By Ismail Omipidan
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the 2019 general elections is expected to hold between February and April of the same year.
But the race to the presidency appears to have begun. Already, a new mega party, Action Democratic Party, ADP, whose real promoters for now appear faceless, has expressed its strong desire to dislodge both the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the political scene, come 2019. It has applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for registration. And its chairman, Engineer Yabaji Sani, has declared that it would be suicidal for INEC not to register it, adding that “the fact of the matter is that the present government would not have come into being, if INEC had not registered the APC. They won’t be there, which means that Nigerians are watching to know whether this is the INEC they can trust,” he added.
But if Senator Ben Obi’s argument that it took the APC seven years to come on stream is anything to go by, then, it means ADP would have to tighten its belt, to be able to achieve what it took APC seven years to do, in two years. Senator Obi, who is the current National Secretary of the PDP, was once a National Secretary of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, one of the major opposition parties that formed the APC.
However, even as the ADP goes about its quest, the battle line also appears drawn between President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC supporters on the one hand, and the opposition, PDP, on the other hand, over who governs Nigeria in 2019.
Interestingly, the APC is also facing stiff opposition, from within its fold, in its traditional strong holds of the North West and South West states, thus making it vulnerable to the opposition, by the day.
In 1999, the presidential contest was an all South West affair. But in 2003, it was a South /North affair, as it was Buhari’s first shot at the presidency. But the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Daily Sun, gathered, made sure his opponent was not given any breathing space, as he used his position and influence to infiltrate the rank of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, Buhari’s party, to the extent that, governors elected on the platform of the party , denied their presidential candidate the opportunity to campaign in their states, in the run up to the election. And others connived with the PDP to deliver 25 percent of the votes in their states to Obasanjo. In the end, Obasanjo emerged victorious.
The 2007 Contest
In 2007, however, it was an all North affair. Late President Yar’Adua, contested on the platform of the PDP, while the trio of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Sokoto governor, Attahiru Bafarawa and Nigeria’s former military Head of State and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, all ran on different political platforms as presidential candidates. While Atiku ran on the platform of the now defunct Action Congress (AC), Bafarawa and Buhari, ran on the platform of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) respectively, as they were then known.
In the end again, they not only fail to make any impressive impact at the polls, the trio were roundly defeated in both their states of origin, and their immediate wards, during the presidential polls.
Although they all attributed their defeat to the alleged ruling PDP’s rigging machinery at the time, if the Buhari’s philosophy about rigging in an election in Nigeria is to be believed, it therefore means that, perhaps, the trio were not “popular,” in their respective domains. Buhari once said that a politician could only rig successfully in an election, in the area where such a politician was “very popular.”
Opposition parties fail to agree
Daily Sun recalls that in 2007, when it became clear that to defeat the PDP, there must be some form of alliances between the AC and ANPP, attempt was made to reach out to Atiku, with the sole aim of talking him into burying his presidential ambition, especially considering that he was only cleared at the eleventh hour to run.
But the AC and ANPP men mismanaged the whole process, thus allowing it to degenerate into verbal attacks between Atiku and Buhari, with the duo using unprintable adjectives to describe themselves in the media.
Daily Sun investigations further revealed that Atiku’s last minute decision then to dump Tinubu for Senator Ben Obi as presidential running mate, did not also go down well with Tinubu, a thing that may have contributed largely to whatever cold relationship that may have existed between Atiku and Tinubu till date. 2007 came and passed and a northerner emerged as President, after Obasanjo’s two terms of eight years.
But mid way into Yar’Adua’s tenure, Daily Sun recalls, he died, as such 2011 race became a fierce contest, following the insistence by some northerners that the then President, Goodluck Jonathan must run, in spite of the fact that the slot was supposed to be for the North. It was this sentiment, Daily Sun further recalls, that the opposition parties cashed in on, to field northerners as presidential candidates, following the defeat of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the PDP’s primary by President Jonathan, after initially emerging as the North’s consensus candidate within the party. He defeated the likes of IBB, Gusau and Saraki to pick the ticket.
However, the opposition did not behave as if it learnt any lesson from the 2007 experience. Like it happened preparatory to the 2007 polls , the trio of Atiku, Buhari and Tinubu again began their meetings, early enough, for the 2011 contest. But they again went their separate ways shortly before the polls. Atiku returned to the PDP, Buhari and others formed the CPC, while Tinubu stuck to his ACN.
Like in 2007, again in 2011, when it became obvious that to dislodge Jonathan and the PDP from the centre, CPC and ACN must work together, Buhari’s CPC and Tinubu’s ACN, tried a last minute merger, but they again blew away the opportunity. Rather than work together, Daily Sun recalls that both parties worked at cross purposes, to the extent that PDP’s presidential candidate, Jonathan, floored ACN’s presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, in most South-West states, including Lagos, with the exception of Osun state, where the governor, who had just been sworn in then, needed to prove a point. And like in 2007, CPC leaders and ACN leaders called each other unprintable names in 2011, pointing accusing fingers at each other over the turn of event.
And the opposition made it in 2015
Less than a year after Jonathan’s emergence, politicians began re-aligning ahead of 2015 polls. The major opposition parties in the country then, all came together, two clear years before the polls to form the APC, with a view to forming a formidable front to do battle with the PDP in 2015. With the emergence of the APC then, cumulatively, the opposition party’s states rose to 11; one each, in the South-East and South-South respectively; five in the South-West, one each in the North-West and North-Central respectively, and two in the North-East. But shortly before the elections, the tally increased to 16, as five other PDP governors joined the opposition.
APC went into the polls with South West and North West as its strong holds, thus making the presidency a done deal for it, even before the contest. And in the end, it emerged victorious, ending PDP’s 16 years hold on Nigeria, and making it a first win for the opposition, in the country’s entire political history. To make it possible, Tinubu ensured all the South-West states, but one, were delivered to the APC. The party also won in all the seven states in the North-West, with Kano posting the highest figure of about two million. APC also made a surprise inroad into the Christian dominated states of Benue and Plateau in the North-Central.
2019 – Who makes it?
For now, there are no strong indications to suggest that Buhari is likely to seek a second term. He has refused to show any strong interest in rebuilding the party. The party is in crisis in most parts of the North. But interest groups and individuals are already falling over each other, concerning his reelection bid. Only last week, North-West Caucus of the APC in the House of Representatives, came out forcefully to endorse him for 2019.
However, whether Buhari runs or not, the APC, investigations so far reveal, would have to double its efforts, if it wants to retain the presidency, just as those angling to dislodge it would require more than the new mega party to send it packing.