Polls: As APC, PDP renew battle for voters’ heart amid COVID-19 - Khorgist.com

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Sunday, 10 May 2020

Polls: As APC, PDP renew battle for voters’ heart amid COVID-19


Although the 2019 general elections have come and gone, the political battle for the hearts of Nigerians by the two leading political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, has shown no sign of easing.
The seed of acrimony between the two parties was sown in the run up to the 2015 general elections which the PDP lost to an amalgam of four political parties that came together to form the APC.
A public affairs commentator, Babangida Mohammed, who was part of the campaigns at the time, said, “The then opposition APC mounted a never before seen coordinated attack on government policies and programmes.
“It saw and took every opportunity to denigrate not only the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, but also the ruling PDP.”
An active member of the APC media team at the time, Mr Timi Frank, also recalled, “At the time we left the PDP for the APC, we were convinced that the PDP had derailed from the ideals of its founding fathers. It was our hope then that the APC offered a credible alternative and we gave our all, with the hope that the nation would be better for it. Now we know better.”
The PDP also did not take the jibes lying low. It sponsored documentaries considered offensive by some against the then APC presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the party’s National Leader and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A litmus test for the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the area of the management of epidemics came when a Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, who was infected with the Ebola virus, came into Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.
At the height of the 2014 campaigns, President Jonathan urged Nigerians to avoid large gatherings but his campaign team alongside the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, went ahead with rallies. That move prompted the then APC spokesperson, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to issue a statement asking Nigerians to “hold President Jonathan responsible if Ebola cases worsen in Nigeria.”
The tables have since turned.
Even though the 2023 general election is three years away, both the APC and the PDP have not left anything to chance.
Supporters of each of the parties use every opportunity to inform the public about what they are doing or can do if given the opportunity to lead at all levels, especially in times of crisis.
An opportunity to reach out to Nigerians has presented itself through the recent handling of the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives as well as the upcoming two off-season governorship elections in Ondo and Edo states.
The PDP, now the main opposition party, has consistently pilloried the ruling APC over what it considers its poor handling of the coronavirus response.
While the APC-led Federal Government appears more favourably disposed to a total lockdown of states, a number of states controlled by the PDP think otherwise.
For instance, apart from returning the 1,800 bags of rice sent to the state as palliatives from the Federal Government, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, directed senior civil servants in the state to return to work.
The spokesperson for the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, confirmed that the state government “has returned” the contaminated bags of rice to the Federal Government, while working out homegrown solutions to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
On his part, the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, chose to allow citizens continue with their normal daily economic activities with slight modifications.
At the national level, the PDP through its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, stirred the hornet’s nest when he urged Buhari to show leadership by visiting Kano State, which appears to be heading towards an unhealthy competition with Lagos State in terms of the number of coronavirus infections/fatalities.
That call was, however, dismissed as irresponsible and sinister by the APC through its spokesperson, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu. He wondered why the PDP was asking the President to visit the state known for his large crowds amidst a pandemic.
The APC spokesperson said, “It is quite unfortunate that the PDP will ask President Buhari to embark on a state visit to Kano at such a time. This is a clear indication that the opposition party does not mean well for this country. How can it ask for a state visit to a place like Kano at this time when what health officials are saying is for all citizens to maintain social distancing as one of the ways of stopping the spread of this virus?
In response, Ologbodiyan told Sunday PUNCH, “There is nothing untoward about asking our President to visit the people of Kano State. It is not enough to sit in the Villa and enjoy all the privileges of office and not visit a state, which you went to canvass for votes, in their time of grief.
“Our position goes beyond politics; we want this country to remain an entity by the time this government which has dragged us all back into becoming a beggarly and debt-ridden nation leaves in 2023.”
How all these will play out on the electoral fortunes of the two leading political parties in the coming months has become a talking point among political pundits.
Speaking on the developments in Edo State, a former Commissioner for Information in the state, Kazeem Afegbua, stated, “There is no fortune for the APC to harness in Edo State because the governor has squandered whatever goodwill that existed before now by his needless political battle with his benefactor, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
“This is beside the shoddy manner with which the Edo State government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine a government telling us they have spent N1bn for food purchase as palliatives. That in itself amounts to monumental corruption. Where are you going to see those food items to buy?”
However, a former National Chairman of the defunct United Peoples Party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said, “What I see as the thing that will affect the APC, the ruling party both in Edo and in Ondo, more than the handling of the COVID-19 fight is the internal crisis in those two states and the leadership crisis; as well as the role the national leadership of the party is likely to play in all of that to resolve the issues.
“Nigerian politics has not matured ideologically for people to take electoral decisions based on the handling of a pandemic by the government in power. At the end of the day, looking at the mindset of Nigerians, the issue may be used as a campaign issue but it may end there. If you are to base electoral choice on actions, nobody can take it from the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the fantastic work he is doing.”
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa, expressed the opinion that there was no better time for politicians to show how much they truly care for the electorate.
He said, “We are living in interesting times. The people of Edo and Ondo states have an opportunity to assess the quality of persons approaching them for votes. The electorate can pick and choose for themselves persons who genuinely feel their pains during this pandemic.
“Will you vote for a person who has abandoned you in this time of dire need only to show up a few weeks to another election to give you N3,000 and a cup of salt? This is a question only the electorate can answer. But I think what is happening will affect the electoral fortunes of not only political parties but also their candidates in the forthcoming election.”
A member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, Dr Junaid Mohammed, on his part, expressed sadness that both the PDP and the APC had shown “gross incompetence” in handling issues of governance since the return of democracy in 1999.
He explained that the coronavirus pandemic had further exposed the ineptitude in governance at all levels. He, however, noted that the politicisation of the coronavirus response would eventually become counterproductive.
The Russian trained medical doctor turned politician said, “We need a coordinated national response to defeat the virus because no part of this country will be safe as long as we have this virus running around the country, we certainly won’t be talking of any political party or elections until we tame this monster.”
In an obvious response to claims made against Obaseki’s efforts towards curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in Edo State, the state APC Publicity Secretary, Pastor Joseph Osagiede, in a statement said, “For the records, Edo State is the flagship in our fight against the pandemic as a nation, with its innovative, pre-emptive action, provision of essential medical equipment and test centres. He noted that it was in recognition of this that senators across party lines came out with palliatives in support of government’s efforts.”
Also, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, said, “We have resolved not to play politics at this time of our unpleasant mood in the face of the COVID-19 challenge. As a government and especially for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, there is so much to be done to deliver on the mandate.
“One such is the social security of our people. We, therefore, may not be inclined to be insensitive by playing politics or making political issues during this time. Such will hurt the sensibilities of our people.”
However, other pundits express the opinion that except for some unexpected political upheaval, the handling of the coronavirus pandemic alone cannot decide the fate of the ruling parties in Ondo and Edo states.

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