@DemolaRewaju: Between Buhari and Atiku; Agbaje and Obanikoro

by on December 12, 2014

By Demola Olarewaju

That the PDP has one or two things to learn from the APC especially in the conduct of intra-party primaries and elections may be more than the usual bants but it is a trite lesson – one thing the APC has proven itself adept at doing is listening to the voice of the public and adapting to it. Oft criticised for its imposition of candidates in line with the patriarchal culture of its AG/UPN/AD political progenitors, the APC has tried to show a semblance of democracy by holding freely contested primaries for its members – this was obvious in the emergence of Akinwunmi Ambode and General Muhammadu Buhari. The manner in which they emerged is not really the concern of this piece but the deft political strategy exhibited in APC’s choice of Muhammadu Buhari and why my party may need to learn from them in this area – of course anyone with a sense of political history knows that PDP remains the most democratic party especially in terms of conventions: from 1999 to 2003 to 2007 (arguably) and 2011, PDP conventions were the model of intra-party politics at its best.

Sun Tzu describes various kind of battle terrain in which an army may find itself and the best to compare Lagos with in this case for PDP would be ‘Entangling Ground’ which is a ground on which the enemy may be destroyed if one catches him unawares but if one attacks and fails to defeat the enemy, it will be a disaster. PDP has never won gubernatorial election in Lagos state but has always won the presidential election in the same state. In 2015, PDP needs to do both because in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the ruling party in Lagos has never really mobilised for its presidential candidate – this will change in 2015 and that is why I liken the state to Sun Tzu’s ‘Entangling Ground’.

The APC in my opinion has demonstrated high political strategy by picking a candidate from the north who is also a Muslim…divisive? Surely, but a deft move nonetheless. In politics, one picks a candidate who is clearly different from the candidate of the opposition; therefore since the incumbent President is a Christian from the South, APC would have been foolish to pick an Amaechi or an Oshiomhole (except to make a political statement, not to win outrightly. In picking a candidate that is very different from the incumbent, APC is forcing the electorate to make a hard choice, it is a radical political move that the PDP in Lagos must learn from.

APC picked its gubernatorial candidate in Lagos last week in the person of Akinwunmi Ambode and here are four areas I want to see him from: Christian, from the Ikorodu/Epe divisions, never held political office, backed by godfather Tinubu. High political strategy would suggest PDP seizing such an opportunity to present a candidate with entirely different antecedents such as Obanikoro: Muslim, from Lagos Island, held several political offices, has no godfather but some PDP elders bereft of any sense of political thinking prefer Agbaje: Christian, from the Ikorodu/Epe divisions, never held political office, backed by godfathers Bode George and Seye Ogunlewe.

Voters think in a particular way: all politicians are the same – this is the case of an Agbaje and an Ambode. More importantly, voters must be made aware of the opportunity cost of the electoral vote: if I vote this person, what am I losing in the other person? With an Obanikoro, the opportunity cost of voting an Ambode may be experience and a leader who is not teleguided but with an Agbaje – what really is the opportunity cost of voting Ambode? See why APC’s choice of Buhari to confront President Goodluck Jonathan should be learnt from?


Okay Demola, we get your point – but why not Atiku who is also a northerner and a muslim, a clear difference from the incumbent President in line with your strategy?

This is where the APC political thinking blew my mind: a politician with a bad image but a loyal group of supporters and a political machinery must always be chosen above one with a good image who lacks loyal supporters and a political machinery because a bad image can be fixed in a short period but a loyal group of supporters and an effective political machinery cannot be built in the same period.

Read the above paragraph again, slowly this time to get the point and then let’s do the following comparative analysis:

The only area where Atiku trumps Buhari is that more people like Atiku in the South than they love Buhari. The only area where it may be argued that Agbaje can come close to Obanikoro is that people loved Agbaje’s 2007 mien more than they loved Obanikoro whose image was consistently bashed by the ACN media of the time. But men like Buhari and Obanikoro have something that men like Atiku and Agbaje do not have: they have loyal troops and they have political machineries that can deliver steady numbers consistently.

The drawback with men like Buhari and Obanikoro is that their image has in the past suffered some media bias: Buhari is a religious fundamentalist, Obanikoro is a thug. What does one do? Fly a kite – test the waters…those snazzy pictures of Buhari high-fiving his kid, of his beautiful wife and so on – those were kites been flown, an image been changed. Seeing that Buhari’s image could be worked on, APC stuck with him yesterday. Have you also seen the snazzy Obanikoro pictures? Those were kites and in the past months a lot has been done on his image to combat the general perception.

But Buhari and a man like Obanikoro have something that stands them out in any political strategic thinking: a group of loyalists willing to stand by their principal through thick and thin and a political machinery that delivers the voting numbers. APC knew it could work on Buhari’s image but could not rely on Atiku’s loyalists. PDP choosing an Agbaje who has never won any election from councillor to state house of assembly will be a disaster in Lagos and the facts are obvious:

Sen. Obanikoro’s camp successfully produced as much as 70% of the PDP House of Assembly candidate in Lagos, 60% of the House of Reps candidate and 100% of the senatorial candidates – to reject him will be to leave these support campaigns without a leader, without passion for the party and without direction: one does not need to be a Sun Tzu to see that the result will be a rout for the ruling APC. Elections boil down to one crucial factor on election day: the ability of your polling agents to resist the other party and also to canvass voters on the line or get them out of their houses to vote. Obanikoro has an election day political machinery that can do this; Agbaje’s political machinery is owned by Bode George who has never won his own polling unit since 1999.

I know this much about Obanikoro because I have been involved in his political campaign for about two months now as the coordinator of KoroNation. Even with the gang-up of Ogunlewe and Bode George, Agbaje struggled to get 432 delegates votes while in the face of all sorts of tactics from Bode George telling the delegates not to vote a Muslim as the party candidate to Ogunlewe telling a lie that the party leadership had resolved to go with Agbaje to the violence unleashed on delegates which reduced the numbers from 874 to 806 accredited voting delegates and finally the magical appearance of votes from 806 to a final tally of 865, Obanikoro pulled a whooping 343 delegate votes. There is no gainsaying that without violence from Bode George boys brought in a Sure-P vehicle presently detained by the police along with 12 guns; without intimidation and blackmail from supposed party leaders like George and Ogunlewe, without dirty tactics such as religion but most importantly: without the obvious manipulation of the numbers of delegates, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro would emerge.

Fortunately, Section 19 subsections (d) and (m) of the Election Guidelines of PDP was breached in the area of time of accreditation of the delegates and in the instance of over-voting. The party guidelines are clear: a re-run must be held. If the only thing against Obanikoro is his image but he comes with the asset of loyalists and a well-oiled political machinery, the PDP must borrow a leaf from the APC and choose him as its Lagos gubernatorial candidate because a false image can be corrected but loyalists cannot be replaced in two months.


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