HOW APGA MIGHT DETERMINE THE WINNER OF 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
By: Egbuna Amuta
It is very likely that either the All Progressives Congress, APC or the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP would eventually produce the next president of the country after the 2019 general elections. This is because both political parties presently control most of the states in the country. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA is unarguably the third most powerful political party in Nigeria because it is effectively in control of Anambra state. The party is today also enjoying very strong followership in Imo and Abia states where it stands a good chance of winning the governorship seats in next year’s general elections. APGA is currently equally popular in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where it is controlling the Gwagwalada Area Council. It is as well making waves in some parts of Lagos, Nasarawa, Taraba and Bayelsa as well as Zamfara states. Due to the fact that the party is originally founded mostly by the Igbo intelligentsia, APGA is generally adored by the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Notwithstanding that the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has picked a former governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, APGA would remain a force to reckon with in the Southeast. The party would campaign on the imperatives of Restructuring the Nigerian Federation which is of substance while PDP would capitalise on the fact that it has an Igbo man as its vice presidential candidate.
Asked to choose between the office of the vice president and restructuring of the country or a return to the practice of true federalism, Ndigbo will obviously prefer the latter. This is because fiscal federalism would give them sense of belonging and restore their honour integrity and dignity in a country that their forebears fought most for her independence from Britain.
A restructured Nigeria would recharge the creative energy of Ndigbo. Even though Atiku is promising to restructure the country if elected many people think that his promise is motivated by mere political expediency. They say that the PDP standard bearer is after all a Fulani, an ethnic group that does not truly want Nigeria to practice true federalism. Some analysts say that in actual fact Atiku, as a liberal feudalist would at best work for devolution of power to states which are the country’s federating units. Like President Mohammadu Buhari, who is also a Fulani, the PDP presidential candidate would find it difficult to call rampaging herdsmen to order. This is because they are his kith and kins. What is Atiku’s position on Anti Open Grazing Bill passed and signed into law by some states in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria? What is his position on the call for state police?
The mainstream Igbo political elite in the PDP are already unhappy with Atiku, over the way he picked his running mate without consulting them in an apparent breach of an agreement they earlier reached with him. They feel that the PDP standard bearer has in the Fulani characteristic manner deployed a divide and conquer tactics on Ndigbo. Some of the Southeast PDP politicians say that if the Party wins, Mr. Peter Obi would be more loyal to his principal than the collective interests of the Igbo nation. Again, Obi is a lone ranger who is not so friendly with main stream politicians in Anambra state and the Southeast. Little wonder Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the candidate he single handedly sponsored in the last gubernatorial election in Anambra state lost badly. Real PDP chieftains in the state bluntly refused to work for Obaze because they regarded him as Obi’s imposition on them. For this reason, the three PDP controlled states of Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu might not be enthusiastic about their party’s presidential standard bearer and his running mate in the 2019 general polls. As a matter of fact, PDP stalwarts in the Southeast regard Obi as not one of their own but a usurper. The party would also not find things easy in Anambra and Imo states where APGA is very strong.
Besides, the office of the vice president is not as powerful and influential as that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and Chief of Staff, COS to the President. The former governor of Ogun state, Chief Gbenga Daniel, who is obviously closer to Atiku Abubakar than Peter Obi is apparently angling for one of these two powerful offices in the Abuja corridors of power. In fact, Chief Daniel is one of those instrumental to Obi’s selection as Atiku’s “spare tyre”. When real campaigns commence more startling revelations would be made and the Nigerian electorate would be better informed.
APGA would no doubt make a lot of sense to Ndigbo and Middle Belters who are respectively the main victims of Fulani marginalisation and herdsmen killings. People of the two geopolitical zones are the most fervent agitators for Restructuring. Now that APGA is fielding a presidential candidate, unlike in the 2011 and 2015 general elections when it adopted the standard bearers of the PDP, supporters of the party would not be confused as to which symbol to thumb print in the ballot papers. The choice of retired Major General John Gbor, as the APGA presidential standard bearer is a re-enactment of the reconciliation, brotherhood and alliance of Ndigbo and the people of the Middle Belt through the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP in the Second Republic. Most indigenes of Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba states are today fed up with Fulani domination and seeming ethnic cleansing in their territory. To them Buhari and Atiku are Fulani irredentists. As far as they and true patriotic Igbos are concerned they would no longer be swayed by ephemeral materialism to undermine their fundamental interests, honour and integrity. This is in line with a Igbo adage that “na mmadu nwe ike bulu onu ju nni” instead of selling his birthday right for a mere plate of porridge. The voting strength of Northern Central Nigeria is above ten million.
The Yoruba of the Southwest who are largely inclined to the APC are likely to remain loyal to the party. The choice of an Igbo man as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP has definitely re-enacted the petty jealousy, mutual suspicions and political competition between the two ethnic groups. With the caging of the immediate past governor of Ekiti state, Chief Ayo Fayose, PDP has no real strong man in Yoruba land unlike APC which has Ashiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The South South votes of about eleven million would largely be divided by the PDP and APC while the Northwest, where President Buhari comes from is most likely root for APC. In spite of the fact that Atiku is from the Northeast, most of the states in the region are already being governed by the APC. It is instructive that PDP does not control, Adamawa and Anambra, the home states of its presidential candidate and his running mate. It is equally significant that the Northeast and Southeast are the two least populated geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Their voting strength are approximately nine million and eight million respectively. On the contrary, the Northwest which has more than eighteen million registered voters and Southwest with about fourteen million voters, where Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo come from are respectively, the most populated according to the records of the National Population Commission, NPC, and the voters register of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. In Real Politick foul play by some of the political parties and their candidates as witnessed in recent gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun as well as party primaries across the country cannot not be ruled out in the 2019 polls. APC is already claiming to have over fourteen million registered members across the country. It would be wishful thinking for anybody to believe that ethnicism and religion would not be strong factors in the coming polls.
However, in view of the fact that the APC federal government has performed below expectations, it would not be easy for it to have an easy ride in the coming elections. It is therefore likely that neither the party nor the PDP, APGA and any other political party would win the presidential poll in the first ballot. It is at this point that APGA might be compelled to negotiate with APC, PDP and other political parties to forge an alliance in order to decide who would eventually emerge as the next president of Nigeria, after the 2019 general polls#
EGBUNA AMUTA, a Political Historian writes from Onitsha