Five days to the presidential election, the chances of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) using federal might or the power of incumbency to win remains uncertain. Just as former President Good luck Jonathan failed to take advantage of power of incumbency in 2015, there are indications a similar scenario might play out on Saturday, February 16.
Although, the contest will be restricted between the standard bearers of APC, President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), those indices that however worked against Jonathan in 2015 that eventually gave the victory to the incumbent are now in full display and in favour of the former vice president.
One of the factors that might likely determine the focus of the electorate is the crisis of poverty and hunger, unlike in 2015 when Nigerians massively voted against PDP because of the corruption tag placed on Jonathan’s administration.
This time, Nigerians may be desperate to vote against hunger and poverty, which the price tag the Buhari government has worn in the last three years. The argument has been that the anti-corruption war of the incumbent president has left many Nigerians poorer than what they were during the 16 years, rule of PDP.
While speaking to The Guardian in separate interactions over the weekend on the chances of PDP in the presidential election, founding Publicity Secretary of PDP in Lagos State, Chief Willy Akinlude and the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed optimism that the ruling party is no match except it manipulates the result through government institutions.
According to Ologbondiyan, “As long as the election is free, fair and credible PDP stands a better chance to defeat the ruling party because Nigerians are tired of poverty and hunger.”
He also expressed concern that PDP may reconsider its position on the peace pact due to the body language and desperation already being exhibited by APC, noting, “What we are witnessing is that while PDP wants a peaceful conduct of the polls, APC is behaving as if it is not prepared to honour the spirit and letters of the peace accord. The ruling party and the presidency are harassing and intimidating our members.”
He accused APC of refusing to respect the rule of law and also seeking to undermine democracy and subdue opposition’s constitutional rights.
The PDP spokesman also flayed the ruling party on the initial plan to deny it the use of Kano stadia for its rally until it protested, which he described as part of the desperation to rig the poll.
According to him, “We have been denied the use of Old Parade Ground, Garki, Abuja, after we had paid and fulfilled all their requirements. What manner of democracy is that?
Ologbondiyan also raised the alarm that the army’s Operation Python Dance in the Southeast, which is one of the strongest political bases of PDP at this election period, is APC government’s strategy to get the military involved in the election process.
According to him, “PDP is very optimistic to win this presidential and other elections because President Buhari has failed to deliver on his three-point promises of revving the economy, fighting insurgency and fighting corruption. Rather than improving on the robust economy that was handed over to him by the former president, he, out of sheer incompetence, took the economy to the woods. In the area of insurgency, the incumbent has also failed so much that even residents of his home state are fleeing to Niger Republic.
“On the fight against corruption, all you need to do is look around Mr. President and the picture you find will show you if in truth, he has fought corruption. When you add these factors to the number of Nigerians that had abandoned APC including those who will work for the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, from within the Buhari camp, you will agree with me that we are coasting to victory and we shall get Nigeria working again.”
Meanwhile, Akinlude said his fears about the election is the obvious disposition of APC to win at all cost. “For instance, national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, recently said that Nigerians should not be bothered whether the president is capable or not as there is no vacancy in Aso Rock.”
He also tasked INEC to be upright and ensure the outcome of the polls reflected the wishes of the electorate.
While dismissing fears that there would be crisis after the election, Akinlude said, “It has become a norm that tension is always high anytime election is around in Nigeria, but as long as the election umpire is upright, I don’t foresee any crisis. I foresee a situation where at the end of the day there would be peace, unless the ruling party, especially those surrounding Mr. President, try to play pranks with the actual result of the elections like we witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections recently.”
Akinlude warned the ruling party against any attempt to deplore security agents to its advantage during the election, saying the U.K. and U.S. have expressed concerns about the likely role Nigeria’s various security agents might play and advised that them to stay neutral and upright.
“My other worry is the way the government has been intimidating financiers of opposition parties, particular PDP. For instance, APC planned to pocket Alhaji Aliko Dangote by including his name in the Buhari campaign group initially until the man cried out. APC is doing this having realised it cannot rig the election, as they would have expected to do, hence it resorting to all manner of tactics.”
Akinlude said Nigerians must also consider Buhari’s health status before voting on Saturday, noting that Buhari is not medically fit to preside over the affairs of a vibrant country like Nigeria as he has recently demonstrated at campaign rallies across the country.
On how the election will most likely to be won and lost between Buhari and Atiku, the PDP chieftain said, “In the North, our calculation is that Atiku and Buhari are going to share the votes. In Southwest, the incumbent cannot dust our candidate like he did to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. We are going to share Southwest votes equally but in Southeast and South South, Atiku will have solid support, which might be the deciding factor in favour of our candidate.”