When one would expect that on the eve of the 2023 election campaigns the parties would be putting finishing touches to election manifestos and getting ready to be on the road to market these promises to the country, yet we find them still embroiled in a fratricidal fight within their entities which threatens to scatter their ambitions. I refer particularly to the leading parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) that still exhibit signs that would tend to show that the gladiators that fought in their primary elections are still at war with each other.
It had been quiet in the APC tent ever since Babachir Lawan, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of House of Representatives, erstwhile heavyweights in the party led a vociferous campaign against the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of their party. As the tranquil atmosphere lasted in the APC, I thought after raising so much furore they have fled into the waiting arms of other parties, or after some furtive negotiations, they have decided to lie low within the APC, pledging to sin no more. I was wrong. The duo returned to the streets last week adamant that they were not backing down. I spotted Babachir Lawal on Arise TV on Wednesday confirming that they were sticking to their point of view and they were going ahead to wreck the chances of the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
A day earlier Yakubu Dogara was at a summit organised by the Nigerian National Christian Coalition (NNCC) in Abuja where he was reported to have asked Christians in Nigeria not to waste their votes by voting for the Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket of the APC in the 2023 election. In any case, Babachir confirmed in the interview that they are working together and even gave a hint that they were on their way out of the party. He said: “So, while we plan that same-faith ticket of APC should fail, we also believe that we should align with one of the leading political parties that has the chance of winning. Our strategy is that we will not just waste our votes because we want to protest the same-faith ticket of APC, we will like to partner with another group that is more sensible of the Nigerian situation and realised that Nigeria needs harmony, unity, and peace.”
Surprisingly Bola Tinubu, the APC Presidential candidate seems to be taking things in stride. A day after Babachir’s TV interview Tinubu was seen to be holding a meeting in Abuja with some Christian clerics of Pentecostal Bishops of Northern Nigeria where he reassured them that his choice of Senator Kashim Shettima was not a threat to the Christian community. He said that his decision was based on competence and not religious considerations, adding that only competence can resolve the political and socio-economic challenges bedeviling the nation. Altogether it seems there is greater determination and creativity in the APC to solve immediate problems.
However, what gives far more worry is what is unfolding within the ranks of the higher echelons of the PDP. Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, a sour loser of the primaries who has been so far been obdurate in his opposition to the presidential ticket, is still so. This is despite the ticket being balanced faith-wise and in tune with federal character. Wike has for so long been in tantrums and making demands that are becoming geometrically more difficult to accede to, even now as time is running out. At a recent meeting in Governor Wike’s personal residence in Port Harcourt with his supporting cast, the spokesman of the group, Bode George put up their minimum demand for them to help with their presidential campaign – that the party chairman Iyorchia Ayu must resign to give way to someone from the south.
This is a tough nut for the party to crack when you consider that lots of constitutional abracadabra will be involved and, in any case, it is rather late in the day for the party to do that. But when you consider the status of those making the demands ignoring them will have stiff penalties. Besides Bode George a member of the BoT, there are many serving and former governors within the group, such as Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Jonah Jang of Plateau State, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, and Samuel Ortom of Benue State.
You may dismiss Bode George as an electoral inconsequential for having added limited value to his party in his home turf of Lagos where rival parties, Governor Tinubu’s AD, ACN, and APC, have always dominated. But you can’t say the same of Jang, Makinde, Fayose, Ortom, and Dankwambo who have won gubernatorial seats and are still relevant factors in their states. And obviously, Governor Wike is irreplaceable in PDP. The immense resources he controls, the high voting strength of his Rivers State, his long reach in the country at large, and the parochial sentiments he espouses are factors that must be faced by the party to enable it to reach a quick and acceptable position. The PDP should rise to the occasion fast to do the needful.
The country needs a strong and viable PDP as a counterpoise to the APC for the benefit of political plurality and the survival of democracy.