As we inch towards the next round of elections in 2023, the tempo of political engagements is noticeably building up. The two main political parties, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are oiling up their machines for the political battles ahead which going by all permutations promises to be of epic proportions.
In view of the high stakes that comes with the 2023 elections, both parties are going for broke as it is going to be a winner takes all affair with the loser likely to be obliterated completely from the political scene.
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But while the two major parties are busy strategizing for the political battles ahead, the big question to ask is will the two political parties even survive the internal wrangling that are bound to come up in the run up to the 2023 elections?
A peep into the PDP shows that the party is struggling to maintain its balance in the face of fierce struggle for the control of its soul by powerful individuals and groups within its ranks.
Having lost power in 2015 to the APC, the PDP has found life in opposition very daunting. One overarching desire of the party is to regain the presidential position it had dominated for 16 years before it was ousted in 2015. But with this, on the run up to the 2019 elections, the party was searching for a towering political figure to give the APC a good run. It was not until the entry of the decampees from the APC that the party stood a realistic chance of wresting power from the ruling party.
But although the PDP still nurses the fierce hunger to return to Aso presidential villa, the circumstances of the 2023 game are quite different. In this regard the PDP has a very profound dilemma; to zone its presidential ticket to the north as it did in 2019 so as to hopefully capture the massive game-changing votes of the region, or to hearken to the strident cry of its solid base of support in the south east and zone its presidential ticket there. Both these options have their advantages and drawbacks. Zoning the ticket to the north will annoy and alienate the southeast where the party has a solid and consistent base of support. But conversely, giving the ticket to a south east candidate would most certainly see the PDP losing, the huge northern votes it needs to win back the presidency it desperately needs to stave up possible extinction.
Meanwhile as the PDP battles with this Zuma rock size dilemma, there seems to be a shadow boxing of sorts going on between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who was the party’s presidential candidate in 2019. Atiku had done what amounted to a slap in Wike’s face in his own backyard in Port Harcourt when he defeated Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Wike’s candidate at the PDP presidential convention in the garden city. Atiku still maintains his ambition to pick the PDP’s presidential ticket in 2023
Having done his mandatory two term as governor, Wike has his sights if not on the PDP’s presidential ticket, at least on the Vice Presidential slot. Wike knows that the chances of the PDP zoning the presidential ticket to his South-south are zilch. And from his body language he will not support the ticket going to southeast because that will scupper his chances of being VP. For obvious reasons too while he is most likely to push for the party’s ticket to be zoned to the north he will neither fancy being Atiku’s running mate, nor will he want the former VP to be the party’s flag bearer again in 2023.
To drive his ambition, the brash and abrasive Wike is not shy of alienating the Southeast group in the party which has seen one governor, Umahi of Ebonyi state decamp to the APC and more from the southeast are expected to follow in the coming months.
Governor Wike’s one track minded ambition is very likely to rock the PDP severely resulting in a possible implosion. This will come from two probable developments; if Wike decides to have his way willy-nilly, then more people will want to leave the party or stay and undermine it from within. If on the other hand some grandees within the party collaborate to cut his wings, the indefatigable Wike has three options; decamp to APC, stay and undermine the PDP from within, or gather his supporters and with others form another party distinct from PDP and APC.
From his base in Dubai, Atiku must be watching all these with some bemusement. He knows the predicament PDP is on where to zone its 2023 presidential ticket. He also feels that zoning or no zoning, Wike or not he will be among the favourites to clinch the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2023. And depending on how things pan out in the APC he will fancy his chances of winning the 2023 presidential elections.
Atiku will be delighted that the APC will not have his political nemesis President Buhari on its ticket in 2023. APC without Buhari in 2023 will be a different political party, more vulnerable and weaker. He will feel that with Buhari out of the equation, none of the APC’s potential northern aspirants can match him in the 2023 presidential race. Atiku will also feel that he will beat any candidate that the APC will field from the south when the ticket is zoned there. Atiku’s calculation here will be based on the fact a southern APC presidential candidate will be a hard sell in the north in view of what northerners feel about current developments in the south. And as the second most influential northern political figure after Buhari, he will believe that he will be able to rally the huge northern voters to his presidential cause.
It is these selling points that buoy up Atiku and strengthens his confidence that he will not just clinch PDP presidential nomination, but go on to win the 2023 presidential elections. And from his very appreciable showing at the last elections coupled with his formidable political network it will be difficult for the PDP in its desperate bid to return to power to ignore Atiku in the 2023 race.
But you can bet that Wike and his co travellers within the PDP will welcome an Atiku nomination. They will work hard to scuttle it and harder still to derail his presidential bid if Atiku were to get the nomination.
All this makes for a combustible and uncertain future for the PDP which may see the party falling short of its overarching objective of returning back to Aso villa in 2023, if concerted efforts are not made to mend the cracks within it.
(To be continued)
NB: Dear readers, the second part of this article comes up on Thursday, March 4. My articles will now appear on Thursdays instead of Sundays. Please note. Thank you.