• Monday, June 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Have the G-5 governors lost the momentum?

Many Nigerians may have run out of patience waiting for the Integrity Group (G-5) to announce their adopted presidential candidate. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and leader of the group had recently given a date to announce where they would anchor for the election. But the date has come and gone without such an announcement. Observers say that it may be a curious case of the likes of Seyi Makinde, who is seeking a return as governor in Oyo State, and Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Samuel Ortom of Abia, Enugu and Benue respectively who are contesting for Senate, to campaign for their tickets under PDP and campaign for any adopted presidential candidate on another platform. Observers are saying that the G-5 governors are fast losing relevance.

There are indications that the possibility of a reconciliation between the group of five governors, and Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate is growing weak.

In light of the short time frame left to campaign and in line with Section 94(1) of the Electoral
Act 2022, which, according to Nigeria’s electoral umpire that campaign in public by every political party shall commence 150 days before polling day and ends 24 hours (February 23) before election day, which is February 25, it is obvious that there may be a limited period for the aggrieved members to woo voters to imprint their fingertip on the ballot for the umbrella party.

Campaigning is key to election outcomes and this has been evident in previous outings. But, unfortunately, since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blew its whistle for campaigns to kick off, the PDP electioneering house, particularly for the presidential race, has literary not been full.
Although crowded in almost every state visited by the Atiku Abubakar campaign train, there are still some reservations about some key members of the party, which observers say are big forces to reckon with considering the huge voting numbers from their states as well as the vantage position to sway over 4 million votes from the South Eastern states like Abia and Enugu states, which are under the stronghold of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, respectively.

Interestingly, from the recent voter distribution summary, Rivers, Oyo and Benue States have 3.53million, 3.27million and 2.77millions votes, respectively, and, in that order, were ranked 4th, 6th and 9th of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in the chart.

The face-off in the party degenerated during the flag-off of the re-election campaign of Seyi Makinde, Oyo State Governor, when Nyesom Wike and the other members that make up the gang of five (G-5) stood in solidarity for the host while Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the party, and Atiku Abubakar, were absent at the rally.
The governors, in their separate remarks during the event, however, concealed the presidential candidate they want their people to vote for. Speaking at the rally, Wike said: “Vote for Governor Seyi Makinde, vote for all the candidates on the platform of the party, but the other one, Seyi Makinde will tell you.”

Ortom, on his part, while canvassing votes for Makinde, said: “We have challenges with our national leadership. They have failed to resolve the internal crisis in the party arising from the party’s national convention. We are committed to PDP in our various states and at the appropriate time, we are going to let you know where and what to do. We are united, we are together; don’t listen to gossip on social media, we are committed to PDP and all our candidates in our states.”

Read also: Students, farmers, housewives to sway 2023 elections

Before the election year, the supposed frontman of the G-5 said he would announce his preferred candidate and mobilise votes in the forthcoming 2023 general election in January, but, to date, his compass is yet to point to any direction of the presidential candidates as Nigerians gradually run out of patience waiting to hear the all-important declaration.

This dilly-dallying also manifested in his recent interview with BBC, where he said: “Why are you in a hurry? Did I tell you January 4, January 10 or 16? You people should calm down. We are all politicians and we have political strategies. Who told you that within 24 hours nothing can happen in politics? You see, I don’t work as an individual.
“If you know what is guerilla warfare, there are different strategies of guerilla warfare and different strategies of going to war. What you see today is not what you see tomorrow. I laugh when they say we are in touch with a certain governor.

Watch what is going to happen.
“Before now, we met with Peter Obi and Obasanjo in London. We also met with Tinubu, we also met with Atiku and Kwankwaso. There are all kinds of blackmail and, each time, they see the G-5 go out, they will say it is a meeting.
“It is not a question about undecided, that is left for me and my people. You will know, it is not hidden. I am not running away. There are strategies in everything you do. Do this now, do this next week, everything will be coming up. The point I am going to tell you is that PDP should have the opportunity because there will be a time the door will be shut. I have told you if heaven will come down on that day let it come down,” he said.

While some pundits wonder how the likes of Seyi Makinde, who is seeking return as governor in Oyo State, and Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Samuel Ortom of Abia, Enugu and Benue, respectively, who are contesting for Senate, are campaigning for their tickets under PDP and campaigning for any adopted presidential candidate on another platform, others say they may eventually lose their relevance as who they declare their support for may no longer matter since most persons have decided on who to vote for.

Expectations are rife as the long-awaited elections are now a few days away, yet no substantial decision with the warring factions. Despite efforts made to pacify and prevail on the “integrity group”, the Obio-Akpor-born governor has always insisted on never adding his voice to the party’s presidential candidate’s campaign until the party leadership meets their demands, which includes but is not limited to Iyorchia Ayu’s resignation to have a fair representation of regions in the party’s scheme of things.

Surprisingly, a similar situation played out before the 2015 election, when Wike’s arch-rival and predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, and four other PDP governors, including Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa formed a group and later defected to APC. An action adjudged to be crucial to former president Jonathan’s defeat.

Although Moses Onodua, a public affairs analyst, likened the current breakaway PDP governors to that of the 2015 scenario, he said the impact of the current G-5 will not be as massive as that of the previous occurrence, urging the governors to rethink and retrace their steps for a formidable PDP if they truly want to wrest power from the APC.
“This is simply because in 2015, they left the PDP completely with all their structures and fielded candidates in APC, they contested under the banner of APC and they won. 2023 G-5 are in a state of dilemma. They waited too long and some of them are contesting under PDP while the other has candidates in PDP that he must support to be victorious,” Onodua said
He, however, noted that PDP was better positioned to win the 2023 general election but they are blowing away the opportunity by their inability to settle their internal disputes.

“If they had left immediately or before the primary election and taken all their structures to another party, it would have been the end of PDP but as of today, the effect of the Wike-led G-5 is dwindling. It is not easy to defeat an incumbent in Nigeria. The split in PDP may likely be the gain of the Labour Party and APC as well.

“If the G-5 throws their weight behind any other party aside from PDP, it may have negative consequences on their various candidates. They should think well before they leap. The G-5 governors may suffer great loss and embarrassment if they should openly canvass for another party aside from PDP as the majority of the voters may not be properly enlightened when it comes to voting on Election Day.

“There may be serious confusion in the mind of voters and, at the end of the day, it may affect them negatively. They should rather stick to PDP and remain neutral in the presidential contest while campaigning for themselves and their other PDP candidates apart from their presidential candidate. They should not make the mistake of openly endorsing another presidential candidate because it may backfire on them,” Onodua warned.

He further pointed out that the governors’ weight in the forthcoming election matters and should not be dismissed because every state governor is a powerful force and it will be risky to ignore them.

“The governors in Nigeria are a very powerful block in Nigeria’s political history. The reason for this is that they are closer to the people at the grassroots and their impact is directly felt by the people. They control almost everything in their respective states and as such, they are the ones that the people know as government since the various local government councils have been rendered redundant and ineffective by the various governors in their respective states.
“It will be suicidal for any political party to downplay the roles of the governors in the forthcoming elections. They are still very much relevant and will play significant roles in the outcome of the elections.

“Have you not seen what some of them are currently doing? Employing thousands of Special Assistants, and Liaison Officers among others and posting them to various local government areas? The mandate is to deliver to your area. When you walk around some cities in some states, you won’t see the billboards or advert materials of any opposition party. This is because the governor in such a state is wielding his powers,” he added

Corroborating, Hillary Otsu, Edo State secretary of PDP, told BusinessDay that “if they go and align with another party, then it will surely impact on the election results. Remember they are sitting governors of their states. This election is almost strictly about new thinking, money, mobilisation, and the governors have all of that to utilise for their objectives. It is only in very few states that governors don’t have control of their party structures.”

According to him, “I don’t think the G-5 are in a fix. 24 hours is an eternity in politics. Their force has been heard already because PDP has become polarised in so many states. Besides, the party leadership has not shown the capacity to manage the circumstances.

“It is quite unfortunate that the leadership has been unable to arrest this ‘G-shock’. In 2015, after Jonathan’s loss, I attended the PDP reform conference and I sincerely believed then that real lessons would have been learnt. In 2023, it has become evident that nothing was learnt or gained. How anyone can believe that the people who founded a project should still be the ones building it after 24 years beats me,” Otsu said.

“In all this time, the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) has come and changed our landscape, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others have empowered young and adult Nigerians and provided platforms for economic and ideological expressions that are crystalising fast.

“ACN has metamorphosed and fused with CPC to become APC. The Obi movement spreads like the wildest fire ever in this country, within one month; and some people think this election is like 1999. The real PDP founding fathers must be turning in their graves because they were more focused and objective than what we see at the top today,” he further said.