As political alignments and realignments continue ahead of the 2019 general elections, both the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (APC) are wooing voters across geo-political zones in the country with juicy offers, TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes
Amidst the political alignments and realignments ahead of the 2019 general elections, the struggle of who get what seems to be getting messier as desperate politicians from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have begun to promise geo-political zones juicy offers to woo them to vote for their candidates. In fact, as part of strategy to win the South West zone in 2019, the APC is using the 2023 presidency as a bait to woo the people of the region to vote for them.
Basically, the leading political parties are stepping up strategies on how to consolidate on their already gained grounds or expand frontiers ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Though the election is less than four months away, some political analysts are already up with predictions on where the pendulum would swing in the nation’s six geo-political zones. While such calculations, particularly for the North-West, North- East and North Central are predicated on the strength of the ruling APC and main opposition PDP as well as the voting pattern in the last general elections, such predictions cannot be made of the South-West and South-East zones due to the intriques ahead of this elections.
Consequently, the need to woo the geo-political zones ahead of the elections remains imperative for these parties. Although some analysts argue that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC will get more votes in the South-East in the 2019 election hinged on the excellent performance of the APC-led administration in fixing hitherto abandoned infrastructure in the South East, this fact seems not to be attainable with the emergence Peter Obi a Southeasterner as the running mate of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar the candidate of the main opposition party in the country PDP.
Pundits are of the view that Peter Obi’s choice seems to be very smart with the Igbo feeling to be lagging behind politically in the country; hence they appears to be very okay with his emergence to attain political relevance and will rather vote for the PDP than the APC, based on the popular maxim that a bed at hand is better than 10 in the bush. Prior to now President Buhari has made it clear that Southeast will benefit from his infrastructural development, he has left no stone unturned in achieving this, including the ongoing construction of the Second Niger Bridge which the former administrations never did and approved over 37 billion naira refund to Anambra State on federal roads done in the state.
It was glaring that the emergence of Atiku as PDP Presidential Candidate and his subsequent anointment of Obi as his Vice was generally accepted by the South East, the social media was agog and the frenzy was high, this was contrary to President Buhari calls to Igbo leaders on several occasions to invest in APC and wait till 2023 to have a shot at the Presidency. Boss Mustapha, the SGF also echoed the same anytime he had opportunity to speak to Igbo when he promised that the APC would ensure that Igbo produced the president in 2023 should they supports the second term aspiration of Buhari. For three and half years other Nigerians waited to see whether Igbo will grab the opportunity with both hands and work towards it but all to no avail.
But, Nigerians are now living witnesses of how Igbo political leadership accepted it hook, line and sinker. That was when all the doubts about where Igbo are going were removed.
On Thursday, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday, urged the people of South West to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections as bait to guarantee a return of power to the region in 2023. Reiterating reasons why the South West should vote for President Buhari, Fashola said besides the massive investments by the current administration on infrastructure across the country and in South-West in particular, the South west would benefit more politically by voting for Buhari.
The minister, who spoke in Yoruba language and with a proverb said: “Did you know that power is rotating to the South-West after the completion of Buhari’s tenure if you vote for him in 2019?
“Your child cannot surrender her waist for an edifying bead and you will use the bead to decorate another child’s waist. A vote for Buhari in 2019, means a return of power to the South West in 2023. I am sure you will vote wisely.” On the performance of the Administration, Fashola said that the government had kept its promises to Nigerians in the three key throngs of security, fighting corruption and rebuilding the economy.
As a follow up to the call by Fashola, the publicity secretary of the APC in Lagos State, Joe Igbokwe said it is now becomes clear to APC that Igbo may have pitched their tent with PDP and hence Fashola’s intervention. He explained that since Fashola made the above statement ‘’some people have been giving it different interpretations. Some are claiming that APC and its leadership have reneged in their promise to Igbo. Some are asking: What happened to Igbo Presidency Project in 2023? What happened to PMB and Boss Mustapha’s Promise? Why is Fashola saying this now?’’
He further said that the truth of the matter is that you can take a horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink. ‘’Yes the President Buahri and Boss Mustapha challenged Igbo to take up the challenge but they cannot force Igbo to do what they do not want to do. Politics is a game of number,’’ he said.
Truth be told, there seems to be an unwritten power-sharing agreement or power rotation arrangement between the north and the south every eight years. It was consolidated in 2007 when former president Obasanjo, a southerner, handed over power to the late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after eight years (1999 -2007). The mechanism was devised to keep the peace in the country. This brought to the fore how Atiku would convince the power brokers in the south that he would serve for a single term in office and quit in 2023.
In a swift response, the national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Mr. Uche Achi-Okpaga, said, the apex Igbo organisation has taken a position, and it is not interested in who becomes the president, vice president or any other political position. He said Ohanaeze is interested in restructuring the system.
According to him, “Becoming the president will only give you the privilege to enrich some privileged Nigerians. It gives you the time to look at programmes and policies that will enrich the privilege. So, if they are thinking that they can use the position of presidency or vice presidency to hoodwink the people, it is unnecessary, we know what we are saying, and we have been steady on that.
“Look at the people that have been presidents, have they been good to the generality of their people, except the privileged individuals, who have been in and around. We need to restructure the system, so, Igbo man becoming the president is not it. Restructuring involves equity, fairness, etc. Are we observing the Federal Character today? We are not. So, if you become the president, what can you do?”
Meanwhile, the director general of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, disagreed with Achi-Okpaga, saying that Fashola’s statement is a wake up call to Ndigbo to vote for President Buhari.
He said Buhari is the only Northerner whose exit in 2023 is certain and that every other Northern presidential candidate can only pledge or promise four years.
“The truism is that Fashola has sounded a wake up call for Ndigbo to vote for Buhari if we are interested in president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction come 2023. Ndigbo have three advantages to clinch the 2023 presidency – equity, natural justice and good conscience,” he said.
Meanwhile, the national vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for South East, Deacon Austin Umahi, declared that Fashola’s statement should serve as an eye opener for Igbo people who are supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC). Umahi said, “That’s an eye opener to our so-called brothers and sisters who are in the failed APC for their selfish interest and leaking pockets. “Most importantly, it is glaring that APC is drowning in all ramifications and Nigerians have rejected them and will demonstrate it in less than 110 days.
He argued that the decision of who will succeed the president would depend solely on the support Buhari and the party receive from both the South East and the South West in the election. According to him, the statement should on the other hand serve as a clarion call to the South East to come out en masse to vote for the party to make themselves a force to be reckoned with in the politics of the party.
Ndukwe, whose leadership has the backing of a court, said, “The timing of the statement was very apt because if our people think the party will offer them its ticket for the 2023 election without working for it, they are totally wrong.”He warned the people against supporting the Peoples Democratic Party, adding that if they do so, it would take a minimum of eight years for such opportunity as APC will offer them to come their way again.
Not minding the discordant tunes, the South West Zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to give more key positions to the zone when he becomes president.
PDP vice chairman, South West, Dr Eddy Olefeso, said the region wanted the positions of chief of staff to the president as well as attorney-general of the federation (AGF), in addition to the post of secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) which Atiku had earlier ceded to the zone in a power sharing arrangement.
Olafeso said though the promise of the position SGF by Atiku was a good development, the zone deserved more key political and government positions to compensate for the past when the zone was schemed out in the power arrangement of the party.
According to him, for Atiku to give the zone a sense of belonging and compensate “for the years of abandonment”, he should zone key positions of the chief of staff to the president and AGF to the South West in addition to the SGF slot.
He noted that the South West had the second highest voting population in the country and, therefore, deserved its fair share of political positions if PDP wins in 2019. Olafeso said: “We have been denied for too long. In 2011, the country under the control of our party zoned the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the zone and it was taken away. And from 2011 to 2015, we were left just like that and the reverberating effect of that abandonment is the reason why we are still having the hangover of neglect till today.
“Now we are here again, the party is working with a zone with 14 million votes, the second largest in the country. We refuse and we will not accept where we finish the job in the next election and for one reason or the other, we will not be considered.
“We don’t have to wait till after the election before we say what we want. We want to let the party and our candidate know that certain positions are strategic to governance and we want them. “Yes, the SGF is great, but there is nothing wrong with having the chief of staff and attorney-general on top of it to compensate us for the denials of the past, so that all of us can work as a united front.
“We will continue to fight for it; We will speak with a loud voice. We give so much, so the zone deserves a lot.” While congratulating Atiku on his emergence as the presidential candidate, Olafeso said the zone was pleased with the choice of Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, as his running mate. He said the country was faced with serious economic challenges and Obi had the pedigree to realise the party’s economic vision for Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, had earlier this month hinted at supporting Atiku’s presidential bid, saying the region would vote for the candidate that would restructure the country -a major campaign promise of Atiku.
Spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said: “The most important thing for us is the restructuring of Nigeria. Clearly, you can know Afenifere will always stand with the candidate that stands for Nigeria to be restructured. This is because without restructuring, we are going nowhere.”
Also, during the weekend, the restructuring debate returned at the weekend, with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo describing PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar as an opponent of the idea when he was in office as vice-president between 1999 and 2007.
It would be recalled that Atiku has promised to restructure Nigeria in six months, if voted in as president.
Osinbajo spoke of how he as Attorney-General of Lagos State went to the Supreme Court 12 times over the issue of restructuring.
According to him, “Let me explain my position clearly. I am not just an advocate of restructuring, there is no other government in Nigeria that has actively pursued restructuring such as we did when I was Attorney General in Lagos State.
“People talking about restructuring, if you ask them what they meant by restructuring, they won’t even know what it means and that is the problem we have to face.”
The vice president recalled the Supreme Court battles. According to him, “We started with fiscal restructuring, which is more of resource control. Should states control their own resources? We went to the Supreme Court. They argued that each state should control its own resources.
“The states that argued in favour of autonomy for states to control their resources were the oil producing states in the country and Lagos State while some others argued on the other side because they wanted to share oil money.
“We lost at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said ‘no’, that you cannot control your resources. If you are an oil producing state, take 13 per cent extra, which is derivation.”
But Atiku fired back in a statement by Paul Ibe of his media office. He said Prof. Osinbajo was being “economical with the truth.”
The statement said: “given that Prof Osinbajo and his boss have been speaking discordant tunes on restructuring, we can understand their desperation to revise history, however, it is impossible to revise documented history.
“Prof. Osinbajo needs to be reminded that there are well documented accounts in the Nigerian media chronicling Atiku Abubakar’s support and struggle for restructuring.”
The statement said a piece published in a national newspaper chronicled Atiku’s thoughts on how “to restructure the revenue allocation formula to allow littoral states of the federation benefit from off shore oil proceeds.”
Ahead of this elections, LEADERSHIP reports that the distribution of registered voters in Nigeria’s six geo-political zones remains: North West: 18,900.543, North East: 10,038,119, North Central: 7,675,369, South West: 14,298,356, South South: 8,937,057 and South East: 7,028,560.
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