Regrettably, a combination of teething factors, especially the raging feud within the fold of the two major parties, APC and PDP, have cast serious doubt on their readiness to resume campaigns as a peaceful, united house to win the favour of Nigerians.
Gladiators in the parties are still at dagger-drawn following fallout from their last party’s presidential primaries, as well as ceaseless rifts among some of them.
If it were not for the gang-up to worsen the precarious situation of the party, it would be moves to remove the party’s national chairman or battle over mundane ethnic and religious issues.
In APC, for example, the lingering crisis over the composition of the presidential campaign council, and the intransigent posture of aggrieved presidential aspirants to the proposed reconciliation plan by the party’s leadership, are visible evidence that it is not really yet ready to kick-start the campaign this week.
The persistent disturbing frosty relationship among the members of the national leadership, the NWC, the apparent disagreement in the viability of the party anchoring its campaign on President Muhammadu Buhari-led failed government’s policy, among others, indicate that the APC seems to be the least prepared among the frontline political parties.
As the ruling party tries to paper the crack of its crumbling walls, the issue of a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket and growing apathy against the Federal Government rear their ugly heads to the point of posing teething threats that have resisted physical and psychological solutions.
Like in the ruling party, the main opposition party, PDP, is even in worse turmoil. The PDP is actually a party divided against itself. It is a party confronted with an intractable leadership crisis fueled by the unending battle between the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
In reality, the LP seems to be enjoying a clear coast, judging by the absence of rancour and intra-party conflicts visibly prevalent in the other parties.
Apart from the contestation over the rightful leader of the party at the initial stage of the journey, and the much-debated controversy over the legality of crowdfunding from Diaspora Nigerians, nothing serious has actually reared its ugly head in LP to constitute a cog in its wheel of progress.
In every trapping, LP is perhaps in the right pole position to hit the ground running ahead of the commencement of political campaigns this week.
Rated as the underdog, the party has the language of change that can easily be assimilated by the curious Nigerian masses.
But, beyond the feud among the gladiators, the peace of the graveyard in the APC and PDP, the logistics differences and difficulties in the composition of campaign councils, and the possible implosion as a consequence of the agitation to impeach their national chairmen, among other sundry issues, the security challenge in the country will also constitute serious threat to free and peaceful campaign activities across the country.
The storm within the parties are, however, child’s play to the apprehension over insecurity in the conduct of next year’s poll.
Across the country, the deafening drum of war portends great danger ahead of the polls. There are palpable tension, visible concerns, and uncertainties in all the six geopolitical zones over worsening insecurity.
Kidnapping, banditry, inter-communal strife, among many other crimes and criminalities, are great dangers that can threaten the elections.
Tension has already started mounting with clear evidence of politically motivated attacks and killings, making many to wonder what will happen when the campaigns begin in earnest.
Related to security challenges is the quality of manifestoes the parties will anchor their campaigns on to convince the electorate.
With the general perception of failure in managing the economy and tackling insecurity that resulted in prevalent hard times in the country, the APC which came to power on a change mantra may have little or nothing to campaign for Nigerians to vote for them again.
Similarly, considering the impressions by many Nigerians that the PDP is not a viable option to the ruling party, the APC, having failed to live up to the expectations of many Nigerians during its 16-year rule, the main opposition party may have to struggle to also get the buy-in of the electorate.
The fear in many quarters is that bereaved of a selleable manifesto, most of the parties may resort to attacks and hate speech instead of issue-based campaigns.
Regardless of the perception of many political watchers, all seem set for the PDP to kick-start the political campaign for its presidential candidate. Interestingly, it will not be a strange terrain for the opposition party’s candidate.
For the second time in the last four years, the PDP presidential candidate and former Vice President, Atiku, will be on the ballot again.
Even prior to the PDP presidential primary, last May, Atiku had unveiled a five-point agenda, which he promised to implement, if elected president in the 2023 polls.
The five-point agenda include restoring Nigeria’s unity through equity, social justice, and cooperation, among others.
The five-point agenda, Sunday Sun gathered is expected to drive the PDP presidential campaigns and engagement with the electorate in the run-up to the 2023 polls.
Spokesman of the PDP candidate, Segun Sowunmi, told Sunday Sun that the former vice president will be engaging Nigerians on the manifesto already in the public domain.
Sowunmi said: “I believe that more than anyone else, Atiku has a contract with the Nigerian people. It has been well published. I believe he has the gravitas to solve some of these difficult questions, which others can mouth, but may not be able to have the stellar steel to be able to manage.”
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on his part, revealed that the party will approach the 2023 presidential campaign in a unique way, with emphasis on the grassroots and digital communication.
According to Ologunagba, the presidential campaign would be decentralized to the states, local government, ward, and polling unit levels, with the aim of taking the message directly to the voters.
“Clearly, it is a different arrangement. You will recall that INEC commended the PDP as the best digital compliant party. This campaign structure is tilted towards that. You will see more emphasis on communication, in terms of digital communication,” the PDP spokesman stated.
Preparatory to the campaign flag-off, the PDP recently unveiled its presidential campaign council. The campaign council has the Akwa-Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel as chairman and the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, as the director general.
According to a statement by the National Organizing Secretary (NOS), Umar Bature, the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, will serve as the Vice Chairman (North), while the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, will function as Vice Chairman South.
The opposition party also named former governor of Cross Rivers State, Liyel Imoke as Deputy Director General Operations; former National Secretary of the party, Prof Adewale Oladipu, as Deputy Director Administration; Rymond Dokpesi as Deputy Director Technical and Systems, while Ekwesilieze Nwodo was appointed Deputy Director Research and Strategy of the National Campaign Management Committee.
Other members of the campaign council include former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, former Presidents of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, David Mark, and Bukola Saraki, as well as members of the National Assembly, former governors, and former ministers.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, as well as the other PDP governors will serve as members of the Presidential Campaign Council.
However, despite the commendable appointments, supporters of the Rivers State governor announced their withdrawal from the PDP campaign council.
The decision of Wike and his men are in protest over the refusal of the opposition party to replace the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, with a southerner ahead of the 2023 polls.
Wike and his supporters have been at loggerheads with the PDP leadership and Atiku, since Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, was nominated as the party’s vice presidential candidate.
The Wike camp comprising Governors Samuel Ortom, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Okezie Ikpeazu and Seyi Makinde of Benue, Enugu, Abia and Oyo states, respectively, have maintained that Ayu must be replaced with a southerner, ahead of the election as a condition for reconciliation in the party.
Other members of the group include former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Olabode George; former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana; as well as some former governors and former members of the National Assembly.
Inside sources say with the decision of the Wike camp to pull out of the presidential campaign until Ayu is replaced, might force the PDP leaders to return to the drawing board to plot how to appropriately respond to the situation.
Interestingly, the situation looks slightly different in the ruling party, APC. The only semblance of the readiness of the party for the campaign was the composition of skeletal strategic officials to man its presidential campaign council.
They comprised the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong as the Director-General, former party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the deputy general director; Festus Keyamo as the spokesperson; Governor David Umahi as the coordinator Southeast, among few others.
Although the presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu has submitted the document containing the campaign roadmap to the party’s national leadership, the NWC, it is yet to be unveiled publicly, due to the seeming disagreement between the party’s national leadership and the officials of the campaign council.
Incidentally, this is certainly the mildest among the challenges confronting the ruling party ahead of campaign commencement, as the myriad of other issues like the backlash over the same faith presidential ticket; and failed Federal Government policies pose more hurdles.
One, how will the ruling party and its candidate disassociate themselves from the hostile feelings of many Nigerians that the current APC-led government has failed and how do they intend to campaign and convince the Nigerian electorate to give the party another chance with their votes?
More importantly, what magic will the ruling party and its presidential candidate do to convince a multitude of Christian electorate to key in and vote for the APC with the obnoxious single faith joint ticket? What will the party do to purge the minds of Nigerians from the conviction that such an adopted measure is not an orchestrated plan to Islamise the country?
“APC really planted several landmines along its route to consolidate power, without putting any deliberate antidote towards detonating them. Where will the party’s leadership and stakeholders start to solve the myriad of problems confronting the party a few days before the kick-off of the political campaign?
“I am not yet convinced where the solution will come from, especially the love lost between our party’s national chairman and the presidential candidate. Will the Tinubu camp and supporters, comprising serving governors, believe that Adamu, who did not support the Asiwaju ticket ab-initio, will not sabotage the electoral victory?
“Why has it become so difficult to harmonise the list of the presidential campaign council between the party’s leadership and the Tinubu camp a few days to the commencement of the political campaign? Every member of this party should be genuinely concerned about these odds confronting our party and the dangers they posed on our quest to retain power beyond 2023,” an APC chieftain, who spoke in confidence, said.
But, responding to what the party will campaign with; APC National Vice Chairman (North West) Salihu Moh Lukman, noted that the “the claim is that the APC government has mismanaged the economy, divided Nigerians and created insecurity. Part of the argument is that Nigeria is now the ‘poverty capital of the world’.
“The so-called poor performance of the APC-led government of President Buhari contrasts with so-called ‘achievements’ of 16 years of PDP. Many PDP leaders and their supporters have even claimed that if PDP failed to win the 2023 election, Nigeria will collapse. But there is no iota of truth in the claims,” he argued.
Explaining how the ruling party intends to approach the campaign, the duo of Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma and spokesperson of the campaign council, Keyamo, only promised that it will be issue-based, refusing to be drawn into the controversy of enumerating how the touted landmark achievements of the administration will guarantee the party re-election.
According to Keyamo; “we will run a clean campaign. We will not use abusive words on our opponents and their spokespersons. We will refrain from calling those who Nigerians think and say they look stupid with their gaffs as such. Abuses on a campaign trail are a sign of frustration. We will stick to the issues.”
In his reaction, Governor Uzodinma, said: “It’s not a pre-determined arrangement. I’m confident that APC has done so well to the extent that they can win all the states in Nigeria, but we still need to engage the people and when the campaign starts this month, we have to go and market our product.
“By the time we finish our marketing, then we will carry out an opinion poll that will give us an idea of how many states we will win properly, because we are talking about human beings, and in this business, one day can change a lot of things.”
In their messages of assurances of their readiness to commence campaigns, LP claimed that they are not only good to go, but also upbeat about victory.
Speaking to Sunday Sun, LP National Publicly Secretary, Abayomi Oluwafemi, said that the party is not only upbeat on victory judging by its rapidly-growing acceptance, as reflected in the large crowd that grace all its rallies.
He added that the choice of Peter Obi and Datti Ahmed remains the masterstroke that will defeat the older parties.
He said: “It is evident in our rallies where you have two million Nigerians going for a rally in a single state. We don’t transport people like them yet you have one, two, three million. In Lagos, they want to do five million and I know we will have more than five million so it means we are good to go.
“The message we are going to tell Nigerians is that enough is enough, enough of people strangulating our economy, enough of cluelessness, and enough of gross incompetence. Nigerians should look towards rejecting the failed ones coming to the poll.
“They will come massively with money, they will come with juicy offers, but Nigerians should reject them so that we can have a new lease of life by voting for a man who will take us from a consumption nation to a production nation.
“A man who will fight poverty head-on, a man who will fight corruption right from the root cause, and a man who is not going to take Nigeria for granted. He will join them to reclaim Nigeria. That is the message we are going to be sending to Nigerians, that there is hope at the end of the tunnel for every citizen of this country in the Obi-Datti Presidency come 2023.”
Oluwafemi noted that the party would not be deterred by the frightening security challenges plaguing the country, even as he called on the Buhari administration to ensure the polity is safe and secure for democratic functions to go on uninterruptedly.
His words: “As far as we are concerned in the Labour Party, we know that Nigeria is on autopilot because the Federal Government has abdicated its duty. Deliberately, the president and the vice president have abdicated duty, because they are overwhelmed by the security situation of Nigeria, issues of banditry, kidnapping, economic downfall, debt and campaigning with no legacy.
“For us, recently, you know we have been under attack in Kaduna, Ebonyi. Now, we are surprised why we are not winning the war against insurgency. The Buhari administration has now moved every weapon to the APC states for them to be using against the Labour Party.
“The security situation, we are on top of it. A letter will be written to the IGP. The CPs are just some misguided persons that have been able to turn themselves to the executive arms of their states like in the case of Kaduna and Ebonyi and now Lagos State also joining. We want to see what the CP of Lagos will do in the case of our rally because I know the ultimate goal for APC is to stop that rally.
“We are discussing at the top echelon of the party how we are going to handle security and as time goes on it will be unveiled. But for now, they are making everything to look as if maybe we have to go and import military police from Ghana, Niger, or US, UK because of the way the security apparatus is compromised as if they are the military wing of the APC, it’s now worrisome.
“For now, we are still discussing, when the campaigns begin, we will see how exactly we will be able to protect ourselves.”
On funding, the LP’s spokesperson noted, is that the party, unlike others, was not taxing the electorate and expressed joy that well-meaning Nigerians have taken it upon themselves to donate modestly to the campaigns, as they see the party as the only reliable platform to realise their desired democratic dividends.
According to him, “we are not having funding challenges and the reason is very simple, all the rallies you see us doing now are sponsored by ordinary Nigerians where some people donate one Naira, some will donate pure water, and some will give you two bottles.
“It has never happened in Nigeria that you have people from one, two, three, five kilometre walk and they are not going to ask for a dime from you, because they believe in the competence of Obi-Datti, to deliver us from this quagmire.”
It remains to be seen how the parties will navigate through the troubled waters of insecurity that may accompany the campaigns in almost all the geopolitical zones and how possible some of the parties would conveniently sell their manifestoes.