Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
In the aftermath of the Edo governorship poll, there is a fresh wave of optimism in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) regarding the 2023 general elections.
The PDP candidate in the September 19 Edo gubernatorial election, Godwin Obaseki, against all odds, had defeated the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the keenly contested poll, hence serving as a moral booster in PDP.
Prior to the Edo governorship poll, PDP leaders across the country, had expressed fears about the alleged plans by the APC to use federal might to muzzle the opposition during the epic contest.
However, with the outcome of the poll, which has firmly put the opposition party in control of 16 states, PDP leaders across the country are enthusiastic that there is no stopping the opposition party in future contests, beginning from the October 10 poll in Ondo. For the party, the ultimate goals is expectedly to regain control of the Federal Government in the 2023 polls.
Apart from the forthcoming election in Ondo, there are three other off season gubernatorial polls before the 2023 general elections. These include 2021 governorship poll in Anambra and the 2022 Osun and Ekiti states gubernatorial contests.
PDP leaders and supporters say the outcome of the Edo election is an indication that it can always win future polls, beginning from 2023, once there is a level playing field for all parties in the country.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, while applauding the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the Edo poll had urged the commission to ensure that future polls are transparent.
According to him, “Nigerians hope that what we have witnessed in Edo State will not be an off-season procedure in the commission. We demand that this credible process applies to all our elections.
“On account of the reverberation of this victory across the length and breath of our country, the PDP implores President Muhammadu Buhari to continue in this new found spirit of ensuring that the people are allowed to freely choose their leaders at all elections.
“Our party states this in our belief that in spite of his administration’s failure in other spheres of life as well as in previous elections, if Mr. President can continue to toe this new line of allowing for electoral uprightness, history will be beckoned to be kind to him. “
From the PDP National Working Committee ( NWC) to the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), down to the governors elected on its platform, there is a consensus that the Edo election will be a springboard for the opposition party in the run-up to the 2023 polls.
Former National Chairman of the opposition party, Okwesilieze Nwodo, told Daily Sun that the election has given a boost to the party in the run-up to the next general elections.
Nwodo is confident that if there is a level playing field, the PDP will win the Ondo governorship poll, as well as the Anambra State gubernatorial contest, which is scheduled for next year. He explained that once the PDP accomplishes that, it will go on to give the APC a strong fight for the presidential seat at the next general elections.
“We had a lot of apprehensions going to that (Edo) election, because of what we have experienced in Kogi and Kano. We know that when the Federal Government decides to use security agencies and INEC, there is no much you can do,” the former PDP chairman stated.
He added: “We are praying that there will also be a level playing field in Ondo’s election. And we believe that we have a chance of winning there. We also believe we have a big chance of winning next year in Anambra. If we are able to get these two more states, we will have the same number of states governed in Nigeria by the APC. And that is the first stage to the 2023 general elections.”
Like Nwodo, a former acting national secretary of the PDP, David Iorhemba, told our correspondent that the Edo governorship poll has shown that Nigerians are tired of the APC.
“It has clearly shown that Nigeria if allowed to vote, will vote out the APC,”Iorhemba stated.
The PDP optimism is understandable. The opposition party was thrown into the political wilderness, after it lost the 2015 general elections. Apart from losing the presidential election, the party had equally lost control of the two chambers of the National Assembly, as well as several governorship seats across the country.
In the aftermath of the 2015 polls, the PDP experienced a massive defection from its fold to the ruling APC. It was equally bedeviled by a very bitter leadership tussle, that almost eclipsed the opposition party.
But since the resolution of the PDP crises, and election of the current National Working Committee (NWC), headed by Uche Secondus, the opposition party has been making frantic efforts to regain its lost glory.
Secondus, in a rapproachment with the electorate, had at a public discourse on “Contemporary Governance in Nigeria,” in 2018 publicly apologized to the country for whatever mistakes the PDP may have made that resulted in the loss of the 2015 general elections and promised that under his watch, the opposition party will do things differently.
“I hereby, as the National Chairman, do admit that the PDP made a lot of mistakes; we are humans, not spirits and the ability to admit is key in moving forward.
“We admit that we have made several mistakes; we have passed through all our challenges and have acquired the experience no other party can boast of.
“We were sanctioned by Nigerians at the polls in 2015; let me use this opportunity to apologise for our past mistakes. It is the honest thing to do, a legacy to transfer to our children; we cannot continue like that.
“When we make mistakes, we should come out boldly to the people and apologise. It is important to do so because we have learnt from our mistakes, unlike the All Progressives Congress (APC) that will make mistakes and lie to cover it. We apologise to Nigerians that we have made mistakes, we have learnt our lessons and we are ready to begin on a new agenda; experience is the best teacher, no other party has it,” the opposition leader stated.
Analysts say that apology seems to have resonated well with the electorate, owing to the support the PDP received in the 2019 polls, resulting in its victory in the Oyo, Sokoto, Zamfara, Bauchi and Adamawa gubernatorial states, in addition to 10 states it had prior to the last general elections.
However, pundits say as the opposition party seeks to consolidate on its success in the Edo governorship poll, in the run-up to the 2023 general elections, it is imperative for the various party organs to close ranks.
Besides, analysts argue that the key to winning over Nigerians lies in the ability of the PDP to deepen internal democracy in its fold so as to ensure that the process for the nomination of its candidates for various elections are crisis-free.
Nwodo is optimistic that if the PDP is able to conduct transparent presidential primary in 2023 election, like it did in Port Harcourt prior to the 2019 poll, there would be no stopping the opposition party in the next general elections.
According to him, “so, we believe that if we are able to conduct a primary election that is transparent like what we have in Port Harcourt and we get a candidate that every member of the party believes is the right candidate, we will all put our hands together and ensure that we give the APC a run for their money. “
Analysts say part of the factors that saved the day for the PDP in Edo was the ability of the party’s leadership to resolve all the issues that arose from the nomination process to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. He noted that it is imperative for the party to continue to build consensus among stakeholders, if it hopes to make headway in the 2023 polls.
The chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin agrees. He told our correspondent that in the run-up to the 2023 polls, the party will strive to reconcile all warring groups in the party.
The PDP leader, who posited that with a free, fair and credible elections, there is no stopping the opposition party in the next general elections, charged the members of the party nationwide to brace up for the 2023 challenge.
“After our victory in Edo State, PDP now controls 16 states while APC controls 20. This is therefore a good sign that PDP is on its way to control over 90% of the states in Nigeria. In order to allow us capture power, PDP is in full reconciliation in all the states to make the party intact,” Jibrin stated.