Wednesday, October 8, 2014 1:57 pm
The battle for the All Progressive Congress, APC, presidential ticket is at its apogee as various aspirants gird up their loins to contest in the primary to choose a candidate of the party. Here is the evaluation of the apsirants and their chances
When he spoke at the unity rally of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held on Saturday, 27 September, in Benin-City, Edo State, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, chairman of the ruling PDP, was obviously angry at the criticisms of his party’s recent adoption of President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole presidential candidate of his party in the 2015 general elections by the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. Barely concealing his anger over what he regarded as the meddlesomeness of the opposition, Muazu said the APC could not claim to know the PDP constitution more than members of the party. He then delivered what in boxing circles would be described as a clincher to APC: “They should shut up and mind their business. It is not their business how we choose our candidate. It is up to you [APC] to bring out your best candidate to contest with our own [President Jonathan]. We are sure that our candidate will defeat yours.”
Going by events in recent days, the challenge of bringing out a candidate that will square up against President Jonathan was one members of APC are trying to live up to. But also implicit in the PDP chairman’s outburst was the fact that the ruling party see in the opposition party a major challenge, capable of ending its 16 years monopoly of the presidency and dominance of Nigeria’s political scene since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
APC, a merger of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN; Congress for Progressive Change, CPC; All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has been rightly described as Nigeria’s first mega opposition party. The merger automatically transmuted the APC into Nigeria’s mega opposition party with 11 states – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun in the South-West; Edo in the South-South, Imo in the South-East, Borno, Yobe in the North-East, Zamfara in North-West and Nassarawa in the North Central in its fold when it received the approval of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on 31 July, 2013. The fortunes of the party further improved as its strength was boosted with the defection of five governors – Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) – who were disgruntled with the ruling PDP to its fold in November 2013.
As Nigeria’s ruling party, the PDP has since 1999 produced all the presidents, won overwhelming majority of seats in both chambers of the National Assembly, with about two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation always under its control. Thus, the emergence of APC as a strong competitor to PDP, analysts have argued, might move Nigeria to a two-party system and, like it has happened in Ghana, ultimately lead to alternation of ruling parties in the country. This is because, unlike the other unsuccessful challengers of the PDP since 1999, the APC did not have the challenge of limitation of reach in terms geo-political zones or regions, an important factor which has prevented other parties from giving the ruling party a credible challenge at the national level in the past. The merger has also improved the ability of the opposition to match the ruling party in terms of deploying resources for elections.
With the strategic importance of the South-West region to winning the presidential poll as the geopolitical zone with the second highest voting strength under the control of the opposition, and with Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto states also under APC governors, analysts have contended that the chances of ending the desire of PDP to rule the country uninterrupted for the next 60 years is now brighter than ever. True to this prediction, the emergence of APC has gingered PDP up from its complacency. After the sack of Bamanga Tukur, its quarrelsome, crises-inducing chairman early in the year, the party has embarked on the rigour of seeking reconciliation with all its disgruntled members, a process anchored by Mu’azu. In addition, the ruling party has also embarked on a series of fair and foul initiatives to scupper the ascension of the opposition party. This includes massive poaching of members of APC, which the party had defended with retorts that the process of enticing members to defect from one platform to the other was started by the opposition party.
The party had also successfully gotten its members in the Adamawa State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Murtala Nyako while a similar move against Governor Tanko al-Makura of Nassarawa State failed. PDP has also tried to impugn the integrity and credibility of its major opponent by accusing the party of being behind the Boko Haram insurgency as well as deploying institutions of the state, especially in the security sector, to countermand moves seen as likely beneficial to the opposition party. Even the endorsement of Jonathan as PDP sole candidate, according to sources within the party, is in response to the challenge posed to the party by APC. This magazine gathered that the endorsement was to avoid rancour that may further weaken the ruling party and make it susceptible to defeat at the polls if it had allowed an open contest for the presidential ticket. While the recent loss of Adamawa and Ekiti, two of the states under APC, to PDP may have taken some steam off the opposition party’s momentum, analysts however believe that the loss has not irreparably damaged the capability of the party to give the ruling party a bloody nose in the 2015 elections.
But its ability to live up to this billing will partly be determined by how the party is able to manage the existing dissensions within the ranks of many of its state chapters, the process of choosing its flag bearers for the various elective positions and its choice of candidates. This is more so at the presidential level in which many have posited that the process of choosing the flag bearer as well as the final candidate will determine the future of the party. Perhaps, there is no better indication of the interest of Nigerians in the issues than the fact that even before it set process of choosing its presidential candidate in motion, the party was confronted with a vicious allegation that it had already agreed on choosing two muslims as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The party has denied this allegation, which was believed to be part of the smear campaign orchestrated against it through third parties by its main rival, the PDP. Still, the challenge for the party, according to analysts, is that it must come up with a pairing with a mass appeal cutting across religious, ethnic and geopolitical zones, and also acceptable to all party members.