The coast is finally getting clearer for the return of some heavyweight politicians back into the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And with barely seven months to the general elections, this is certainly a worrisome piece of bad news for the ruling party, whose national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole is struggling to put the house he inherited from the immediate past chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, in order.
Barely any sudden twist in the days ahead, the quartet of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governors Aminu Tambuwal, Abdulfatai Ahmed and Samuel Ortom of Sokoto, Kwara and Benue States respectively would formally quit the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the PDP.
For Saraki, there is no better time to strike than now particularly in the wake of his recent acquittal by the Supreme Court of claims of false declaration of assets by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Saraki, throughout the duration of the litigation, insisted he was being unjustly persecuted for mustering the courage to contest the Office of the Senate President against the preferred candidate of the APC. And for Governor Ahmed, loyalty to a man that thrust him into political limelight is a necessary step to take especially given the readiness of the Kwara State chapter of the APC to swim or sink with Saraki. When asked if the presence of PDP bigwigs in the state recently was in any way connected with the planned defection back into the party, governor Ahmed responded via a press release, saying, “While I have not been briefed on any planned defection, I am aware that my principal and other political leaders in the state are gradually being shown the way out of the APC.”
Ortom and Tambuwal are mourning the killings of defenceless people in their respective states by men yet to be identified but generally believed to be herdsmen. And while not directly accusing the federal government as responsible for the tragedy; they accuse the first citizen of failing to demonstrate sufficient leadership acumen in arresting the menace and bringing the culprits to book. Thus at the burial ceremony of the dead in Sokoto, Tambuwal was quoted as saying that the three years of the APC-led administration was “not the change we voted for,”; a sentiment later repeated by Governor Ortom who simply announced he was leaving the party having been issued a red card.
As Benue, Sokoto and Kwara states dump the APC train for the PDP’s, there are fears more would follow given the pledge of the grand coalition of 39 political parties to accommodate all interests with the overall goal of unseating the ruling party in the general elections.
Sokoto, Kwara and Benue States in perspective
What does the imminent defection of these gladiators pose for President Buhari and the APC in the event of his emergence as the party’s Presidential flag bearer for the 2019 election? Is the party strong enough to keep its machinery in place and battle it out with the opposition, without these men?
Since his election three years ago, Governor Tambuwal has been enjoying a robust relationship with his predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko who represents Sokoto North Senatorial District at the 8th Assembly. The two, seen largely as the undisputed strongmen of the caliphate’s politics, pull the strings, determining what happens when and how. Given his control of the state House of Assembly and the backing of the Sokoto Emirate Council, Tambuwal’s defection would be a huge blow to President’s Buhari’s quest for a second term in office.
Like Tambuwal, it would be safe to assume that Kwara will go anywhere Saraki chooses to go given the number of supporters he boasts of today. More than anything else, his victory at the Supreme Court is endearing him to a horde of supporters, many of whom now believe rightly or wrongly that the executive arm was simply out to checkmate his rising political profile by filing charges against him in court.
In Benue, Ortom’s hitherto amicable relationship with his former godfather, Senator George Akume is on the wane, with the latter said to be eyeing Presidency of the Senate in the event of Saraki’s defection.
The weeks or perhaps, months ahead look interesting not just for the pundits but also for Nigerians, many of whom are already basking in the euphoria of ongoing alignments and re-alignments, preparatory to the 2019 elections
Presidency: Are Nigerian youths ready
Youth advocates drawn from various parts of the country are divided over the possibility of producing a youthful President in 2019. While some insist 2019 is out of the reach of the youths; others think it is a possibility provided the polity is sufficiently sanitised to pave way for issue-based campaign unconnected with the cash and carry variant the nation has been treated to in the past two decades.
Speaking at a national conference tagged “Understanding Elections and Civic Responsibility,” organised by the YouthDecide2019 group in Abuja recently, the youth leaders tasked Nigerians of voting age to procure their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) in order to play a part in shaping the future of the nation in the next general elections.
Hamzat Lawal, co-founder of Follow The Money, a pan- African grassroots data driven movement, in his presentation urged Nigerian youths not to fold their hands and complain of poor leadership as according to him, only an active participation by all and sundry would get the nation to work again.
He lamented the hurdles on the path of youths’ aspiration to the governance of their country, adding however that all hope was not lost provided the youths get their acts together in readiness for 2023.
“Let us face the reality. We are all interested in having a youth as President of this country. But whether we like it or not, 2019 has already been decided. Let us work for 2023, which is a realistic target date to have a young Nigerian President,” Hamzat said.
This position was immediately challenged by Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) and Convener, Not-Too-Young-To-Run. Itodo who spoke with journalists after Hamzat’s presentation argued that though 2019 was only a handful of months away; there is a possibility of producing a youthful President if Nigerians would throw their support behind a young Presidential candidate in 2019.
“From what we have seen of the young aspirants so far, I think they have all it takes to perform more than the current President of this nation. Yes, 2019 is around the corner but we can have a youthful President if the political parties would relax the stringent conditions that could make it difficult for a young President to emerge.
“We must understand that youths of today are very informed and they know quite a lot about governance and service delivery at the highest level. They should be supported in their ambition to rescue this nation and this is possible in 2019,” Itodo stated.
On his part, Chukwuma Okenwa, a capacity building coach in his welcome address, urged Nigerians to demand for good leadership across all layers of government at all times.
He said: “Nigerians must see access to good leadership as a right and not a privilege. Rights are only relevant when they are exercised; hence the right to decide good leadership at all levels can only come to significance when citizens are committed to not only making their votes count, but equally to counting their votes.”
With more seven Presidential aspirants below the age of 50 all gunning for the Holy Graile in 2019, Okenwa called on young Nigerians to rally round one of their own in order to give the nation the kind of energy it deserves.
Interesting however as the aspirations of these young Nigerians are, there is no doubt that the monetized nature of the nation’s politics would make life pretty difficult for them on the long way to the Presidency. Most, if not all of these Presidential hopeful are barely struggling to eke out a living even as some of them are supporters of large extended families.
How for instance, would these guys cough out millions of naira for the procurement of the nomination and expression of interest form, not to mention the huge financial cost of running a well-oiled campaign machinery across the nation? With adequate funding, nothing is impossible in this regard but who is ready to shoulder this expenditure on their behalf?