John Alechenu examines the renewed battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party for the hearts of Nigerians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the 2019 general elections have come and gone, the political battle for the hearts of Nigerians by the two leading political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, has shown no sign of easing.
The seed of acrimony between the two parties was sown in the run up to the 2015 general elections which the PDP lost to an amalgam of four political parties that came together to form the APC.
A public affairs commentator, Babangida Mohammed, who was part of the campaigns at the time, said, “The then opposition APC mounted a never before seen coordinated attack on government policies and programmes.
“It saw and took every opportunity to denigrate not only the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, but also the ruling PDP.”
An active member of the APC media team at the time, Mr Timi Frank, also recalled, “At the time we left the PDP for the APC, we were convinced that the PDP had derailed from the ideals of its founding fathers. It was our hope then that the APC offered a credible alternative and we gave our all, with the hope that the nation would be better for it. Now we know better.”
The PDP also did not take the jibes lying low. It sponsored documentaries considered offensive by some against the then APC presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the party’s National Leader and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A litmus test for the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the area of the management of epidemics came when a Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, who was infected with the Ebola virus, came into Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.
At the height of the 2014 campaigns, President Jonathan urged Nigerians to avoid large gatherings but his campaign team alongside the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, went ahead with rallies. That move prompted the then APC spokesperson, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to issue a statement asking Nigerians to “hold President Jonathan responsible if Ebola cases worsen in Nigeria.”
The tables have since turned.
Even though the 2023 general election is three years away, both the APC and the PDP have not left anything to chance.
Supporters of each of the parties use every opportunity to inform the public about what they are doing or can do if given the opportunity to lead at all levels, especially in times of crisis.
An opportunity to reach out to Nigerians has presented itself through the recent handling of the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives as well as the upcoming two off-season governorship elections in Ondo and Edo states.
The PDP, now the main opposition party, has consistently pilloried the ruling APC over what it considers its poor handling of the coronavirus response.
While the APC-led Federal Government appears more favourably disposed to a total lockdown of states, a number of states controlled by the PDP think otherwise.
For instance, apart from returning the 1,800 bags of rice sent to the state as palliatives from the Federal Government, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, directed senior civil servants in the state to return to work.
The spokesperson for the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, confirmed that the state government “has returned” the contaminated bags of rice to the Federal Government, while working out homegrown solutions to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.