Osun poll: What next for APC?
For a politician whose credibility is in doubt, and whose principles and values are in contention, the performance of Iyiola Omisore, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the recent Osun governorship poll, must worry both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other political analysts. Though Senator Omisore got a huge part of that surprising vote from his Ile-Ife stronghold, thereby raising doubts about the fidelity of the balloting in those places, it is certainly not out of place to take cognisance of the electorate’s unpredictability and sometimes weirdness when they perform their civic responsibility. If in the 1993 presidential poll, Bashir Tofa lost his home state of Kano to M.K.O Abiola, it should not be regarded as normal that Southwest voters, who sometimes erroneously pride themselves as more sophisticated than any other electorate in Nigeria, should vote so bizarrely in favour of someone so controversial, so unqualified for high office, and so unprincipled.
President Goodluck Jonathan defends his embarrassing militarisation of elections in the name of providing security, but he will be unable to do that in 2015, for the forces available to him are so limited that even if he wishes, there is no way he can pour troops into the states on the contemptuous scale witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun elections. The APC has promised to campaign against the militarisation of elections, it should go ahead, for there is hardly any Nigerian who is not embarrassed, even humiliated, by Dr Jonathan’s immature methods. However, while the APC must continue to doubt the president’s oath to conduct free and fair elections, seeing how boisterously he often fails to match words with actions, the party should not lose sleep over any attempt to militarise the polls. Dr Jonathan simply won’t be able to do it, not even if he succeeds in pacifying the restive Northeast.
What should preoccupy the APC, and by extension right-thinking patriots, is how to respond to the increasing pedestrianism of Nigerian politics and elections. It is not only the Nigerian leadership that is incompetent and infantile, the voters themselves are probably far worse, with the Southwest electorate in greater ferment than any other geopolitical zone. For instance, consequent upon the loss of Ekiti, governors in the zone have started to roll back their principled and fairly well-considered stand on education, infrastructure and other policies. They have begun to enact mass surrender to the short-sighted and even whimsical needs of the electorate. Indeed, if they refuse to cut school fees, the truth is that the PDP opposition would simply promise to do it and sweep the polls. If they enforce their sensible stand on restricting the use of commercial motorcycles, the opposition would simply take advantage of what is now ludicrously described as a disconnect. Yet, the current, newly modified policy on education, particularly as it relates to cutting of school fees, is simply not tenable. The end is disaster, considering how the quality of education, like infrastructure, health and security, has been declining for decades.
If things look dreary on the social and economic policy fronts for the APC, the party however remains unchallenged on one front: that of providing, in alliance with like-minded and principled politicians, ideological, visionary and sound leadership for the Southwest in particular, and the nation in general. It will be recalled that when Olusegun Mimiko won the Ondo governorship poll in 2012, there was a thunderous clamour by a faction of the Yoruba leadership – the same Afenifere faction that now unreflectively and selfishly allies with Dr Jonathan – for the projection of a new leadership for the Yoruba. They failed to understand that no one can give what he doesn’t have. Dr Mimiko has of course been unable to satisfy the longings of that faction. And when in spite of his mediocre talent and accomplishment, not to say temper and superficiality, Ayo Fayose won the Ekiti poll, the same faction began noisily to celebrate what they described as the impending change of leadership in the Southwest, a change they swore in June would sweep Osun into the PDP column and sound the death knell to the APC.
Osun has been saved. But that is not to say that Ogun, Oyo and Lagos are safe. The APC must recognise that the pedestrianism undermining the polity in general is also wasting the Southwest even more. The electorate cannot be trusted to be sensible or futuristic, and in many ways their private envies, which, like the Afenifere faction’s, manifest in their hatred for APC leaders, will tempt them into the same fatalism and self-destruction that are convulsing the Middle East. Osun has been saved, but Osun is also in many ways different. The state appears impervious to the private demons gnawing at the livers of the electorate, and immune to the hobgoblins erected as scarecrows by a faction of the Yoruba leadership who implausibly see the PDP as their salvation. The APC must find ways to counter the religious card foolishly played by the PDP in the region, and the campaign of calumny directed at one or two members of the party’s leadership in Lagos. If Southwest voters had recalled the stagnation they endured under the PDP after 2003, they would have spurned the PDP’s advances in Ekiti and elsewhere. But memories are short, and the APC, in spite of its stellar performance in its Southwest states, is actually threatened by protest votes, with the non-performing PDP poised to benefit.
Ogun and Oyo States must also find ways of uniting their party; and Osun, in spite of APC’s spectacular victory must recognise the need to find common ground with those who voted against the party. Indeed, given the needless controversies engendered by the APC government in Osun, one shudders to think what might have been had the PDP found someone less controversial and more brilliant and earthy than the obnoxious Senator Omisore. There is, however, no way the campaigns for the 2015 polls will not exert some influence on the voting pattern in the other APC states in the Southwest, for many issues will come up between now and the general elections. To that extent, the APC may not be in mortal danger. But following the Osun victory, the party must cleverly repackage itself, refine and make its message more succinct, rejigger its internal democratic processes and, knowing the limitations of the electorate, how they are often swayed by frivolities rather than substance, find a means of reaching out to them and meeting them on safe and common ground.
The Osun victory is a relief to the APC. Now must begin the hard work of appealing to the sometimes superficial desires of an undiscriminating electorate without compromising the futuristic plans and noble principles of the progressive party. For, notwithstanding the propaganda of the PDP, and in spite of many conservatives and reactionaries joining their ranks, the APC remains Nigeria’s best chance at the moment to escape the chaos, madness and retrogression instituted and reinforced by the PDP in the last 16 years.