By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
PDP supporters and sympathizers are worried. Even some party chieftains who spoke to The Source on the condition of anonymity say they are lost in the maze of confusion. And here lies the crux of the matter: Six months to the February 2019 presidential election, many Nigerians who want the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP back to power are wondering whether the former ruling party is yet to overcome the trauma of defeat almost four years after. They rue that PDP is not showing any form of seriousness, and has not demonstrated enough zeal to confront the All Progressives Congress, APC and wrestle the presidency from it next year as should be expected of a leading opposition party.
A Crowded Race and Dangers Ahead
The race for the presidential ticket of the PDP is crowded. It is brimming with political heavy weights no one can easily write off. Among those who have so far openly indicated interest in the party’s presidential ticket include Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar ,immediate past governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, former Kano state governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, immediate past of the state governor and a serving Senator, Musa Rabiu Kwamkwaso, Governor Hassan Dankwabo of Gombe state, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state, a former Minister in the Jonathan administration, Kabiru Turaki, former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa, former Kaduna state governor, Ahmed Markafi and former Military Governor of Plateau state and now a serving Senator, Jonah Jang . Pundits suggest that the sheer number of heavy weights angling for PDP’s presidential ticket is a recipe for chaos in the party. Though many of the aspirants have pledged to accept the result of the presidential primaries whichever way it goes and worked for the winner, The Source has it on good authority that some of them have actually resolved to reject the outcome of exercise and head to the court if they perceive it was skewed against them.
The idea is to wear the party out through multiple court cases. They intend to either getting the courts to restrain the winner from parading himself as the presidential candidate of the PDP or, few hours to the end of the period slated by the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, for parties to substitute their candidates, obtain a judgment from a pliant judge out rightly declaring the exercise null and void. This worst case scenario which sources disclose is allegedly APC’s script, will leave the PDP without a presidential candidate and technically out of contention for the 2019 presidential election paving the way for the APC to sail back to the presidency unchallenged. This magazine also gathered that a number of the aspirants,after losing the ticket will pull out of the party with their supporters to seek the presidential tickets of other parties.
Anatomy of Unpreparedness
For a party that has boasted it will return to power in few months’ time, observers say its manifest unpreparedness is bewildering. They attribute PDP’s apparent lack of visible strategy to select its presidential candidate and a fall back mechanism in terms of expected crisis arising from the emergence of a candidate to competing interests in the party insistence on determining the tenor of the process . Analysts recall that even as a fledgling party then, this time 2014, long before its presidential primary, the APC was already clear about who would fly its flag in the 2015 presidential election. Again, though there are other presidential hopefuls in the APC apart from the President, the party has left no one in doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari is its choice for the 2019 election, its decision to adopt direct primary to pick the APC presidential candidate, notwithstanding.
However, the PDP is still reveling in the recent defections into its fold and is reportedly finding it difficult to decide whether to choose its presidential candidate through consensus arrangement or primary election .While the national leadership of the party and some of the aspirants prefer a consensus arrangement, some others who feel they stand a chance in a primary election root for that option. Sources close to national leadership of the PDP reveal the party prefers the consensus option as it will help reduce tension and acrimony associated with party primaries, considering the number and calibre of aspirants in the race for the ticket. However, aspirants pushing for the same arrangement have different agenda. Party sources told the magazine that such aspirants hope to deploy enormous financial resources to buy off the process and subsequently the ticket. During the week, PDP insiders close to The Source spoke of helplessness of the national leadership of the party in the face of intimidating profiles of aspirants seeking its presidential ticket.
Besides the foregoing, party supporters are worried that the PDP brand has successfully been demonized and destroyed by the APC. Since taking power on May 29, 2015, the ruling party has waged a ferocious and relentless image propaganda against the PDP, effectively planting in the consciousness of many Nigerians, an image of a party that achieved nothing but plundered Nigeria in the 16 years it reigned.PDP has been unsuccessful in changing this narrative. Supporters of the party are worried that PDP has done absolutely nothing in terms of counter propaganda and image laundering to shake off the looter toga. However, two months ago, realizing, that in 2019, its candidates will be hard sell to the electorates on the account of severe battering of its image by the APC, the PDP national leadership announced its decision to rebrand, complete with new name, motto and symbol and appointed Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu to head the Committee charged with coming up with an acceptable name. But few months to the Nigeria’s next elections, the PDP remains PDP. This magazine gathered that powerful forces in the party are vehement against rebranding of the 20 years old party fueling speculations that many of its heavy weights are actually secretly working for the APC. Late last month, one of PDP’s presidential aspirants, Sule Lamido emphatically declared the party would not change its name.
Unless pro-rebranding proponents eventually have their way and the party urgently rebranded, indications are that the PDP is headed for doom in the 2019 polls as the APC is set to hire a foreign public Relations firm to do clinical finishing off the erstwhile ruling party. In the impending latest brand pummeling, this magazine was informed that the APC will compile, with pictures and figures and publish in all Nigerian languages, the alleged plundering of Nigeria by PDP. Apart from newspaper publications, there also will be fliers, printed in millions to be handed out to Nigerians in every nook and cranny of the country. This is in addition to massive radio and TV jingles of the same to be aired at intervals, especially in APC states owned Radio/TV stations.
PDP AND CUPP
After the razzmatazz of signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by 34 political parties, including the PDP ,pledging to work together under the auspices CUPP to oust Buhari next year, nothing concrete has been heard of the much advertised grand coalition again. How the coalition of parties intends to achieve its objective remains in the realms of speculations and permutations. The PDP is the biggest party in the coalition and sources indicate its presidential candidate is expected to be adopted by other member parties. However, political analysts opine that a broad spectrum of Nigerian electorates are not sophisticated enough to understand the import of coalition arrangement at elections and will therefore cast their ballots for identifiable parties on the ballot paper .In order words, there are concerns that the coalition may achieve little or nothing for the PDP at the presidential election unless the party (PDP) persuade all the parties in the CUPP to subsume their identities and merge as a single party with an acceptable name, motto and symbol.
South east: A stronghold under siege; How APC Plots To Ride on APGA’s Back To Capture Zone Without Firing a Shot
The South east geo-political zone is the only zone out of the six in the federation that has remained PDP’s stronghold since 1999 when participatory democracy returned. The zone has consistently voted PDP candidate overwhelmingly in every presidential election .But barring a last minute breakdown in its arrangement with the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, APC will cause this voting pattern to evaporate next year. Of course, APC does not expect to win the presidential election in the South east but is also poised to ensure that the PDP does not win in the zone either.
The Source has been told that the APC has undertaken several secret opinion polls in the zone and each verdict pointed to the impossibility of President Buhari and APC’s victory in the south east in next year’s presidential election. Out right rigging of the election in there was ruled out following a wise counsel from a former governor and a party chieftain from zone to the effect that the utter unpopularity of the President and APC in the South east will make rigging there suicidal.
In the face of the dilemma as to how to capture south east in 2019, the party and APGA decided to alter their working agreement. Despite denial by the national leadership of the party, APGA insiders who are prominent party chieftains have told The Source that an agreement indeed exists between the party and APC. The main kernel of the agreement was for the APC/ Buhari not to impose its candidate, Tony Nwoye as governor but provide a level playing ground for the November 2016 Anambra gubernatorial election in return for either Governor Willie Obiano to defect to the APC immediately after winning the election or remain in APGA and work for Buhari’s relection victory in Anambra in 2019. APC kept the pact and Obiano won.
In line with the agreement, APGA was to announce the adoption of Buhari as its 2019 presidential candidate last month but fear of a backlash in the South east, a zone where Buhari and his party do not enjoy popular support and where the party (APGA) itself draws enormous support and enjoy massive goodwill courtesy its connection with the late leader of the defunct Biafran ,General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, held the party back. APGA national leadership, it was learnt, was worried that open campaign for Buhari in towns and cities of South east will not only destroyed the party beyond redemption but could precipitate physical assault on its chieftains by irate youths.
However, in the latest deal linked to the loyalists of the President led by a former South south governor who is a serving Minister in the administration, APGA will still work for Buhari and the APC without attracting odium and opprobrium of the people of the zone because nobody will suspect it is masquerading for the president and his party. The deal also allows APC to deploy money bags to bankroll the election of APGA governorship and National Assembly candidates in the five South east states who will eventually defect to the ruling party after victory. Snippets of the extent money bags and state machinery will go in propping up APGA for the benefit of APC in the next elections was let out recently when former Imo state governor and now gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of APGA, Ikedi Ohakim disclosed that 15 billionaires were on standby to bankroll the Senatorial campaign of the Ojukwu’s widow and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Spain, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu.
In Imo state itself, the futility of APC winning the state both in the gubernatorial and presidential elections has dawned on the party. And so APGA is to be used to achieve that purpose. In the coming days, there will be massive defections to APGA of prominent Imo APC chieftains including Senator Osita Izunaso who is APC’s immediate past National Organizing Secretary and a leader of the party in the state, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. Between Ohakim, Ararume and Izunaso, an APGA governor will replace the incumbent, APC’s Rochas Okorocha but within weeks of taking the Oath of office, the new governor will return to his former habitat, APC
So in the place of adopting Buhari, APGA party will now field a Northern presidential candidate who will pair with an Igbo running mate. Waving Ojukwu’s portraits, the APGA presidential campaigns in the South east will be filled with expletives against Buhari.The campaign will offer all the South east has demanded from the Nigerian federation: Creation of extra state in the zone, restructuring of the country etc. It will also tell the people of the zone to ignore the PDP as it has nothing to offer the Igbo. The People will be told that APGA is the South east’s only hope of attaining the presidency.
Mesmerized and hoodwinked Igbo voters, who are mostly youths fanatical about Biafra, Ojukwu and APGA itself; and older ones who want to see an extra state created for the zone and Nigeria restructured, will be swayed into voting massively for APGA in the five South east states. The implication of this: APC aides APGA takeover of the South east in the presidential and gubernatorial elections to prevent the PDP from doing so. With APC shutting PDP out of South east via its proxy APGA, the party (PDP) will lose a whole voting bloc and a traditional stronghold while Buhari/APC will have North west intact, except for Kwamkwaso’s threat in Kano, retain strength in the North east, struggles with the PDP in the North central, share votes with the PDP in the South west and struggles for votes in the South south.