The various political parties in Nigeria are intensifying preparations for the 2023 general elections. While aspirants are deepening consultations and lobby for party tickets, the two dominant parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – are preoccupied in their partisan boardroom evaluating the consequences of suffering defeat in the elections, particularly, the 2023 presidential poll.
The ruling APC is reorganizing to fight assiduously to avoid ephemeral control of the federal government after eight years at the end of the second tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. Though the ruling APC has the federal might at its behest, the party leaders are restless over the fighting spirit of the PDP for a return to power in 2023.
A defeat of the APC in 2023 may relegate the ruling party into political obscurity, or extinction of party solidarity.
The PDP, after the 2019 general elections, has become conscious that 2023 presents a second chance to return to power. PDP leaders are also considering the risk of descending to the periphery of Nigeria’s political landscape after 2023. No party undermines the temptation for irrational defection by gullible politicians to the party in government, even with executive powers of a governor, beside others.
The PDP National Reconciliation Committee Chairman, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former President of the Senate, had repeatedly told PDP leaders and other stakeholders that they have to be united to fight strongly to win back power in 2023. Saraki encouraged PDP stakeholders that fighting the party in power is not an easy task, noting that fighting a party government comes with counter attacks. He reiterated that they have to be courageous to navigate the storm to return to power, adding that there are clear indications that Nigerians are fed up with the APC government.
The two hegemonic parties, the APC and PDP, in their new power templates, zoned the national chairman to the North, a reversal of the National Working Committee, NWC, structure since 2015. By the convention of power distribution in the dominant parties, zoning the national chairman to the North presupposes the zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket to the South.
The Paradox in APC
The ruling APC is currently contending with overt internal conflicts in various states. Secondly, APC leaders are still facing uncertainty over President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on the party’s 2023 presidential ticket. While President Buhari has not anointed a successor, there are innuendos within the ruling APC that the President may be opposed to a particular presidential aspirant in the party. In the philosophy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ‘the President does not know who will succeed him but knows who will not succeed him’.
While preparing for the national convention in February 2022, the APC leadership, currently coordinated by the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, under the chairmanship of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, is grappling with resolution of cornucopia of conflicts that emanated from the ward, local and state congresses. Parallel congresses were held in about 23 states, leading to emergence of duplicated state executives.
In most states, APC stakeholders are fighting with federal might against each other. In APC-controlled states, the conflict is either between the governor and a minister, senator, special adviser, or assistant to the president. In other instances, it is a minister versus a senator.
Hot Spots of Conflicts in APC
The APC Reconciliation Committee, composed of nine members led by Senator Adamu Abdullahi has the burden of resolving conflicts in several states before the party’s national convention in February 2022.
In Lagos State, the home of the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the status quo is being challenged by Lagos4Lagos/Oki coalition led by Olajide Adediran, the Conscience group led by Moshood Salvador, a former PDP State Chairman; the Ambode Campaign Organization, AMCON, loyalists of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, etc.
Senator Ibikunle Amosun is having a strong battle with Governor Dapo Abiodun over the control of Ogun State APC. Governor Dapo Abiodun is perceived to have a strong relationship with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Former Governor Segun Osoba compounds the APC crisis in Ogun, constituting a third force in the conflicts.
Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is slugging it out with the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, in Osun State. Many believe the governor is drawing political current from Asiwaju Tinubu in the conflict with the Interior Minister.
Ekiti State APC is also boiling; a faction loyal to Tinubu had been at loggerhead with the substantive party led by Governor Kayode Fayemi.
The APC in Akwa Ibom State splits between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang; and the National Secretary of APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, John James Akpanudoedehe. The three factions held parallel congresses and elected three sets of State Executive members.
While still involved in the internal rivalries in Akwa Ibom State, Akpanudoedehe proceeded to Abuja to declare that the APC national leadership does not accept parallel congresses. He also threatened sanctions.
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, not only led his faction to conduct parallel congresses in contention with the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Minister also set up APC Executive in Delta State after Omo-Agege had inaugurated APC leaders that emerged from his faction’s congress.
Former Senator Kabiru Marafa is having a running battle with Governor Bello Matawalle in Zamfara State over the control of APC. Marafa had in February made an agreement of reconciliation with former Governor Abdulaziz Yari, uniting against Governor Matawalle who defected from the PDP.
Other APC crisis zones include Kwara, Imo, Enugu, Abia, Rivers states, etc.
Delegates to state congresses and the national convention are usually selected from the structures emerging from congresses to nominate candidates for elections. Only direct primaries inputted into the Amended Electoral Act sent to the President for assent, can alter the delegate system.
The PDP Dilemma
The PDP had similar crisis situations before the national convention where NWC members were elected. But the Reconciliation Committee led by Saraki was able to resolve the conflicts, leading to a peaceful and successful national convention in Abuja.
However, the PDP has a crucial issue to resolve before 2022 to ensure the cohesion of the party into 2023 – the agitation for power shift to the South – zoning controversy. Though, similar political climate exists in the APC, zoning of the president is a luxury the PDP cannot endorse at this time.
In the 16 years of the PDP control of power, the South had 13 years under two Presidents, while the North had three years under one President, who did not complete one tenure. The PDP is in a dilemma of balancing the deficit years to promote equity and justice and minimize internal crisis.
Carrying out the mandate of reconciliation, Saraki had used the assignment to strengthen his network and influence in the PDP for his 2023 presidential ambition.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has very high political capital and leadership premium the PDP can ignore at a high risk.
While zoning the president to the South could be convenient for APC, northern APC leaders have been watchful of the PDP moves.
Apparently, both the APC and PDP are at crossroads of power shift in 2023. Any miscalculation in the APC may trigger devastating responses in the party, which may tempt one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, to pull out of the alliance and seek an emergency coalition for the 2023 elections.