By Fred Itua, Abuja
In another three weeks, Nigerians will return to the polls to elect President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. Unlike previous presidential elections where a winner could be predicted, the dynamics appear to be different.
Again, the repeated two-horse race which almost became a norm since 1999, has been challenged with the entrance of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). His surging popularity has changed the permutations.
Amidst the forgoing, the fortunes of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), appear to have nosedived, since the party flagged off its campaigns last year. APC’s misfortunes in the North are a sharp contrast to the massive support it got in 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari was the candidate of the party.
Like a thunderbolt, the party’s popularity surged in the region in 2015. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which until 2015, was the dominant political party in the North, suffered a humiliating defeat.
But for the first time in 20 years, Buhari will not be on the ballot. The glaring reality has thrown up a major concern for leaders of the APC in the North. The APC-led Federal Government’s perceived abysmal performance is another concern for its leaders in the region. The party faces a herculean task in the North and an uprising from the youths who heralded Buhari’s victory eight years ago.
Beyond the uprisings and the outright denial, there appears to be another covert onslaught against the APC and the presidential candidate of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the political elite. Governors, members of President Buhari’s cabinet, members of the National Assembly, traditional rulers and other critical stakeholders, Daily Sun has gathered, are unwilling to support the presidential candidate of the party.
While Obi of LP has locked down the South East, South South and key states in other states, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP is believed to be in control of the humongous voting population in the North and in some Southern States.
For pundits, Tinubu’s many gaffes and the internal crisis rocking the party, paint a gloomy picture of a house divided against itself and his slim chances of getting elected later in the month.
The absence of key Northern political figures beside some outgoing governors, further gives credence to claims that APC’s outing maybe abysmal.
Like the PDP before the 2015 general elections, the many troubles of the APC have reached a new height. On Monday, some angry youths in Kano State, hauled stones at the advance convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during an official visit to the state.
Security had been beefed up across the metropolis, as the President visited the state to inaugurate eight development projects.
The President arrived at the Aminu Kano International airport in the morning and was conveyed by helicopter to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Aminu Bayero.
Despite the heavy security presence, angry youths holding stones of various sizes and wielding sticks reportedly attacked Buhari’s convoy and helicopter as it hovered above them.
Videos circulated on social media showed the moment the irate youths pelted stones at the helicopter believed to be conveying the President.
One of the videos showed residents angrily struggling with some unidentified security agents while a convoy made its way through their midst.
Another video showed a road littered with stones while teargas canisters were being fired to disperse the angry mob.
Firing the first salvo, following the alleged attack on Buhari in Kano, the PDP descended on Tinubu and accused him of displaying open aversion against President Buhari.
“It should be noted that the APC Presidential Candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr. President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world, that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.
“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage,” a statement made available to newsmen by the PDP read.
Speaking through his Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, Tinubu described the alleged attack on Buhari as ‘fake news’ from the PDP.
He said the attack on Buhari must have happened only in the mind of PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba.
Tinubu said the attack was the imagination in the “evil mind” of PDP’s spokesperson.
A statement by Onanuga read partly: “We are not surprised to read of the imaginary attack on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria being peddled by the PDP since the party has nothing tangible to tell Nigerians from its crumbling presidential campaign.”
APC, in his reaction through its spokesman, Felix Morka, asked Nigerians to ignore the claim by the PDP that a Kano mob stoned the helicopter of President Buhari.
Morka said the PDP would go down in the political history of the country as a party of “unmitigated infamy for issuing a confessional statement of its plan to commit treasonable felony” with the alleged attack on President Buhari.
Morka wrote: “2023 will go down in our country’s political history as the year of unmitigated infamy for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). No one would have thought the PDP capable of outdoing its own record of reckless, mindless and despicable undertakings in and out of governance.
“The PDP has tossed every rule of law, ethical standards, morality, decency, civility, decorum in the thrash bin in its deviant obsession for power. Just when you think degenerate PDP has reached the abyss of low, they burrow even deeper into crevices of shame.
“A statement issued by the PDP on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to Kano is nothing short of a confessional statement of conspiracy to commit treasonable felony. By actively instigating and sponsoring fringe violent anti-social conduct by paid urchins during presidential engagements in Kano, the PDP has crossed the line of fair campaign engagement into grievous culpable criminality. This is unacceptable and demands urgent law enforcement investigation and prosecution of all participants in this high crime.”
The APC national publicity secretary continued: “President Muhammadu Buhari was in Kano on Sunday, January 29, 2023, at the instance of the high-achieving Governor of the State, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, to commission eight legacy projects, including a world-class Cancer Centre for which the good people of Kano State are immensely grateful.”
Again in Niger State on Tuesday, police stopped a rally organised in support of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the APC.
The rally said to have been organised by Sabi Abdullahi, deputy chief whip of the Senate, was aimed at rallying support for the candidacy of Tinubu and Kashim Shettima from residents of the State.
Police sealed the New Bussa Township Stadium in Borgu Local Government, venue of the rally, and stationed its officers at the entrance on Tuesday morning.
The officers prevented party supporters from entering the stadium for the event that was slated 11 in the morning.
Wasiu Abiodun, spokesperson of the police command in Niger, said sealing the venue was a “proactive measure” on intelligence they had received.
Abiodun said the police would not allow needless loss of lives and destruction of property in the state.
“The police had to take over the venue of the planned rally, as a proactive measure due to intelligence received of a likely breach of security at the venue. Hence, we have to do the needful to avert any possible attack or hijack by suspected miscreants to cause mayhem and breach of peace in the community.
“The command will not fold its arm and allow acts of political violence, avoidable loss of life, destruction of properties, and lawlessness,” he said.
Confirming misfortunes of APC, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on Wednesday, said some people in Aso Rock Villa are working to frustrate the victory of the party’s presidential candidate, Tinubu.
He said: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.”
The governor explained that those working against Tinubu’s victory were those who the APC presidential candidate defeated their scribes during the party’s presidential primary election.
“They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right. I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed.
“In fact, I had a discussion with the president and showed him why it had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200b for federal roads and then spend N2 Trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the president in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.
“The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the president. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but No. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as president. He did this; the Buhari, Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The president has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”