From the beginning of this article, let me make my vested interest clear. I am a supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and I believe the man is entitled to know the truth about all situations, particularly from those of us his supporters who are not holding office and only want the best for him.
We have seen leaders of the president’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) rejoicing that the party’s victory in some by-elections conducted last weekend was an indication that the president will easily be re-elected next February. Well, the politicians in the ruling party can have their celebrations and back-slapping and they are entitled to it. They can sing, dance and feast because their candidates will be sworn-in to take the legislative seats in the respective chambers to which they are elected.
However, the president as the candidate and party leader is the one who should be most concerned about whether the result of an election actually helps his cause or not. The president should go beyond the façade presented by party operatives and critically examine, interrogate and analyse the figures.
One is worried that while the APC candidate won the election, the figures should raise the alarm in the head of Buhari and his strategists. This state in which I have been voting since 1999 has always been a safe constituency for President Buhari. He won it massively in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. He won with figures ranging between 75 percent to 85 percent in those past elections.
Last Saturday’s by-election results however point to an anti-climax. The APC candidate secured 119,489 votes representing less 48.79 percent of the total number of votes. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate got 50, 256 votes which is 20.52,percent while the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Alhaji Isa Yuguda got 33, 479 votes. Other parties like the APP secured 11,217 votes; ANPP, 22,896; ADC, 1754; DA 467; MMN 429; PDC, 1,203 and SDP, 3700 votes.
What these figures mean is that the APC secured just 48.79 percent of the total votes cast while the rest of the political parties got 51.21 percent. Therefore, if the opposition parties have come together and implemented their agreement under the Coalition of United People’s Party (CUPP) in which they are to present just one candidate against the ruling party’s candidate, the APC would have lost the election in a state hitherto considered as a safe zone for the president.
Definitely, the results of the by-election will buoy the confidence of the opposition parties in the coming general elections. They can now see that the president and his party are no longer invincible and are beatable with the right candidate, the right strategy and the unity of purpose between the opposition parties.
The results of that election is also a clear indication that the Buhari before 2015 ascension to the presidential seat in the Aso Rock Villa is different from the one that will seek election in 2019. The magic wand may have been waning and losing its potency.
Defeating APC in 2019 in Bauchi State becomes more feasible, judging from the last week polls result, when you put the factors that will be at play in 2019. During the general election, there may not be a proliferation of candidates on the ballot like we had in the bye election. The presidential election will most likely be a two-horse race, Buhari versus the candidate of the opposition.
If APC could only get 48.79 percent of the total votes cast in a by-election in which five serving governors gathered in the state to help win the polls and contributed resources to fund the electoral operations of APC in just one senatorial district, then there is a problem. These governors from other states will not be around next February. They will be busy in their respective states and their resources will also be needed to win in their domains. So, the luxury that the ruling party had last week will definitely not be there.
By the time of the general election, if the APC had not intervened to improve the performance of Governor Yahaya Abubakar and reconcile with Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Reps, the situation in Bauchi would have gotten worse and the results may even further go south for APC.
There is also the possibility that in 2019, many of the present elected office holders would have lost their tickets as the governor is becoming very authoritarian and threatening to deny many present state legislators and the remaining federal lawmakers their return tickets. In that case, the problem of the ruling party will be more compounded and that would have unwittingly boosted the chances of the opposition to rout it out of power in the state.
Bauchi has demonstrated in the recent past that there is no fixed position on parties. The ruling party is often punished for not delivering on its promises or not fielding the right candidates. Sometimes, the loss of the party in government is due to the ill-treatment of certain popular politicians and inability to manage success.
For example, Alhaji Adamu Muazu of the PDP who governed the state successfully between 1999 and 2007 could not win a senatorial election in the 2007 general elections. His rival, Mallam Isa Yuguda who contested on the platform of the opposition party, the ANPP, succeeded him. Yuguda later defected to the PDP.
Yuguda himself could not retain the state for the PDP in 2015. The state elected Governor Abubakar of the APC. Today, there are indications that another mass switch of loyalty may occur in Bauchi State. These are the facts that the dancing politicians now celebrating the weak success in the last week senatorial by-elections will not tell Buhari.
However, the president needs to know. He must be apprised of all the facts, undercurrents, calculations, interpretations and indices so that he is not taken by surprise in 2019. The president needs to take charge of the re-election activities and programme. His party is not doing well, unlike the rosy impressions being created for him. Beyond the dance and dilly-dallying, Buhari must know that Bauchi, as of today, is not looking good for him.
Dass writes from Bauchi.