Nigeria is now all about 2019 and the ambitions of politicians. Every other thing is secondary and taking a backseat except those things that can make or mar a politician’s career.
Whether you accept it or not, the stage, especially at the national level, is only for two gladiators – the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – whose members really know power having tasted it at one time or the other.
The APC, a coalition of small or regional parties laying claim to progressiveness, had separately enjoyed power at that level prior to the 2015 presidential election. Now it is a colossus bestriding the Nigerian landscape by virtue of sacking the PDP from control of the national political landscape.
The PDP, a conservative party, held sway for sixteen years, a significant abbreviation of the sixty unbroken years in power it had cheekily arrogated to itself without caring a hoot about the feelings of the Nigerian voters. The party did not even bother to explain to those in whose trust they held the power whether their vision of making Nigeria great would be exhausted, or achieved, by that time. In any case, the coalition that came to be known as APC put paid to all that in 2015.
Now PDP wants to be back to where its march was halted, but the APC will not let go now it has tasted the privileges of being in power at the center. And going by the way APC is conducting its affairs and the seeming confusion enveloping the PDP, the PDP may be on a journey of no immediate return.
The APC’s main asset is President Muhammadu Buhari who has the incumbency factor working for him. Even though the PDP had incumbency, the then president lacked the kind of favourable public perception being enjoyed by the current incumbent. And all the reasons the average voter trusted and went for Buhari – honesty, integrity, zero tolerance to corruption – are still at play. The president is also seen as ascetic and straightforward. It is some of his acolytes that are seen as not.
Despite the in-house commotion being seen now, the vehicle that Buhari rode in, in 2015, barring some dents here and there, is still sound and can replicate for him what it did back then.
Asiwaju Ahmed BolaTinubu (with the South West bloc) is still with him and rooting for his return.
The North West is his own turf and still largely behind him despite Kwankwaso and Tambuwal looking for their own relevance. A grateful North East somehow sees him as a “saviour” having halted Boko Haram from expanding their bloody reign over the whole region. South and South East are still where they were, give and take a few inconsequential movements into and out of the APC.
This time around, the North Central, loosely referred to as the Middle Belt, can be the game changer or “swing zone” in the coming election.
This is a broad overview, of course. Buhari’s performance in office will also determine, to an extent, how people will vote in 2019. While a lot of people say he has not done much, actually, the federal government has sunk billions of dollars in infrastructural development across the country, and with the coming on stream of the national carrier he promised during his campaign, he has earned the bragging right to say he has delivered on his promises.
The economy is another area that may determine the vote. If the government is able to curtail inflation further and improve the purchasing power of the average Nigerian, the opposition may be left gaping at the galloping horse the APC will prove to be in 2019.
Security is another contentious issue. Will the Boko Haram resurgence be tamed once and for all? Will the blossoming “business” of kidnappings be checked? What of the wanton killings in the North West and the ever recurring deadly feuds between herders and farmers? What will the government do between now and the 2019 elections regarding tribal wars in Taraba and Plateau?
What of the fight against corruption? Will it remain, asperceived, targeted at the opposition alone?
These issues can affect the president’s and APC’s fortunes, but with a strong, vibrant and politically savvy campaign team backed by a responsive and focused party, the APC may smile again in 2019.
RotimiAmaechi, Minister of Transport, has been reappointed as director-general (DG) of the president’s campaign. Even though Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State had actively sought for the role, the president settled for Amaechi. That is a smart move. With Amechi, he is sure of where he stands. Rochas may be distracted by his inane ambitions.
However, any campaign team needs strong members and the DG is only as good as the members of his team. The members of the team, as of now, are Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State; Governor Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State and Hon Mai Mala Buni, national secretary of the APC.
Perhaps it is for strategic purposes that for now the governors in the team are from a zone that is expected to determine, to a large extent, the outcome of the next general election.
Buhari and his campaign team must be aware that many of those who voted for him in 2015 are no longer of the same mind-set due to varying reasons. It is normal to expect that he has lost a lot of supporters, especially in the North Central. Surely he and his team know that politics is a game of numbers. It is a great concern to lose any supporter, not to talk of a person who has influence over constituency, even if as small as that of ward. The president’s myopic supporters may even say, as Jonathan’s did, “good riddance to bad rubbish,” but at whose expense?
Jonathan and his team were confident that with or without those who left to form the nPDP they would win. Many were even happy that those who stood in their way had finally been cleared away by providence and that the “boys” will now grow. Those “boys” who shouted every where that what happened was “good riddance to bad rubbish” are now doing boyi-boyi to keep body and soul together.
To head into the elections with confidence, the Buhari campaign team must engage in active fence mending mission. After all, in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
The APC, a Reinvented Party
The warning shot given by Adams Oshiomhole, APC chairman, to two ministers over their failure to inaugurate boards is in order and that’s how it ought to be.
One of the reasons that Nigeria is still wobbling since 1999 may be attributed to the fact that party supremacy has been lacking. Olusegun Obasanjo succeeded in intimidating and pocketing the PDP, changing party chairmen at will. Governors took a cue and turned state chairmen into their side kicks. This wasn’t the case in the second republic.
President Muhammadu Buhari would have achieved more, and be seen to have done more, had a person like Oshiomhole been chairman earlier. Where the president was slow in taking action, the chairman would. One of the reasons Buhari was seen as a firm ruler back in 1984 was because he had able enforcers among whom was his second-in-command, the late Tunde Idiagbon.
The good thing about the APC combination of Oshiomhole as chairman and Mala Buni as national secretary is that while the chairman is assertive, even brash at times, the national secretary is suave, calm, subtle and diplomatic. The duo is a good combo. Many who receive, or think they are about to receive, the chairman’s stick will run to the secretary for cover. Of course, he will offer them a listening ear, but will gently push them to do what is expected of them. That way the party will be the better for it.
This is like the story of the method of American policemen I read a long time ago. They meet an accused in pairs. The first promises hell, spewing forth thunder and brimstone. Naturally the accused is frightened but may not give in or confess. Then the second comes in, in a very understanding, even sympathetic, manner, exuding the aura of a saviour. The accused feels obliged to give in to the “soft and kind hearted” man “who shouldn’t be a policeman” at all. The result is what matters.