As the conversations over the next general elections take centre stage, it is necessary to have a wholistic view of the multiplicity of factors that may play part in the All Progressives Congress (APC) as it marches forward to the elections.
The build up to the elections has so far seen all parties and major stakeholders making preparations for the elections. INEC is building up on the emanating gains from its recent successful elections in various states, voter numbers has gone up to 84m from 68.5m and the security agencies are gearing up to prevent hooliganism and violence.
Expectedly the parties too have concluded their primaries and put forward feebly the first leg forward as the whistle has been blown for the campaigns.
The 1999 Constitution (amended) requires that a candidate for president must meet two requirements to emerge victorious in an election i.e. spread of votes by obtaining 25 percent of votes cast in at least 26 states as well as scoring majority of the total votes cast ahead of all candidates. All the parties will therefore work towards mobilising voters in their strongholds as well as exploiting potentials in many other areas to meet those requirements. It is also noteworthy that as the cancer of direct manipulation and fraud has lessened thanks to the improved automation of the voting process by INEC, parties can only make impact through intensive direct campaigns to bring out more people to vote for their candidates.
At the moment, confidence in the APC is high because of its control of the Federal Government, as well as leadership in 22 states of the Federation. This is further strengthened by the growth of the party in many states in the South-South and South East where it was known to be weak before. The stand of the party have been strengthened by the movement of strong politicians into its ranks, who are strategising to take over these states by presenting popular governorship candidates with a strong promise to provide viable alternatives to the PDP in those states. Flowing from this, the APC is therefore expected to make strong showing in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi States. This will surely add to the national spread of the APC, which is established in 22 states. The party has to its credit many influential national assembly candidates, expected to impact positively on its chances in the 2019 elections across the country.
Rightly so, the conversation on the elections is focusing on three major factors i.e. the candidates attributes and past records, the political party, its cohesion and manifesto and thirdly the policy direction. As democracy consolidates, deep and detailed examinations of these factors are taking centre stage among analysts and concerned observers for the voting decisions.
The presence of PMB gives the APC some measure of unity, purpose and stability. Additionally the modest achievement from 2015 in the areas of its undertakings i.e. Curbing insecurity, eradicating corruption and stabilising the economy give it some tangible substance to present to Nigerians to justify the mandate entrusted to it by Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari has successfully been able to keep himself above the fray of corrosive internal politics in his party, serving as a rallying point and making occasional intervention to guide the party towards unity and fidelity to its laws. This has helped to strengthen cohesion and confidence in the party and puts it in a strong position as a united front as the election approaches. To count in APCs favour is the gains made in curbing insurgency in the North East (NE) especially recovering 18 LGAs, minimising terrorists’ bombs in many Nigerian towns such as Kano, Abuja etc. and destroying many terrorists’ camps. The milestones recorded in anti-graft war through blockage of financial leakages through complete automation of the financial system of government in addition to convictions and recoveries of huge sums by EFCC, are noteworthy achievements. Stabilisation of the economy by pulling it out of recession as well as the social net programmes which have direct connection and benefit to the poor.
However promoting these programmes will be a herculean task as the APC has to overcome serious antiparty in its ranks due to the posture of the Party especially in focusing on Public interest rather than members wishes. This posture is a fundamental ideological change in excise of power and dynamics within parties known to politicians and the rentseeking class in Nigeria.
In spite of these obvious advantages, the APC leadership must not resign to complacency and rest on its oars. It must examine its own organisational challenges and prepare well to market its attainments as well as programmes and bring out as many voters as possible on Election Day. The launching of the ‘Next Level” slogan two weeks ago, signposts an inspiring, issue focused beginning. Previous elections in Nigeria have been remarkably defined by voter abstention. In fact in 2015, 40m voters abstained allowing only 28.5 million to vote to determine the winner. The APC must examine this and ensure that, that level of abstention is reduced as general election is also a referendum on the democratic system.
The National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole must brace up to face the challenges of the moment. While it is timely to commend Oshiomhole, a respected organiser and politician who has steered the party so far towards rule driven processes in the difficult primary elections of the party and also taken commendable steps towards appeasement and reconciliation, the party, which is the key organ and platform, must rise to coordinate and give leadership to the disparate and plentiful positive efforts put up by many power centres in the party. The momentum of the populist and volunteer propelled campaign of the APC must be reinvigorated and managed productively.
An all-out mobilisation must entail coordinating all campaigns carried by various stakeholders in the different groups in the executive and legislative arms as well as the progressive Governors and hundreds of NGOs and volunteer groups. The party must give ideas and substance to a campaign that is expected to be issue based and keenly matched. Furthermore the National Working Committee of the party must expand its organisational response capacity to extend its reach to other levels of party organisation down to states, local governments, wards and polling units. The Poling Unit remains the basic but most important organ of electoral decision as events at that level combine to translate into the final result of any election.
The APC must also explore and engage non-partisan groups and institutions in the Nigeria Project i.e. the Clergy, Civil Society, Media, Civil Service etc. as important stakeholders to sensitise all to promote effective participation for credible and peaceful election outcomes.
To meet these challenges, the party must therefore take proactive position, boost up its managerial capacity, reach out to all power centres, engage and generate synergy in goals, focus and efforts. This approach will result in a productive campaign with common message and targets.
Meeting these challenge however requires that the NWC works really fast to conclude its reconciliation efforts, fill up the vacuum existing in the heart of its organisation position itself quickly for the busy campaigns for which available time is fast diminishing.
The NWC must appoint a substantive Secretary as a matter of urgent importance; improve its organisational and managerial capacity as well as work to boost its public communication and response machinery in the media. The absence of a substantive and capable secretary, which may deprive the party of the needed administrative backbone, should be quickly filled by one of the capable hands that were screened and found capable for the elections in the last APC national Convention in June 2018. On this point, most party ideologues seem to suggest Waziri Bulama, a politician with wide reach, a professional with deep knowledge of party management and very engaging personality should be asked to step in to fill that gapping space in this critical period. Waziri stepped down during the last convention in favour of the outgoing secretary, Hon. Mai Mala Buni who is running for governor of Yobe State in February 2019.
The APC has all the potentials to convincingly win the 2019 Presidential Elections. The party has a credible unifying leadership, tangible records of performance, in addition to nationwide acceptability and spread. However the party must shed off complacency, buckle up its managerial and organisational capacity, generate an inclusive campaign and promote with vigour its programme to take Nigeria to the “Next Level”.
Dr Ohikere is the National Coordinator of APC Broom Platform. He wrote in from Abuja.
History of elections and competitive endeavours show that a very interesting and -promising campaign can be ruined by complacency and lack of proper appreciation of the magnitude of internal challenges.
As part of my moral obligation to the party, I am presently leading a group of media inclined members of the party across the country for a physical inspection of President Muhammadu Buhari and progressive Governors infrastructural projects towards projecting the performance of the APC led Administration for victory at the 2019 general elections.
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