Fellow Nigerians, let’s not mince words today and go straight to the crux of the matter. What transpired in the State of Osun, as my dear Brother, the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, loves to refer to our State, was not a Gubernatorial, but a prelude to the Presidential election. The interest and resources galvanized for that election demonstrated that it was a civil war and not a civilized election. The election was seen and executed as a referendum on the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari and its wobbly government.
While the ruling party appeared determined, or maybe ‘desperate’ is the appropriate word, to win, the main opposition party looked jazzed and disinterested. But for the merciful interventions of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the PDP candidate, Senator Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke, could as well have been a virtual orphan. It was that bad.
What manner of opposition would sit at home, arms akimbo, after seeing how the President, Vice President, Governors, Ministers, and party Chieftains all invaded, and flooded, Osun as if their lives depended on it? I fail to understand how PDP can parade over a dozen Presidential aspirants yet only a few of them are showing irrevocable commitment to serious party matters while the rest are only pursuing a personal agenda.
Adeleke was just lucky to be blessed with a family that had the means to fund his campaign and in particular a megastar, David Adeleke (aka Davido), who unleashed his monstrous talent on the campaign.
The ways of politicians are certainly not the ways of ordinary mortals. I could not believe how they turned Osun into a theatre of war because of a few thousand votes. I thought that, by now, Nigeria had passed this disgraceful and embarrassing stage. Also, I have no doubt that APC merely used the elections in Ekiti and Osun as dress rehearsals of what to expect in next year’s general elections.
A former President had told me months ago that we should not expect President Buhari to lose the election and quit quietly as President Goodluck Jonathan did in 2015, but I disagreed most vehemently. Thank God, we did not take a bet because with what happened in Osun, in particular, I don’t see the APC apparatchik agreeing to vacate power without a truculent fight. Many people, Nigerians, and non-Nigerians have come to the incontrovertible conclusion that what we currently have is an army of occupation and we should accept our fate with equanimity.
But no country can afford not to have a virile opposition. This is why it is sad and tragic that those who were in opposition only yesterday are perpetrating the same unfortunate acts we collectively rejected and dismissed not too long ago. It is also a shame that political parties have become over-proliferated in our dear beloved country. This has made it difficult for us to have a unified resolve to challenge what may ultimately turn into a Gestapo and most oppressive civilian regime.
The PDP that should fight back stoutly to give a good fight is already gasping for breath because of multiple ambitions of individuals who may choose to turncoat at the drop of a hat. From the multitude of PDP aspirants and even the cacophony of permutations about who can challenge Buhari to a duel, it is becoming clear, to discerning minds, that there are only two, possibly three serious challengers and no more.
Of these three, two currently stand tall. One is old and the other is young. It seems patently obvious, from the recent shenanigans that we have seen, that President Buhari and his people would do everything humanly possible to avoid confronting either of these two candidates at the polls next year.
Moving on, let me say with every emphasis I can muster, no candidate from the core North can compete against, and defeat, Buhari simply on the basis that they come from the core North. It is practically impossible. The jejune argument that PDP should pick a candidate who can divide the core Northern votes is either a joke carried too far or a deliberate decision to hand power back to the incumbent on a platter of gold.
What the PDP needs urgently is a candidate who can explode its votes in the entire South and the North Central. I do not hereby advocate for any candidate. I make my thesis only on the basis of empirical analysis. Buhari lost elections three consecutive times because he couldn’t saunter across those zones. If you doubt my assertion, let’s examine the figures, in practical terms.
In 1999, PDP scored 4,226,330 in South-South while ANPP/AD recorded 1,205,087. PDP 2,307,712 in South East and ANPP/AD 978,997. Also, PDP got 1,092,216 in South West and ANPP/AD 4,366,993. This was Chief Olu Falae versus General Olusegun Obasanjo. The Yoruba can mobilise humongous votes when they feel they have their own in the race. The sentiment was in favour of Falae. PDP 3,675,027 in North Central and ANPP/AD 1,461,840. PDP 3,552,354 in North East and ANPP/AD 1,412,426. PDP 3,887,536 in North West and ANPP/AD 1,684,934.
In 2003, PDP jumped to 6,953,679 in South South and ANPP 365,161. PDP 3,161,150 in South East and ANPP 253,079. PDP 5,031,288 in South West and ANPP 195,024. PDP 3,257,956 in North Central and ANPP 1,993,705. Then, PDP 2,941,208 in North East and ANPP 3,694,367. PDP 2,764,846 in North West and ANPP 6,453,437. This was the year Buhari started contesting the Presidency. On this occasion he contested on the platform of ANPP.
In 2007, PDP had 6,118,608 in South South and ANPP 365,161. PDP 4,985,246 in South East and ANPP 253,079. PDP 2,836,417 in South West and ANPP 195,024. PDP 3,376,570 in North Central and ANPP 1,744575. Moreover, PDP got 1,832,651 in North East and ANPP 3,660919. PDP 3,466,924 in North West and ANPP 6,453,437. Buhari again contested as ANPP Presidential candidate.
In 2011, PDP recorded 6,118,608 in South South and ANPP 49,978. PDP 4,985,246 in South East and ANPP 20,335. Moreoso, PDP 2,786,417 in South West and ANPP 321,609. PDP 3,123,126 in North Central and ANPP 1,612,999. As well, PDP 1,832,622 in North East and ANPP 3,624,910. PDP 3,395,724 in North West and ANPP 6,453,437. Buhari was again the flagbearer of the ANPP.
In 2015, PDP secured 4,714,725 in South South and APC 418,590. PDP 2,464,906 in South East and APC 198,248. PDP 1,821,416 in South West and APC 2,433,193. Also, PDP 1,715,818 in North Central and APC 2,411,013. PDP 796,580 in North East and APC 2,848,678. PDP 1,339,709 in North West and APC 7,115,199.
The import of these figures is that whosoever can checkmate Buhari from the Middlebelt downwards would always defeat Buhari. This does not necessarily mean such a candidate should come from these regions, but it would be ideal. A candidate with cross-over appeal from the North East and North West would also do well provided he does not believe that his place of origin means he should concentrate his effort in that region or adjunct region.
PDP should forget the pipe dream of competing favourably against Buhari in the North East and North West. He has consistently won overwhelmingly in those two regions. However, if President Buhari can be restricted to those two zones while the opposition locks down the other four zones of the country, then the prospects of the opposition PDP resoundingly beating the APC candidate becomes much brighter.
PDP or any intelligent party must apply Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “actions and reactions are always equal and opposite.” Buhari would be 76, his opponent must be the opposite by being much younger. 70 percent of the electorate is under the age of 45. The opposition requires a candidate who can readily galvanise a multitude of first-time voters.
Nigeria is long overdue for a candidate in the mold of Barack Obama, an energetic and cosmopolitan leader. Politics as a game of numbers must be approached meticulously. Buhari has stupendous State appurtenances and resources to deploy, his opponent must have access to a similar armoury or have sufficient wherewithal to match the substantial resources of the State and not be a scavenger in search of morale, audacity, and finance.
I’m not sure about what the third force can produce. I have expressed this publicly and privately. There are those like my dear friend, former Governor Donald Duke, Frank Nweke Jnr. and others who feel a third force can fly next year. I sincerely doubt this. Indeed, I would like to dismiss this as mere wishful thinking.
There may also be a fourth force, the Take Back Nigeria Movement being propelled by Omoyele Sowore who has worked extremely hard across Nigeria, but I believe he still has a lot of distance to cover. The reason is simple. He would have gone very far if he could muster the support of other younger candidates. Same with Fela Durotoye, Kingsley Moghalu, and others. I truly wish there could be a consensus candidate, but alas!
Where do we go from here, realistically? I think the toughest opposition can still come from PDP if it can rescue itself from certain interests and manage to pick a kamikaze candidate who is not docile and who is ready to fight all the way with everything at his disposal. No meek or lily-livered gentleman can fight and conquer Buhari next year. The lesson to pick from Osun, while litigation processes are being cooked, is that the next Presidential election is not going to be the stuff of conventional warfare. A serious opposition must prepare for the use of ballistic and anti-ballistic missiles. This is the reality of what to expect.