Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and former member of the House of Representatives has x-rayed this weekend’s presidential primary of the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and arrives at a shocking conclusion.
Honourable, your party, the APC, has just concluded its presidential primary. Who do you think the main opposition party, the PDP, will throw up to face President Muhammadu Buhari?
As a chieftain of the APC, my simple reply would be, ‘let the weakest aspirant emerge’…
No, Honourable, we want you to be as dispassionate as can be, or alternatively, analyse the forthcoming PDP primary from the prism of an editor, which you are.
Okay, I get your drift. But before I plunge into that, I earnestly hope you can come to terms with the brutal frankness of my assessment. First and foremost, in seeking to confront an incumbent, and possibly triumph, an opposition political party must, in the search for its standard bearer, go beyond the stereotype criteria of settling for the aspirant with the deepest pockets. Remember that in 2014, when the APC settled for General Buhari as its candidate, he was probably the least endowed, financially speaking. And this did not begin with President Buhari. Indeed, former Presidents Obasanjo, the late Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, did not emerge as candidates and ultimately as elected presidents on the strength of financial superiority over those who stood against them in party primaries.
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So, what would you recommend the PDP delegates look out for in casting their lot for a particular aspirant?
I was coming to that. As you must have observed, the PDP field is star-studded, with virtually all 13 aspirants having the pedigree of name recognition across the country. However, in a contest expected to throw up only one person, the delegates and party elders must evolve a set of criterion, with especially the general election in mind.
For me, I would compress my own benchmark to three simple, yet decisive, issues which are expected to dominate discourse in the electioneering towards 2019 – and of course, ultimately zero in on the aspirant with the most probable chance of winning. The first issue is what I refer to as a clean record of service. Out of the 13 aspirants of the PDP, how many of them possess an unblemished record of service, devoid of inquisition by the anti-graft agencies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? I may not be totally correct, but if my memory still serves me without default, I think it is only Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal that can easily pass this test. In fact, not only is the Sokoto State governor without a file in the offices of the ICPC, the EFCC or Code of Conduct Tribunal, he is also not known to have been issued a Police summons in his over 15 years of public service.
The second consideration, to my mind, even though closely related to the first, is the issue of immunity. Under the current inclement political climate, which we are experiencing, it would be tantamount to foolhardiness for the PDP to settle for a candidate who currently does not enjoy immunity. Why? Only few days ago, former military ruler, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, let it be known that it took the intervention of his National Peace Committee to forestall the impending arrest of then APC candidate, Buhari, by the Jonathan administration. Just like it took President Buhari’s personal intervention to stop the arraignment of the PDP candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, three days to the September 22, 2018 gubernatorial election in Osun State. Again, I ask: who among the PDP presidential hopefuls have immunity in the rup-up to the February 2019 polls? Just two aspirants, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State and Tambuwal of Sokoto.
Do we take it then that you’re rooting for Tambuwal as PDP candidate?
Not so fast. If I recall, you guys requested me to do an unbiased analysis of the PDP’s chances, viz-a-viz its plethora of presidential aspirants, and I’m not even half way through the assignment and you are already drawing conclusions. You see, like I said at the beginning, the shortest route out of the very tough spot you put me would simply have been to tag along with what would be in tandem with public expectation: zero in on a ‘big’ name, who will eventually lose the main election. But, which true champion wants to be so called, without having to go through the rigours of great challenge? It’s like a game of football, if two strong teams engage, the encounter would surely be interesting. But if on the other hand, you have one endowed team and the other side is led by a weakling, I bet not many spectators will be interested in the encounter and its outcome.
Yet, an election is much more important than a football game of 90 minutes. In fact, the ability to freely choose is at the core of every democratic experience. And the more formidable the contending forces are, the easier it would be for the electorate.
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Having said this, let me come to my third, and probably last, major criteria. As virtually all of us know, one of the defining concepts of the forthcoming general elections is the “Not Too Young to Run” battle cry of the Nigerian youth. Although already signed into law by President Buhari, the indices do not quite favour a newbreed youth to take over the country’s presidency just yet. This could be attributed to paucity of funds, inexperience and lack of adequate time for networking on the part of the youth.
However, since incorporating youths’ participation has become acceptable, the PDP can only do itself good by buying into this fresh realism.
Again, I ask, who among the aspirants best represents this youth aspiration? At 52, and the youngest among his co-aspirants, Governor Tambuwal aptly fits the bill.
Besides your stated criterion, what other reasons would you proffer for the choice of Governor Tambuwal?
Oh, so much more. Remember that the young man we’re talking about was at some point the No. 4 man in Nigeria. A role he played for four years, and with candour and nationalistic fervour. Indeed, some of his major interventions in the polity at the time remain a novelty. This includes the oil subsidy probe, convening the House of Representatives to a special session on a Sunday, in order to attend to a then burning national issue, and of course, the most elaborate constitution amendment process in the country’s history, wherein public hearings were simultaneously held in the 360 federal constituencies of the country.