With the 2015 Presidential election fast approaching, all eyes are on the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to produce its candidate with enough political savvy to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan who would obviously emerge the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the polls. In this piece, Ikechukwu Okaforadi, writes on the qualities Nigerians expect from Jonathan’s main challenger.
The media, as well as the whole nation, is already awashed with speculations over who flies the Presidential Flag for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections.
Some speculations are quite close to becoming convincing while a whole lot of others appear more like political gimmicks aimed at shrouding the opposition’s 2015 political blueprint from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At the moment, candidates like Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Mohammadu Buhari, Chibuike Amaechi, Atiku Abubakar, Sam Nda-Isah, Rochas Okorocha, Bola Tinubu, among others are gearing up for the top job.
But these candidates invariably have their merits and demerits which will in the long run make or mar the quest for victory for the young but ambitious opposition APC.
Recall that before the advent of a strong and vibrant opposition in 2013, the ruling PDP had dominated the scene of politics in Nigeria, mainly operating like a bully against the small opposition platforms including the defunct CPC, ACN, ANPP, APGA, among others.
However, observers have submitted that these opposition platforms, having perfected their merger to give birth to what is known today as mega opposition party, the game will no longer be business as usual for the ruling party.
From all indications, the level of interest the potential APC Presidential candidate has generated among political watchers and Nigerians generally stems from the fact that the mega opposition has become very influential and focused in its bid to oust the ruling party.
In addition, given that Nigerians have been groaning under sever desire for a change in the pattern of leadership in the country, it has become imperative that the opposition’s standard bearer in the election must be convincingly catchy and down to earth.
To this end, Nigerians have more than ever become glued to their news sources over who this messiah would be. Therefore, there is no gain saying the fact that the opposition must shed every socio-political sentiment, rise up to the challenge and seize this rare opportunity.
Political pundits who have juxtaposed the manifestoes of both the ruling PDP and APC, argued that there is nothing strikingly different from both parties. In fact, by extension, many analysts argued that APC manifesto was lifted from PDP.
In all these argument, one fact has remained credible and this is that Nigerian voters are no respecters of manifestoes or party ideology. Votes in Nigerian elections are cast on the basis of candidates, even though factors like religion and ethnicity still play significant roles.
It therefore, does not make sense for the opposition party to dissipate energy in crafting a striking manifesto, rather, more time and resources should be deployed at shopping for a candidate that would be sellable across to Nigerians of various religious and ethnic divides.
From one perspective, the task is made easy for APC considering the fact that the candidate for the ruling party is already known as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan or nothing.
There is a saying that any General in a war who is privileged to a scoop of the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent has a fifty per cent advantage, hence APC has no reason to lose. All that is needed is for the party to shop for a candidate more credible and popular than the incumbent.
Moreover, those who have followed the Nigerian political development from 2011 to date have attested to the fact that if APC has to win the 2015 Presidential polls, a great deal of work has to be done by the party in the South East and South-south to soften the ground for its candidate.
Observers have argued that despite the sentiment and goodwill among Nigerians for the mega opposition party, it still possesses a bad image in the South east and South south region of the country, which are the places where President Jonathan won landslide in the 2011.
Therefore, the two major tasks before the APC schemers are to shop for a candidate more popular and credible than President Jonathan, and also engage in campaigns to reinforce the image of the party in the two regions of South South and South East; then the job is done.
There are qualities which Nigerians are looking out for in whoever will fly the APC flag in the next year elections. These virtues would go a long way in paving way for the party’s victory in the election.
Nigerians are obviously tired of the current politics of division in the county, primarily because of instability and crisis which has always been the outcome of this in Nigeria. This has equally bred poor legitimacy between government functionaries and the citizens.
Recall that the APC had severally accused the incumbent President of favouring people from his ethnic origin, which has affected the overall image of his government, with some branding it an Ijaw government.
Therefore, the opposition needs a candidate who will have both the political and natural capacity to close this division which has continued to threaten both the unity and patriotism of Nigerians to the country.
Again, Nigerians, irrespective of literacy level, are increasingly becoming interested in the political evolution of the country. In fact, 2011 election data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated that less educated persons participated more in the election.
Therefore, the opposition APC should bear it in mind that elections are no longer elite based as it used to be. Rather, chances of victory in the polls depend more on the candidate who can naturally mobilise supporters from the grassroots without much expenditure.
Some of the contestants who are jostling for APC’s Presidential ticket are good grassroots mobilisers, while other are famous for playing elitists politics. This is therefore a major pitfall which the party should lookout for in shopping for standard bearer.
Credibility is another major attribute that is lacking among Nigerian politicians. Dubious and fraudulent tendencies have remained in the recent times, the hallmarks in defining who will make a successful politician in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, this has not paid off in the quest for political and economic development of the country. Every politician in Nigeria is seen as an enemy of the people. However, from antecedent, only one or two from among the aspiring APC candidates could pass the credibility and integrity tests either form the North or ten South.
The leadership of APC therefore, should consider if their Presidential standard bearer is capable of inspiring confidence and trust among the voters, especially those at the grassroots, which constitutes majority of vote casts in elections.
Similarly, only very few APC contenders have been able to carve a niche for themselves in this regards. Observers have argued that if the ruling PDP is rated by voters as next for corrupt and fraudulent politician, APC would be committing political Harakiri if it fields corrupt candidate in the election.
Irrespective of party, it is common knowledge among Nigerians who is corrupt or not among those aspiring to preside over the country in 2015. It has been a long while when any President gives credible account of steward to Nigerians, which makes it a good quality to consider.
In addition, leadership is all about courage and forthrightness. Observers have blamed President Goodluck Jonathan of not being courageous, especially in tackling the insurgency and corruption in the country.
It is clear that what Nigeria needs at the moment is a leader who can courageously advance the course of the country irrespective of what the few elites have as interest.
Any candidate who would emerge from the opposition camp to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP should be perceived to be courageous and forthright in addressing the numerous socio-political challenges in the country.