By Olusola Sanni
It has come and gone that 52 members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly defected into the Peoples Democratic Party. And many more defections are yet underway. It was a heavy and unexpected below the belt punch on the ruling APC and if permutations are correct, the fall of the APC in the National Assembly could very well be early warning signals of how the 2019 elections will be won and lost.
Because the behavior of politicians and political institutions can be subjected to empirical analysis, it is safe to say that following the experience of how the PDP fell from power; the tsunami that sweeps a ruling political party out of power has its epicenter at the National Assembly.
Whether or not the ruling APC has magic wand of arresting the impending sweep is a different ball game. But what is certain is that the PDP is poised for a definitive challenge and they have the experience and the right kind of arsenal for the big fight.
It should not be expected that the APC would seat idly by and watch its pack crumble. For sure, the ruling party will fight back and one good way for the APC to take its pound of flesh from the PDP is to plant fifth columnists within the leading opposition party.
For the PDP to hold its own in the in the unfolding turn of events on the political turf, it is expedient for the party to take a cursory assessment of its leading members and anoint a personality who will be the face of the party.
In the prelude to the 2015 general election, one of the important factors that helped the APC to dislodge the PDP is that the party (APC) was quick to identify the issues upon which Nigerians had reservations with the PDP and was able to adopt a then General Buhari as a poster boy of the opposition.
Now, the table has turned and the PDP is wading its way to power again. The PDP has done well by creating a tsunami in the National Assembly but there is still the missing element of a personality whose face represents the ideals that the PDP stands for.
It is predictable that the Buhari government will be judged on three themes in the 2019 election namely: economy, unity and security. As it stands today, the Buhari-led APC administration has performed far below par on each of these themes and conversely those are the selling points for the opposition PDP to explore.
Naturally, the electorate will be watching with keen interests the next steps that the PDP takes from this point in the countdown to the 2019 election. For a political party that claims to have reformed and which is also asking Nigerians to give it a second chance, the PDP must come forth to the 2019 election with its best hands for the jobs and more importantly someone who possesses the stamina to challenge a sitting president.
In the catalogue of politicians in the fold of the PDP as of today, Atiku Abubakar more appropriately captures the essence of what the PDP stands for. Atiku has name recognition. The name Atiku stands for a detribalized Nigerian. Atiku is also perceived as being hands on in the economy and has capacity for focused and purposeful leadership. In effect, the PDP needs to adopt Atiku as the poster of its challenge against the APC.
The APC had sustained the argument over time that the PDP is an assembly of unrepentant corrupt politicians. But that allegation has remained at the realms of propaganda because the APC has failed in the past three years to prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt either in its typical media trial or in a proper court of law.
For instance, many Nigerians voted for the APC in 2015 with the expectation that the new ruling party will cleanse the Augean stable. The reverse ended up being the case. Rather, the APC opened its doors to new entrants from the PDP and that is why a good number of APC lawmakers in the National Assembly today for instance are lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP but who later crossed to the APC. You cannot sustain the argument that your neighbour is a thief when he has a verifiable means of income and you don’t have and then you seek to cultivate his friends.
Coming back to the reason why the PDP needs to adopt Atiku as the bellwether of its opposition, it is instructive to note that both of them (Atiku and PDP) share a common story. Like the PDP, Atiku has been in and out of power at the very high level. They both have had their exploits and learnt their lessons in appropriate terms.
Nigerians can relate with the exploits of the PDP when it was in power against their experience with APC’s administration. In the first four years of the PDP when Atiku was the head of the National Economic Council, Nigerians can recall the many policy initiatives that Atiku midwife such as the National Health Insurance Scheme, reforms in pensions administration through the establishment of the National Pensions Commission, the privatization policy that ensured that government divested from moribund assets and transferred them to the private sector for better efficiency and to ease government from the burden of recurrent expenditure; the creation of the anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC and many more. If we are to enumerate the achievements of the PDP in its first four years, it towers far above the APC.
The point is that in the 16 years of PDP’s administration, the first four years when Atiku was clearly at the helm of the economy signposted a glorious era.
In addition, Nigerians can easily connect with the fact that the PDP is more compassionate and more transparent in its poverty reduction intervention policies. In either the NAPEP or YouWin policies of the PDP, more Nigerians became beneficiaries of those schemes; their structures were well defined in scope and reach, compared to the amorphous and indeterminate NPower scheme of the APC which, more or less, is a reward mechanism for only APC grassroots supporters. This is another area where Atiku shares the same attribute with the PDP.
Atiku is compassionate and generous and his personal social intervention programmes such as the Feed and Read Programme for the indigent and itinerant young girls of the Northeast is unrestrictive and very well structured.
The same goes for his micro-finance economic empowerment scheme that provides credit facilities for women and has seen over 45,000 families lifted out of poverty.
Like the PDP also, Atiku has been a victim of spurious corruption labeling. The APC has sustained a long narrative of corruption by officials of the previous PDP administration that remains unproven in any court of law.
Unlike most other politicians in Nigeria, Atiku has a business address that predates his foray into politics and his sources of income as an investor in manufacturing and logistics services are well known to Nigerians. His traducers have sustained a long narrative of corruption against him, yet he is not in any court and no one has been able to answer his challenge to bring forth an evidence of corruption against him.
Atiku is bold and fearless and can indeed be referred to as Mai Soja in Hausa, which translates to a fighter for the people. His politics in the last fifteen years has been from the angle of the opposition and he certainly has enormous experience in opposition politics. He will be an asset to the coalescing opposition to the APC as the 2019 election beckons.
Sanni, a public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja.