By Akanimo Sampson
Backstage permutations for the 2023 presidential race in Nigeria has started with some surprising re-alignment across the two leading political parties in the country- the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Except the opposition PDP re-jigs itself for the battle ahead, the odd does not seem to favour it at the moment. Like it was in the Jos Township Stadium in 1993 during the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) National Convention, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar might again find the former SDP National Chairman, Babagana Kingibe, a tough nut to crack in the race for Aso Rock in 2023.
Already, the battle for the soul of the PDP has began with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, launching a seeming political onslaught against the party’s 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku.
While Tambuwal/Wike joint ticket is being projected at the moment, the Buhari Power Mafia, better known as the Cabal, is also scheming for a joint presidential ticket of Kingibe and Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi on the APC platform.
Surprisingly, PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, a Rivers man like Wike and Amaechi, who during the Peter Odili years (1999-2007) was known as the ‘’Total Chair’’ of the party, is alleged to have been conscripted into the Kingibe/Amaechi plot. With the ongoing undercurrent in the main opposition party, the prospects of Secondus retaining his national chairmanship position are not appearing very bright. He does not seem to be sailing on the same boat with his political benefactor, Governor Wike.
Interestingly, Kingibe of the Nigeria Say Baba fame is a career diplomat who has been in politics since the Second Republic. He almost consigned MKO Abiola into the backyard of history in Jos, the Plateau State capital, if the late political tactician, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) did not intervene in favour of Abiola. Yar’Adua, a retired Army Major General served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s 1976 – 1979 regime.
When the Maradonic Ibrahim Babangida started his military regime’s political transition programme in 1987 with the establishment of a Political Bureau, and a Constituent Assembly inaugurated to deliberate on a proposed draft constitution, though Yar’Adua was not a member of the assembly because a law had proscribed certain old breed politicians from political activities, his associates represented his political leanings at the forum and was active in the formation of political associations during the transitional period.
Yar’Adua and his group formed the People’s Front of Nigeria. Members included Kingibe, Atiku, Bola Tinubu, Magaji Abdullahi, Ango Abdullahi, Ahmadu Rufa’i, Yahaya Kwande, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Wada Abubakar, Babalola Borishade, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Sunday Afolabi, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, M.S.Buhari, Gbazueagu N.Gbazueagu, Tony Anenih, Disu Oladipo, Haliru Kafur, Abubakar Koko, Sergeant Awuse, Titi Ajanaku, and Farouk Abdulazeez.
The organization later merged with other groups to form the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria. Though People’s Front and PSP, became the two dominant factions within SDP, the Yar’Adua group was very organised and able to win the majority of the elective posts within the SDP. During the Governorship and House of Assembly elections, SDP had a slight numerical edge over the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC).
In January 1992, Yar’Adua spent a short stint in detention, jailed for contravening a law banning certain persons from active politics. The law was, however, repealed and Yar’Adua subsequently announced his presidential ambition. His political structure covered the country because he had a national campaign directorate, and each state had its own campaign coordinator and ward mobilisers. Members of his campaign group included former PDP stalwart, the late Anthony Anenih, former Vice President Atiku, former minister Dapo Sarumi, Tinubu, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila and Sunday Afolabi. Yar’Adua was leading the SDP presidential field before results were annulled. A new election was later conducted on June 12, 1993 which was won by Abiola. After the June 12 elections were annulled, the Yar’Adua faction negotiated an arrangement for the inauguration of an interim government. In November 1993, the interim government of Ernest Shonekan was booted out and Sani Abacha became the new military dictator.
In 1994, Yar’Adua won a seat representing Katsina to a new National Constitutional Conference. He was an outspoken delegate and in early 1994 organised a political conference at the Nigerian Union of Journalist office in Lagos that earned the attention of the military leadership who detained him for four days. Yar’Adua, Obasanjo, Lawan Gwadabe and others were arrested in March 1995 on allegations of plotting a coup to overthrow the Abacha regime. He was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995, after calling on the Nigerian military government of Abacha and his Provisional Ruling Council to reestablish civilian rule. The sentence was commuted to life in prison but died in captivity on December 8, 1997.
Now, Kingibe, who was Abiola’s running mate is returning to the political turf, and is capable of causing a major upset to the PDP on the platform of the APC. He hails from Borno State that is being bled by Boko Haram, and a dependable ally of the Buhari Mafia in the Presidency. When Abiola was last year given a posthumous award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) Kingibe was awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
Kingibe is being favoured by the mafia that considers him a better replacement to Buhari in 2023 because of his perceived credential and a true loyalist of the President. Unarguably, the North East has remain Buhari’s stronghold in the entire Northern Nigeria.
The PDP through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, has been busy lashing out at Buhari and the APC, with the hope that they will soon upturn the status quo. In one of their recent acidic attacks, PDP said Buhari’s Independence Day speech was completely unpresidential, lacking in patriotic stance and replete with manifest inconsistencies, contradictions, paradoxes and false performance claims, which further confirm that our dear fatherland is in wrong hands.
“President Buhari, in his recorded address, failed to forcefully address the key issues of freedom, social justice, constitutional order, separation of powers, rule of law, human rights, credible elections, national cohesion, accountability and transparency in government; the very fundamentals of an independent state, because his administration had violated them all’’, the opposition party noted.
The party regretted that President Buhari had no forceful reassurances on the challenge of escalated insecurity under his watch; he had no clear-cut and operable blueprint to revamp our economy, which his administration wrecked in a period of four years, resulting in so much hardship and despondency that Nigerians now resort to suicide and slavery abroad as options.
According to PDP, “our party notes that this address further exposes that the Buhari Presidency is not interested in nation building; that it is completely disconnected from the people and remains insensitive to the plights of Nigerians,’’ arguing, “if anything, Mr. President only succeeded in further demonstrating that his administration is, indeed, in no position to deliver a credible, acceptable and satisfactory independence address.
“This is so because under the Buhari Presidency, our nation has experienced the worst form of division, deprivation, human right abuse, constitutional violations, disregard to rule of law, electoral malpractices, disobedience to court order, disrespect for separation of powers and curtailing of press freedom.’’
Continuing, the party lamented that due to the incompetence and legitimacy challenges confronting the Buhari Presidency, “our nation is losing her voice and due regard in the international arena; as the administration has remained lacking in the required capacity and boldness to forcefully engage other world leaders on critical issues.
“The dearth in foreign direct investment and the inhuman treatments being meted out on our citizens in countries where we were once held in very high esteem, are some of the injuries our nation is suffering under the Buhari administration. It is quite depressing that while other leaders motivate their citizens on a day like this, President Buhari is presenting uninspiring claims, propaganda and empty promises.
As usual, the PDP has urged Nigerians not to despair but keep hope alive as “we collectively await the Supreme Court to deliver justice and retrieve our stolen Presidential mandate, so that the nation will have a leadership that it truly deserves at this point in our national history.’’
Perhaps, the PDP may be pretending that it is not aware Tambuwal and Wike are planning to emerge as the party’s presidential candidate and running mate respectively in 2023. To this end, their strategists may be scheming to ensure that Atiku does not win at the Supreme Court. There are guarded whispers that these two governors are seeking to edge out Atiku as the de facto leader of the party on account of his presidential candidacy.
Wike backed Tambuwal’s ambition in 2019 to emerge the PDP presidential candidate which he eventually lost to Atiku at the primaries. But Wike and Tambuwal remained close. In a seeming political u-turn, Wike congratulated Buhari after Atiku lost at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) in a move meant to spite the party over its failure to yield to his candidate for the House Minority Leader, Kingsley Chinda. Ndudi Elumelu had emerged minority leader against the party’s directive to PDP members to vote for Chinda.
Apparently miffed by the situation, the combative Wike had described a committee setup by the PDP BoT, comprising three former Senate presidents, to investigate the crisis arising from the House minority leadership tussle as corrupt. To calm the seeming highly inflammable Wike from annihilating the party, Tambuwal led five other PDP governors including Adamawa State Governor, Umaru Fintiri; Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; and Zamfara State Governor, Mohammed Matawalle, to Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, to appease the Ikwerre political war lord.
The underbelly of the 2023 battle in the PDP appears to be a bit complex. Beyond the surface appearance of their Port Harcourt outing, Tambuwal and Wike are in the main, leading some PDP leaders to work against Atiku’s Presidency. Their fear is that an Atiku’s presidency will retire them politically and kill their presidential ambitions. Tambuwal is bracing to run for the 2023 Presidential poll.
Insiders say the Total Chair, Secondus has fallen out with Wike, the PDP political hurricane, because of his perceived loyalty to Atiku and others who returned back to the party. Wike feel Secondus has not shown enough loyalty after he backed and bankrolled his emergence as chairman of the party. The governor has allegedly stopped Secondus’ wife contract in Rivers and also denied Secondus’ son a contract. The Tambuwal/Wike bloc aside, there is also this talk that former Kano and Gombe Governors- Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Dankwambo- are equally cooking to upstage Atiku ahead of 2023. Kwankwanso and Dankwambo were not able to deliver their states to Atiku.
For now, while no one can certainly predict what will happen in 2023 all because politics is not a game of impossibility, the political gladiators across the parties are mainly driven by selfish interest. From what has so far filtered into the open, none of the blocs is motivated by the desire of making poverty history or of how to resolve the alarming problem of youth unemployment for instance. However, it is still a dizzy game!