Let the Sparring Start…


The ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party have begun to chart the path to the next elections with their recent sparring on the economy, writes Anayo Okolie

It appears the journey to 2019 has begun. Although the race to another election year is politically assumed to have begun immediately one election cycle ends, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to have first marked the path to 2019, because it had not spared the former ruling party and now the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as soon as it snatched power from it in 2015.

Practically on all fronts, the APC had put the PDP on the spot and blamed it for all the woes the country currently experiences, because according to the APC, those woes are the inheritance left behind by the PDP. Thus, while the outcome of the 2015 general election might have come as a shock to the PDP members, a majority of who are yet to recover from it as well as a host of other observers, the APC has not stopped rubbing it in at every given opportunity, sometimes even when the issues are unrelated.

Unfortunately, for the PDP, it came from an ugly experience of a debilitating defeat and landed in a bitter leadership crisis, both of which it was not prepared to manage. It turned out overly disorganised until a recent Supreme Court ruling, which declared the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee as the authentic leadership of the party.

That naturally put paid to the protracted leadership tussle, which had rocked the PDP since its former chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, left the party as a result of pressure by the stakeholders in the aftermath of the defeat of the 2015 presidential election.

While all these lasted, it was understandably difficult for PDP to play the role of the opposition, which left the APC comfortable for a while, sadly, for a fleeting period. But all that changed penultimate Saturday when the PDP held its non-elective National Convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Expectedly, the nation’s economic woes was the main issue on the agenda of the obviously rejuvenated PDP, the salvo of which was served by no other person than the former president of the party, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, suggesting that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was not in any way better than the immediate past PDP administration, which interestingly had become a pun in the hands of the APC.

Advising the APC to focus more on resolving the economic woes it had brought upon Nigeria and Nigerians, Jonathan recalled that in spite of the devastating natural disaster that damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and Benue in 2012, his government was able to keep inflation at a single digit, maintaining price stability and at the same time growing the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars.
He therefore reiterated that APC-led government lacked a sound economic team to pilot the affairs of the nation, saying: “We had a sound economic team in place managing the economy.”

Comparing the two administrations, the PDP reminded Nigerians of what life was under its governments, as Jonathan, reeled out key achievements of the party in the period he was in power. He charged party faithful and delegates to brace up to reclaim power in 2019, whenever the general election holds.

Specifically responding to claims by the APC that the economy would have been worse off if the PDP had remained in office, Jonathan, who spoke for about 20 minutes at the convention, said it was not true and couldn’t have been the case.

“We had a sound economic team in place managing the economy. Let us not forget that the great floods of 2012 were a major calamity that damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and Benue. But despite the devastating effect of this natural disaster, there were no food shortages or arbitrary increase in prices, because of what we were able to accomplish with our Agriculture Transformation Agenda, which considerably boosted food production.
“If we say that we rekindled hope in our people and regained international goodwill, it is because we pursued a number of policies and programmes that were not only richly rewarding for our people, but were also being copied by many countries across the globe, a few of which I will mention here,” he boasted. He said the PDP administration provided focused leadership through institutional and sectoral reforms, which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years that he was in power.

According to him, the result was that, “The administration was able to keep inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, grew the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars, and the number one foreign direct investment destination on the continent”.

He recalled also that one of the very remarkable achievements in the agricultural reform was the end to decades of fertiliser corruption, which it achieved through electronic wallet system, adding that the initiative has continued to resonate outside the shores of Nigeria and that it was not only being scaled up by the African Development Bank (ADB), but already being replicated in close to 20 African countries.

On corruption, Jonathan said though the approach adopted by his administration to fight the hydra-headed problem may not have plugged all the leakages in the system, it no doubt laid a sustainable foundation for tackling the scourge.
In closing his remarks, however, Jonathan declared with a lot of excitements and confidence: “Let it be known in all nooks and crannies of our country, that the PDP is back to claim its rightful place in the affairs of the nation. As we have always done, we are ready to return Nigeria to the path of unity, peace and prosperity.”

With this, an engaging debate on the economy ensued with a swift response from the APC, suggesting the path to the 2019 general election.

National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, noted that the party did not promise to fix the nation’s economy and turn the tide of the nation’s treasury in four years, stressing that the period of four years was not enough to revive the economy, which he blamed the opposition party of ruining in 16 years put together.
Instead, the APC called on the PDP to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians for its disastrous 16-year rule that has left the people pauperised and traumatised.

“In recent past, the PDP brand of opposition politics had been characterised mainly by allegation mongering and open incitements of separatist agitations across the country. It appears, however, that the outcome of Wednesday ruling is beginning to set them on a different course. We are therefore delighted that the PDP is beginning to talk about holding the APC accountable for the promises in our manifesto.

“We want Nigerians, not just the PDP, to hold us accountable for every promise contained in our manifesto. We only urge them to be fair. A manifesto is not a four-year programme. If PDP had fully implemented its manifesto in the 16 years that it was in power, Nigerians would not have been attracted to the APC promise of change in 2015, because there would have been little left to promise,” APC added.

Interestingly, this brief sparring between the two major parties has elicited the interest of Nigerians in the promises of the coming elections in 2019. The people are therefore watching with keen interests as the drama between the opposition PDP and the ruling APC, which has not lived up to expectation since it dislodged PDP in the 2015 general election, unfolds. In less than two years from now, Nigerians, who have been on the receiving end of the poor representation of both parties will decide in a major election in 2019, but more importantly, it is good that the debates are starting early and with the economy – a critical sector – being at the centre of it. As it is, all eyes on 2019.