Like the ostrich, power brokers in Nigeria can no longer hide behind one finger. The plots, conspiracies and maneuver for the 2023 Presidential election have begun. Which party is likely to win the race? It is safe to conclude that two political parties are better placed to lock horns: All Progressives Congress, (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). Many factors are against and in favour of the ruling APC. Let us take the APC’s weaknesses. Given the dithering social and economic downtown, Nigeria is worse than APC met it. Yet, this is not an indication that it would have been better if PDP was in power. Currently, the country hemorrhages from insecurity, killings, rape of women and children in a brutal and organized manner. Nigeriais are afflicted with the twin evil of terrorism and wanton destruction of lives and properties never before seen in decades. The proliferation of arms is appalling. Might has become logic, brawn is brain and truth is defined from the prism of raw, savage power.
Nigerians now deal more with human right violations perpetrated by non-state actors than infringements carried out by the government. The country is being partitioned along base instincts, fractured into spheres of influence by heavily armed cartels ran by teenagers and young people familiar with human blood but strange to any compelling ideology. Food prices have gone into the sky, far beyond reach. Job losses are no longer news. Resistance by organized institutions like labor has weakened. Opposition to authority find expressions in armed rebellion against the state and the society fashioned in the image of budding armed ethnic militia, terrorism and riotous gangs. How will all these affect APC chances? In Nigeria wining the Presidential election depends not largely on performance but on three elements: Money plus influence peddling, geo-political strength and control of institutions of power and coercion.
The PDP has its own strength, not necessarily by its own intelligent design, but derived largely from the weaknesses and ineptitude of the APC. For one, the PDP has less controversy over which region should produce its next Presidential candidate. It has settled for the North. The PDP also has the potential to harvest from the APC shotfall. Yet, the weaknesses of the PDP are stark. The party suffers from lack of organization, discipline, absence of a rallying opposition figure, poor precedence rating and a weak, ineffective media and propaganda unit. PDP has failed to reorganize itself and turn APC’s misfortunes to advantage. For six years, it could not even organize a rally around public outrage while its reflexes on burning national issues remain vile, petty and base. However, the greatest undoing of the PDP is its lack of cohesion and its members’ notoriety for promiscuity. The APC is picking PDP’s most influential figures like overripe fruits or gullible “Agric fowl.”
As at today, APC, despite its weaknesses, is in the best strategic position to win the Presidency. The party, through its many officials and the institutions they control, has a deep pocket. In terms of geopolitical strength, the APC is in control of the South West, the Middle Belt, the North West and very strong in the North East, interestingly the regions with the highest number of votes. Yet, despite the APC fortunes, there are deep internal contradictions and its success in resolving the challenges will determine its victory. The party is currently divided into antagonistic blocs in perpetual conflict with itself. At least three major but veiled blocs exist: Lagos with Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the arrowhead and Abuja with Mallam Nassir el- Rufai as the caliph, the third layers are pockets of local resistance elements in each of the APC structure in the 36 states, not organized, but potent in the local politics of some states.
There is also a fringe force, represented by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who is the weakest but can be reenergized through terrestrial shock. In terms of control of organs of government, the Kaduna group has the upper hand. With the appointment of sole administrators in the party, the group is in firm control of both the Presidency and the party. But a firm grip of the party structure does not automatically translate into the control of membership neither does it mean absolute dominion over the future of the party. In fact, the iron hold is a weakness, it has the potential of squeezing the party to a burst. The Kaduna group has fortified its camp by attracting high caliber PDP leaders across the country through a combination of lobby, juicy offers and, maybe, threats. One of its greatest achievements is the ability to cut the PDP by its head. Former President Goodluck Jonathan expected to be the PDP’s most iconic opposition figure has fallen into the net of diplomatic chains held by the ruling party and lately with ambitious offers beyond his dream. Another PDP bigwig, former Senate President, Olusola Saraki has lost its political base necessary to guarantee high stature. It is not clear where the Kaduna group is going. But certain facts are emerging. The ‘attack’ on
PDP is for two reasons: to consolidate the APC towards 2023 and to recruit puns that can be used to weaken internal opposition to the Kaduna group’s bid to determine APC’s next Presidential candidate. The new recruits are also expected to broaden the group’s control of the party in the forthcoming convention. The group has a trademark: isolate and destroy the opposition within, which may lead to the party’s internal combustion.
It must be noted that one trend has emerged in the on going shadow boxing. The Kaduna group now employs “Maradonic” tricks espoused by former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida who separately promised several aspirants the Presidency but kept his game to his chest. The El-rufai group appears to have reached out secretly to many aspirants in the South. The advantage is that it keeps the bees busy while the principal has enough time to consolidate power. It is said in the political circles that a section of the hegemony led by Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is reaching out to Tinubu; a section is reaching out to Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi while also is reaching out to Jonathan. In this game, some are also reaching out to Osinbajo and some to Rivers State former Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The kite is also being flown in the South East and has seen many desperate figures thrown away the little water left in the big bowl at the slight drizzle of a rain that may not eventually fall. This plot will set up these Southern candidates against each other and may end up eliminating each other during the tough race paving the way for a more formidable North strengthened to call the shot. I suspect political leadership led by the Kaduna group is open to many games with one single design which is to produce the Presidency in 2023. The plots are: create multiplicity of candidates in the South and under the guise of free and fair primary, the group will grab the Presidency. As it stands, two things may determine the victory of these designs.
First is the fate of President Mohammadu Buhari who has benefited from the mercy of God that keeps him strong at old, fragile age. He is the star actor. If he decides to leave the stage for any reason, the spectators will disperse, a new coalition will emerge which will threaten, if not uproot the APC. If he stays, the APC will manage to trudge on with its wobbled feet. His leaving is contingent on one thing: His health. The unity of the APC and the success of Kaduna group are tied to President Buhari’s fate. This may have informed the unverified reports that the group is scheming to edge out Osinbajo, to plant its rookie. In all these, there are unpredictable variables. With the rising wave of brute anger, poverty, collapse of public trust in government institutions, violence, terrorism, crass opportunism and naivety of the political class, ethnic suspicion, economic disenchantment, blunt refusal to decentralize and restructure the country, that have all combined to make Nigeria fragile and highly inflammable, the future of the country, including the content and form of 2023 Presidential election is difficult to predict.
––Adeoye is a multiple award-winning journalist
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