By: Yusuf Alli
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are poised for intense battles in at least 15 states in next year’s elections, going by the opposition party’s plans.
Top on the list of the states are Kano, Kaduna, Osun, Imo, Kogi, Bauchi, Kwara and Jigawa.
The rest are Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Ekiti, The Nation gathered last night.
Hints of what PDP has in stock to ‘wage the battles’ may have informed the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to raise the Tinubu Reconciliation Committee, and overrule the National Chairman the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, on the way forward for the party.
The PDP, sources said, has its plans well laid out including a resort to the use of religious sentiments to bait voters, where and when necessary.
It is also not relenting in wooing some APC governors, ex-governors and no fewer than 22 Senators and 50 members of the House of Representatives to switch camps.
Among those being targeted are Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Tinubu has however had talks with Saraki and Dogara.
Details of the talks are yet unknown.
The 22 Senators and 50 Representatives are said to be priming their possible defection for what a source described as a “strategic time when APC would have been decimated and too late to salvage anything.”
Sources cited the recent decision of the National Assembly to reorder the sequence of the 2019 elections, its rejection of some executive plans and alleged growing hostility to the Buhari administration as “forewarned signals” of the battle ahead.
Investigation revealed that the APC and PDP currently have a 50 – 50 per cent of winning the 14 fluid states depending on “tactical manoeuvres in the next two to four months.
The two parties have launched into talks with formidable leaders and game changers in the said states.
A highly placed source said although politicking is not yet in full swing for the 2019 elections, APC and PDP “are locked in a cold war of engaging in covert realignment and reconciliatory talks.
“The PDP is desperate to decimate APC and give the ruling party a good fight in the affected 15 fluid states.
“The presidency and some APC leaders have realized that the party machinery, as currently constituted, cannot respond to what is branded as ‘PDP menace’.
“This is why President Muhammadu Buhari empanelled Asiwaju Tinubu and others to find remedial solutions.
“It is tough for the two sides. While APC has internal crises in some of its strategic and huge votes’ states, PDP has time constraints and funding as its major problems. It is only the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike that is heavily funding the party.”
The scenarios in the affected fluid states are as follows:
In Kano, the PDP is desperately wooing Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso to team up with ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and other matchmakers to reclaim the state from APC.
But there is challenge for the PDP in this regard: the irreconcilable political differences between Kwankwaso and Shekarau.
A source said: “The two leaders are like oil and water. Oil will always float on water. If Kwankwaso returns to PDP, he will want the party’s presidential ticket and make a case for his stooge as the governorship flag bearer. He cannot have his cake and eat it.
“PDP leaders in Kano State are saying that since Kwankwaso is politically frustrated, it is the party which should dictate its terms.”
To checkmate PDP in Kano, Buhari’s strategists in the presidency are trying to woo Shekarau who used to be a staunch political ally of the president.
A source said: “Were it not for the strain in Shekarau’s relationship with Buhari, his natural political habitat should be APC.
Most of Shekarau’s friends, including the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, are in Buhari’s government.
“Apart from wooing Shekarau, the presidency and some APC leaders prefer reconciliation
n with Kwankwaso who they know Governor Abdullahi Ganduje cannot match.
Although a recent visit to Kano by the President was tumultuous, it was more of love for Buhari than a measure of electoral support. It may be a different ball game in 2019.
“The alternative is to let Kwankwaso go to PDP and APC can scramble for votes with the opposition in Kano. Some opted for this option because Kwankwaso appears to be an anointed candidate of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
The APC looks good to retain Osun State largely in view of the weak opposition offered by the PDP.
The opposition party is facing a serious internal crisis.
Sources said one way by which the PDP could make an impact in the governorship election in the state is for former Deputy Governor Iyiola Omisore to forego his governorship ambition.
The APC’s choice of its governorship candidate may also make or mar its chances.
With the victory of Mr. Ademola Adeleke, in last year’s senatorial election, PDP is confident that APC is beatable in the coming governorship poll. But if achievements were anything to go by, Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s landmark performance has overshadowed PDP’s rule in Osun State.
The situation in Kaduna is dicey because of the bitter rivalry between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and APC stalwarts who cannot be wished away.
The unending guerrilla attacks on Southern Kaduna is an albatross which may take on religious colouration and affect the chances of the APC in Kaduna State.
While APC and el-Rufai are clinging to the last straws, PDP is capitalizing on the combustion in APC to return to power in the crocodile state.
The erratic nature of Governor Rochas Okorocha, his controversial policies, monarchical tendencies, and his plan to impose his son-in-law as APC governorship candidate, have left a huge flank for PDP to exploit to get back to power in the state in 2019.
The wedge between the governor and his deputy has further made the state slippery for APC. It might be too late for Okorocha to retrace his steps.
In Zamfara State, ex-Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima still holds the ace.
Although Yerima is in APC, he is a beautiful bride being wooed by the PDP.
The unusual quietness of the Sharia advocate is worrisome for APC because his loyalty to the ruling party is suspect. There are indications that the APC may not allow Yerima to produce the next governorship candidate of the party because the powers that be in the presidency appear to prefer the Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan Ali.
The controversy trailing the tenure of the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari, the killings in the state, and alleged mismanagement of the state are causing an image crisis for APC. And with a former Minister of Defence, Gen. Aliyu Gusau in PDP, the opposition party may have the upper hand in 2019.
As for Kogi State, APC is already in turmoil with the winner-takes- all style of Governor Yahaya Bello.
All that PDP requires to dislodge APC is to look for a credible governorship candidate from Kogi East which has a huge voting population strength.
Bello is, no doubt, rabid in his ambition for a second term regardless of allegations of non-performance, non-payment of salary and pension arrears and autocratic tendency. Apart from Kogi Central, Bello might not get much support in Kogi East and Kogi West Senatorial districts.
The herdsmen attacks on hapless citizens have made Benue State a lost territory for APC in 2019 going by the anger of the people of the state.
Governor Samuel Ortom is said to be one leg in APC and another in PDP or any party depending on political exigency.
PDP is already profiting from the crisis in Benue State with Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose already pleading with Ortom to leave APC. The governor has also reconciled with the PDP financier in the state, ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam.
But APC depends on the magic wands of Sen. George Akume, political dexterity of the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and others to bail it out. APC may dump Ortom to try its luck of retaining the state. Whether PDP will accept Ortom back or not is a matter of conjecture.
Unless Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State is more circumspect, the anger over herdsmen attacks on farmers in the Benue-Plateau valley may take a toll on APC’s chances in the state.
Lalong first made a costly slip in his remarks on the invasion of Benue State but he quickly apologized after realizing the political implications of blaming Ortom for the killings. PDP is already painting APC and Lalong in bad light.
The fate of PDP hangs in the balance in Ekiti State despite the vociferous nature of Governor Fayose who seems to have lost touch with the grassroots.
The national secretariat of PDP seemed to have come to terms with the possibility of losing the state to the APC when it inaugurated a committee headed by ex-Senate President David Mark to wade into the crisis in the state.
If Fayose persists with his plan to impose his deputy as the PDP governorship candidate, the party may be running the risk of losing Ekiti.
Even the APC has to get it right in picking its own flag bearer.
Bauchi appears unpredictable having been ruled previously by the PDP and the defunct ANPP.
It has a reputation for causing political upset and tension is already building up on account of the disagreement between the APC governor and some leaders like Speaker Yakubu Dogara and those regarded as Abuja-based politicians.
If the APC resolves its intra-party squabbles, it can laugh last, otherwise the PDP may bounce back with the support of heavyweights like former Governor Isa Yuguda and ex-FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed.
Dogara who comes from a minority group in the state may not wield much influence unless he works with the Hausa-Fulani.
The APC and PDP can boast of being well entrenched in Adamawa, the home state of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who is determined to make a strong showing to prove a point.
The First Lady Aisha Buhari, Governor Jibrilla Bindo, SGF Boss Mustapha, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Aisha Dahiru Modibbo (Binani),among others, to contend with.
Ex-Governor Aliyu Wammakko of Sokoto State seems to hold the ace in deciding the fate of APC and PDP in the state.
The Senator, who was made the chairman of Northern Senators Forum last week in a palace coup, has proved to be a game changer. It is taken for granted in APC that Governor Aminu Tambuwal might exit PDP because of his political friend (Governor Nyesom Wike) who is working day and night to get him the PDP presidential ticket.
The presidency is battling to hold Wammako down in APC with a wild card to state his terms. Yet, he is a loyalist of Senate President Bukola Saraki whose next political destination remains unknown.
Kwara State looks a seamless ride for the Saraki Dynasty but the jolt it suffered from PDP during the last local government elections in the state is a pointer to a dangerous pattern that an upset is not impossible.
It is uncertain if Saraki will remain in APC or return to PDP.
There are strong rumours that he is headed for PDP which sparked a protest last week by some PDP members in the state.
There are also reports about his most trusted ally, one Tunde Morakinyo, being regularly sighted with the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus. There are fears that something is in the works. But if Saraki returns to the PDP, the fight with APC in 2019 may turn out very dirty.
The heavyweights in PDP are mostly products of the dynasty who have turned against their political roots. These political “rebels” may shift base to APC to tackle Saraki. The low performance of Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed has created much dilemma and liability for Saraki. Although the Senate President has launched a subtle plot to regain lost grounds, he needs to do more homework than a cosmetic solution.
In Jigawa, the PDP is giving the APC sleepless nights with the rebound of ex-Governor Sule Lamido who is much loved by the people of the state.
Concerning Nasarawa, Governor Umar Tanko Al-Makura needs all the tact in the world in choosing his successor to create a sense of belonging for all, otherwise the PDP may take advantage of any implosion in APC to win the state.
The earlier the APC allows the Tinubu Committee to reconcile all without let or hindrance, the better for it.
The forthcoming National Convention of the party will go a long way to define its stake in 2019.
For PDP, it is already consolidating its gains by poaching APC members in the National Assembly.
A source said: “PDP has perfected plans to decimate APC through mass defection, playing the religious card and propaganda.
“The abduction of 105 girls from the Science College in Dapchi, Yobe State has put APC on electoral edge even in the North. A timely rescue of the girls can boost the chances of APC. Or else, the incident will be a political weapon for PDP.
“APC has a long road to travel. It needs to reconcile, renegotiate and reunite. Above all, the President is central to the unity of APC because he has not been politically large -hearted enough to many leaders of the party who toiled for him to win the 2015 poll. They are all afraid of giving him a second chance.”
Source : TheNation