This is not the right time to mourn Nigeria’s dilemma of having to choose between APC and PDP.
By every standard, they are the only two parties that are worth their name in the charade that our elections have been lately.
Now that PDP has unveiled its candidate and APC will do the same in a matter of days, we can start to consider what lies ahead of the country. With Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner, as a PDP candidate, what are the options on the table for APC? The confusion that has been plaguing the party lately suggests that all is not well with APC. Worse still, the options that are available to the party do not appear to make anything easier for it. I will take the options one after another.
The easiest option is for APC to level up to PDP by fielding a Northerner. That will be a repeat of the 2019 strategy with Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari on the ballot paper. Since the North has the numerical strength and APC’s Muhammadu Buhari won in most Northern states in 2019, choosing a Northerner is an appealing option for APC. However, whom to choose among its northern aspirants is a problem. In the pack, Dr Ahmed Lawan appears to be the wonder card that APC might play if it decides to go northward as PDP has done.
He deserves the reward for the dutiful services he rendered in the Senate to the APC presidency. But there is a problem with the choice of a Northerner. Add two of those Northern aspirants on APC’s plate and they are still featherweight compared to the political heavyweight that Atiku Abubakar is. The Lawans of APC is no Muhammadu Buhari. None of them can boast of the support of both the refined and the rabbles across the country. APC cannot forget in a hurry that Buhari’s claim to integrity, his large base of the fanatical following, widespread dissatisfaction with the Jonathan administration, and the value brought by the alliance did the magic in 2015.
Without Buhari on the ballot paper in 2023, the chances of APC are slim and its fate appears to be beyond redemption. Only if votes would count, Atiku would beat APC thoroughly, whoever it fields.
As a party, APC is not in shape. It is too internally wounded and disoriented to win a presidential election, even if it exerts its federal might to rig in the trenches. No amount of rigging can keep APC in Abuja beyond 2023. The party has already depleted all its good luck. If not, why would some APC members smuggle Goodluck Jonathan into its fold through the backdoor? Even when APC was in shape, it was doubtful that it ever won a free and fair election, not that PDP too ever did though. From all indications, APC was never intended to be a party. It was simply a mob of disgruntled, power-hungry, opportunist politicians assembled to terminate the rudderless Jonathan presidency through jungle justice. With that goal achieved in 2015, APC has proceeded to waste all opportunities to evolve into an ideologically coherent political party, remaining everything that a progressive party is not.
It is even worse for the party that it daily increments the tragedies it inherited from PDP. Not only that, no regime has rubbed corruption in the country’s face like APC has done in the past few years. Despite its crass ineptitude, especially in the areas of economy and security, the Buhari administration’s tone-deaf vocal voices, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, Lauretta Onochie, and the legendary Alhaji Lai Muhammed, never wasted any opportunity to tell us that Buhari is the best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria. Inducements of all sorts can only try, but they cannot atone for the unprecedented evils of the APC-led presidency. They will not be able to redeem APC and increase its electability at the presidential level come 2023.
So, what other option is there for APC? If APC considers the odds, the party is likely to risk fielding a Southerner, perhaps the mercenary Goodluck Jonathan or Ogbonnaya Onu as speculated in some quarters. But this option too has its problems. Peter Obi will share South-East votes, irrespective of the party platform on which he runs, but not enough to threaten Atiku’s chances. Atiku is strong in the South. Also, given the religious tension in the air, those two Southern Christians will be a hard sell in the North. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would do much better on the ballot paper than the duo, but not well enough to defeat Atiku Abubakar. Beyond his experience in supervising APC’s vote-buying machine, aka TraderMoni, in 2019, Osinbajo’s now 7 years of side-by-side walk with President Muhammadu Buhari should be a talisman. It is only that right-thinking people cannot excuse Osinbajo from the many tragedies that the Buhari administration has visited in the country.
The choice of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to raises a number of concerns, the biggest among them being that a Southern Muslim is not Muslim enough for Northern Muslims, especially at this time when a strangely brutish and un-Islamic kind of Islam enjoys a wide acceptance in the North.
The North will prefer its own at this time. Therefore, whoever APC decides to field in the South, the party will have to contend with Atiku’s towering stature in the region. It is not easy for APC to forget that Atiku won in 12 of the 17 Southern states in 2019. To say this in simple English, APC lost to Atiku in those 12 Southern states. That is one big headache that has been frustrating APC’s permutations all the while.
There is yet another fear for APC and it is the INEC chairman. It is alleged that the professor chair is already in bed with APC, manipulating the electoral process to give the ruling party undue advantages. Given what one sees from the outside, one cannot counter the claim without sounding ridiculous. If he considers posterity, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu might want to redeem his name by pulling a last-minute surprise on APC, since the current government will not be able to do him much harm after the elections. What is the surprise? Uphold whatever little integrity that the presidential election has. Especially if Prof. Mahmood Yakubu learns anything from the case of his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega, he might realize that he really has little to lose (and so much to gain in the good name) by upholding the integrity of the electoral process.
If he does, he might risk pulling that surprise. It is only APC that has everything to lose if the integrity of the election is protected. Even PDP which has been a lifeless opposition for seven years has nothing to lose. On its own, the best election in the world cannot do the slumbering party any good. PDP simply does not deserve the presidency, although Atiku does, if any politician could be said to. It is the ambition and determination of Atiku that will give the life that can wake PDP from its slumber. But can the INEC chairman pull that surprise? It depends on the value he places on integrity, a good name, and posterity.
Should the INEC chairman give a hint that his conscience would be unaffordable for even those who hold the keys to the national vault, APC has a home-grown strategy to respond to that. At the height of desperation, this is what APC is likely to do. Since by law the president cannot remove the INEC chairman, APC might use the National Assembly to stage a coup against him and install one of its own in the office. Anyone who remembers what the APC government did in the past with the judiciary would not doubt it can do worse with the INEC. Good for the party, it has always had the current National Assembly in its pocket. This is the biggest killer move of which APC is capable to retain the presidency come 2023. Anything other than that, 2023 would see APC out of Abuja and the league of political parties in Nigeria. The desperados that formed the party are too power-hungry to band together for four years outside of national power.
As bleak as the outlook appears, this is the best our democracy can deliver in 2023. Those who want something better should join the labour movement, but not in desperation for instant power, to reap where they do not sow. Until then, money and manipulation remain the ideals. Old dogs that cannot learn new tricks are the players. The blood of foolish supporters is the seal. And investors will be back for their capital with a loan-shark kind of interest: the billions will continue to go missing like a needle in a haystack. And it will take our anus four years to fully excrete the specks of the local and foreign bills that our national delegates swallowed on our behalf. Hopefully, 2027 will be better if the labourers do not get weary and, as usual, return to their hideouts until another election is at the door. Whether in the hands of APC or PDP, we will have to do so much and do them so different to have a country for another four years. The outcome of the upcoming presidential election will not do it for us.
Oladapo wrote from the University of Ibadan.