After its presidential primary in July, pundits tipped the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to dominate the core North in next year’s elections, with 14 out its 21 governors on the party’s platform coming from that zone.
Earlier, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who is from Adamawa State, North East, had clinched the Presidential ticket of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, while former Kano governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, from the North West, later entered the race as a presidential candidate on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, threatening the status quo with a strong presence in Kano, Jigawa and Kaduna.
Lately, the Labour Party is taking its turn and making its way into the heart of the electorate with a “certain freshness and newness that seem to separate it from the major parties with candidates that are familiar faces,” to quote from an ongoing study by a Kaduna-based journalist, who spoke with THEWILL, anonymously, about his findings. He said he hopes to conclude it before the presidential poll on February 25, 2023.
According to him, the sudden change of fortune for the LP in a geo-political zone that initially heard nothing, said nothing about it because of its affinity for the governing and opposition parties, prompted him to pay closer attention to ongoing political debates, first in his home state, Kaduna and then to neighbouring states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa. For him, what has turned the tide for LP is the current hardship and attendant anxiety, fear and uncertainty about tomorrow among the electorate. The immediate impact is not just the penetration and growing acceptance of the LP in the zone but also the corresponding threat to the political strength of NNPP, and the APC, particularly in Kaduna, Zamfara and Sokoto.
MAJOR ISSUES AT PLAY
“Hunger is a major issue with people in these parts,” said the journalist. “We are talking about one meal a day, not whether it is a square meal. People are in severe hunger here and they do not want to hear the same old promises from the same people. Instead of getting better, the situation is becoming worse with the security and fuel scarcity that has led to an increase of cost of living. For that reason, LP vice Presidential candidate Yusuf Datti Ahmed has also become popular across the state.”
Apart from this immediate material problem is a political one, particularly in Southern Kaduna which has been under siege by kidnappers, bandits and gunmen. This dire situation, he said, has made the people there more receptive to messages of hope being preached by ‘Obidient’ groups from ward to ward.
He could not say for sure if the growing influence of LP in Kaduna state could be responsible for the killing of Mrs. Victoria Chintex, an LP leader and activist in Kaura Area Council of Kaduna state, by gunmen even though he could not rule out political motivation for the attack.
Capitalising on the warm reception accorded the party by the people, the ‘Obidient’ movement has upped their game through the mobilisation of women, whom they think will help spread their message of “freedom,” faster and wider.
The Movement for Change World Wide, an ‘Obidient’ group, is said to be one of the most active in Kaduna State.
According to the journalist, the open support for the Obi/Datti ticket by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and also by his former Minister of Defense, Theophilus Danjuma, a retired general in the Nigeria Army, has also boosted support for LP in the Northwest, the traditional stronghold of the NNPP and the ruling APC.
“Both men who have featured in many political schemes in the course of the nation building are known to have a wide network of supporters that can and will help spread the gospel about the Obi/Datti candidacy and thereby help the party consolidate on its new found strength.
“Initially, it was difficult campaigning for LP but with the support of Obasanjo and Danjuma, people are now beginning to see that “big men” are also rooting for the Obi/Datti ticket. Since then, the LP party has grown in influence,” said the journalist.
This same scenario is also playing out in Sokoto state. Here, according to a Senatorial candidate of one of the parties in the upcoming election, who expressed his worry to one of our reliable sources, “We can’t joke with this ‘Obident’ thing anymore.”
The politician, according to our source, said, the state has a strong voting population of business people and traders of southeast origin who are active participants in the politics of the state, adding that that factor may have influenced the LP in appointing Mr. Ifeanyi Ezeagu, an Igboman, as the party’s campaign coordinator in Sokoto State.
Recall that the party stuck with its decision in spite of the uproar that greeted the appointment of Ezeagu in October, 2022. Director General of the LP Presidential Campaign Committee, Doyin Okupe, had explained that Ezeagu who was born and bred in the Northwestern state was chosen for his competence rather than his origin.
While this direct LP onslaught is going on, the recent split in decision of the Northern Christian Leaders to support Obi/Datti candidacy on the one hand as led by ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and on the other as led by former Speaker, House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara and ex-Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Mukthar Shagari for opposition PDP, has also compounded the woes of NNPP and APC.
With Kaduna looking like a battleground and Sokoto and Zamfara uncertain, the NNPP may have to contend with its Kano stronghold which is already split between the trio of PDP, the governing APC and NNPP. This support has helped to draw the battle lines among the three parties, especially the majors, APC and PDP, which are still polarised along ethnic and religious lines.
The standard bearer of NNPP spoke about the party at the weekend. According to him, the party was waxing stronger every day and as a show of that new found strength would win the presidential election if it were polled now. He said the party was strong in its base in the north and was different from others because of its people oriented outlook, which would make it capable of benefiting from the perceived crisis within the major political parties.
He said: “Why I’m different from all presidential candidates is that I go round the country on roads, not only the state capital, not only the local government areas, this made me have first-hand information on the way and manner our people live.
“The NNPP is based on the talakawa (masses), voters and good people of this country, who believe in us. Nigerians know the APC and the PDP very well and they’ve failed. The two political parties themselves know that they’ve failed. The only chance they have is to buy votes.
“If the election takes place today, the NNPP has a brighter chance, no political party can defeat the NNPP. The PDP has been wounded in the Southeast by the emergence of some political parties, of course in the North, we have caged PDP, even in the South-south, they are no longer popular because of the presidential primary contest, and the APC has failed the citizens, no right thinking Nigerian will want the status quo to remain, meaning this terrible situation to continue.”
Vice-Presidential candidate of the party, Bishop Isaac Idahosa, expectedly, supports the views of his principal. In his reaction to the point at issue, he said last Friday that NNPP was growing from strength to strength with the passing of the day, adding that “people who are undermining the NNPP are doing so at their peril. We are a grassroots party and not a rent-a–crowd party as you see with others. Wait until January when there will be a clear picture of developments to know who the voters will support.”
Despite the perceived gains of the opposition parties, can they stop the ruling All Progressives Congress from winning the 2023 presidential election? This is the question on the minds of many Nigerians and pundits.