DANIEL AYANTOYE x-rays the shortcomings of the All Progressives Congress regime under the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) and its chances of winning the 2023 election

The ultimate aim of political parties is to win elections but this depends largely on their ability to sell their candidates to the electorate. Many believe that the electorate in a real democracy determines the emergence of candidates at all levels. Aside from the political permutations, circumstances surrounding the emergence of candidates through public acceptance also dwell most times on promises, and candidates for the 2023 presidential election are no exception.

With the emergence of a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as the presidential flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress; Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party; Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Peter Obi of the Labour Party and several others, the stage is set as campaigns officially commence on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Like previous elections and the political gimmicks that come before them, analysts said about 15 opposition parties would pick on the performance of the incumbent APC government to campaign against its presidential candidate, Tinubu. Prior to the 2015 general elections, a good number of Nigerians were cut between the choice of the two major political parties, the APC and the PDP.

The then President, Goodluck Jonathan, who emerged as the PDP standard bearer in the 2015 presidential election, and the APC presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), took their campaigns to every part of the country, urging prospective voters to queue behind them. The political parties engaged in various gimmicks.

While the PDP-led government enjoyed the power of incumbency at that time and showering of fascinating praises on records of its performance, the then major opposition party, the APC, took advantage of the failure of the Jonathan administration to entice the electorate. Eventually, the APC’s Buhari emerged the winner of the election and was inaugurated as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and most citizens were hopeful of a better life.

Seven year down the lane, it is believed in some quarters that the performance of the Buhari regime will affect the continuity of the APC as a ruling party as well as the emergence of Tinubu as President in 2023. While some have maintained that one of the major aspects of wooing the electorate is the economy, others see the security of lives and property as an area where candidates must talk about to be able to garner many votes.

‘Tinubu’s chances low’

A political analyst and Professor of Economics at the Bayero University, Kano, Kamilu Fage, said the APC flag bearer had to worry about the current situation in the country because the judgment of the electorate would be based on how it had managed the economy and the current situation in terms of security of lives and property.

He said, “Any candidate from a ruling party has some challenges. On one hand, there is the probability that because they are in power, there is this incumbency factor that may assist the candidate of the ruling party, but on the other hand, there are challenges of belonging to the ruling party, especially if the political party happens to be in office for long. Many challenges of the ruling party will weigh the candidate down.

“For example, one of the major problems that the APC will face is that it’s a government in power and within the time it has spent in office, there have been many problems ranging from insecurity to inflation and from unemployment to hunger and poverty generally.

“So, these are things that will weigh the party down because the opposition will take advantage of that and campaign against the party. Besides, the electorate will use such indices to measure the party before voting. The performance of the APC-led government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has come under severe criticism following the country’s economic challenges and insecurity.”

Similarly, the Chairman, Kwara State chapter of the PDP, Babatunde Muhammed, told Saturday PUNCH that the APC had failed Nigerians in the area of security and the people’s standard of living.

Mohammed said, “I haven’t seen any state in Nigeria where the APC can win in 2023. In 2015, the exchange rate when Goodluck Jonathan was leaving office was between N180 and N185 to one dollar. Today, we are talking about N700 per dollar; a bag of Semovita that was selling for about N1,300 is now around N7,000; a bag of rice that was N8,000 is now N36,000.

“Nigerians can no longer feed their families. Even what salary earners are earning now can longer take them home, not to mention taking them throughout 30 days of the month. If there is an election tomorrow, I don’t see any state where the APC can win and as politicians, I strongly believe Nigerians voted for Atiku in 2019, we all know what happened. So, the PDP is coming back stronger and the PDP will win the election in 2023 by the grace of God and with the support of Nigerians.”

He added that the fact that the suffering of Nigerians had increased and insecurity was taking hold of some major parts of the country in the last seven years were enough reasons for the party to be aware that it had failed and people would not desire such continuity.

“Do we have this kind of security problem in 2015? The insecurity problems then were just in a few local government areas in Yobe and Borno states, but now, there is nowhere that is safe. All the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria now have a serious problem of insecurity. You can’t compare this APC-led government with the Jonathan, (Umaru) Yar’Adua and (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s governments and this is very clear. Nigerians are tired of this APC government,” he stated.

Adding his voice to the matter, the spokesperson for the Oyo State Chapter of the PDP, Akeem Olatunji, stated that there was no chance for the APC presidential candidate to win the 2023 election based on the performance of Buhari.

He said, “With the electoral indices of winning elections, I don’t think Tinubu stands any chance because the 2023 election is more or less a referendum on the performance of APC in the last seven years. The question is that, in the last seven years, have they better the lot of Nigerians? The answer is no.

“As of when they came in, the debt of Nigeria was around N7tn, but today, we are talking about N40tn. So, the inflation is at the highest level in history. Unemployment rate is at the highest level in history, and the cost of living is skyrocketing.”

Olatunji opined that Tinubu had offered his best to Nigerians when he presented Buhari in 2015 as the ‘saviour’ to rescue Nigeria.

Olatunji stated, “He (Tinubu) is still going to recycle the same people running this administration and Nigerians know that it is high time they changed the failing team and you cannot compensate for failure with another failure. My belief is that for any right thinking Nigerian, the days of the APC are numbered, and apart from that, whenever we are experiencing high cost of crude oil in the international market, that is the time when Nigerians used to have high reserves and excess money.

“During the PDP administration, we used to have an excess crude oil account; we used to have a sovereign wealth account whereby the entire excess funds that accrued from oil sales are kept, but now, there is nothing like that.”

On the Muslim-Muslim ticket, he said that would not save the APC from an imminent defeat, adding poverty had nothing to do with religion. “The more Nigeria makes money under this administration, the poorer the nation becomes. That they picked Muslim presidential and vice-presidential candidates is not going to save them because poverty does not understand religion. That’s why we are saying that the APC has already failed even before it entered the contest,” he added.

On insecurity, Olatunji stressed that in the history of the country, the highest number of breaches of security ranging from bandits’ attacks on civilians and the military to jailbreaks had been recorded under the Buhari regime.

He stated, “Even the Nigerian Defence Academy was not left out as it was attacked. At least, about 10 jailbreaks have happened in the country under the APC’s watch. This never happened under the PDP, and how many of their leaders can even travel by road from Abuja to any part of the country? You know that for the first time in the history of this country, a train and airport were attacked.

“The APC we have in the country presently is destroying Nigeria economically, politically, physically and in all ramifications. We just have to put off the fire if we really need our nation back. Tinubu should put it at the back of his mind that this is a lost battle; Nigeria will have to rescue this country from the hands of the APC.”

Electorate unpredictable – Gbadamosi

For the Osun State Chairman, Social Democratic Party, Yinus Gbadamosi, the willingness of the electorate to change the narrative due to the current challenges that will confront the APC flag bearer is unpredictable. He stated that many might change their minds at the point of voting.

He stated, “One thing about the electorate in Nigeria is that you cannot predict people. If you think they will do one thing, it may be another way round. If we look at the feelings and the yearnings of people now, we may say it will be difficult for the APC, but when they start to cast their votes, people may change their minds and that’s another problem with the Nigerian electorate. In advanced countries, you can predict exactly, but in Nigeria and most African countries, it’s very difficult to predict the electorate.

“If you look at the economic downturn, most countries are worse than Nigeria. Yes, peace is eluding every part of the world, but if you go by what is happening in Nigeria, the chances of the APC are very slim. But as I have said earlier, we cannot predict the electorate.

“If it’s by what we see on the ground now, the APC and the PDP should not come near power at all with what is happening in the country; we have never experienced this kind of thing since 1960. It has never been worse than this. Our party is presenting a candidate who has the strength to work and who knows the yearnings and sufferings of the people.”

Similarly, the South-South Coordinator, United Action for Democracy, Enefa Georgewill, stated that there should be more worries for the APC over the alleged non-performance of President Buhari as it might jeopardise its chances at the polls.

He said the incessant strike by academic bodies would lead to a revolt against the candidacy of Tinubu by not only members of such bodies, but also the affected students.

Georgewill stated, “With all the economic indices, of course, you know that Nigeria is not doing well. In the education sector, for example, there have been strikes for the past seven months.

“In terms of livelihood, people’s access on livelihood has further gone down; in terms of naira to dollar, as we speak, it is around N700 to a dollar and of course, this government met it at less than N200 to a dollar, and it further goes to say that Nigerians are becoming poorer. In terms of food and basic items such as rice, the prices have skyrocketed.

“When Jonathan was leaving, a bag of rice was around N8,000, but as we speak, it’s now around N35,000. In terms of electricity that should help the informal sectors and even the main sectors to generate electricity to do some of the basic things, it’s nothing to write home about. Nigerians generate from other power sources like generators. The fuel that is supposed to be used to fuel the generators has moved from N55 to about N175 to N180 per litre. So, in all of these, there is no sensible Nigerian that should be voting for a political party that has brought pain, backwardness and hunger to Nigerians. Naturally, every sensible person will not vote for the APC.”

Tinubu’ll triumph

However, a former Minister of Communication in Buhari’s regime, who doubles as the Director-General of the Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Adebayo Shittu, expressed confidence that amidst the challenges, the APC presidential flag bearer would emerge the winner of the 2023 presidential election. He added that the Buhari regime had achieved more successes than any of its predecessors.

He said, “I am surprised that people are highlighting the failures of the Buhari administration and the successes of the government, which are certainly more than failures. People are not interested in the achievement of the government, which is definitely more than the failures. You should know that Tinubu is a tested administrator and a tested politician. Democracy provides for regular elections in order for the government and politicians to be able to evolve new ways of improving the situations on the ground.

“Rather than having the fear of a supposed failure, you will feel challenged to improve on the Nigeria situation and for us, that’s what is important. What is the failure of Buhari in prices of commodities that have skyrocketed? Is Buhari supposed to impose price control on yam, beans and many other things, which have been grown? People think Buhari can play god by rectifying the behaviour of Nigerians.

“On the debt situation, the government has a lot of responsibilities in building infrastructure. So, what is the government using loans for? There is no government that does not engage in foreign loans; even the US government takes loans. What is important is what the government is using the loans for. Will you say that it is not important to build roads, to build railways, or to build airports?

“On dollar increase, yes, it’s inevitable because Nigerians are not producing to export. If our imports continue to increase than our exports, the dollar will continue to rise. We have a lot of agricultural land; nobody wants to go into agriculture. Even those who are given agric loans will divert these loans into other things like buying and selling. So, the problem is in us as Nigerians.

Speaking on the spate of insecurity, Shittu stated that the Buhari regime had made more efforts on security than the previous administration before it.

Shittu added, “At the time we were coming in 2015, the major security issue was Boko Haram, which had total control of about 24 local governments. Today, there is no single local government under the control of Boko Haram. Recall that the budget that was meant for arms and ammunition was simply shared by the political and military elites of that time; no single fighter jet was purchased with the bogus budget. Today, the case is different; Buhari has ensured that a lot of arms and ammunition are being acquired and provided for the armed forces.

“Now, Boko Haram has been completely eliminated and even the remnants of Boko Haram that have not been killed are surrendering to the Nigeria Armed Forces and people should at least be fair to admit that.

“It was after Buhari came on board that the dimension of banditry from the North-West stopped. You will agree with me that the war against banditry is like the unconventional war. Our armed forces are also succeeding in this administration. What they did not succeed in doing, we have succeeded in the sense that we have almost brought these criminalities to a halt. Our party will win nothing less than 80 per cent at the general elections, even in Adamawa where Atiku comes from and Kano where Rabiu Kwankwaso comes from. We will defeat these two presidential candidates by the grace of God.” PUNCH