From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
In every consideration, there are apparent indicators that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may go into the 2023 presidential campaign and ultimately into next year’s poll as a sharply divided house.
From the crisis rocking the national leadership, the National Working Committee (NWC) with the crack sustained during the build-up to the presidential primary continuing to widen, to the bitterness from the aggrieved presidential aspirants and the uneasy calm at the state chapters of the party, the APC is certainly a party with serious problems.
Beyond the crisis of confidence, threatening the foundation of the ruling party, things seem to also be falling apart in the build-up to the presidential campaign with the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, caught up in the web of managing one controversy or the other.
APC is certainly faced with the difficulty of packaging the presidential candidate, currently enmeshed in several storms. It is also battling with the hard-sell Muslim-Muslim joint presidential ticket option, which is almost becoming an insoluble teething challenge confronting the party.
And while the APC stakeholders battle to disentangle from these myriads of controversies and endemically self-inflicted crises, the policies of the APC-led Federal Government have equally combined to compound the situations for the party.
From all indications, apart from the sentiments of religion and ethnicity, the level of bitterness against the APC-led government has continued to build up to a boiling point.
The pent-up emotion from many Nigerians is understandable. For many of them, the failure of the APC-led government and by extension the party is unimaginable. It could be felt in the level of hardship in the land, the hopelessness of its economic policy, the frightening insecurity, and the zero premiums attached to the sanctity of human life in the country, among other indicators.
All these immeasurable problems have combined, in equal proportion, to not only aggravate the anger of many Nigerians against the party, but have also drastically reduced the level of acceptability of the party. Thus the hatred has ostensibly become an albatross hanging on the neck of the ruling party.
Again, the party has also started wrongly in the build-up to the presidential campaign with the heavily criticised utterances from members of the recently appointed National Campaign Council like Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo. Their recent comments on national issues seem to have inflicted more miseries than relief on both the party and its presidential candidate.
What seems to be gradually playing out is that apart from banking on the sentiments of religion and ethnicity to win votes in Northeast and Northwest geopolitical zones, the ruling party may find it difficult to successfully package appealing and convincing issue-based campaign messages to project the chances of its candidate ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Already, bookmakers have argued that there is every tendency that APC may continue to bank on the same rhetoric and narrative of reminding and referring Nigerians to the broken records of PDP’s 16-year failed governance and lack of structure for the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, to have a buy-in to its presidential bid.
“Truth be told, how will APC wriggle out of the conundrum to convince Nigerian electorate that Muslim-Muslim joint ticket will not translate to the dreaded impression of Islamising the country? How will they convince the several doubtful Nigerians that the single-faith ticket will represent hope, employment, restoration, among other yearnings of an average Nigerian,” a party chieftain, who pleaded anonymity, quipped in a chat with Sunday Sun.
The source added: “Again, our presidential candidate is becoming a hard sell with the volume of controversies hanging around his neck. His certificate is still being litigated, his state of origin, and the endless concerns about his health status among other issues have become a recurring decimal.
“We are trapped and will apparently be bugged down by the daunting challenges of managing those mundane issues at the expense of selling our campaign policies to the electorate when campaign starts next month.”
Apparently due to the ripple effects and difficulty in managing the single faith ticket of the ruling party, it understandably took several consultations and considerations to finally settle for the less fancied governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, as the presidential Campaign Director General.
“But our party and the presidential candidate have limited options because the campaign DG must be a Christian to balance the mistake of the same faith joint ticket. The party leaders had considered a more vibrant and influential Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai for the position, but quashed it based on the same religious concerns.
“What would they tell Nigerians during the campaign? That the president, party’s National Chairman, the presidential candidate and his running mate are all from the same religious extraction? The reliable and accepted Christians they would have considered were still feeling bitter over their rejections as running mate. Otherwise, they would not have settled for the colourless, less influential Plateau governor.
“You and I know that in the scale of acceptability, Rotimi Amaechi, would have been better than Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to function well in that role given to Adams, but Amaechi, like many other presidential aspirants, is still feeling aggrieved and would not want to take any role in the national campaign council.
“So, those appointed seem to be a case of the available being desirable. This same precarious situation may have accounted for the delay or inability of our party to constitute the final comprehensive list of the members of the presidential campaign council.
“Again, it looks as if the doors are shut against Southeast APC chieftains because apart of the involvement of Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, it seems there was no conscious attempt to reach out to the aggrieved ones, especially the presidential aspirants since the end of the party primary. It is either that the presidential candidate did not consider them relevant and competent or he is afraid of sabotage from them,” ” another chieftain of the APC, who spoke in confidence to Sunday Sun, argued.
However, in attempts to provide answers to douse the fears in many quarters and more importantly on how the APC intends to sell the single faith presidential ticket to convince Nigerians to vote for the ruling party, APC’s Deputy National Organising Secretary, Nze Chidi Duru, told Sunday Sun that the task will not be a daunting one.
“Yes, there have been serious concerns about the Muslim-Muslim joint ticket and those concerns are legitimate. However, what the party owes the electorate is an understanding and an explanation of the reason behind the nomination of Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of our party.
“And that understanding cannot be anchored on the matter of competence and capability, but the fact that we have found one who would provide the missing link to the ticket as we have it,” he explained.
On how the party’s practical solution to handle the situation, Nze Duru said: “What the party will do, and has already begun to do is to show empathy, understanding and then explain to Nigerians that the joint ticket will, in no way, subordinate one faith to another. It will, in no way, be a harbinger to an agenda to Islamise Nigeria.
“We will also explain to Nigerians that the single faith ticket is one that will bring hope, help the party to win the election, and a ticket that will put food on the tables in the homes of many Nigerians.
“It will be a ticket that will bring employment to Nigerians and a ticket that will largely give Nigerians standing in the comity of nations where the country was post-Independent, in the days that she was respected, our green passport was among the sought after across the international community. That is what this ticket will represent.”
Not done yet, the party chieftain argued that APC is in higher moral pedestal than the main opposition party, the PDP, especially when one juxtaposes the issue of single faith and violation of the zoning convention arrangements in the country.
“I believe that we have good enough time to show Nigerians that unlike the other party, APC respected the zoning of political offices in Nigeria, in that it is always the case that when the North holds office for a given number of years, it will rotate to the other part of the country. APC did that. We respected our tradition. And we hope that Nigerians will understand.”
He further maintained that it would woo the aggrieved party’s members with the convincing message of the readiness of the party to balance the equilibrium with other political positions in the chain of administrative commands and hierarchs.
“Another condition is what we have as a charter of demand. It means how we intend to assuage all these feelings. One of those demands is to have a Muslim presidential ticket and a Muslim as number two. But then, there are also the other arms of government, which is the National Assembly.
“Reality and tradition have always shown that the Senate President will then come from the South. And if it comes from the South, as it has happened in the case of the zoning that took place within the party, it will also mean that there will be a flip in positions being held.
“So, the leadership of the National Assembly will, therefore, be in the hands of either somebody from the Southeast, or from the South-south, preferably a Christian, to give coloration and reflect the secularity state of the country.
“And, this is one of the articles of demand that I believe, listening to the concerns being expressed, will help to reassure Nigerians that there is no agenda to Islamise the country and could potentially not be an agenda,” he argued.
Corroborating the viewpoint of his fellow national officer and admitting that the presidential election will be a three-horse race among Tinubu, Labour Party Peter Obi and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, APC’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yakubu Murtaka Ajaka claimed that Asiwaju towered higher than the others.
He claimed that Tinubu “combined both legislative and executive experiences for a more united and prosperous Nigeria which other candidates do not have. As a governor, Tinubu had equal to none and employed the services of Nigerians from other states to serve in his cabinet.
“He laid sustainable policies that have continued to attract both local and international investments to Lagos State, while the people and government of the state get empowered economically.
“With his wealth of experience, dynamism, bridge-building process, and economic acumen, he has the best advantages compared to no other candidate to shape a prosperous future for Nigeria and its people. He remains the best candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
“Nigeria needs a patriotic leader who can give others outside his geo-political zone, tribe and religion equal opportunity for self-actualization and service to the nation. He should be a leader with a firm belief in the potentialities of the country.”