened with a takeover by the APC, which swept two of the three Senate seats and the majority of the federal constituencies. The threats against the PDP are compounded by the fact that the two of the Senate seats won by the APC are from the Tiv senatorial districts that traditionally determine through their population, the governorship of the state. The fate of the party in Benue is being blamed on irregular payment of salaries to government employees in the state.
The chances of the PDP in Lagos State have, however, been especially brightened by the recent royal controversy purportedly directing Ibos in Lagos to vote for the APC governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode. Before the Oba’s assertion, APC officials were reportedly working to win over the Ibo community in Lagos following the near-total support for the PDP during the presidential and National Assembly polls.
“The Oba has completely scattered our plans,” a prominent official of the party based in Lagos told Saturday Vanguard.
The APC as a counter to the threat in the last days of the campaign projected what it claimed as the appointment of an Ibo into the state executive and the selection of an Ibo as a one day governor of the state among other acts of integration of all ethnic groups.