Losing out of power after 16 years at the helms, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) believes it can stage a comeback during the next general elections by defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). JIDE ORINTUNSIN looks at the claims and counter-claims by the two leading parties, as Nigerians eagerly wait for another general elections
Although the next general elections is slated for February 2023, some two years away from now, but development in the political circle has shown that the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has begun its preparations for the elections. It has bombarded the media space in the last months with the campaign of becoming the preferred political party for the next election.
“Nigerians desire that the PDP return to power” had been the opening and closing tune at most gatherings of members of the party and in virtually all its press statements. The party chieftains will, at the slightest opportunity, tell whoever cares to listen that Nigerians are desirous of their return to power. With River State’s Governor Nyesom Wike and party spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan acting as the main agent provocateurs. No event of the party or statement from ‘Wadata House’ is complete without a rehashing of the refrain, ‘Nigerians desire our return to power’.
The party has hinged its dream of returning to power on the insecurity and the economic challenges currently being faced by the country and have predicted doomsday ahead for the country that would necessitate Nigerians to seek refuge under the umbrella in 2023.
On several occasions during inauguration of some of the projects executed by his administration, the Rivers State helmsman has told the ruling APC to prepare its handover notes at the federal level for the PDP in 2023. Wike boasted that Nigerians were earnestly waiting for the PDP to take over power in order to ensure good governance in the country. He said “the hope of this country depends on PDP” and that the party will kick the APC out of the centre come 2023.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary has also been in the forefront of the campaign to portray the ruling party in a bad light. He has never hesitated to rubbish the handling of the economy, the fight against corruption and the worsening insecurity situation in the country by the APC-led administration at the centre. For the Kogi State-born politician, by 2023 Nigerians will reject the ruling party and send her out of the villa. He argued that Nigerians are tired of the APC and are anxiously waiting for the PDP to return to power.
Part of Ologbondiyan’s allegations includes unfulfilled electoral promises, the increasing wave of insecurity across the country, looting of about N15 trillion from the national treasury, despite the war against corruption and the mismanagement of the economy. He said: “Having stripped our national coffers, the APC is now using its illegal caretaker committee to attempt to set the narrative of the empty treasury to validate their further looting of funds meant for the 2021 budget. By now, the APC ought to know that such narratives cannot fly when Nigerians are already aware that its leaders stashed away over N15 trillion stolen from our national coffers.”
But, the governing APC has described the above criticisms as laughable. The party insists that the claim by the PDP that Nigerians are yearning for its return back to power is nothing but a mere illusion.
The Secretary of the National Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Senator John Akpanudoedehe said the APC remains the party of choice for a majority of Nigerians. He counselled the PDP to spare Nigerians the trauma of a reminder of the disaster of its 16 years of misadventure in government.
APC has therefore cautioned the opposition not to overheat the polity and to desist from further inflammatory statements, so that Nigerians can forgive the numerous transgressions and agony of the years of misrule by the party.
Akpanudoedehe said the ramblings of the PDP to regain power were nothing but a sound and fury. He added: “It is our belief that Nigerians should be spared the trauma of a reminder of the disaster of PDP’s 16 years of misadventure in government. It should allow Nigerians to forgive it for the numerous transgressions and agony it had put Nigerians through many years of misrule for which their national chairman has rightly and publicly apologised.
“We would ordinarily have allowed the PDP to wallow in its usual illusion — since its descent from power in 2015 — that ‘Nigerians desire their return to power;’ how laughable! We are constrained to set the records straight because it borders on the collective sensibilities of Nigerians who have consistently and resoundingly proven in two consecutive cycles of general elections as well as other off-cycle elections, their outright rejection of the contraption called the PDP and restated their preference and endorsement of the APC as the party of choice for the majority of Nigerians.”
The governing party maintained that there was no room for comparison between it and the opposition party. It insisted the opposition lacks the moral authority to compare the APC era with the wasteful years of PDP rule which had nothing to show for the huge receipts from the sale of crude oil for 16 years of its administration.
“Where lies the moral authority of the PDP to even contemplate comparing themselves to the APC after its wasteful years in governance. But, instead of burying its heads in shame and allow sleeping dogs to lie, its rantings keep reminding us of the ignominious era where: crude oil was sold at an average of $100 per barrel for a consecutive period of four years, which gave an excess of at least $30 per barrel above the budget benchmark and MTEF, and raking in surplus revenues – a windfall, if you like – for the country. Yet, what did Nigeria and Nigerians have to show for that period? Nothing at all!”
The APC scribe added: “The PDP has decided to play to the gallery in an attempt to play deniability and take away the gaze of Nigerians from the remarkable strides which the APC-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is carrying out amidst very trying circumstances. Nigerians are aware that due to the monumental sleaze and leakages of our collective patrimony actively supervised by the PDP, the current administration of President Buhari inherited an empty treasury, coupled with the global decline in oil prices since 2014, which significantly trimmed the well-laid-out plans of the APC.
“This is elementary economics. When your expenditure outstrips the supply of goods in the economy, inflation will occur in the long run. Just as we were able to pull through, COVID-19 came calling with worldwide economic ramifications. Nigerians understand that this was beyond us. Be that as it may, President Buhari went to work immediately by putting in place building blocks for a virile and sustainable Nigeria; economically, agriculturally, in the ease of doing business initiatives, infrastructural renaissance, the power sector reforms, in anti-corruption, social investment programmes, and of course in building strong institutions that will outlive the present administration.”
For Akpanudoedehe, a 10-point achievement of the APC since 2015, which he said have culminated in the country emerging as the largest economy in Africa and the 25th largest economy in the world as contained in the IMF Report 2020 has put a lie to the claims of the PDP.
The achievements include: the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which has successfully curbed the excesses of government officials that are prone to graft; the alignment the budget cycle with the January to December budget window to allow for better delivery of benefits to Nigerians; and the ease of doing business initiatives as implemented by PEBEC has propelled Nigeria’s ranking (moving down 13th place) in the Ease of Doing Businesses Ranking as published by the World Bank Group in 2020.
In simple terms, this means that Nigeria is the 131st attractive country for investment out of a survey of 190 countries as against 145th it was placed in 2018.
Besides, the 326km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway which has been abandoned for more than 30 years is now fully operational, with modern coaches. The 156.5km Lagos-Ibadan double track standard rail line is also in operation.
In the power sector, the APC-led Federal Government is battling to reverse years of neglect. This is despite the billions of dollars wasted in the sector in the past. For instance, the 3050 MW Mambilla Power Project, conceptualised over 30 years ago, is now receiving concrete attention. Imagine if all these had been done in the years when excess revenues were at the disposal of the PDP.
The Siemens Presidential Power Initiative of the Buhari administration seeks to ramp up the nation’s entire electricity value-chain (generation, transmission and distribution) and add about 25,000 MW of electricity to the national grid. This will be fundamental to the growth of the manufacturing sector.
The metering solutions and the solar home systems are initiatives that are people-centred which seek off-grid solutions to our energy problems by providing power to the rural areas to trigger economic activities by stemming rural-urban migration. Similar interventions in some of popular markets, tertiary educational and medical facilities are fully functional while some are at advanced stages of completion.
The social intervention programmes of the Buhari administration are massive and unprecedented. These include the 774,000 SPW programme of National Directorate of Employment (NDE), supervised by the Federal Ministry of Labour, which kicked off on January 5, 2021, the N-power scheme that has accommodated over 500,000 beneficiaries thus far and another one million beneficiaries about to be engaged, the Trader-moni, Market-moni, and the schools-feeding programme are all targeted at the poor.
The various stimulus packages encapsulated in the Economic Sust-ainability Plans of the administration are designed to re-jig the economy which has been dulled by the consequences of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic with its attendant bottoming out of oil prices and the concomitant loss of revenues for Nigeria. Yet, despite this force majeure, the administration does not owe salaries and is consistently bailing out states, so that no Nigerian is owed salary irrespective of political leanings.
APC maintained that the result of mid-term concurrent legislative by-elections have further deflated the opposition ego and claim that it is the government in waiting. The ruling party boastfully claimed that, from Imo, Bauchi, Lagos, Plateau and other states where the recent concurrent legislative by-elections were conducted across the country, the massive electoral victories recorded by the APC is a solid display and pointer that the APC remains the only political party with a true national appeal and acceptance by Nigerians, across geo-political zones and sundry groupings.
Akpanudoedehe said: “It is indeed a true demonstration that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC government he leads remains massively popular with Nigerians, despite the warped narrative some opposition partisans try to sell.”
Comrade Jonathan Vatsa, a former Commissioner for Information in Niger State and founding APC Publicity Secretary observed that the recent defection of leaders from various opposition parties in the last six months has further boosted the acceptability of the governing party in the country.
He said: “By our political culture, a ruling party usually experience members defecting out of it, but here is APC attracting more members as we move ahead towards another election year. Late last year, the Chairman Southeast Governors’ Forum and Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi dumped the PDP. Some federal legislators from Rivers State also defected. We are receiving more members across the country daily. For me, PDP is only dreaming and it is in order to dream but the reality is that Nigerians are still for the APC.”