From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Less than two years before the 2023 general elections, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has already drawn the battle line with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a move akin to taking the battle to the doorsteps of the enemy, the PDP Governors Forum, in the last few weeks, has been tackling the APC-led Federal Government over the ugly state of affairs in the country.
The opposition governors, while putting the Federal Government on the spot over its failures, have continued to suggest solutions to the myriad of economic and security challenges confronting the country.
Early last month, the PDP governors at a meeting in Markurdi, the Benue State capital, had subjected the state of the nation under the APC administration to a critical review.
At the end of the review, they passed a damning verdict on the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
According to them, the ruling party, apart from mismanaging the country’s economy, has not been able to manage the country’s diversity; a development that has led to the deteriorating relations among various groups in the country.
The governors, in a communiqué issued at the end of the Makurdi meeting, accused the ruling party of being more interested in jockeying for power in 2023, when they have failed woefully in their current mandate.
“Nigeria is now officially the country with the highest unemployment rate in the world at 33 percent under the disastrous leadership of the APC. This is on the heels of yet another feat of being the country with the second highest poverty rate in the world. For the APC, it is indeed a race to the bottom.
“All our fault lines and differences are being stretched to the limit by a government that clearly lacks the capacity to govern. The meeting agreed that this has given rise to ethnic and tribal tensions, religious divisions, and various forms of social and political cleavages. The governors concluded that Nigeria is in dire need of leadership at the federal level to avert the looming disaster.
“APC cannot deliver democracy to Nigeria; even to constitute a Board of Trustees, has been an impossible task for the party since inception,” they stated.
Sokoto State governor and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, said the PDP governors were on a mission to rescue the country from the brink.
Tambuwal, who spoke in Ibadan at a gala night organised for the opposition governors on the eve of their meeting in the Oyo State capital last week, urged Nigerians not to lose hope.
According to him, “We must not lose hope that Nigeria and Nigerians will triumph over the evil forces working against us. That is the promise the PDP is holding for Nigeria, by the grace of God in 2023. We are on a salvation mission.”
For the opposition governors, the salvation of the country lies in an urgent devolution of power, decentralisation of the security architecture, and review of the revenue allocation formula among others, so as to pull the country back from the brink.
The PDP governors are pushing for an expeditious passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, well ahead of the 2023 general election since the National Assembly has been foot-dragging over its passage.
However, stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), believe that an early passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will help the electoral body to prepare adequately for the 2023 general elections.
Recall that efforts to amend the electoral law prior to the 2019 general elections were unsuccessful because President Buhari repeatedly declined assent to the various amendments passed by the National Assembly.
“Time has come to take advantage of the ongoing Constitution Amendment process to decentralise the security architecture of Nigeria, and involve states and local governments,” the governors noted.
They added that “an urgent devolution of powers and restructuring of the country in a way that brings together various groups and tendencies in the country appears to have become imperative and timely now because Nigeria cannot afford another civil war.”
According to them, “the alarming drift of Nigeria, if allowed to continue, will make Nigeria a failed state under the watch of the APC government.
“PDP assures Nigerians that help is on the way and that PDP is primed to offer effective leadership to Nigerians. It enjoins Nigerians to once more place their trust on the PDP as the only vehicle to salvage the country.”
After their meeting in Ibadan last week, the PDP governors reiterated their calls for a review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the opposition governors tasked President Buhari “to immediately send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to amend the Nigerian Constitution to devolve more powers to the states, with respect to the security arrangements culminating in some form of state policing and general security architecture.
“In the interim, the President should summon an immediate meeting of the Nigerian Police Council, which comprises himself, all the state governors and other critical stakeholders to evolve and implement strategies to combat the present threats to our union, especially with respect to policing.
“The meeting reiterated our earlier call on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Electoral Act that will ensure a free and fair election, including provisions for the electronic accreditation and transmission of votes.”
Analysts say the renewed vigour by the PDP governors to take the APC to task over its alleged failures and suggesting the way forward, is a fresh impetus to the major opposition party, especially in its quest to regain power at the centre in 2023.
Nevertheless, the Secretary of the APC National Caretaker Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, in his reaction to the position of the opposition governors on key national issues, described the Ibadan meeting as “a political jamboree.”
Akpanudoedehe noted that President Buhari’s efforts in addressing the electoral reforms, security concerns and devolution of power were “visible’.
According to him, “it is disappointing that the supposed PDP Governor’s consultative meeting turned out to be a political jamboree and its outcomes a waste of time, with no substance.
“The efforts and records of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government on revamping the economy, devolution of powers, upgrading the country’s security architecture, governance and electoral reforms, addressing perennial farmers/herders clashes, public sector reforms are visible and unmatched.”
However, the Director General of the PDP Governors’ Forum, CID Maduabum, said what is visible is that President Buhari vetoed two bills on electoral reforms passed by the Eight National Assembly.
“How has the country’s security architecture been improved by President Buhari other than in the imagination of Sen Akpanudodehe?
“Is he really serious that security has improved under Buhari? What concrete measures has the APC government taken to curb herders/farmers clashes other than inciting and ridiculous statements regularly dished out from the two Presidential aides on behalf of the so-called Presidency?” Maduabum queried in a statement.
He added: “How can a meeting of 15 state governors that made concrete suggestions on how to improve the almost hopeless Nigerian condition under the APC government be termed a jamboree?
“Can a meeting that called for a speedy passage of the Electoral Act, de-escalation of tension in Nigeria, the equipping, welfare, training, financing, and stoppage of personal attacks on Nigerian Police Force be termed a jamboree and a waste of time?”
There is no doubt that the days ahead will be interesting as the PDP governors continue to take on the APC. However, whether or not the opposition governors sustain the tempo in the run-up to the 2023 polls is the question begging for an answer.