Many Captains, One Ship, May Day!

By Emmanuel Ugoji

One of the observations made when the pressure group, Third Force or Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) was formed early in 2018 was that its membership was star-studded. Star-studded in the sense that most of them were ‘very brilliant’ people who have mindset that can hardly be compromised.

Each member has a personal conviction about Nigeria, and how best the country should be governed. While some of them have cognate experience in public service and governance, others have little or no experience in both governance and public service. So it was an admixture of theory and practice and since they were all brilliant people, it would be difficult to harmonize ideas and thoughts.

In fact a popular joke made about the group is that they will keep themselves busy in their meeting rooms arguing and trying to outwit each other with ideas and arguments on the best governance model for Nigeria that they will not know when the 2019 elections would have been conducted and done with.

Based on the simple analogy, pundits predicted that the group will not stand the test of time and that they will disperse the same way they gathered.

By the way, NIM membership on inception included former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Pat Utomi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Olisa Agbakoba, former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo,  former Gov. of Cross River state Donald Duke, politician and businessman, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa.

Just as it was predicted six months down the line the group is gasping for breath and is almost disappearing from Nigeria’s political scene. This is happening when the 2019 Presidential election for which it was formed in order to wrestle power from the APC is a few months away. At the last count, the group has made little or no impact in the nation’s polity.

Presently, Obasanjo cannot be said to be part of NIM since he now owns the Coalition of Nigerian Movement (CNM) and African Democratic Congress. The coalition has further been split with the emergence of a group that announced itself as New African Democratic Congress (N-ADC). The lesson from the NIM experience is that it is difficult to manage a group where every member is a captain and this is why the PDP should be very cautious with the gale of defections that is happening.

A cursory look at the number and character of PDP members who are aspiring to be Nigeria’s President in 2019 shows that if care is not taken, the party will be a victim of intrigues where the candidate who eventually emerges will not be popular enough to defeat the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari.

By allowing the 12 presidential aspirants to be crisscrossing the entire country consulting and seeking the support of delegates who will elect the party’s standard-bearer instead of dialoguing with some of them to drop their ambition and throw their weight behind a more popular aspirant, PDP might have an uphill task presenting a candidate that will win the 2019 presidential election. APC has long scaled this hurdle by making the incumbent President its standard-bearer and has even moved ahead to hold rallies to drum up support for him.

The way PDP Presidential aspirants are moving around talking down on each other and creating bad blood among delegates and the electorate shows high levels of desperation that requires the party’s intervention aimed at calling them to order. Already stones have been thrown at some of them who have gone for consultations in some states.

It was however heart-warming to read that PDP is working out a Plan B for aspirants who would lose at the party primaries so that they will have a fall back. However, since the pronouncement was made, there is no clear indication that the party is doing the necessary follow-up.

On the other hand, there is an indication that the party would also contend with a small group in the PDP who have ganged up to push for a candidate to win the Presidential primaries based on selfish reasons. There is the insinuation that if such candidate emerges and eventually wins the presidential election, he will be more easily amenable to manipulation aimed at doing the political bidding of his sponsors while in office. This group is afraid of a strong minded candidate who will not fall for their antics and intrigues. Watchers have identified two serving governors and a former lawmaker as the ring leaders of the group. PDP should be wary of this clique in the best interest of the party and the nation.

A critical look at the candidates shows that many of them enjoy a cult-like followership in certain parts of the country as against overall national appeal and spread which is required of a Presidential candidate who is worth winning in a free and fair manner.

There is the recent story of where a candidate visited one of the states in the South East and some of welcome parties brandished banners of another presidential aspirant who they thought was in town to canvass for support. This is an indication that the aspirant is not known to citizens of that state, while at the same time it is a testimony that another candidate is already popular with the people.

Permutations by officials of PDP and the presidential aspirants follow an erroneous impression that the 2019 Presidential election is a fait accompli in  that Nigerians are tired of the APC government and therefore, are just waiting for any PDP candidate to become the next president. This is outright fallacy because APC have given indications that if PDP does not present a formidable candidate they would be running the risk of remaining in opposition for a longer time.

Again, the outcome of governorship election in Ekiti State has proved that there are other ways of winning elections apart from just voting and counting votes. Vote buying is now reality meaning that it is not the popularity or acceptance of a candidate alone that guarantees success at the polls. With hunger in the land and as long as poverty continues to hold sway, perceived fortunes on an election day can change within minutes or hours. By implication, the chances of PDP winning the 2019 Presidential election will be enhanced when its candidate enjoys nationwide and massive acceptance that guarantees the buy-in and public ownership of the project. The difference in this case is that people will vote and defend their votes as well as resist any type of rigging and manipulation of figures. A lot of voter confidence on a candidate is required for such feat to be achieved. This was exemplified in Anambra during their governorship election this year.

To present a credible candidate, analysts observed that PDP has to field a candidate who has the blend of a successful businessman/woman and political sagacity. The justification for this position stems from the fact that growing the nation’s economy remains a major challenge. A good politician who has a knack for investment and who has distinguished himself or herself in growing businesses is likely to succeed in pulling Nigeria out of its economic woes than a politician who is not gifted or does not have cognate experience in the corporate world or business. Doing business is about creating jobs and making profit. Nigeria is in dire need of both and this happens to be the familiar turf of a successful business person.

Similarly, a politician who understands the world economy, the intrigues involved and how the players manipulate variables and issues will be in a better position to quickly understand the trends and where Nigeria will have a comparative advantage. Those who belong to this school of thought also believe that a business/politically savvy President would function better if he has a Vice President, a thorough bred politician who would bring other perspectives to balance out in decision making process.

From Independence, Nigeria has had Presidents who are and were ‘professional’ politicians, military men, retired military men, young persons, old persons who did not have the blend. Chief Moshood Abiola who fitted into the picture was stopped from being Nigeria’s president following the annulment of the June 12 presidential election.

Apart from the blend, PDP should also consider the North East agitation for a shot at the presidency. Incidentally, the party has aspirants from that part of the country who are already or fast becoming household names. They are more likely to gain mass appeal rather than aspirants whose support base hinges on sectional and religious inclinations and who hail from areas that have produced presidents in the past.

The earlier PDP starts dialoguing with aspirants with the aim of short-listing names, narrowing down to a fewer candidates who will participate in the primaries the better for the party. If for no other reason, funds being spent in canvassing for the support of delegates across the country can be pulled together to support the party’s standard-bearer in the 2019 Presidential election.

With the way activities of the aspirants look and by the way they seem to be sticking to their guts, APC is smiling and waiting for PDP to make the wrong move by presenting the kind of candidate which the party says “it can easily swallow”.

It is like the ball is in the court of the PDP. How it handles it will determine the outcome of the 2019 presidential election. Already there are some PDP presidential aspirants that are giving APC sleepless nights and there are those that are not. The party is only watching and praying for PDP to fumble so that it will beat it at the 2019 presidential poll.

The bottom line is that if PDP continues to present itself as a ship with many captains on board it will be shocked at what Nigerians will do with their presidential candidate come 2019 when the general elections will hold.

  • Ugoji, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Enugu

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