In this report, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, looks at the influential groups that will shape the forthcoming general elections.
It is 33 days to the presidential election and the political firmament is poised to experience heightened activity.
The nature and dexterity of the schemings will be determined by some key stakeholders in the political space. With battle lines drawn and the actors fully aware of the stakes, most analysts aver that the 2019 presidential election is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing elections since 1999.
Despite the over 73 presidential candidates in the race, the race seems shaped to be between the two leading parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, respectively.
Although issues of insecurity, economy and anti-corruption war have been at the fore of the campaigns, in the critical political space, the quest for restructuring and lure of 2023 presidency, appears to be gaining immense traction albeit at the geo-political levels.
Nevertheless, the outcome of the presidential polls is certain to revolve around the actions or inactions of some or all of these critical stakeholders.
In a race, largely seen as a contest between the two major parties, APC and PDP, the candour, character, perception index and narrative of their candidates will remain crucial to the eventual outcome of the election.
So far, their campaign organisations have largely been targeting the character of candidates bothering on alleged corrupt activities around them. While Buhari projects integrity in governance, Atiku boasts of capacity to revive the economy and create jobs. Atiku has repeatedly committed to restructuring the country, while the President and his party, APC, appears to have shelved plans to restructure the polity despite setting up committees on the matter.
On the anti-corruption front, Buhari has to deal with a barrage of allegations involving some of his aides even though they have not been proven. Atiku on the other hand is faced with allegations of having corruptly amassed wealth, over the years. Still, both candidates share the burden of convincing electorate that they will fight the anti-corruption war within their parties, which are perceived to be havens for people allegedly running from the law on account of corrupt acts.
The perception on the insecurity will be a major decider as well. Buhari will seek to convince Nigerians that he has done enough in the fight against insurgence in the North-east, banditry in the North-west and herdsmen/farmers clashes in the North-central.
Nonetheless, the personal candour, nuances and statements of Buhari and Atiku will be instructive in the lead up to the polls. Both candidates are from the North, albeit from different zones. They are also in their 70s. While Buhari has his statutory one term left to serve in office, Atiku has promised to serve for one term.
As such both candidates have been wooing support on that basis from zones angling to occupy the top seat. In all, for an election that proves to be dicey by the day, the way candidates carry themselves as they approach the home stretch will be pivotal to their chances.
Besides, Buhari and Atiku, the roles of national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu and Senate President, Sen Bukola Saraki, are as crucial as to the out come of the election as the candidates. They are at the heart of the presidential campaign.
With Tinubu is the Co-Chairman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and Saraki as the director general of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, the campaigns revolves around them. Interestingly however, the two political heavy weights who worked as allies in 2015, took to the trenches against each other shortly after the 2015 general election.
While Tinubu was never favourably disposed to Saraki’s emergence as Senate President, the intensity of the political rivalry between the two juggernauts came to a head when Saraki exposed Tinubu’s plans to succeed Buhari in 2023.
What’s more, the outcome of the recent by-election in Kwara State, which was won by APC has put Saraki under pressure who has also been forced to intensify his campaign to block the in roads being made by APC (under the supervision of Tinubu) in the state.
As it stands, they are both fired up for this presidential election knowing that their political dynasties depend so much on its outcome.
They are often referred to as field marshals of political parties and candidates during elections. With the local government system now an appendage of the state governors, they are now the closest link to the grassroots. As it stands, the APC has 24 governors as against PDP’s 11.
This bloc, easily regarded as the strongest political group in party politics, will determine the outcome of the polls. As ambassadors of the party in the states, their performance in office, their disposition towards the party and its candidate.
With the crisis of confidence that hit the APC before and after the party primaries, it is yet to see whether the party has fully addressed the issues. Same scenario played out in PDP shortly after the emergence of Peter Obi as running mate to Atiku. On the whole, the outcome of the election will be heavily impacted by the role of the governors.
Coalition of Parties
Although the APC and PDP are seen as the two major contenders for the seat on account of national spread, structure and resources, other parties often referred to as “smaller parties” have pitched tents with either of the two ruling parties.
So far, over 91 political parties have largely been split along lines of Coalition of Progressives Political (CPPP) which is working for the APC and the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) which has adopted the PDP presidential candidate. However what they might not make up for in resource and spread, they will do in trying to sway public opinion.
The Former Generals
They are regarded as the god fathers of this political dispensation. In this category are former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Gen Yakubu Gowon; Gen Ibrahim Babangida; Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar; Gen Theophilus Danjuma; Gen Aliyu Gusau.
Reverred as elder statesmen, while some have over time taken a more confrontational approach to matters of state, others have played the stabilising role.
Virtually all the major political actors in Nigeria today are products of their political family tree. In this dispensation however, the likes of Obasanjo, Babangida and Danjuma,
have expressed reservations against Buhari’s administration, despite the fact that he is their contemporary. Obasanjo who now has become leading figure criticising the Buhari government, now supports Atiku, his hitherto estranged vice president for the top job.
Gowon in his usual mein has preached peace and tolerance in the polity. He has been attending events hosted by the current administration. Abubakar, just like in 2015, leads the National Peace Committee (NPC) whose stabilising role has seen them impressing on candidates the need to ensure violence free elections which should extend to their followers.
However, that the impact of the former generals will not be felt on way or the other, is almost impossible as they built and sustained formidable structures that define times and seasons, politically.
The business community which comprises the corporate economic sector had in the past provided funds for candidates and parties ahead of polls. During previous elections, some top business leaders, under the aegis of Corporate Nigeria, would host fund raising events for either a party or candidate.
In this dispensation however, there is little or no mention of such fund raising events. However, the candidates of the leading parties have been wooing them over with juicy economic prospects.
As much as they claim not to have partisan political leanings, socio-cultural organisations like Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, have a potential of influencing the direction of votes in the election.
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