Ahead of the 2023 general election, Salihu Lukman, director-general of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), has expressed worry over the chances of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to retain power at the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
Lukman said his fears were based on the realisation that the electoral victory of the APC in the 2015 and 2019 general elections was made possible by the presence of President Buhari in the party.
The PGF DG, who raised the concerns in a statement titled: ‘Determining Factors for 2023 Contests in APC’, argued that Buhari is the only personality in the political history of the country, who polled a minimum of 12 million votes in all the elections he contested even as opposition candidate.
He said the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was a shadow opposition whose electoral prospects are largely dependent on the outcome of internal contests in the APC, stressing that the ruling party’s winning streaks would be sustained if its chieftains, avoid reckless and undisciplined conducts ahead of the 2023 poll.
“If anything, the lesson from the 2019 elections, which every APC leader and member should be reminded is that APC was defeated in Rivers, Zamfara, Bauchi, Adamawa, Oyo and many other places by aggrieved APC leaders who worked against candidates or leaders of the party as a result of internal disagreements around candidate selections for governorship of these states.
“Such internal disagreement almost cost the party the loss of Imo State until the Supreme Court confirmed the victory of the APC. In Ogun, it was a traumatic victory. Kano State Governorship election certainly had its baggage of painful experiences. Lagos State was a shocking narrow victory, no thanks to avoidable challenges. Rambo political contest led to the loss of Edo State in the 2020 Governorship election.”
Lukman also said: “APC leaders should also be reminded that it was internal rancorous contest that made APC to lose the 2014 Ekiti Governorship election. Similar rancorous contest produced marginal victory for the APC in the 2018 Ekiti and Osun elections. The reality is that if the APC had face any of the challenges of the Governorship elections in Rivers, Zamfara, Bauchi, Adamawa, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Lagos, Edo, Ekiti and Osun during the 2019 presidential election, winning the election would have been impossible.”
According to him, “If anything, absence of any problem during the internal contest for the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the party in December 2014 was a major source of electoral strength, which made the party to win elections in virtually all the states it won in 2019, as well as won majority seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
According to him, once APC can manage the process of internal contest for the emergence of candidates of the party for 2023 elections such that all those who contested with the winners can accept the outcomes as well as support the candidates, it is possible for the party to continue to enjoy all the electoral advantages associated with President Buhari.
“How the party is able to manage the process of internal contest is now the challenge. The biggest problem in politics, which compromises both leaders and members and weaken capacity to provide generic support to candidates irrespective of who emerges, is the personal ambitions of leaders for elective and appointive positions,” he said.
The PGF DG strongly believes that “It is conventional to all democracies that parties in power always have the higher advantage of winning elections. To that extent, APC has all the advantage of winning the 2023 elections. The big challenge is whether APC leaders will take the necessary steps to retain all the towering electoral advantages of President Buhari, which will require first and foremost that the Caretaker Committee is able to complete its tasks of returning party organs to normal operations in line with provisions of the APC Constitution.”
“This should be followed by allowing organs of the party to take decisions, which should be the basis for the unity of all leaders of the party. There is also the need to depart from the political convention in Nigeria whereby leaders relate with everyone based on estimation of support or opposition of ambitions to access appointive and elective positions. This create the problem of blind trusts, which in turn can lead to a situation whereby appointed officials of governments controlled by the party are more or less passengers,” he further said.
He pointed out that “Once appointed official become passengers, the capacity of the party and governments it controls to engage Nigerians and win public support will be weak. This can produce the unacceptable reality whereby both the party and governments it controls face challenges of bad public image.
“Taking every step to ensure that conducts of party leaders are regulated to conform to minimum standards is therefore, necessary to ensure that all appointive officials of APC-controlled government are able to develop comparative scorecards ahead of the 2023 election. APC must take all the necessary steps to ensure that campaigns for 2023 are based on assessment of empirical evidence of performance and not perception.”