Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the political dynamics of the country might have changed from what it was in 2015 but the voting pattern in the south east and south south could remain as it was when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari defeated then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Despite not “overwhelmingly” voting for the All Progressives Congress APC, its candidate, Buhari, emerged president due to votes from the south west which were not particularly massive but substantial enough to get him the required 25 percent score in at least 25 of the nation’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
Buhari’s supporters are sometimes very quick to downplay the role of other regions in the emergence of the president, saying with his famed 12million bloc votes from the north, Buhari does not require much votes to clinch the presidency. They say after all he garnered 15 million votes to defeat Jonathan who mustered 12 million votes. So, in essence Buhari needs just a few million votes to add to his ever-ready 12 million followers.
If the president has this assurance, what then is the fixation of the APC in trying to make massive inroads into the south east and south south? Could it be the fear of the opposition coming up with an equally credible northern candidate as it happened in 2007 when Buhari contested against his kinsman, the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua? An election which put a lie to the President’s all ready made 12 million bloc voters?
In reacting to the critics of his decision to not equally treat constituencies that gave him 97 percent with those that gave him 5 percent, the president had earlier this year tried to tell Nigerians how fair he has been to the south east where he had scored 198,248 votes to Jonathan’s 2,464,906 in the 2015 presidential election.
“There is something that hit me very hard and I am happy I hit it back at somebody. Seven states of the north are only represented in my cabinet by junior ministers, ministers of state. In south-east, I got 198,000 votes but I have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers from there”, the president had told APC chiefs at a dinner in January.
APC’s obsession with winning the South East, South South
The party has never failed to tell the Igbo of the south east that “APC is the clearest path to Igbo Presidency in 2023”, but its loss of the gubernatorial elections in Anambra state last year jolted it to what might await it at the polls in 2019.
Immediately after losing the election, the party set to work. “I consider that we have made a lot of gains in spite of not winning Anambra state. But it is clear if people interpret properly that the APC given the base from which we were starting, given the kind of intense propaganda that goes out there that the South East is against the APC – whether it is religion, ethnic or even historical – we have made some progress.
But we are not resting on that. We are immediately setting up a team to study the elections, to look at whatever significant issues it has thrown up, to find ways in which we can improve our performance as we spread into the rest of the South East, basically to tell us what we did not do right in Anambra State which we need to correct as the electoral processes begin in the rest of the South East. We hope it will throw up valuable lessons that will help us perform much better in subsequent elections in the South East”, the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had said in the aftermath of the Anambra election
Consequently, the party launched a forensic probe of its loss in the polls with a view to enhancing its fortunes in future elections in the region.
According to Chief Odigie-Oyegun though APC is fairly confident of winning the 2019 general elections in the country, the party cannot afford to allow the opposition to continue to control the critical states of the south-south and south-east.
“The South East and the South South would be crucial and critical for our victory in 2019, not from the point of view of numbers of votes because we are fairly confident, having gone through our initial planning that the APC would carry the day in 2019 but for us, it is critical that the South East and South South have contributed immensely to the survival of this nation and must be fully represented in what is going to be a truly national government of the APC in 2019. So, learn from the experience in this particular case of the South East of the result of the Anambra election, in which l must personally confess that l was disappointed in terms of votes that we got at that election.
I expected a better result than that. It has become necessary therefore drawing from that at this early stage to examine why – the reasons why the votes that the APC scored were lower than we expected. So, today we are inaugurating a strategic committee and the mandate is for you, Chief Niyi Adebayo and your team to do a forensic examination of what could have gone wrong; why did we not do as well as we expected; what were the factors that contributed to our low score?
We did better compared to 2015, no question about that but in all fairness, given the work we put in and given the reactions of the public and the rest of it there was no question at all that we ought to have done a lot better. So, the question today is why? It is important that we are using Anambra as a trigger. The terms of reference was drafted and appropriately worded to give you the scope to look at the possibilities of, God forbid, a repetition of what happened in Anambra in other states in the South East.
We want to start early; we want to strategize early; we want to plan early; we want to be confident that after we have done our field work and the reward from the field work is commensurate with the efforts that we have put in. I want to be partisan here, we want a situation where we will win handsomely in the South East.
“I mentioned the South south when l started; the circumstances are slightly different but we are going to have the same type of strategic team for the South south The issues are different, the environment is different, the circumstances are different but it is necessary also that we are bringing the South south into the national power framework that we expect to emerge in 2019.”
Imo state as APC, Buhari’s Achilles Heel
Despite being the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Owelle Ethelbert Anayo Rochas Okorocha could only manage to help Buhari clinch an estimated 19 percent of Imo votes in 2015. With the now poor handling of the Biafran agitation as well as the near disintegration of the APC in Imo state, the chances of Buhari in the region are slim.
As the only APC state in the south east, Imo should have been a launch pad for the party to extend its tentacles to other states but the reverse could be the case in 2019 as the governor is up in arms with his deputy, Eze Madumere and other party bigwigs who oppose his decision to succeed himself with his son in law.
Aside Madumere, Senator representing Imo North, Ben Uwajumogu, the National Organizing Secretary of the party, Sen. Osita Izunaso, Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume and over 50 others including some state and local government party executives are also threatening against the governor’s decision and have actually threatened that except something urgent is done, APC’s attempt to draw the south east into its fold in 2019 could be a mere day dream.
In a memo to the National Working Committee NWC of the APC on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by Saturday Vanguard, leader of APC stakeholders in the state, Chief Okey Ikoro said the party is currently trying to make a distinction between it and the governor as many Igbo view happenings in Imo as what the APC intends to replicate in all south east states after the 2019 elections.
They further listed the sins of the governor to include destruction of private properties and markets without adequate notices or providing alternatives; forceful acquisition of lands from the natives; total refusal to pay gratuities; fraudulent handling of payment of pension; non promotion of civil servants since 2011; imposition of N3, 000 levy on men among other issues.
But by far the greatest sin they alleged the governor to have committed and which they said could affect the outcome of the 2019 general elections in the region is the reported altercation with the Catholic Church, especially the reported manhandling of the Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace Obinna Anthony.
Faced with the grim prospect of losing the region again, the APC leadership has decided that it would interface with the governor in order to resolve all the issues and place Imo state in the right stead to be used as the launchpad into the region in 2019.
“Imo must lead the charge in the entire south east. So, it is a painful thing to see that we are divided but I am happy that in your speech you have opened doors of unity. I want to assure you that we on our side will do everything possible to take up your complaints, your reservations so that an acceptable compromise can be reached that will make it possible for us to fight as one party”, Chief Odigie-Oyegun pledged.
Though the strategy committee to understudy the south south and recommend winning strategies for the party has not been set up, it remains to be seen how the report of the Chief Niyi Adebayo Committee on the south east would turn around the fortunes of the party in the 2019 general elections.