2023 will mark another significant milestone in the political history of Nigeria as eligible voters will be going to the polls to decide who takes the presidential mantle. Our correspondent ex-rays the early plans and how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is strategising to topple the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Nigerians will be hoping to once again exercise their franchise and determine new leaders through the ballot.
Political parties that would participate in the elections will embark on vigorous campaigns. Tongues will wag, and hard talks in form of accusations and counter-accusations among the various parties will take the centre stage.
Political pundits believe that it is likely to be a straight battle between the two leading parties in the country – the ruling APC and the leading opposition, PDP, except a powerful third force emerges in the buildup to the election year.
After its defeat in the 2015 and the 2019 general elections, the PDP has remained resolute in its determination to reclaim power in the next elections, especially considering that President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure would elapse in 2023.
Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that interactions among major gladiators, stakeholders and key players in the party have begun.
This is especially so as 2023 will also throw up the election of new governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives and members of the state Houses of Assembly respectively.
Strategic reforms and zoning
The national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the party was embarking on strategic reforms and repositioning ahead of the 2023 elections. He said the issue of zoning was not yet on the agenda, but the national leadership of the party would make its position public at the appropriate time.
“We have not reached a decision on where our presidential candidate would come from. The other party (APC) understands politics, not governance. What we are concerned about now are reforms to further reposition the party ahead of 2023,’’ Ologbondiyan said.
He said one of the early plans of the PDP ahead of the elections was to activate its structures and strengthen its formation as one big, united and formidable family. He stressed that party members and supporters had nothing to fear as reconciliatory efforts within the party were yielding the needed results.
Ologbondiyan said the PDP had already started galvanising all segments of the voting population across the country, adding that “no shenanigan by the violence- prone APC’’ would stop the PDP from reclaiming power at the centre and in many other states of the federation in 2023.
“The PDP assures that it is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all aggrieved members are appeased so that our party would face the elections as a family. The party commends the understanding and spirit of sportsmanship being exhibited by critical stakeholders, as well as their commitment to ensuring success,’’ he said.
The chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, also told our reporter on phone that the party was yet to commence serious action about 2023, especially as it was still undecided on which zone to produce its presidential candidate for the election.
“Don’t forget, the party has a constitution and guidelines. We have not even discussed zoning. So, why are some people so concerned about the presidential ticket being zoned to a particular region?
“We have to make a lot of consultations. The National Working Committee (NWC) has to make a lot of consultations; our governors have to make a lot of consultations,’’ he said.
The party fielded its February 23, 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar from the North, but his defeat at the polls has sparked fresh agitations between the North and South.
Top party sources told our reporter yesterday in Abuja that the NWC was being tactical and meticulous in order not to articulate a 2023 template that would spark crisis and result in mass exodus of members.
“Agitations are already raging as to whether it is the North or South that would produce the presidential candidate. But at the same time, consultations are ongoing on the matter.
“We are trying to avoid a crisis situation after zoning. We are also going to engage our former presidential aspirants in the process. So we need time to do all these before zoning. Otherwise, there will be crisis of interest and divisions in the party,” a chieftain of the party from the North-East told our reporter on phone yesterday
PDP stalwarts in secret battle
Investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday, however, revealed that some PDP bigwigs have commenced underground politicking, battling for the presidential ticket of the party and preparing grounds for soft landing.
Already, the social media space is awash with posters of a former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwaso, who came fourth at the 2018 presidential primary election held during the PDP national convention in Port Harcourt ahead of the 2019 elections.
Some of the posters seen on Facebook by our reporter yesterday carried inscriptions like “Our Mission and Vision, 2023; Kwankwaso for President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Best Choice, 2023.’’
The posters were adorned with the portrait of the former governor and colours of the PDP – red, white, green, and its umbrella logo.
It was learnt that some PDP stalwarts in the South are also warming up for the presidential contest. A former deputy national chairman (South) and former national chairmanship contender, Chief Bode George, has already indicated interest.
George’s political associates confirmed to Daily Trust on Sunday that he was activating his structures in the party to challenge other contenders.
Jonathan, Atiku speak
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has, however, denied online reports that he said he was under intense pressure to contest the 2023 presidential election. He also denied saying that he was billed to be allotted the presidential ticket of the PDP ahead of the poll.
The former president’s special adviser on media, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the social media reports were not true. He explained that some online platforms were bent on publishing malicious stories based on insinuations, adding that Jonathan never made such comments about 2023.
“There was nothing like former President Jonathan saying he is under pressure to contest,” he said.
Some pundits said former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 election, might consider re-contesting in 2023.
But in a tweet recently, Atiku advised that PDP members should not focus on elections but ways to rebuild the party.
“Our preoccupation at this point in the PDP should not be on elections, but on rebuilding and strengthening our party for the challenges ahead of us,” Atiku tweeted.
As an opposition party, the PDP has continued to criticise the policies and programmes of the ruling APC, pointing to what government ought to be doing to deliver good governance to the people.