Forget that the polls, going by the timetable set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), are due in late February and early March 2019; that’s 18 months away. Way, way too far, some would say.
But not so in politics! In practical sense, politicians, especially those out of power currently, are already on their marks, set and rearing to go, given the uptick in political activities, many underground though, across the country.
Didn’t we watch the “triumphal entry” of Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose into the mini-convention grounds of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Abuja, the other day?
Without the INEC go-ahead order, Fayose has informally opened the campaigns for 2019, with a promise to making his presidential ambition formal on October 1: barely three weeks from this week.
Why do you think the apparatchiks in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were anxious to have President Muhammadu Buhari back home sooner than he did on August 19, even when critics were doubting his physical wellness?
And why the sudden enthusiasm in the PDP to literally push into the field former President Goodluck Jonathan, for image laundering for a party that the Supreme Court judgment in July mercifully abridged its sounded death knell?
It’s about the control of the soul of the nation in 2019, which is going to be a battle royale, the likes that had never been witnessed in the country.
For all intents and purposes, Buhari, like the former Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “will be the issue” at the elections. For members of both parties, Buhari will be the “anyanya,” the “American wonder” – for good or for ill.
To members of the APC, the president, whether he’s re-contesting or not, will be their rallying call, their lightning rod to strike at the opposition, by invoking his persona during the campaigns.
As for the PDP members, Buhari will be their whipping boy, whom they will wrap round all the perceived failures of the APC government during its four-year tenure ending on May 29, 2019.
Whatever critics may say, Buhari is viewed today, politically, in the mode of our founding fathers – President Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Awolowo – all of whom you could swear by their names; and to a certain degree Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola – the first Nigerian to win a pan-Nigeria landslide (moonslide) – had he been sworn-in in the Military ordered, and annulled June 12, 1993 presidential poll. President Buhari has earned such veneration in the polity today.
Many politicians of old, and of today rode to political prominence on the back of the popularity of those founding fathers; exactly the same way many current politicians, especially in the North, got elected in the 2015 general elections on the coattail of Buhari’s acclaim.
Fortunately (for APC members) and unfortunately (for PDP members), both parties have zoned the presidential position to the North, which is likely to work to the advantage of the former.
Rightly or wrongly, President Buhari is alleged to be working for the interest of the North, to the detriment of other sections of the country. Critics argue that in just over two years of his administration, the president has undertaken alleged lopsided appointments of more northerners into positions of authority.
They also cite the siting of projects and/or rehabilitation of ailing infrastructure strewn all over the place. To them, more new projects are taken to the North, and more extensive repairs or reconstruction of public utilities carried out in the same region. The government has repeatedly debunked these allegations.
Then, throw into the mix the issues of the fight against Boko Haram and the anti-corruption campaign. These are matters, the advantages of which the government will distill to the people of the North during the electioneering. In actuality, reports indicate that sensitisation has started in that direction.
Wait a minute! During the run-up to the 2015 elections, didn’t the PDP describe the APC as a “Janjaweed” party – for the simple reason it was fielding a Northern Muslim, and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in particular, whom they alleged was both a sympathiser and sponsor of the deadly insurgent Boko Haram, without any shred of evidence?
What has changed in the polity, between 2014/2015 and 2017-2019, for the PDP to decide to sponsor a northerner, and most likely a Muslim for the 2019 presidency?
Simply politics (politrick): The party’s realisation, following an “autopsy report” of the failure at the 2015 polls – that it made a tactical and strategic error in fielding Dr. Jonathan (a Southern Christian) as its presidential candidate!
Still, the PDP and its henchmen and women have a lot of explaining to do for all the maligning, dangerous innuendoes and actual accusations of complicity of the APC and its candidate in the untoward happenings in the the North – then (and now). They were majorly what caused the PDP the elections in 2015.
Will the hen come home to roost? Definitely! The 2019 elections, notably the presidential, would most likely be a repeat of 2015 – the same issues – despite the hardship in the land, occasioned by the economic recession.
Besides the personality of the presidential candidates, and their political parties, a major issue will be “corruption” and its eradication – as it was in the campaigning in 2015. But this time, it will be all-encompassing: A hurricane!
So, for those angling to be president in 2019, take this prediction to the bank: Barring any political earthquake, the APC will retain its stronghold in the North, and then vie to gain more foothold in the South, than it did the last time. And the polls would be over!
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.