The recent sparring between the APC and the PDP is instructive preparatory to the 2019 elections. Olawale Olaleye writes

As far as 2019 is concerned, neither the All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will take no prisoners in their already bitter rivalry. The frenzy is gradually building up and the two parties have begun to subtly pick their battles, sequel to the main event.

For the APC, after many years of playing and juggling its opposition – either through realignment or merger – its gamble eventually paid off in 2015 as a movement of combined political parties uprooted the PDP and took over power. By 2019, it would have only served just a term. Therefore, the tendency to want to seek re-election is present and high. More so, everything it is currently doing suggests re-election is an option already on the card.
President Muhammadu Buhari had personally hinted at this twice. First, he hinted at a possible presidential run in Abidjan, during a summit on counter-terrorism, and second during his recent two-day visit to Kano State.

The PDP, on its part, was in power for 16 years. Indeed, it sought to rule for 60 years as once mooted by one of its former national chairmen, Ahmadu Ali, before the APC threw spanner in the wheels for it. But PDP is the one party that has retained its name and identity since 1998 and therefore, enjoys seemingly immutable name recognition even in the remotest parts of the country. But in spite of its clout and outward grip on the polity, it was sent packing in 2015 in an election, whose results it could not even challenge.

Sadly, for the PDP, while it remained too complacent in power, it was not by any means ready for its current job prescription as an opposition party. It is no wonder, therefore, that almost three years after leaving power it is just beginning to understand that there is a role reversal after all. From leadership crisis to personal mistrust and a malignant blame game, it has been through the many obnoxious curves and right now, appears to be strongly coming out with just one thing in mind: take-over power from the APC.

The APC, three years after “grabbing” power, is yet to fully have a grasp of the demands of its new calling. To think that the APC is yet to understand that its approach to issues as an opposition is by common sense meant to be different as a ruling party is one of the factors that have come together to properly sculpt and situate some of its inadequacies as a ruling party and government. From its understanding of issues and the positions often taken at the end of the day, APC is still an opposition in power, literally.

Thus, from both ends, it is not quite a comfortable position and as such, the 2019 run may just be an open call, of course, depending on who plays it better. Already, the drumbeats of electoral war are building up even though the umpire, INEC has yet to declare the field open. But the signs are everywhere. The gladiators are gearing up and speaking in parables. Some have begun to throw shades at each other; the others are trading tackles, more like treading the familiar path in the lead up to an election year.

But the path to what to expect was clearly marked last week, when the spokespersons for the two main parties, Malam Bolaji Abdulahi of the APC and Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP’s newly elected National Publicity Secretary, gave a dose each of the stuff they were made of.

First, for the record: the two are products of the THISDAY media family and rose enviably on the job. They have also since sought other opportunities in public service, where they are still doing great exploits in the ways best possible. They are both from the North Central part of the country – Kwara and Kogi. While Abdulahi has a relationship with the current President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, since his days as governor of Kwara State, Ologbondiyan used to work for the immediate past Senate President David Mark and together, they ran the senate for eight years. And as professionals, they are both well-honed for the tasks at hand.

So, it was Abdulahi, who first served the salvo. Reacting to PDP’s national convention, which held two Saturdays ago and produced Uche Secondus as its national chair, Abdulahi said alleged reports of rigging during the election showed that PDP was rooted in corruption and could not change, adding that “A leopard cannot change its spot.” He even said corruption was in its DNA.

Unfortunately, for the APC, this unprovoked tirade came as the first major test case for Abdulahi’s counterpart, Ologbondiyan, who had just been elected to redirect the communication approach of the party and without wasting time, the PDP spokesperson went ballistics. His response was a direct punch, saying the APC had lost control and only clutching at straws for survival, having been rejected outright by Nigerians.

It goes without saying that the journey to 2019 has truly begun and those aiming at one political destination or the other are already at their respective transportation terminal, only waiting on the umpire to declare the race open. It is therefore a delight to many that these hard core professionals have been nominated to champion the official narratives of their party in a way that not only efficiently communicates their positions but also sets abiding examples without recourse to gutter exchanges.

It is trite to conclude that the battle for 2019 has begun. Importantly, however, there would be more attention on these two as the observing public unlearns from the misrepresented past, which typified crass ‘publicity nuisance’. For this new season, therefore, the engagement must be robust and refreshing.