After the mass defection of over 40 federal lawmakers from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), more indications have emerged on the possible hurdles to President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid.

The defection of the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, last Wednesday, barely one week after assuring Buhari and the leadership of the party that he was going nowhere, no doubt left many chieftains of the party bewildered, a thing that many believed may have further compounded APC’s dwindling fortune in the North-Central.

Already, Buhari’s closest political ally in Katsina, Senator Abu Ibrahim, who is also the senate committee chairman on Police Affairs, admitted last Thursday, that Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s exit would see the party losing Kwara and Kogi in the North-Central and no more.

But sources close to the APC leadership have equally warned that except there was a divine intervention, the crisis rocking the party may eventually lead to a “disastrous” outing for the party, not only in the North-Central where it made appreciable impact in 2015, but in other parts of the north in 2019.

Most of those who spoke to Saturday Sun in confidence are from the seven states that make up the North-West geopolitical zone.

They seem to be at a loss as to why the party has refused to learn from the pitfalls that caused the fall of the PDP in 2015, insisting that from the way the APC was going, it was certainly going to end like the PDP, in 2019.

“I can confirm to you that more chieftains of the party will soon leave. But there are others who may remain behind. They are only remaining behind because of the fear of persecution and to do more grievous damage from within.
I can beat my chest to say even if they remain in the APC till the time of election, they won’t help it win the election, as they will respond appropriately when the time comes. Now that most of us have left the APC with all our supporters and structures across the country, it will certainly lead to a disastrous end for the APC in 2019,” one of the sources said.

Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi representing Kaduna north is one man who is categorical about what fate awaits the APC in 2019.

He said with a tone of finality that “Buhari’s no-go-areas are heavily pregnant and can deliver anything. North-West is the lifeline of Buhari and APC. With the crisis at hand in this zone, Buhari cannot replicate the margin of votes he had in 2015 in Kaduna and Kano in 2019.”

Even Buhari’s ally and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal believes so too.Explaining how PDP lost power in 2015, Lawal said “the APC itself gained heavily from this kind of undemocratic practices by PDP, where some key stakeholders were aggrieved and made their way to APC.
In Adamawa State, for example, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) and his group moved to APC and quite a lot of them that called themselves nPDP. So, as a senior stakeholder, I am worried about the trend playing out in APC, and if serious actions are not taken to address these grievances, many people will certainly abandon the party to realise their ambitions on other political platforms.”

Ironically, with the exit of Ortom, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that three more governors and several lawmakers would soon dump the APC for the PDP. And there are others who will be dumping the party after its primary, which will hold between August and September this year.

Saturday Sun had in its June 23 edition, the same day the party was holding its convention, exclusively reported the plot by the members of the new PDP in APC to either address a press conference on the day of the convention, announcing its mass defection or delay it till end of July when the National Assembly will go on a long vacation.

Having achieved the defection in July as rightly predicted by Saturday Sun, the next move, it was gathered is to use the court to ground the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership of the party.

Already, the reformed APC (R-APC), which broke away from the party recently under the leadership of a former Buhari’s trusted ally, Buba Galadima, has asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to sack the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Executive for not being lawfully elected to lead the party. The Plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1734/18 are Buba Galadima, Kazeem Afegbua, Nicholas Asuzu and Alhaji Hadi Ametuo.

The defendants in the case are members of the APC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Chairmen of the 36 States Executive Council, INEC and APC.

In the suit filed on their behalf by their counsel, Tolu Babalaye, the plaintiffs are praying the court for a declaration that having regard to the constitution of APC, particularly Article 20 thereof, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Electoral Act, the election conducted by the party at the Eagle Square on June 23, 2018 is invalid, null and void.

They also want the court to declare that without a valid election at the National Convention of APC, thereby leaving a vacuum, the reform-minded faction of APC known as the Reformed All Progressives Congress validly constituted the plaintiffs and the other national officers and state executives of APC to fill the vacuum and act in the interim capacities as officers of the APC.

They are also praying the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining 1st to 52nd defendants from parading themselves or claiming to be officers of APC or performing any discussion as officers of the party in any capacity whatsoever as their elections and swearing in as officers of APC is invalid, null and void. No date has been fixed for hearing yet.

Article 20 of the party’s constitution states that “All party posts prescribed or implied by this Constitution shall be filled by democratically conducted elections at the respective National Convention or Congress subject, where possible, to consensus, provided that where a candidate has emerged by consensus for an elective position, a vote of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by ballot or voice shall be called, to ensure that it was not an imposition which could breed discontent and crisis.”

But the R-APC believes that the party did not comply substantially with this particular section of the party’s constitution.

Before President Muhammadu Buhari declared his intention for 2015 presidential contest at the Eagle’s Square, Abuja, in 2014, there was no guess about where Senate President, Bukola Saraki stood with him.

National leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who began the Buhari project as far back as 2012, were on the same page. Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and El-Rufai were on the same page in Kaduna. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and all the five PDP governors, senators, and members of the House of Representatives, had defected to the APC, thus making it double sure that APC was set to win the 2015 contest. Although today, from the list of the political heavy weights that left the PDP for the APC before the 2015 elections, only Atiku, Ortom and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Kano governor had returned to the PDP. There is, however, nothing to indicate that those remaining for now, will remain in the party till the end. For instance, while Tambuwal may likely return by this weekend, Saraki and the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, may likely join later.

Besides this, the bitter in-fighting within President Buhari’s campaign organisation is a big challenge. While some Presidency officials and APC leaders believe Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi is the wrong person to head the campaign, his strong ally, Kaduna governor, Nasir El-Rufai thinks otherwise. A number of Buhari’s friends and associates believe Amaechi is not doing anything to help the President even in the face of present challenges and as such wants him sacked.

How the zones voted in the 2015 presidential election

In the South-East, Buhari scored 198,248 votes, Jonathan polled 2,464,906; in the South-South, Buhari had 418,590 votes, Jonathan had 4,714,725 votes; South-West, Buhari had 2,433,193 votes, Jonathan scored 1,821,416; in the North-Central Buhari polled 2,411,013 votes, Jonathan recorded 1,715,818 votes, in the North-East, Buhari polled 2,848,678 votes, Jonathan had 796,580 votes and in the North-West, which is Buhari’s base, and where he enjoys a cult-like following, he polled 7,115,199 votes, and Jonathan managed to poll 1,339,709 votes.

Interestingly, Kano alone accounted for about two million votes in favour of Buhari against the PDP’s candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. Ironically, the difference between Buhari and Jonathan’s votes was 2.5 million. Whereas in 2011, when Jonathan defeated Buhari at the time the PDP was intact, with Buhari running on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), the margin was about 10 million votes.

In Kaduna too, in 2011, when Hunkuyi and his group were in the PDP, the party won the governorship, but lost the presidential election to Buhari’s CPC with 1, 334, 244, to PDP’s 1, 190, 179. PDP had fielded Jonathan in that election.

But in 2015, when Hunkuyi and his group joined the APC, the party which fielded Buhari as its presidential candidate, PDP lost both the governorship and the presidential contests with wider margin. While Buhari’s APC polled 1,127, 760 in the presidential contest, PDP which again fielded Jonathan polled 484, 085.

Likely scenario in the zones in the 2019 presidential contest

Saturday Sun gathered that there are some prominent members of the APC from the north who out of fear of the “unknown” may decide to remain in the party. But it is unlikely if they will commit the same energy and resources they committed to prosecuting the 2015 contest for the APC, for the same party in 2019.

Regardless, to win 2019, Buhari and his party would have to do more in the North-Central and North-East. Buhari’s closest political ally in Katsina, Senator Abu Ibrahim, admitted last Thursday that Saraki’s exit would see the party losing Kwara and Kogi in the North-Central and no more. But Saturday Sun investigations reveal that with Ortom’s exit, APC’s chances of winning Benue State appears slimmer. Also, because of the incessant killings on the Plateau, whether the governor defects or not, the state would pose a big challenge to the APC. Although it won the governorship in 2015, PDP floored it in the presidential contest in the same year.

Ironically, since 2011, Buhari has never won Nasarawa State. This is despite the fact that his party, CPC at the time won the governorship in the state. Today, there is nothing on the ground to suggest that the situation will likely change in 2019. But in Niger, even if the party loses the governorship, Buhari may still carry the day.

In the North-East, with the exit of Senator Bayero Nafada from the APC and possible exit of Senator Danjuma Goje later in the year, APC may find it difficult reenacting the 2015 magic in Gombe State.

Findings also show that the party lost Taraba State in 2015, and since PDP still controls the state, it may be impenetrable for the APC in 2019.

Adamawa, investigations reveal is another dicey state for the APC. Majority of those who helped it win the state in 2015 have either deserted the party or have been forced away by the party. The governor is still in the APC. But some of his cabinet members have defected to the PDP, yet they have not been fired by the governor. It is uncertain if the APC can afford to go to sleep banking on the state.

Buhari and APC are home and dry in Bauchi State as far as the presidential contest is concerned. But the governorship is still contentious.

Yobe, has always been won by the then opposition state, which has now metamorphosed into the ruling APC. Whatever happens in Borno may have effect on Yobe.

In Borno, APC appears to be trying to instigate crisis for itself. There are persons working for Buhari within the presidency who believe that Governor Kashim Shettima needs to be checkmated by his estranged godfather, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.

Sheriff had shortly before the 2015 contest asked then President Jonathan to hold him “responsible if Borno is not delivered to the PDP”.

But by the time the election was won and lost in 2015, Sheriff did not only fail to deliver Borno to the PDP, he could not even secure the required 25 percent votes for the party’s presidential candidate, Jonathan.

Shettima delivered 473, 543 votes to Buhari, representing about 97 percent of the total valid votes cast, leaving Jonathan with just 25, 640 votes.

The South-South and South-East appears PDP no-go areas, leaving the South-West as a battle ground between the two parties. How well Tinubu is treated ahead of 2019, would determine where the APC support in the South-West will go.

Saturday Sun recalls that in 2011, PDP’s presidential candidate, Jonathan, floored defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, in most South-West states, including Lagos, with the exception of Osun State, where the governor, who had just been sworn in then, needed to prove a point.

Last Line

In the build up to the 2015 elections, one of Buhari’s major backers was former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. He singlehandedly de-marketed Jonathan in the international community. He contributed to undermining the fortunes of the PDP.

Today, like he did to Jonathan before the contest, he has asked Buhari not to run, just as he said he has forgiven the PDP for the mistakes of 2015.

For now, however, Buhari and his team would have to return to the drawing board. And the team’s handling of Obasanjo and other leading northern leaders who had canvassed support for Buhari ahead of 2015, but who have today turned against him, would go a long way to make or mar the president’s chances in 2019.