How APC Can Win 2015 Presidency
With the general elections’ year around the corner, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will have to grapple with the momentous task of picking a presidential flag bearer from among the cream of political heavy-weights who have so far indicated their interest to vie for the presidential seat on the party’s platform.
Of late, APC chieftain and former presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 elections, retired General Muhammad Buhari, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, have declared intentions to run. This is coming on the heels of the widely publicized interest of governor of Kano State, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, to take a shot at the plum seat.
Of all the aspirants who have made public their intent for the presidency job under the APC, the three are generally considered as the most powerful gladiators, with the political process to cause a storm. However, if their performances in previous elections are taken into consideration, none of them, on their individual strength will be able to defeat the PDP candidate (See table and graphs). Not even a combination of Buhari and Atiku votes will be able to defeat the PDP’s candidate, especially because of the division in the country today.
The division, religious and geopolitical, is likely to become a very serious factor in the 2015 election, but it has been deliberately created, according to Dr Garba Abari, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP has continued to drum it into Nigerians that APC is behind the Boko Haram insurgency, as much as it continues to emphasise the Christian-Muslim sentiment in its appeals to the South-West, South-South, South-East and even North-Central geopolitical regions. There is also the argument that the Muslim-North had ruled Nigeria for many more years than the Christian-South, hence there is no need to give a northern candidate the presidency in 2015.
According to Dr Abari, the country is bedevilled by “the depth of social cleavages occasioned by over a decade of mis-governance by a hegemonic ruling party, currently led a President whose stock in trade is to appeal to primordial, mainly religious and ethnic sentiments to reap political advantage… Fundamentally, the divide among the social classes has never been this sharp, thanks to a hegemonic party that has entrenched corruption, killed state institutions, engendered all manner of conflicts and in the process impoverished the people even in the face of enhanced revenue earnings. In the past four to five years, Nigeria has become a flashpoint in the international arena all for the wrong reasons- unprecedented level of state driven corruption in all facets of public and private spheres, ethno-religious conflicts, subversion of the constitution and the general laws of the land, name it.”
As a result of the foregoing, the party may have to engage in drastic measures, if it must win next year’s presidential election under the following circumstances:
GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI CANDIDACY:
Considering his previous outings in 2003, 2007 and 2011, in which he gave the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a good fight despite the lack of funds, the former Head of State is one of the formidable aspirants for the battle ahead. Though the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) lacked the spread of the PDP, in 2011 he was popular enough to garner the majority of votes in the North. It is, therefore, expected that if given the party’s ticket his chances of defeating the PDP may be brighter that it was in 2011.
Mr Osita Okechukwu, who is a fan of Buhari told Sunday Trust that, “General Buhari has a formidable bond with the North. This bond cannot be easily transferred from him to another candidate. But the North alone cannot give him victory. He needs the South-West, which commands 30 per cent of votes in the country. And this is very crucial, because the South-West is the strength of the APC in the South. For the APC to win the 2015 presidency, this is the main issue to tackle.”
According to Okechukwu, what the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, does would determine APC’s fate. “If Asiwaju Tinubu gives his total support to General Buhari, then the South-West would line up behind the APC candidate and that would give Buhari an important edge over PDP’s candidate.”
He further suggested that General Buhari would need a well-respected Christian who is politically active in order to neutralise the religious sentiment usually raised when the candidature of General Buhari is mentioned. “A Muslim-Muslim ticket may not help the APC,” he added, saying “that does not mean any Christian candidate would be it. In 2011, the idea of picking Pastor Tunde Bakare was great, but the pastor didn’t have the kind of political alignment that was needed to garner the winning edge votes in the South-West. The hard nut to crack, for those of us who support General Buhari’s candidature is, “who is the Christian candidate that would command that huge political support in the South-West, and other parts of the country where a Muslim-Muslim ticket may not be able to fly? If that is sorted out, I bet you, APC will cruise to victory; the worst would be a run-off between the PDP and the APC.”
ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR CANDIDACY:
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is considered a very versatile and pragmatic politician with a kind of political network that is capable of neutralising the PDP’s pride. Being a former chieftain of the ruling party and a master strategist, he is considered as another formidable force, a candidate that can give the PDP a run for its money.
Malam Garba Shehu, Media Adviser to Atiku Abubakar believes his principal has all it takes for the office of President in 2015. Apart from possessing what he referred to as ‘organizational ability,’ Shehu said: “Atiku has the political and business experience. He is seen to be a detribalized Nigerian; a team player, bridge-builder and strategist who has the working knowledge of the North-East region currently under insurgency. In matters of religion, he preaches and practises ‘live and let live’. He also has both local and international exposure in addition to having a good understanding of the workings of the media.”
However, like other presidential candidates from the North, he still faces the challenge of the sentiment in the South about northern candidates. Even if he gets the APC’s presidential ticket, he would need the unequivocal support of General Buhari to win a landslide in the North. He would also need the support of Asiwaju Tinubu to be able to win the South-West. He would need to pick a presidential candidate with a strong Christian background from the South-West or South-South, to win at the polls.
According to Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a chieftain of the party, “I have expressed my views before but I think that ultimately, whoever emerges the presidential flag bearer of the party will be only a member of a team, a bigger team. We need a team of people who will contest the governorship, senatorial and good people who will contest the House of Representatives elections. We should not just place it only on the chances of Buhari, Atiku or Kwankwaso. But if it is anyone of them who emerges I hope the rest of them will rally round him. If it is not anyone of the three, I hope they will rally around whoever emerges. My hope, as I said earlier, is that the party will produce the best candidate who will do justice to the needs of Nigeria as at today.”
GOVERNOR RABIU KWANKWASO:
Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is one of the governors whose profile in the presidential race under the APC is rising. When APC activists ask General Buhari and Alhaji Atiku to quit the race, it is assumed that one of the aspirants for the position whom they canvas support for is Governor Kwankwaso. At 58, he is much younger than 71-year-old General Buhari, and almost 68-year-old Atiku Abubakar. In the last three years, he has made a lot of impact in Kano State with his Kwankwasiya phenomenon, with massive developmental achievements in various spheres. However, one of the critics of his aspiration told Sunday Trust that winning the presidency of Nigeria is not a tea party. “A new breed presidential aspirant like Kwankwaso may be a hard sell,” he said. “It’s not an easy task. If the name crosses Kano, for instance, its impact would begin to diminish. A presidential candidate needs to be easily identified by his name. In the South, it you mention the name to the ordinary man on the street, he’s most likely to ask, ‘Who is he? Where is he from?’ Now that our election is very close, it may be difficult to communicate fast enough to sink into the consciousness of the people, sentiments apart.”
But to a chieftain of the party, Dr Garba Abari, who has done extensive research in politics, what matters is the political party, not really the name of the candidate. In an interview with our reporter, he said, “By the time we get to the elections and perhaps even earlier than that, the APC will transform into a massive social movement drawing support from universally acknowledged change agents like the civil society, youths and women, organized labour, trade and professional groups. The massive turn-out of party members during the membership registration exercise early in the year tells you how prepared for change Nigerians are. If we were hoodwinked in 2011, we are now the wiser.” To achieve this, however, the prominent members of the party would need to rally behind Governor Kwankwaso for the party to win against President Jonathan.
ASIWAJU BOLA TINUBU:
Asiwaji Bola Tinubu is the national leader of the party, but much more than that, for the APC to win the presidency, it cannot ignore the crucial role that this founder of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) will play. From winning the governorship election in Lagos State two consecutive times, Asiwaju Tinubu has spread the wings of his party (now APC) to cover the South-West, except Ondo State. What he has achieved is considered to be a revolution. After the APC lost the election in Ondo State last year and Ekiti State this year, it was assumed that the opposition against him from the old Afenifere group in the South-West has begun to take effect.
He’s been accused of making too much profit from politics to make himself very wealthy, and that he profited from contract awards by states controlled by the APC. Those who play up the religious card against him argue that because he’s a Muslim, Asiwaju Tinubu made sure that the governors of Lagos, Osun, Ogun, and Oyo are of the same faith, with the exception of Ekiti State. It is speculated that he is interested in the 2015 election as Vice President to General Buhari, which would produce a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Pessimists believe that such a ticket would neutralise the party’s chances of winning the presidency in 2015, considering the fact that the South-South, South-East and North-Central, where there is a massive population of Christians could revolt against such candidature.
Speaking on this situation, Mr Sunday Dare, the spokesman to Asiwaju Tinubu argued that, “We hear of protests against Tinubu in the South-West, but that is just neither here nor there. What we have is this: there is the old Afenifere group who are associated with the PDP and Abuja for financial gains. But the people of the South-West know better. They claim he has built an empire for himself. But what he has rather built in a political movement. This man has made history by unifying all the opposition parties in the country to form a political group that can stand against the PDP. It’s lazy to say that the APC is Tinubu’s party, but is it? This is a national movement.
Those who accuse him of profiting from the states are just furthering their own interest, which is to access money in Abuja.”
Also speaking in this vein, the Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr Kunle Famoriyo, told our reporter that those who claim that Tinubu is losing ground in the South-West would be shocked in 2015. According to Famoriyo, “Our people are highly dynamic in terms of making political decisions. You can’t cage them. In 2011, they voted for the ACN in the governorship and Legislative elections. When it came to Presidency we thought they would vote for Nuhu Ribadu. But it was not to be. They voted for Jonathan.”
The Afenifere Renewal Group’s spokesman, said that the 2015 election would, however, be different. “There is a different mindset in the South-West today. The grassroots people have seen the massive developments brought about by APC governors. The South-West has been transformed and it is the Tinubu factor that has brought about this development. In contrast, what we hear from Abuja is corruption, impunity, maladministration. If it is not $20 billion oil money missing, it is N10 billion being spent on charter flight by one person. If not, it is one massive looting or another. Before the 2011 election, massive fraud was not apparent. The people have taken notice of it now, and they are fed up with the PDP government. They can compare the PDP government with the APC regime and they know APC is better, so they are poised to vote the APC in 2015. Those who argue otherwise are the DSTV and local television politicians, most of whom don’t even have voter’s cards.”
According to him, religion will not be a factor in the South-West in next year’s election. “A Muslim-Muslim ticket of Buhari and Tinubu can win the presidential election in the South-West.
Here we don’t see religion. In one family you can have a mixture of Christian, Muslim and Traditional religion adherents. What we’re concerned about is development. If APC picks a Vice-Presidential candidate from the South-West, whether a Christian or a Muslim, the party will carry the day. I want to assure you that 2015 will be totally different from 2011. The APC will win here in the next election.”
When reminded that the party lost in Ekiti State and even panicked during the governorship election in Osun State, Famoriyo said, “Don’t forget that in Ekiti, there was serious intimidation, with the use of security agents. But the PDP couldn’t replicate it in Osun State. APC learnt its lessons and prepared adequately for the Osun election, and the outcome was victory. Next year, the South-West will build on that and ensure victory for the APC.”
THE SOUTH-EAST/SOUTH-SOUTH FACTOR:
As General Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Kwankwaso and others are aspiring to contest on the plank of the APC for Nigeria’s presidency in 2015, many observers are keenly assessing their support base in the South-East and South-South zones of the country.
A chieftain of the APC, Dr Godwin Eze, believes some political aspirants do not mean well for a new party, going into major election for the first time. In his view, well-meaning and right-thinking Nigerians are no more excited about certain leaders they accuse of causing the nation’s problems. Dr Eze emphasized that such leaders should, henceforth, start playing “advisory role for the good of the party”
But another chieftain of the party in the zone, Osita Okechukwu said the South-East zone is a peculiar zone because of those politicians he regarded as “Ndigbo- Chop-Sand-politicians” – that is those politicians who have played up ‘emotions and sentiments’ of the people in order to take advantage of the poor masses of the zone and hold them down perpetually.
“The Ndigbo-Chop-Sand-politicians have unwittingly locked the South-East, so whether it is Atiku, Buhari, Kwankwanso or any other person from the north, they look at them from the same prism. The issue of these prominent politicians having support in Igboland does not occur in the first place assuming we don’t have people who have sold out Igboland for their selfish interest,” according to Okechukwu.
Okechukwu said, the Ndigbo-Chop-Sand politicians seem to have the same parameter for all of the aspirants of northern origin. “This band of selfish politicians in the South-East, never play rationale music because if they play and dance rationale music, they will see things rationally; but they prefer to beat and dance the irrational music to the detriment of the generality of Ndigbo,” he said.
However, Barrister Anene Chikezie, the Convener of the Youth Volunteer Network of the APC in the South-East said Buhari has a lot of secret admirers in the zone who are ready to vote for him without demanding money. “But Buhari has to focus more on the South-East zone during his campaign,” Chikezie advised. Chikezie said Kwankwazo is not known in the zone and,therefore, will not be acceptable to the people of the zone. “Those who are supporting him in the South-East are only thinking of the money to collect from his pocket,” he said.
THE NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT:
Away from these predictable presidential aspirants in the APC, there is a section of the party which is campaigning for a paradigm shift, a shift that would be drastic enough to strategically lead to victory. One of such is the argument that the APC could pick a Christian presidential candidate from the South-West, in order to appeal to the religious sentiment in the South, and a Vice-Presidential candidate from the North who would have the support of influential figures like Buhari, Atiku and even Kwankwaso. Advocates of this shift argue that PDP has played the religious card so mischievously that it has almost successfully blackmailed the Muslim-North. In this same group are elements who canvass for a new face as the party’s presidential candidate, regardless of religion and ethnicity, based on credibility and track record of performance, who should be supported by the party.
One of those who hold this strong view is Dr Baba-Ahmed. According to him, “I have made my views known regarding why I think the nation needs a new lease of life. I have said before that most of the people angling to lead the nation, from President Jonathan to General Buhari, Vice President Atiku and Governor Kwankwaso, should not run. Not because they are unfit to run, but I genuinely feel that the nation needs to give a new set of people an opportunity to offer their leadership services. There are Nigerians with fantastic records of leadership qualities, services and competence in APC. They should look for them, urge them to come forward and encourage them to run. I think they should not think that because Buhari is in the ring, Atiku is there and Kwankwaso is also in the ring they wouldn’t even put up their hands. That is wrong! The party needs to encourage them because it has excellent Nigerians with leadership qualities so they should be given the chance to move the party and the country forward. That is my view.”
Dr Abari argued in the same way, saying, “If the APC says its presidential ticket is open to all, it is only saying that every nook and cranny of this country has presidential materials that can lead the party to victory and bring Nigeria back from the precipice. The fact that those whose presidential candidature are on the table already are all from the North does not preclude others from aspiring to the office of the president on the platform of the party.”
Culled from Sunday Trust
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