…PDP is leaderless, finished —APC chieftain
…Nigerians will shock ruling party —Ologbondiyan, Sowunmi
…Tackle insecurity first —Utomi counsels FG
…APC can’t win even with rigging —YPP
By Dirisu Yakubu
Ahead of the 2023 Presidential elections, Nigerians are already being treated to daily commentaries of what to expect by men in the corridors of power.
Eid-el-Kabir, the Muslim festival earlier in the week, afforded Nigerians a free trip to the thinking faculty of the Presidency pertaining to the next election cycle, particularly as it concerns the plum office of the President.
Addressing members of the National Youths Service Corps, NYSC, observing the mandatory one year of national service in Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown in Katsina recently, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu emphasized the significance of the first citizen in the nation’s political equation post 2023. According to him, no political party including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has what it takes to take over power in the next election, citing Buhari’s growing popularity amongst sundry factors to justify his position.
He said, “You have seen people lining the streets, shouting, “Sai Buhari, Sai Buhari.” That tells you that the President is very well entrenched politically. He is such a strong factor in the politics of this country, and nobody can wish him away, using tweets. I think that is in the interest of the opposition particularly to admit that the President matters a lot to the people of this country. He matters to the party and the unshakeable support he enjoys not only in Daura but across the nation cannot be wished away, whether you are using digital media or propaganda.
“We’ve seen that PDP are nursing the false hope of taking over power in 2023. The masses will never abandon President Buhari’s leadership and I am sure that by 2023, they are waiting for him to show the way. What he has started to do for the country in terms of infrastructure and the economy and the well-being of the young people of this country, nobody will put that at risk, by inviting another party to come and take power in 2023.”
As the dust occasioned by that Presidential remark was yet to settle, a chieftain of the APC and former Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Adamu Farouq Aliyu re-echoed Shehu’s boastful declaration, adding that the APC had become a magnet, attracting the best from the PDP, which he said, is suffering from absence of credible leaders within its ranks.
Appearing as guest on Politics Today, a political affairs programme of Channels Television, Aliyu described Buhari as an enigma who is ready to keep the APC in power even after his exit in 2023. Baring his mind on what makes the President such a huge factor in the politics of 2023, Aliyu had this to say:
“Buhari is the President today and even when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, Buhari was a force to reckon with. Buhari stood for election many times and you could see the consistency of the votes that he garnered at all times, meaning that the people of this country still have confidence in him. This means that whoever the party, APC put forward as a candidate, will enjoy the support of President Muhammadu Buhari, the development strategies that we have put in place, the cohesion of governance in this country and the transparency in how we do things. These are some of the things that we are going to carry forward. You can see the number of persons in the PDP that keep coming to the APC in droves due to the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
His remarks did not however go down well with Segun Sowunmi, a chieftain of the PDP and former spokesman of the party’s 2019 Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Sowunmi noted that but for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Buhari wouldn’t have been President in 2015 let alone getting re-elected in 2019, saying, “When I listened to what Garba Shehu said, I asked myself, what prompted this arrogance? Buhari had an election in 2003, got 12 million votes and lost. He had another one against Shehu Umaru Yar’Adua, got 6 million votes and lost. He had another one, got 12 million votes against Goodluck Jonathan and lost. What changed in 2015 (What I don’t like about the APC is that they don’t do enough research about their situation), was that the former governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu brought his political machinery and sophistry to them and they won. When everyone left him, Tinubu stood by him and he won again in 2019.”
He continued: “The question you then ask is, if Buhari on his own lost three elections, without a handshake to the South-West, and Buhari is not going to be on the ballot in 2023 and they boastfully claimed that the election is over; could it mean that they were not part of this country when Nigerians chose to dump a sitting President for them? Therefore, when you look at all the indices in the country, you will have to ask few questions:
“Do Nigerians feel safer in their country? Is the cohesion that makes Nigeria a country still intact? How is the economy doing? Is there a lot of poverty in the land or is there a lot of prosperity? What is the level of unemployment and what have they been doing with debt relative to the revenue they are getting? The reason APC is throwing all these red herrings is because they imagine that the coercive power of the state can help them rig. But they underestimate the Nigerian people. 2023 will not be so much about APC, neither will it be about PDP solely but it will be about Nigerian people taking a stand and doing a major referendum on how they think their lives have been. Let people build castles in the sky, I can guarantee to you that they are not doing a deep down narrative and audit of what the people in the country are feeling. If they do not intend to cheat and the Nigerian people resist them, they will find out that Buhari and his APC have served for too long and go they will and must come 2023,” he noted.
Sowunmi further chided the Presidency for fixating on elections when the peace in the land is under existential threat owing to activities of Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers.
“PDP is not yet at that level where we are talking about candidates and all of that. We are sitting nervously, looking at how the country is bleeding and we would have expected from those who are in charge of the country to figure out how we can have a country first before talking about 2023. Now that they have jumped the gun, we will tell them that come 2023, Nigerians and PDP will defeat them resoundingly,” he added.
According to Sowunmi, only those who left for APC can advance reasons for their actions, stressing that “we have lost a few governors who are in their second term and one who is in his first term. Is it that you do not trust your ability as a governor to connect with your people to such a level that you can provide leadership for them until you run to another party? Or if you were that convinced about the popularity of Muhammadu Buhari, why didn’t you follow him before PDP gave you our ticket? A political party like the APC that has not been able to have its convention, set in motion a proper Executive Council that keeps changing the goal post that has literally castrated its principal partners, would learn that in politics, 24 hours is a very long time.
An imminent explosion
The PDP chieftain predicted doom for the APC ahead of 2023, adding that when that happens, the PDP would be magnanimous to disgruntled member of the ruling party to its fold.
“We expect their cacophony to come falling over them, and we expect an implosion. And the PDP will open its arms to bring them in because nobody must succumb to the manipulation of someone who is dictating against their goodwill. I do not believe that PDP’s effort alone is enough to beat an incumbent. APC alone did not beat PDP in 2015; they beat PDP in 2015 because Nigerians chose that they were not going to go that away again. I believe very soundly except they are suffering from sort of Stockholm Syndrome or some kind of circle of oppression where they are now going to clap and yell and thumbs up for somebody that is making their lives difficult, I expect that Nigerians will follow the right path and come to a party that has at least, kept Nigeria united, made everybody feel a sense of belonging and made life more abundant for all Nigerians,” he maintained.
PDP, an amalgamation of frustrated persons
Not ready to make Sowunmi have the last say, Aliyu fired back, describing PDP as a party peopled by frustrated politicians. “I can understand Sowunmi’s frustration,” he continued, “because PDP is probably not a party today. PDP is probably a combination of frustrated persons who are so angry amongst themselves that they are bleeding because members of their party are leaving in droves. They are leaving because there is no leadership in PDP, because there is nobody there to look up to. In our party, we have the President who no matter what people will say, cannot be compared with other Presidents that have ruled this country under the PDP. Buhari is a person of impeccable, proven integrity. Look at the kind of infrastructure this government is trying to put in place, look at the amount of money we are putting to ensure that farmers go to farms. See how we are trying to improve the economy, despite the fact that whole world is under recession. PDP has collapsed. Like our secretary said, we either come by consensus or by whatever means to make sure we bring out a candidate that will be acceptable to Nigerians that will continue with what President Buhari is doing and get the backing of Buhari to ensure that APC remains in government in 2023,” he added.
In a chat with Vanguard, national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan dismissed Aliyu’s comments as figment of his imagination, stressing that the PDP is home to many distinguished leaders committed to the growth and development of the country.
“It is strange and unfortunate for Hon. Aliyu to describe the PDP as a party without leaders. We have leaders who are acting responsively and responsibly towards the party. There are a lot of delusions going on in the APC. They are using the powers of the Presidency to coerce and harass Nigerians into their party. That is why they think their party is doing well. The ordinary Nigerians bearing the brunt of their mishap of governance know the pain and feeling this administration has heaped on them. The battle ahead in 2023 is going to be between Nigerians, the APC as well as President Muhammadu Buhari.
“They tested the waters by coming out with that statement and James Akpanudoedehe and Aliyu are struggling to wriggle out of it. The APC is a rejected political party. Who are Mr. President’s friends across the Niger and the entire country? What structure have they built from 2015 till now? It is not enough to use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to harass governors. We challenge Shehu to come out openly to say that Buhari has a self-succession plot and see how Nigerians will react to it,” he said.
Although a member of the ruling party, Professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi sees no sense in the 2023 political permutations when the nation is literally up in flames owing to the activities of bandits and terrorists.
In an exclusive chat with Vanguard, he said, “we have a country nose deep in water and drowning. To continue this misdirected obsession with the politics of power when innocent people are dying every day is indecent and immoral, a sad distraction and flawed sense of purpose,” he said even as he tasked the media to take a more serious role in setting developmental agenda for the country.
For the Young Progressive Party, YPP, it would take more than rigging for the APC to retain the Presidency beyond 2023. Speaking with our correspondent, Comrade Egbeola Wale Martins, national publicity secretary of the party said “nobody under the harsh socio-economic and political conditions in Nigeria caused by the misgovernance of APC in the last six years will take anything coming from Garba Shehu seriously. It’s sad that with all the challenges confronting the nation, the inept government of President Buhari will still be contemplating 2023 when they should be busy engaging critical stakeholders and devising better ways of managing our diversity, which they have failed to do due to their policy of exclusion.”
In the words of Martins, “President Buhari-led APC has succeeded in building a reputation as the most divisive, nepotistic and dictatorial leadership to have ruled Nigeria and cannot win any transparently conducted election in any part of this country, hence their anti-democratic position on the electronic transmission of election results in the ongoing amendment to the electoral act.
“The APC may continue to live under the false illusion that it is still popular with the people having succeeded in banning peaceful protests, gagging the media and shrinking the civic space but the actual truth is that they have made the lives of Nigerians more miserable than any government have managed to achieve since independence. It will take more than rigging an election for APC to win in 2023. Even if they succeeded in rigging, the collective will to end tyranny will ensure massive participation in the electoral process that will overwhelm the government and make rigging useless.”
He also has tough words for the PDP, saying they are not exempted from the ruins of the land “because their misgovernance in 16 years laid the faulty foundation and gave birth to the APC. More so, events in the last few years have also suggested that there is no clear cut difference between both parties as evidenced by the intermittent decamping between both, which has now become a daily ritual.”
How Buhari reshapes the governance trajectory of the nation post 2023 remains a matter of conjecture, at least for now.