Following the conclusion of presidential primaries, the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), have shifted their attention to plotting to gain grounds across the six geo-political zones. Correspondent ADAMU SULEIMAN gives an overview of the battle for supremacy between the two parties.
After tough but epoch-making primaries that set a new record, the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) are among the 13 presidential candidates that have emerged to contest for the much-coveted presidential seat. Former APC National Leader and former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Jagaban Borgu) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Wazirin Adamawa) have emerged as the flag bearers of the APC and the PDP respectively. The two gladiators who share some political similarities are the candidates to watch across the six geo-political zones.
Besides, coming out from the challenge of the first hurdle, Abubakar with 371 votes and his arc opponent, Asiwaju Tinubu scoring 1,271 votes or more than half of the votes of the total delegates, have both commenced the process of political graph plotting to gain grounds across the zones. Accordingly, the permutations have always dwelled more largely on the favourite, most populous and politically influential zones of the Northwest and Southwest.
Nevertheless, the candidates of other political platforms are equally pushing not to leave anything to chance for their share of the votes from electorates. The Northwest is a strong determinant for any presidential candidate’s seeking a win. Due to its population, the number of eligible voters and states, the region commands some political influence occasioned by the weight of its players.
In his home region of the Southwest, the APC presidential candidate remains highly influential politically. This is particularly given the fact that five of the six states are controlled by his party. They are Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states. In previous elections, the region has consistently given bloc votes to the ruling party at the centre. Politically, the Southwest has a tradition of overwhelming followership for its favourite leaders who are believed to be good mobilisers at any given political dispensation. Observers see this as instrumental to the party’s chances to secure bloc votes in the region.
Asiwaju Tinubu is the arrowhead and mover of the political direction of the zone. He has no doubt demonstrated this same feat over the years. With his spirit of resilience, Tinubu is still seen as a factor to rally around to win elections in the zone. His capacity, it is said, has always influenced the victory of polls in the zone. “This political legend has maintained the tempo of his politics of hope, prosperity and good governance for a better Nigeria,” one of his admirers said.
Besides, Asiwaju’s political foresight and strength of purpose have endeared him to most of the north and northern electorates. The recently concluded APC presidential primary has further deepened the APC National Leader’s political influence.
Given what played out in both the PDP and the APC presidential primaries, the demonstration of democratic tenets was evident, judging by the processes, especially in the APC camp. Although, the bloc formed by APC northern governors prevailing on the party to embrace shifting its ticket to the South against the consensus earlier rooted by a section of its players, helped to strengthen the party’s unity in style hence, smoothening the track for the emergence of Tinubu who before the exercise, was braced by formidable forces from the region to clinch the party’s ticket.
On the other side of the divide, the opposition PDP would certainly find it difficult to canvass for votes in the entire southern region because the people are not happy with the way Atiku usurped the party’s ticket at the expense of the south, which was favoured to produce the presidential candidate, going by the subsisting power rotation agreement between the two parts of the country. Ironically, the opposition party used to dominate in the region’s past elections.
Arguably, Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike was shocked when his hopes of securing the party’s ticket fizzled out, following the decision of Governor Tambuwal to step down for Atiku at the last minute during the party’s presidential primary. To date, Wike is yet to identify with the PDP’s aspiration to win next year’s presidential election.
The ruling APC at the centre, according to observers, would bank on this to woo voters in the Southeast and the South-south. States like Imo, Ebonyi and Cross River states are in its control and this would aid Tinubu’s victory, at least to acquire the mandatory 25 per cent share of the votes in two-thirds of the federation.
Both Atiku and Tinubu would not be the favourites of the voters in the two regions. Bu,t the two presidential candidates, having come this far, would have to take advantage of their political strengths and capacity to ensure their victory, with a focus on what they have to offer Nigerians.
Viewed from the perspective of party strength, players and popularity, the former vice president will have a lot to do to reposition his strength of acceptability and popularity with the emergence of the newly-formed New Nigerian Peoples’ Party (NNPP) led by former Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; the party has succeeded in depleting the numerical size of PDP followership and by extension Atiku’s capacity in the region.
Observers believe the PDP candidate may be faced with a weak support base, as the party only has Sokoto State in its control in the region, following Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s gesture in stepping down for him at the just concluded presidential party primary. But, the Tambuwal factor in the region, they added, may not carry much weight to clinch the presidency for the PDP candidate next year. Sources say for some obvious reasons the Sokoto governor does not have much influence within his domain to carry party members along. They say he has lost the confidence and loyalty of some party followers and supporters for allegedly refusing to anoint his deputy, Mannir Dan Iya to succeed him; a decision that may also spell doom for the party and its presidential candidate in the state amid Tambuwal’s push to contest the Sokoto South senatorial seat.
Although he has the backing of strong and ardent party loyalists in the region who are believed to be politically agile movers and shakers that can assist in making some difference in Atiku’s presidential race. They are former Vice President Namadi Sambo, former Governors Ahmed Makarfi, Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shema, Mukhtar Ramadan Yero, Attahiru Bafarawa, Isah Ashiru Kudan, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and Adamu Aliero who has just defected to the PDP. They are believed to have the capacity to push for Atiku’s victory. The defection of Aliero and his supporters to the PDP appears to have increased Atiku’s hope of garnering enough votes in the region.
In the Northeast, Atiku’s PDP is likely to share the votes in the region with the ruling party at the centre. The six states of the Northeast are equally shared by the two major political parties, the PDP and the APC. The APC controls Gombe, Borno and Yobe states, while the PDP is at the helm of affairs in Taraba, Bauchi and Adamawa states.
Sources in Adamawa, Atiku’s home state, said some members of his party have secretly begun to pitch their tents with his APC counterpart, Tinubu. One of such sources said: “We know who Atiku is and some of us are not favourably disposed to giving him our votes. We prefer BAT because we believe he is people-oriented and can give Nigerians what they want.”
However, the political battle in Adamawa ahead of next year’s general elections has opened a new chapter of the contest between the two major parties, as the APC is trying to do everything possible to wrestle power from the ruling PDP. This might affect the party’s chances in the presidential election, as it would be standing against a double-barrel heat with Governor Umar Fintiri struggling to survive for a second term of four years.
Five of the six states in the region, including Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau and Niger are controlled by the APC. It is only Benue State that is governed by the PDP. With this state of affairs, the PDP presidential flag bearer is likely to have a herculean task trying to win the support of voters in the region. Observers say it is going to be a rough ride for the Adamawa-born politician. His chances of garnering votes in the North-Central would depend on the likes of former Senate Presidents Abubakar Bukola Saraki and David Bonaventure Mark, as well Governor Samuel Ortom, and former Governors Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Idris Wada, Ibrahim Idris and other stalwarts that may rally support for him towards the election.