PDP, Winds Of Change And The 2019 Opportunity

By Dele Awogbeoba

In business, especially the stock market, the millionaires of the future have identified the major new business opportunities or stock picks in the midst of a downturn. The most savy investors learn to go against the prevailing wisdom and go in the opposite direction of the herd.

Politically speaking and looking at the prevailing political environment in Nigeria at the current time, one can see great upside for the PDP in the next 2 years. Ironically, many PDP members are rushing to join the APC at a time when the most savy political operator should be looking at getting entrenched within the PDP.

Winds of Change
The current government of Muhammadu Buhari has made great strides at reducing places for corrupt persons to run to after looting Nigeria dry. He has also allowed EFCC do its job of meticulously investigating Nigerians alleged to have corruptly enriched itself. No convictions have yet been obtained but in Nigeria the rule of law is a notoriously slow moving wheel.

On security, the Boko Haram threat has been greatly diminished. Security for the people of the North East has been looking up in a positive manner. For the people of the South and the middle belt, APC has transferred their relative security under Jonathan for the insecurity and fear for life from the other major terrorist group euphemistically called the “Fulani herdsman”. The Terrorists herdsmen are allowed to move unhindered within various communities of the middle belt and south leaving in their wake murder, genocide, economic sabotage and destruction. The lack of any condemnation from the president of Nigeria let alone any effective means of preemption by the DSS has added to the general feeling of insecurity felt by the people of the South and Middle belt of Nigeria.

On the economy, the current government’s game plan for turning around an economy previously mismanaged by President Jonathan’s economic team was to stimulate the economy by spending 2 trillion naira more than it can optimistically get in revenues. It aimed to borrow 2 trillion naira to be used for infrastructural spending, whilst hoping to obtain 2 trillion naira from FIRS, Customs and the NPA. Ironically, the CBN’s forex policy will without fail depress revenue obtained by the Customs and the NPA as well as send many local and Nigerian based foreign firms into bankruptcy. The sum effect of that is that even revenue raised by FIRS will significantly decline. As oil prices have hovered within the $38-40 a barrel range, its projected income from oil sales may be the only thing that holds steady. When one considers the 10,000 expected hire of police officers by the FG whilst in the midst of having problems paying the wages of its existing staff, one can only say that this government is going to increase its recurrent expenditure, increase FG debt whilst suffering a significant fall in FG revenue as well as a marked increase in its yearly debt service interest levels from 1.45 trillion naira a year to God knows what by the time this year is out.

The notoriously inflexible Buhari is clearly unaware that monetary policy is not lawfully within his power. The CBN Act of 2007 has placed foreign exchange policy in the hands of the CBN governor. It is not for anyone to convince Buhari why the naira should be “murdered”. It is for the CBN to start to do its job and operate monetary policy in a manner that is consistent with the growth policies of the Nigerian economy when the Nigerian economy is in a recession. At the current time, both Buhari and Emefiele are on the same page. The economy will sink as the fiscal and monetary policy of Udoma and Emefiele aim to go against the economic laws of nature.

The power situation has also suffered a marked decline. One is unsure at the current time whether the power situation is a temporary setback that will be solved once the budget has been passed or whether the issues are far more substantive.

Political Implications
What is clear is that the combination of the manifestation of the declining economy (though not caused by Buhari is being exacerbated by the CBN and the fanciful fiscal approach of the federal government), the horrors of the terrorist herdsmen and the nonchalance and ineptitude of the Buhari government has left a potential opening for the PDP over the next two years.

Buhari is notoriously inflexible and is unable to learn from mistakes. He is also a very average administrator at best. His current time as head of state has practically mirrored his stint as head of state. Consequently, I do not see him improving in his areas of weakness even if he has the best advisers available to him.

All will depend on the actions the PDP takes. Its current inclinations suggest it is being led by emotions as opposed to clear strategic thinking. APC won the last election by adding the SW and the NC to the already strong support the erstwhile CPC had in the NW and NE. For the PDP to win in 2019, it must do the same. It must pick its main candidate from its area of maximum strength (which at the current time is the SS) and choice a running mate from an area that will push it over the top. At the moment, PDP has no less than 40% residual support in the SW and NC. It cannot choose a running mate from the SW for geo-political reasons. It should therefore aim to choose its running mate from the NC and possibly from Kwara or the Okun part of Kogi. A Northern muslim Yoruba (preferably with an Islamic surname) may do the trick in getting both the SW and NC on board for the presidential elections even if the states stay with APC when the governorship elections come around. The speakership and Senate president should then go to the SE and either the SW or the non Yoruba parts of the NC.

The PDP should also aim to get a candidate with a track record on economic issues and a candidate that is not so identified with corruption (if at all that is possible). That will be its challenge especially as it no longer has anyone within its ranks that can be said to have been identified with the boom years of the PDP before Jonathan’s ascension to power.

The PDP has 2 years to create these two hypothetical characters that maintain its areas of maximum strength whilst adding other areas of realistic support. Choosing a northern candidate as its presidential candidate makes sense on an emotional level only but not on a strategic level. PDP lost the elections because it lost the NC and the SW by equal margins and not because it failed to choose a Northern presidential candidate. Both NC and the SW are concerned about the decline in the economy and the actions of the terrorists herdsmen.

The core North are becoming increasingly alarmed at the increased harshness of the slow economy and lack of power. Buhari will still get most of the votes from the core North but he will not engender the same fanatical support of 2015 and that will reflect itself in turnout numbers. I also doubt he will get the same percentage level of votes in places other than the NE.

The key to a PDP victory is the NC and the SW. It will do well not to alienate those two swing zones. The strength of the PDP is still the SS. It is from there that the Presidential candidate of the PDP should come from. Indigenes from states such as Akwa Ibom or Cross River state are states that no do emit any negative emotions or adverse stereo types from most Nigerians. That may be the ideal place to comb for a worthy candidate.

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