Walking the 2019 Minefield


Some of the events of the last few days in the country present the picture of a subtle clampdown on the opposition, writes Olawale Olaleye

The last few days have been politically exasperating, not because some of the events currently dotting the polity are particularly unfamiliar, but because their seeming familiarity is indicative of a people, who have yet to learn anything from their recent history. The tension gripping the countdown to the 2019 elections shares very closely with those rearing their heads as another round of national elections inches very fast.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari appears not to be leaving anything to chance in its bid to secure another term in 2019 and one of its strategies is the obvious but subtle decimation of the opposition, whether real or perceived; within or outside.

Curiously, many of those, who seem marked in this category of opposition, are not just members of the ruling party, but high ranking members, more or less considered threat to the president and his aspiration to seek another term of four years.

Long been in their net is the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who though has been identified from the go, however, appears to have his case reviewed from time to time, perhaps, because he is being considered a critical enemy within and a major factor in the 2019 extrapolations.

The story of the Senate president took an obnoxious turn in the week when some armed robbers, who recently raided Offa, a town in Kwara State, reportedly confessed to having a relationship with Saraki.

This, unfortunately, came a few weeks after Saraki had raised the alarm on the floor of the Senate about alleged plans to implicate him and the governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed. This, for the record, followed the alleged transfer of the case of some cultists, whose matter had already been concluded in Ilorin, Kwara State.

But the latest development has particularly attracted reactions from across the country and beyond, a majority of who had described Buhari’s politics as crude and unintelligent, somewhat.

This is because whilst the robbers had said in unmistaken terms that Saraki and Ahmed had nothing to do with their action; that they claimed to know the duo and having delivered some political assignments for them was the reason the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was believed to have elected to embarrass the office of the Senate president, by not only linking the criminals to him but asking him to report to the police for questioning.

That this came from the police, whose head refused to honour an invitation by the Senate on certain security issues, exposed the obvious political slant in the handling of the Offa robbery, powered by a dismissed police officer.

The matter, of course, escalated immediately as the legislature too moved against the president with threat of impeachment. Although the presidency acted as if it was not bothered, the set off of this renewed rivalry is certainly not ending anytime soon, especially that members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), had pulled out of their talks with the APC and the federal government.

Why this is bothersome in a sense is because Saraki is not alone in the ongoing alleged hounding of the opposition. A majority of the senators have also been through the same fire baptism.

Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi State was recently hounded like a common criminal over near similar criminalisation controversy. His own case brought along a lot of drama, which not only landed him on the hospital bed, but saw him spend weeks in police detention before he was eventually granted bail.

Senator Isa Misau from Bauchi State, a retired police officer, has had a bitter engagement with the IGP over allegation of corruption against the number one law enforcement officer of the nation. In turn, he was accused of criminal discharge from the police and the litigation has since lingered.

From Kaduna State, Senator Sheu Sani, who has been having a running battle with the state government under Malam Nasir el-Rufai, was indicted in criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide by a suspect in the custody of the police.

The senator, who confirmed that he was invited by the police command in Kaduna for questioning, said he was granted bail and allowed to go based on self-recognition. But this has not halted the alleged persecution of the senator and his two other colleagues by the state government, who is believed to be acting in the interest of the government at the centre.

Another senator of the APC from Ondo State, Ajayi Borofice, recently raised the alarm about an alleged plot to plant arms in his house in Akure, the Ondo State capital, ultimately to incriminate him. Whatever the motive behind this, a senator is certainly not an ordinary party member and to have cried out against his party, is cause for concern.

Even the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, although an opposition senator, has had his fair share of the executive harassment, a move the PDP once described as part of the plot to intimidate the opposition and cow it into submission. This is in addition to the fact that two senators of the PDP, Jonah Jang and Peter Nwaoboshi, were recently guests of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a situation the opposition party reckoned was sheer witch-hunt.

To confirm the suspicion of a systematic clampdown on the opposition, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, a few days ago had some of his security details from the Department of State Security reduced without reasons. However, those of Saraki were withdrawn, in a sense that raised suspicion about alleged impeachment plot.

It is no longer a question of whether or not it is true, the field of play in 2019 has already been laced with landmine and only the crafty and smart player can successfully side-step the traps. The next election will be rough and mean and only the dogged can survive past the finishing line.