Four weeks to the March 28 presidential election, indications emerged that there is growing uncertainty among some members of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on whose platform President Goodluck Jonathan is contesting the election, over his candidacy.
The reception the campaign team of the PDP has so far gotten from a sizeable number of Nigerians since the commencement of the presidential campaigns for the 2015 general elections is said to be responsible for the growing uncertainty in the president’s kitchen cabinet.
This is particularly with members of the BoT from the northern part of the country, who say they are experiencing unimaginable difficulty in campaigning for the president in their home states.
A ranking member of the PDP (BoT) from the northern part of the country, said the reactions of people, especially in the north to the second term aspiration of Jonathan had created serious tension among top members of the PDP who according to him, are at a loss how to market him or tackle the situation.
Reacting to the report, national publicity secretary and national secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh and Prof. Wale Oladipo, in separate telephone interviews dismissed the existence of such a situation, saying the party’s presidential candidate enjoys nationwide acceptability and would be elected for a second term in office.
While noting that Jonathan enjoys support in the North, Metuh insisted that it was not true that there was a problem campaigning for the president there, emphasising that he would get more votes in the North.
“We don’t have any such problem, director of the campaign is from the North, deputy director is from the North and we have a lot more campaign directors from there also. We also have our governors who have consistently campaigned for the president. As a matter of fact, I can tell you that the bulk of supporters are in the North and we will have a lot more votes from the North,” he added.
Oladipo on his part described the insinuation as most untrue, adding that it was figment of the imagination of those who say the situation exists.
He said, “It’s a figment of imagination of the proponents of such tale. It is most untrue. We all, irrespective of zone or state of origin are most proud of our humble, cosmopolitan, focused, accessible and well educated president and presidential candidate and his loyal vice. By the grace of God and with Dr Jonathan’s nation-wide acceptability, we are set to beat our perennial customer…Pa Buhari once again.”
Despite the insistence of national officers of the party that Jonathan is the candidate to beat in the election, the BoT source disclosed that even though the issue has been discussed among a few of them from the North, based on the reactions they have been getting from their people, it had not been tabled as an official agenda before the president in all their meetings with him or even among top members of the PDP.
In addition, he said that the situation has not also been openly discussed among the kitchen cabinet members because of its sensitivity and the possible reaction of the president to it or that of his die-hard backers.
“Let me tell you that the PDP is starring at a situation it never thought it would encounter. We never thought we will get to a stage where our own supporters will turn their backs on us. We now have a situation where we don’t know what to do with the candidature of the president who seems to have lost a lot of support from the North and South West. It is even disheartening that he has lost some valuable votes within his south-south and south east region – something unheard of in the 2011 general elections,” the BoT source said.
He added that since it is constitutionally impossible to even attempt changing the pair of the president and his vice, they have resorted to exploring other avenues of ensuring that the president wins.
However, he said the keen interest shown by the outside world to the postponed elections means that they have to be very careful on how they go about ensuring victory for Jonathan.
The BOT member also said most of the northern chieftains of the party were not really in control of their states – contrary to what they had been telling the president. He further lamented that cabinet ministers from the region were also not in control of their states.
“Look at what happened in Kaduna when the president went to campaign. Those people in Kaduna told him they are in control only for the president to go and be almost embarrassed by the kind of crowd that came to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Katsina state, despite having firm control of the state machinery at their disposal, the state chapter of the ruling PDP is having difficulty selling the Jonathan candidacy, according to further findings.
Our correspondent reports that in most of the PDP campaign outings in the state, little or no mention is made of the party’s presidential candidate.
But the public relations officer of the party in the state, Alhaji Salisu Sukuntuni, refuted concerns that the party was having difficulty campaigning for its presidential candidate.
However, our correspondent reports that when reference is made to the party’s presidential candidate, the response from the crowd is often a resounding “ba mu yi” a statement in Hausa language which when literarily translated means “we are not part of it”.
Most of the PDP members have hinted that they will vote for the party at other elections but won’t cast their votes for the party’s presidential candidate in the forthcoming presidential poll. It is observed that some of the PDP candidates openly campaign for the election of presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari.
Views are being expressed that unless serious fence mending actions are taken, the presidential candidate of the ruling PDP may record very low number of votes at the 28th March presidential poll.
But Sukuntuni said, “it is a lie to say we are having difficulty as we have been consistent in seeking support for all our candidates including the president. We are very confident of winning majority of votes for President Jonathan just as we are certain of victory for all the PDP candidates.”
It will however be recalled the angry youths stoned dignitaries with stones and slippers during Jonathan’s campaign rally in Bauchi. They also destroyed canopies and campaign materials during the campaign. In the same vein, the president’s convoy was stoned by some aggrieved youths in Jalingo, Taraba State, during his presidential campaign in the state.
His convoy had earlier been stoned in Katsina when he went to seek votes for his re-election bid. It was reported that the windscreens and windows of some of the vehicles on the convoy were destroyed before security operatives used tear gas and horsewhips to disperse the youths.