As campaigns for next month’s general elections gradually rise to a crescendo, there are indications that members and supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been gripped by panic over the rising popularity of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Sunday Sun gathered that some PDP governors, especially those who had crisis in their states during their primaries are already losing sleep over the increasing popularity of Buhari as evident from the huge crowd that has continued to greet his campaign train in almost all the geo-political zones of the country. The source, who pleaded anonymity, said the concerned governors have already taken measures to avert defeat of the PDP candidates and incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan at the polls on February 14.
In Adamawa State, reports say that disgruntled members of the ruling PDP who are unhappyw over the shifting of the governorship primary to Abuja are threatening to take their own pound of flesh by giving their protest votes to the presidential candidate of the APC. Consequently, some of the aggrieved party supporters who feel very strongly about the injustice visited on them during the primaries have abandoned the PDP and joined forces with Buhari and APC governorship candidate, Senator Bindo Jibrila, to oust the PDP-led administration in the state. As elections draw nearer, Governor Ngilari is said to be having a difficult challenge in ensuring that discipline and cohesion are maintained within the party, as many supporters who are yet to formerly decamp to APC are engaged in anti-party activities.
The lingering crisis is further worsened by the raging controversy over the tenure of the present governor. While the APC supporters are warming up for the governorship election, a stalwart of PDP in the state, Dr Umar Ardo, insisted that it would be an error of law to conduct gubernatorial election in the state along other states of the federation on February 28 2015, as the tenure of the incumbent expires in August this year.
Gombe and Bauchi states have equally been marked out as strongholds of the opposition. In Bauchi State, Sunday Sun findings revealed that the level of acceptance of Buhari’s candidature has reached a level where it is now difficult for PDP candidates for various offices to come out to campaign. Although Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State is not seeking re-election, he has signified his intention to run for the Senate. In his bid to avoid a defeat by the All Progressives Congress, Yuguda now relies on Islamic groups like Al-Ilam, and Shura council and Alshabab to campaign for him. Yuguda’s dilemma worsened when during one of his recent campaign tours, he asked people who they wanted as their president and the crowd responded with a loud Sai Buhari. The situation is not quite different in Gombe. Although Governor Hassan Dankwambo is the Northeast Director of Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, he is nonetheless facing a strong opposition from the teeming supporters of the APC presidential candidate. Buhari’s visible presence in Gombe State has been further consolidated by the influence of the former governor of the state, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, who has decamped to the APC.
Sunday Sun further learnt that Ebonyi State PDP crisis has also not abated. There are strong indications that the face-off between Governor Martins Elechi and the aggrieved stakeholders over the party’s primaries might not have been finally laid to rest. In spite of the intervention by the National Working Committee of the party late last year to reach an amicable peaceful resolution, some stakeholders are still threatening to pay Elechi in his own coin. A member of the party, who pleaded anonymity, said the aggrieved party supporters were already working on plan B in case of any eventuality.
His words: “We still remain PDP members. But I cannot deny the fact that the wounds are still there. Although we have not taken a final position on this election, we already have our plan B in case of any eventuality.”
In Buhari’s home state, Katsina, the latest gesture by the state government to distribute vehicles and bikes in the guise of poverty alleviation to some beneficiaries has been interpreted as a deliberate measure to further enhance the fortunes of the ruling PDP in the state in the coming polls. Mallam Ahmed Kofar Bai, a resident of Katsina metropolis, who spoke with Sunday Sun, maintained that the gesture was part of measures by Governor Ibrahim Shema to get at least 25 per cent of the votes in Katsina in the February 14 presidential election and also ensure victory of the PDP in the governorship election.
Even though the PDP stalwarts in Benue State have continued to carry on as if they are not moved by Buhari’s rising political influence, their body language shows otherwise as some members who confided in the Sunday Sun correspondent expressed worry over the growing popularity of the former Head of State. Interestingly, the APC governorship candidate, Chief Samuel Ortom, was a former Minister of Trade, Investment and Industry in the cabinet of President Jonathan. He dumped PDP when he failed to pick the governorship ticket of the party. His influence combined with the rising popularity of Buhari, Sunday Sun learnt, is giving some headache to the ruling PDP in the state. On February 28, Ortom is going to slug it out with Prince Terhemen Tarzoor of the PDP. To many political ponders, the race is too close to call.
Buhari and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan are the two leading contenders in this year’s presidential race. While Buhari had taken the shot at the presidency three times and suffered defeat, Jonathan is seeking re-election for a second term. But unlike the previous elections, this is the first time the PDP really feels challenged with Buhari’s candidacy. For many Nigerians, this is one of the reasons why the PDP is making Buhari’s certificate an issue of campaign this time around. However, a chieftain of the PDP in the Southwest and former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, dismissed the insinuation as propaganda of the APC. Speaking with Sunday Sun, he expressed confidence that PDP would win the election: “I am sure it is APC that keeps conjuring events that have no existence. Our governors, our ministers are very confident that we are going to win this election. He (Buhari) drew a crowd in Kano; we drew a crowd in Kano. He drew a crowd in Jigawa, we drew a crowd in Jigawa. Look at Benue State rally, the PDP drew a big crowd. Everywhere we go, we pull a mammoth crowd. Don’t mind them; it’s all tissues of lies. Buhari is no threat at all. Buhari is a very bad and poor candidate.”
On February 14, Nigerians will once again file out to elect the presidential candidate of their choice. Expectation is, therefore, high that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will put in place adequate logistic arrangements that will ensure a free and credible election.