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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

2015: APC in a Four Horse Race


Muhammadu-Buhari-0509.jpg - Muhammadu-Buhari-0509.jpg

 General Muhammadu Buhari
  • As parties plot strategies to maintain regional strongholds
By Chuks Okocha 
Though, formal campaigns for next year’s general election are yet to begin, the race for the presidential tickets of the major political parties is certainly hotting up. The parties are also exploring possible permutations that would give them political advantage in the various geopolitical zones.
While President Goodluck Jonathan may not have any strong challenger for the Peoples Democratic Party presidential ticket, in the All Progressives Congress, it looks set to be a four horse race between former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki; and Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso. Each of the aspirants has some things going for him in the race, and downsides, too.
This is inspite of the fact that Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, yesterday declared his intention to run for the presidency on the platform of the party and newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah, has been holding consultations about his presidential aspiration.
Buhari, a native of Daura in Katsina State, ran unsuccessfully for the presidential office in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 general elections. He has a strong grassroots support in the North, and across the country. Buhari is famous for an impressive record of honesty and a tough anticorruption stance. He is generally seen as the foremost contender for the APC presidential ticket.
The modified direct primaries approved on August 21 by the national leadership of APC for the choice of the party’s presidential candidate, beginning October, also appears to put the former Head of State in pole position. The system, which will involve about 300, 000 party members chosen from the ward, local government, and national levels voting to elect the presidential candidate, is hailed for its ability to reduce the influence of moneybags.
But, Buhari, a Muslim, is criticised, especially, in the South and among the country’s Christian population, for his alleged strong religious views. He is also believed to lack the wherewithal to finance an effective campaign and maintain strong political structures in the different states of the country. At 72, it is thought in some quarters that Buhari may not have the energy and drive to effectively lead a large and diverse country like Nigeria.
Atiku, 68, is from Adamawa State. He was presidential candidate of Action Congress in the 2007 election. Ahead of the 2011 general election, he was consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders Forum and contested unsuccessfully against Jonathan for the PDP presidential ticket. He also contested the presidential primaries of the now defunct Social Democratic Party in 1993 and placed third after Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe.
The former vice president maintains robust political structures across the country and he is believed to have cross-party sympathy. Atiku is thought to have a huge war chest for campaigns and maintenance of his structures. He runs a media office that is widely adjudged to be the most vigorous in the country at the moment. His wide political network fits perfectly into the modified direct primaries approach adopted by APC for the election of its presidential candidate.
However, Atiku does not seem to have strong grassroots popularity. The October 11 governorship bye-election in his native Adamawa State may also be a hurdle before Atiku, as sources within APC say it may be taken as a gauge of his popularity and strength in his home state and, thus, his capacity to effectively hold the party’s presidential ticket.
Saraki, a native of Kwara State, is a medical doctor and senator. He successfully led the Nigeria Governors’ Forum as governor of Kwara State.
Saraki comes from a strong political background and he, apparently, leveraged his position as NGF chairman to make a lot of contacts across the country. He has a good control of APC in his state, and the party, the ruling party in the state, has a big chance of  retaining control of the state in the next general election, which stands Saraki in good stead in the presidential race. Saraki, 52, also has age on his side.
But Saraki’s North-central origin may not count in his favour in the North, as most people in the region may likely prefer someone from the North-west or North-east.
Kwankwaso, 58, has a strong experience in the civil service and politics. He was the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives in 1992 and delegate to the Constitutional Conference in 1994. The former defence minister swept to power in 2011 with a strong political ideology anchored on the Kwankwasiyya Movement, eight years after losing the governorship seat to Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Kwankwaso has strong support among the APC governors and in Kano State he is widely admired for his excellent performance. The Kwankwasiyya Ambassadors of Nigeria, a group backing his presidential aspiration, though based in Kano State, is a strong political force trying to take the message of his performance beyond the state.
However, Kwankwaso does not seem to have political structures beyond Kano State that can support an effective presidential campaign.
Besides the four aspirants, House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is also widely speculated to nurse a presidential ambition on the platform of APC. He is currently a member of PDP, but there is a strong suspicion he may soon defect to APC.

Meanwhile, ahead of the presidential election, PDP and APC are plotting strategies focused on gaining advantage in states and geopolitical zones with high voting strength.
THISDAY gathered that PDP strategists are banking on support from the South-south and South-east, while APC is counting on the North-west and North-east, with both parties readying to slug it out in the North-central and South-west, which are seen as battleground zones.
A senior presidency official said, “The general permutation for the 2015 presidential election is based on the support of the South-south states, irrespective of the fact that Edo State and Rivers State are technically in the hands of the opposition APC.” 
PDP estimates to get at least 70 per cent of South-east votes. It hopes to get even more in the South-south, Jonathan’s native zone. But whatever PDP may lose in the South-south and South-east, it hopes to cover in the North-central, whose states are governed by PDP, except Nasarawa State, the source said.
“The low population strength in the two geopolitical zones of South-east and South-south is reinforced with the voting strength in the North-central.” The source explained that Jonathan would get more than 25 per cent of the votes in the North-east and North-west states. He said PDP strategists believed the party would get between 40 and 50 per cent of the votes in the South-west, which they recognised as the stronghold of the opposition.
The South-west has the second highest voter population after North-west.
An APC chieftain, who is among the main strategists of the party, told THISDAY that whatever votes PDP could garner would be countered in the states of Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna and Katsina, which he described as the stronghold of the opposition.

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