It has been two years since the last general elections in Nigeria. Two years came so fast, didn’t it? So much has happened these past 24 months in Oyo state where we witnessed the most intriguing showdown, and the epic fall of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
As expected, the most common words since then have been reconciliation, fence-mending, rallying.
In truth, politics should be our last worry now because these are trying times for the good people of Oyo state and indeed South-west Nigeria. Our hearts are perpetually worried for the lives of our people, owing to the rise in cases of violence and general insecurity caused by those we welcomed into our communities but who now bully us while we watch helplessly.
However, so much has been said about the state government’s actions and inactions, with Governor Seyi Makinde, especially, coming under fierce criticism for failing to make strong public statements, give orders, deploy policemen, read riot acts and generally make a show of his commitment to the people’s safety. There is no way politics will not creep into the discourse.
Do I feel nothing is being done? No! But do I feel a lot more can be done? Absolutely yes! Interestingly, the APC would rather say nothing is being done as this presents them a perfect opportunity to start their 2023 politics. They appear to be more focused on the performance of the Peoples Democratic Party, rather than developing a superior plan with which they can convince the good people of Oyo state in 2023. Right now, the easiest song to sing is that Seyi Makinde is not performing.
There has to be a better strategy for winning an election than that same old trick of demonizing the incumbent, a style that is fast losing its potency among a very politically sophisticated and informed Oyo state electorates. If your only strategy for winning in 2023 is to milk the perceived non-performance or failure of the Makinde-led government, then 2023 might be more embarrassing than 2019.
If the opposition party, APC insists on selling the narrative that PDP should be discarded because they have not performed, then they should be reminded that APC did not lose the 2019 election due to non-performance but due to fundamental errors that turned Ibadan against the former leadership.
For PDP, for now, despite the somewhat sluggish style many complain about, we must admit that Gov. Makinde has not made any of those fundamental errors that made past governments lose elections in Oyo state. He has remained committed to civil servants, pensioners and teachers. He has maintained his religious liberality. He has not openly fought the elders or royal fathers and finally, he has not lost the Ibadan people.
Since we are all students of history, I will take us just two years back to my analysis after the March 9, 2019 governorship election in the state. One thing we learnt is that Ibadan remains the key to survival for any party in Oyo state and this same Ibadan gave APC their biggest problem at the 2019 polls.
APC got 73,102 votes from the five local governments in Ibadan metropolis alone, while PDP got 151,325 votes. The margin of 78,223 votes was half of the 157,829 votes with which APC lost the entire election. Other local governments covering Ibadan hinterlands, like Oluyole, Lagelu, Akinyele, Ona Ara and Egbeda also gave PDP double the votes of APC. It is also no coincidence that the only National Assembly seats that APC lost to PDP are the ones in Ibadan metropolis – Oyo South.
Governor Makinde knows he cannot mess with the Ibadan voters and he won’t make the APC mistake of 2018/19! So, what will APC campaign with, if Makinde refuses to make these monumental errors?
Oh, they are also banking on the large turn out that greeted the recently launched APC membership revalidation exercise which also seems to have created some form of false belief that the party had recovered. But show me the data that says PDP in Oyo would not get a higher turnout if they launch a similar exercise?
The last time I checked, Nigeria has not developed the machinery to checkmate multiple registration in one party, let alone dual or multiple membership of different political parties. Therefore, the loyalty of those thousands of new and returning APC members across the state cannot be guaranteed just by their possession of the party membership card, especially a party that is not in control.
Finally, on APC’s risky strategies, the party went to town recently with pre-victory vibes when news emerged that senior and influential members of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) had concluded merger plans with the All Progressives Congress (APC). The media was agog as APC celebrated what they say was a sign of recovery for them. The question no one seems to be asking is how many of those party elders were followed into the party by their supporters?
This is not to dismiss the political value of these very experienced politicians but if words on the street are to be taken seriously, the news that a larger number of the same Zenith Labour Party members have opted for PDP should make the APC realize that while they are winning the top political personalities, the ruling party may be winning their followers with higher electoral value. Shall we call it dejavu?
Nothing really seems to be sitting well for the APC yet but members seem to be the only ones who don’t know this. They are building their bounce back strategies on many assumptions and wishes that the ruling party would end up with an “underachiever” tag by 2023.
By now, the APC should be asking all its known and unknown governorship aspirants what their contributions have been to teachers, civil servants, pensioners, traders and artisans who are well known to be the kingmakers. Remember that in the absence of an influential leader or a powerful incumbent to carry them on his shoulders, aspirants will have to make their cases by themselves come 2023.
Nigerians are beginning to understand why they should vote for the people they know or want, not just the political party they know or get paid to vote for. APC can do better than displaying what seems like an obsession with Seyi Makinde’s government. The party should look inward and support candidates who have the track record of performance; those who have been tested in different capacities and did not fail the people, whose religious affiliations as well as origin would be an advantage to position the party for acceptability.
The success of the PDP-led Oyo state government is good for all of us and we gain nothing if they fail. Don’t tell us they have failed, show us what you can do better. Let’s have a good battle of ideas at the next election. The days of getting away with deceiving electorates are gone. Oyo people cannot be forced, you have to sell yourself come 2023 and be sure that the people will ask questions. Let this not shock you.
- KENIakintoye is a seasoned marketing communications consultant and the founder of KT Communication, a digital media, PR and communications agency. A native of Ibadan from Lagelu Local Government.