By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election is still a long call. The hasty victory parades in some quarters are ill-informed and self serving. As a matter of fact, the numbers are not adding up yet, and certainly not sufficient to give any major political party or candidate the latitude and comfort of mind to grandstand. As a matter of emerging realities from the last one year, the 2019 presidential poll will go down to the wire. That is why those who think the main opposition PDP could afford to ignore the very formidable Ike Ekweremadu should perish such foolish thought.
Constructive projections and predictions of elections are usually made possible by facts of election history, recent developments and emerging realities. In the United States, the mid-term election outcomes will reflect on the 2020 re-election bid of President Donald Trump. The Republicans retained the Senate while the Democrats made some fantastic gains, taking over Congress. Although the blue Tsunami did not happen, many bookmakers have however predicted a tough election for Trump despite his terrific economic successes. So, Nigeria is definitely not an exception.
As it is, the hotchpotch of intrigues that influenced the outcomes of the latest bye-elections in Bauchi, Kwara and Katsina states, and the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states are sufficient enough reasons to project a keen contest in 2019, in which every ten thousand votes will count. This is to say everyone who can deliver a local government is a big enough factor in 2019. In that case, have you then factored the electoral worth of Ekweremadu in the Nigerian politics? I just hope wisdom and common sense will prevail in the PDP.
In all of the elections mentioned above, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had to contend with the very brutal Aso Rock-oiled rigging machines of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a well structured voters-inducement Trader Moni scheme and the Election Day vote buying plot under the shameful cover of the security agencies. APC won all and is definitely looking battle-ready and in a bloody mood to deploy everything, including exploiting despicable options. If you are still in doubt, Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai has already given a poser. Ignore him at your own peril. I pray the Almighty God will humble them, while we do the needful.
It is therefore difficult to understand why some fair weather elements in the PDP have continued to think they can make a good showing in the Southeast without the Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, whose growing influence is not in anyway limited to the zone. Do not get it twisted, Peter Obi is a good choice, and this piece is not even about questioning his suitability as a vice presidential candidate. It is about PDP’s mishandling of Ekweremadu’s matter. I had waited till the commencement of campaigns to see if the party would find a special and honourable way to make him feel very important in appreciation of his unalloyed commitment when the going was turbulent.
Nevertheless, I will like to urge Prof. Ekweremadu to not despair, but to put in his one hundred percent effort and ensure PDP wins the presidential election with an overwhelming majority in the Southeast. He should not stop at that. He should also activate and deploy his reach in the other zones to influence the fortune of his party. Eleven plus unbroken years and still counting as the Deputy President of the Senate is not a mean feat at all. Indeed, such a man has become a national figure in the country and he deserves our respect.
However, it is good to make certain clarifications for posterity. Lest we forget, if the Ekweremadu-led committee had not zoned the presidency to the North when it did, there was that possibility those who returned to the PDP from the APC might not have seen the need to do so. That singular initiative kept the PDP alive in the North as an alternative to the fumbling APC. That bold action gave the PDP a lifeline and is the main reason Atiku Abubakar is today the presidential candidate of the party.
Nobody in the party can, at this point, diminish the sagacious and invaluable contribution of Ekweremadu whose committee worked tirelessly to give PDP the hope of a comeback. Against all odds, he resisted the pressure not to zone the presidency to the North, which was seen as a betrayal of sorts by some pro-Jonathan persons. No core PDP member can, in all honesty, deny there was no bid to launch a comeback for former President Goodluck Jonathan. I was contacted, so I know. Unfortunately, it is the same Ekweremadu they are today vilifying without thinking.
So I ask, what is really bad in a politician who has certificate and honour scheming to become the vice presidential nominee of his party? American political scientist, Harold Lasswell, in a most logical manner, defined politics as “who gets what, when, how.” If the deputy senate president whose committee’s recommendations and subsequent support had helped to revive the party cannot dream of a VP slot, who then should? He was even humble in decision to be thinking of number two position. Who says Ekweremadu cannot also be president? He will do hundred times better than Buhari.
When it was reported and alleged that he mulled the idea of dumping the PDP, some misguided folks took to the media and came very hard on him without painstakingly interrogating the development. I remember asking some of them: what is then the place of sacrifice, commitment and honour if you cannot reward those who weather the storm with you all this while? But to the conformists-who are never bold to speak truth to leadership, “Napoleon is always right.”
The party should be conscious enough to know that some leaders who made sacrifices to keep the party together in the last three years are still painfully disenchanted. I am sure Ekweremadu has taken everything in his strides, but what about the others? Is it not curious and troubling that number one to four in the presidential primaries were those who recently returned? While I had, early as April 2016, predicted Atiku as the ultimate candidate of the PDP, long before he quit the APC for certain reasons, I still believe at least one standing aspirant should have been in the first three to reward sacrifice.
Let me also inform my people in the Southeast that what makes the Hausa-Fulani thick in politics is the level of consultations and meetings they do preceding agreements – they are thick in APC and big in PDP. Those who said consultations with Igbo leaders and governors were unnecessary have narrow understanding of the Nigerian politics. How Peter Obi was selected will in future reflect in the Atiku presidency (I hope he wins) to the disadvantage of the Southeast. I hope they know this. Atiku meeting elder statesman, Ben Nwabueze, is good, but Southeast is still a tough call, with APGA supporting Buhari.
It will be outright delusional of the PDP and uninformed of Atiku to think they can defeat the APC in 2019, without seeking the services of Ekweremadu to massively win in the Southeast and Olusegun Mimiko to substantially cover lost grounds in the Southwest. Even having Donald Duke is not a bad idea. I hope they are wise enough to know that the situation is dicey and the numbers are not adding up yet. I want Atiku to win but PDP must stop the ill-informed victory parade and get to work. Consult, appeal, beg if necessary, and make more friends. You need everyone.
▪Atoye contributed this piece from Abuja via email@example.com