Nigeria: Inching Its Way Back to Power At the Centre

28 September 2020
analysis

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Chuks Okocha write that the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party in the recent Edo State governorship election confers on the party an advantage of exercising control over an entire geopolitical-the South-south, which further strengthens its chances of regaining power at the centre in the 2023 national elections

Much of the ammunition with which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deployed to end the reign of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State in the just concluded governorship election in the state was unfortunately supplied by the latter. Interestingly, Edo has provided the much needed shot in the arm that the PDP needed to return into strong reckoning in national politics, by registering an unequivocal intention to return the party's flag back to the Presidential Villa in Abuja and to establish again its much advertised reputation as the biggest political party in Africa.

From the self-destructive fight for the control of Edo State between factions loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki and the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and immediate past Governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, the hate lines became too deep and the differences irreconcilable. This eventually led to APC denying Governor Obaseki the first right of refusal of its governorship ticket in Edo, forcing him to seek the fulfilment of his second term dream in the PDP. The overriding thought in many quarters is that Oshiomhole tried to dictate how the state should be run and this was resisted by Obaseki.

This perception was a key factor that determined the governor's reelection.. The Bini people of Edo State felt insulted and decided that a minority could not dictate to the majority who should govern the state. Had Ize-Iyamu, also a Bini taken charge of his campaign and not allowed Oshiomhole to be in charge, the outcome would probably have turned out differently.

Incidentally, Oshiomhole had mounted a vicious campaign of calumny against Ize-Iyamu in the 2016 Edo governorship race when he held the PDP ticket. Many of those resentful statements were simply dug up by the PDP and though Oshiomhole cried and knelt down and even tried a judicial process to recant the damaging words, it was too late, asthe PDP amplified the notion that Oshiomhole was unstable and could not be trusted.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) understood the temperament of Oshiomhloe and the Bini hegemony by making the people believe that it was a contest between Obaseki and Oshiomhole. Unfortunately, Oshiomhole, the immediate past Governor of Edo State fell cheap for it and forgot that in Nigeria, popularity, attraction and more importantly influence usually comes to an end or is drastically reduced once you are out of office.

The best Oshiomhole could have done was to lead the campaign only in his Edo North senatorial zone and stop at that.

Another factor that played itself out at the just concluded gubernatorial contest was the plot ahead of the 2023 national elections that has brought about a serious division within the APC. Various interest played out. Both the Kayode Fayemi and the Nasiru El-rufai, Chibuike Amaechi and Bola Tinubu factors were all out to entrench themselves. The inter-play of these power blocs contributed to fall of the APC at the September 19 Edo State governorship poll.

Unfortunately, some APC governors miscalculated in their understanding of the situation. It was clear that the APC was a house divided against itself unlike the PDP that was united and focused. The APC Campaign Council dismantled itself as one of the members-Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi joined the El-Rufai, Fayemi and Amaechi's group in mobilising against Oshiomhole and Tinubu.

While the Campaign Council of the PDP was in full force, that of the APC was reduced to only Governor Ganduje of Kano State and Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State as the other members tactically withdrew. Another misadventure in the election was committed by the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu. His unnecessary and totally unwarranted broadcast succeeded in not only reversing some of tbe gains of the campaigns recorded by Ize-Iyamu but made nonsense of it. The PDP quickly cashed in and harped on it, gaining unquantifiable traction for the "Edo No Be Lagos" phrase.

At the end of the day, the much feared Federal Might was not brought to bear in the election. President Muhammadu Buhari deserves commendation for ensuring the neutrality of all security agents.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) picked back pieces of its shreded reputation and put it together convincingly by introducing systems that were novel particularly in the collation and transmission of results.

Positive Signs

No doubt, the just concluded Edo state governorship election won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) points to positive signals for the main opposition party in the journey to the 2023 general election. The victory of the PDP in the Edo governorship election indicates that the South-south geopolitical zone will once again cast a bloc vote for the PDP in the 2023 general election. PDP, as it is, remains the only political party that is in control of an entire zone in the country.

No other political party can boast of such a feat. In the remaining five geopolitical zones, the PDP and APC have a presence that cannot be ignored in key states. In the South-west, for instance, the PDP is in control of executive power in Oyo State with Governor Seyi Makinde at the helm. The visibility of the PDP in Ondo State, where the party won majority of votes cast in the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections can't be ignored. In the South-east, the party governs in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu, leaving Imo and Anambra for the APC and APGA respectively. The loss of the APC in Zamfara State is what the leadership of the party is still sulking about. Then Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State switched political party loyalty to the PDP, giving the state to the major opposition party. The PDP has established a strong foothold in Adamawa and Bauchi states in the North-east. Benue State also enthroned a PDP leadership in the 2019 general election. With the new leadership in Edo State, the South-south has gone back to the PDP as a bloc, like it stood when the current democratic dispensation began in 1999. One of the political implications is that apart from the expected bulk votes that they are known for, the South-south states with their huge revenue from oil will speak with one voice.

Even Obaseki acknowledged that his re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would pave the way for regional cooperation and development with all the governors in the South-south belonging to one political party.

Status of PDP in the South...

The former governor of Imo state, Roachas Okorocha has given an incontrovertible verdict of the APC in the South-east zone. He explained the predicament of the APC in Imo state declaring: "it means we don't have APC in the South-south, that is a bad sign. In the South-east, literally we can say we don't have APC; we just managed through the 'Ben Johnson' way to get one state and that does not make our image good."

Literally speaking, the Southeast zone, belongs to the PDP. The party is in control of three out of the five states in the zone. The PDP is in control of Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi states. Anambra state is controlled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). A governorship election is billed to take place in the state by 2021 and anything could happen. It was formerly a PDP stated not until Peter Obi swept Dr. Chris Ngige and Senator Andy Ubah out of Government House in Awka.

So, by and large, PDP can be said to be in control of two out of the three zones in the south. The party swept off the APC in Oyo State and Engr. Seyi Makinde is holding sway now in the state. Ondo state is billed for a governorship election on October 10, this year and again, there is the likelihood that the Edo state scenario might happen.

The problem with the APC controlled state government in the state is apparently due to allegations of non-performance by the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. The governor is being accused of personalising governance in the state among family members. Free education for which the state was known has been abolished and students now pay exorbitant fees. In the last general election, the PDP has two senators and won the state for its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. So, if the zeal which was used to prosecute the Edo governorship election is maintained, PDP could win Ondo state

Status of PDP in the North

From the northern flank of the party, unlike what happened during the 2015 general elections that made it to lose, Adamawa and Bauchi state in the North-east, the confidence engendered by the Prince Uche Secondus leadership of the PDP at the national level by winning the two states back is commendable. Now, the party is on equal strength with the APC in the zone. Both parties have three states each.. Adamawa, Bauchi and Taraba, while the APC has Borno, Yobe and Gombe. This means a lot if the momentum can be sustained.

The PDP has also a strong stake in the North-west zone. The party controls Sokoto and Zamfara states. With what happened in Kano state during the 2019 general elections, it could be said that with a little push, the impact of the Kwankwansiya, the political aggregation of Senator Kwankwaso could turn the table in favour of the PDP.

It is only in the North Central zone that the PDP is not well represented. It has only Benue state. The zone is typically PDP. The party once held sway in Nasarawa, Kwara, Plateau and Niger states before the Buhari-Change Tsunami of 2015 swept it away from the zone. The party lost these states because of the Buhari bandwagon influence. And now that the APC has recorded, what many Nigerians consider a disappointing performance, while wallowing in perpetual crisis, again, Buhari will not contest again, the PDP could use the euphoria of Edo state governorship victory to shore up its fortunes.

Okorocha's Verdict on APC

Senator Rochas Okorocha has said it all. He claimed, rightly so that the APC would have collapsed, if not for President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking with journalists in his Abuja home, Okorocha stated that it was the respect some APC stalwarts have for Buhari, that is keeping the ruling party together.

According to him, unless the party goes back to the four pillars that formed the APC, namely the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP), APC will continue to struggle.

He said, "There is no more APC. What we have is respect for President Muhammadu Buhari, that is what is keeping us together. What we have is our respect for the person of President Buhari and we still believe that something can be done.

"That trust and respect are what we still call APC. Outside that respect for President Buhari and the trust and belief that he could wake up one day and correct all these injustices and make it fine, nothing is happening.

"If not that, I don't think there is anything like APC, because people are beginning to get fed up. Again, PDP is not even better, the party has its own challenges," Okorocha said.

This is the true situation of the position of the APC. This is coupled with the performance of the President Mohammadu Buhari. His performance in office has demarketed APC. What is expected therefore is for the PDP to use the euphoria of the Edo state gubernatorial election to move into the next stage

Lessons for PDP

Implications for all these for the PDP is that it must adhere strictly to due process and avoid the impunity of the past, especially in its primary election. Primary elections are usually seen as a veritable source of crisis in any party due to lack of internal democracy. But the PDP seems to have turned a new leaf from its chronic past history of impunity.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP led by Prince Uche Secondus is gradually and steadily working its talk of due process in all affairs of the party. Secondus will quickly tell any one that cares to listen that the PDP should be judged by the presidential convention of the party in Port Harcourt in 2018.

Many expected the party to explode at the Port Harcourt convention because of the class of presidential aspirants in the persons of former vice-president Atiku Abubakar , former senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambawul, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso, Sule Lamido among others, but with a transparent presidential election, it came out unhurt.

As the PDP consolidates towards 2023, the basic lessons to be learnt from the Edo state governorship election is to stick to due process coupled with a transparent primary election, as this is the cesspool of all crises. Governor Obaseki was swept out with the APC's broom, but he found shelter under the PDP umbrella. His being schemed out of the APC has today become the albatross of the ruling party.

Another issue that the reelection of Governor Obaseki has thrown up is performance. The PDP as a political party should ensure that all its elected officials that have executive powers should execute viable projects that they can lay claims to during election. Obaseki campaigned throughout the electioneering campaigns with his record of achievements that are verifiable despite what his opponents claimed.

The NWC of the PDP should take advantage of the crisis within the APC and showcase the party as a unified party. For instance, the Secondus team should make haste to reconcile members whereever there are crisis. For a start, the party should move in quickly and reconcile all those that contested against Eyitayo Jegede for the governorship ticket in Ondo State, just as it was able to do successfullyin Edo. For in any contest, winners and losers will emerge

A budding crisis that is capable of tearing the PDP in the South-west is between Governor Mkainde and the former governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose is brewing. This should be quickly nipped in the bud before it is own out of proportion. It is all about who leads the PDP in the South-west. Many perceive the Makinde versus Fayose face off as a clash of egos. Truth be told, Fayose must submit to Makinde as he is a serving governor.

Apart from the South-west, the PDP should once and for all endeavour to reconcile the leadership crisis in the House of Representatives. It is indeed long over due. The fight between Ndudi Elumelu and the party should be addressed, so as to enable the party play its role as a minority in the House. An agreement has been reached to make Kingsley Chanda leader of PDP House caucus, while Elumelu is the minority leader of the House. The NWC should speak publicly on this. Delay is not good.

The PDP should also look into the problem gradually gaining attention between the Cross River state and the PDP members at the National Assembly. The noise coming from the state is becoming too loud for comfort.

One of the things that the election of Obaseki has thrown up is the need for an improved synergy among governors, party leaders and the NWC. Though, the chairman of the PDP Governors forum, Aminu Waziri Tambawul is doing much, he needs to bring in some of the governors that have remained docile in the affairs of the party. More PDP governors should fund the party.

Way to go for PDP

Under the circumstances, the best way that the PDP candidate harvest fully to its advantage is to ensure that there is a level playing ground to all members.

It should therefore abandon any culture that could lead to imposition and manipulations in primaries . If the party would continue in the part already identified, the 2023 general elections could see it moving in once again to the Presidential Villa, Abuja

PDP should not allow one person or a group to dominate the affairs of the party as Oshiomhole exhibited during the Edo gubernatorial election. It should endeavour at all times to remain the peoples party as the name suggests.

The lesson to be learnt for the PDP is that God will always help those that help themselves. The party has to be courageous and take its destiny in its hands. Be fair to all the people. Don't allow any to play God or attempt to hijack the party. The unity exhibited by the PDP governors during Edo state governorship election should be encouraged . A lily-livered party would have chickened out. Obaseki offered himself as the torch bearer of democracy.

The Edo Governor showed that he is a democrat and on the side of the people. If you are on the side of the people and the people are on your side, then victory is assured. The people saw Obaseki as a bastion of hope, as a torch bearer of democratic light and he seized the opportunity ran with it. The final outcome in the Obaseki versus Oshiomhole saga has indeed shown power belongs to God and to the people.

QUOTE 1

The just concluded Edo state governorship election won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) points to positive signals for the main opposition party in the journey to the 2023 general election. The victory of the PDP in the Edo governorship election indicates that the South-south geopolitical zone will once again cast a bloc vote for the PDP in the 2023 general election. PDP, as it is, remains the only political party that is in control of an entire zone in the country

QUOTE 2

Implications for all these for the PDP is that it must adhere strictly to due process and avoid the impunity of the past, especially in its primary election. Primary elections are usually seen as a veritable source of crisis in any party due to lack of internal democracy. But the PDP seems to have turned a new leaf from its chronic past history of impunity. The National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP led by Prince Uche Secondus is gradually and steadily working its talk of due process in all affairs of the party

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