The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (III)


After today’s primary elections of the ruling All Progressives Congress in all the states of the federation except for Lagos and a few others, the countdown to the 2019 elections might have begun for real, writes Olawale Olaleye

Today, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its primary elections in all the states of the federation and across all elective offices. Although Lagos has moved its primary to tomorrow for technical reasons, the party, of course, spent the most of yesterday waiting for results of the presidential primaries to be affirmed later by the Governor Abiola Ajimobi 21-member National Convention Committee.

Originally slated for yesterday, the party leadership had moved its primary elections to today for convenience, being a major step to the general election. It goes without saying therefore that the APC and its members had approached today’s primary with a lot of trepidation even though the dynamics vary from state to state.

Also, as a prelude to today’s exercise, the APC had last Tuesday approved both direct and indirect primaries for its state chapters, depending on what it thought best suited the different states. A statement by its acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabene stated that the party approved direct primaries for 18 states and indirect primaries for 19 others, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Thus, to hold direct primaries today are Lagos, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kano, Niger, Ondo, Ogun, Taraba, Zamfara, Bauchi and FCT. But approved for indirect primaries are Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Jigawa, Borno and Yobe States.

The notion from this development is that the leadership of the party had allowed most of its governors to have their way and adopt their choice primaries. 

In the PDP, however, on the card now is the presidential run for which the party parades about six major aspirants. In the week, also, the party held its 82nd National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, where it emphasised the need to embrace unity if it must properly approach the elections of next year.

Not so much has been said about other categories of elections as the PDP appears obsessed with the presidential contest. While the APC has unapologetically settled for incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, just like the PDP did in the 2015 elections, whoever emerges from amongst the PDP line-up would face Buhari in 2019.

Those angling for the PDP ticket are Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Vice-President Atiku Abybakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Senate President David Mark and former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi, amongst other fringe aspirants.

However, the one thing today’s primaries of the APC would do for the polity is to properly situate some of the dynamics presently obtainable in each of the states, going forward. But first, what were the updates before arriving at this juncture.


It’s Fight to the Finish

If there was anyone, who ever doubted the fact that the ‘owners’ of Lagos had resolved not to return Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2019, events of the last one week had given fillip to this development that had long been kept under wrap.

The last few days, for instance, has seen one of the aspirants to the seat of governor, Obafemi Hamzat stand down for Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the anointed candidate of the APC leadership, even though they might be running together on the same ticket as a pair. In the same week, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, daughter of the leader of the party in the state, Bola Tinubu openly endorsed Sanwo-Olu, whilst 36 out of the 40 members of the state House of Assembly had also followed suit. And what appears the icing on the cake, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday met with the duo of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat, in a manner that depicted ‘end of discussion’.

Interestingly, however, Ambode too had resolved to take his chances, regardless. The incumbent governor was said to have told the leader of the party at a meeting Friday night that he would rather go to the primary and lose than stand down his second term bid. He was said to have also queried the rationale behind the push for him to forgo his re-election, when he had done his best as far as the development of the state is concerned.

Sources claimed he also requested to know from Tinubu what he had done to him to deserve the denial of re-election, asking if there was anything he had asked him to do that he did not do. Well, the decision had been taken and tomorrow, the fate of Lagos would be put to its first major test, being the first time an incumbent would be denied the privilege of first refusal.

In the PDP, however, not much has been happening except that it appears the party is waiting on the wing to reap from the internal discontent of the APC. Although Mr. Jimi Agbaje appears the man to fly the flag of the APC, how he would seize advantage of the current situation, assisted by the national leadership of the APC is yet to be seen.  



Signs of Things to Come

Before September 22 and 27, when Osun State held its governorship election and its rerun ballot respectively, what was prevalent in the state was basically the governorship election, which sought to replace the incumbent and outgoing governor, Rauf Aregbesola, after serving his constitutional eight years of two terms.

The battle was initially pegged as a four-horse race amongst the quadruple of APC’s Gboyega Oyetola, PDP’s Ademola Adeleke, SDP’s Iyiola Omisore and ADP’s Moshood Adeoti. But after the first ballot on September 22, the contest became narrowed to two between Oyetola and Adeleke, whilst Omisore became the game changer.

In the end, after some high-wire horse-trading, Omisore pitched tent with the APC and the rerun, in spite of its many flaws, was declared in favour of Oyetola with only some paltry 500 votes to his credit – the lowest in recent time.

The takeaway, therefore, from this is that the PDP is still a major force in the state as two major elections done within the last two years had shown. Adeleke had emerged Senator from the state following the demise of his brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, after he was denied the opportunity by the APC. He has also not only proven to be strong in the state, the party has shown to be of immense relevance even when the APC is the ruling party.

This may not, however, be a good sign for the ruling party in the event of a presidential run. It would take more than the weight of a demystified incumbency for the APC to pull off a convincing win for the party in next year’s election. As it is, the PDP looks really good for Osun except something changes between now and then when the national election would hold, knowing full well that the party might be unable to invest as many resources as it did when it was a lone election.



Sifting the Stakes

The political situation in Oyo State is gradually building up to an interesting climax following the disqualification of one of the governorship aspirants and Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, for failing to serve the compulsory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Adebayo, who has been having a running battle with Governor Abiola Ajimobi over his aspiration, is though yet to resign as minister; he might however face prosecution over his NYSC certificate scandal.

With Adebayo technically out of the equation, the space remains open to others in the party, whilst also depleting the worries of the eventual candidate of the PDP in the state. Although it is not clear yet what effect this would have on the party in the state since Shittu’s supporters are supposed to swing elsewhere, what is certain is that it would have its own effect however insignificant!



It’s Akinlade Versus Abiodun

Today’s governorship primary in Ogun State is a direct fight between the consensus candidate of the party in the state, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade and the CEO of Heyden Oil and Gas, Mr. Dapo Abiodun.

Although there are other interested aspirants like Mr. Jimi Lawal and a former Commissioner for Commerce, Mr. Bimbo Ashiru, there are indications that Ashiru might have slowed down and quietly backing one of the candidates, what today’s primary presupposes is a battle between the establishment and the revolutionary members of the party.

Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the state had weeks ago, in consultation with other critical stakeholders of the party, come up with a list of 40 aspirants in the party including himself as the consensus candidates for 2019. But Abiodun, who had initially agreed with the governor to contest the Ogun East senatorial seat, refused to tag along with the plan and created an upset in the party.

And since the APC leadership had said where consensus fails, direct primary would be embraced, the party therefore agreed to proceed to the primary, albeit with its list intact. But with Amosun evidently in charge, nothing appears changing today as everyone who genuinely matters in the party is said to be with him.



A Popularity Test for Okorocha

For a second critical moment, the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha has another opportunity to test his popularity within the party in the state. He tried it for the first time during the congresses in the state and fell flat. But President Muhammadu Buhari came to his rescue, when he ordered that the party structure be handed over to him without recourse to its implications.

This development is believed to have pitted some members of the party like Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Ese Madumere and Osita Izunaso against the governor. Whilst they had since maintained a curious silence, there is a general belief that they had withdrawn to their shell, waiting for this day to repeat what happened during the congresses.

Okorocha seeks to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, regardless of what other members of the party desire. He too wants to go to the senate after his eight years as governor. But whilst other stakeholders in the party are not averse to his senate ambition, they frown at his plan to install Nwosu, this being at the core of the crisis in the state.

This is why Okorocha’s popularity would be out for this second time in the state. If he was able to pull this off without unsettling the turf, it could mean he was popular after all, otherwise, it might signal death of his political career.



It’s Payback Time!

Exactly a year ago, the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Jumai Alhassan, openly declared support for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar despite serving with President Muhammadu Buhari. She said her support for Atiku was regardless of party affiliations and nursed no regrets whatsoever.

This was not a development that would go without attracting its own traffic in terms of the heated debate it later generated. Everyone in the system except for Buhari condemned her open display of loyalty to Atiku. Some even canvassed her removal. But in all, Buhari maintained his typical silence and Alhassan continued with her work.

It was however payback time recently when the party leadership refused to clear her for the gubernatorial contest on the grounds that it doubted her loyalty. This was not unexpected. Everyone knew that Alhassan was going to pay for that sacrilege but how was what no one could say.

Not unexpectedly too, she has left the party and also resigned from the Buhari government. This is certainly going to be a challenge for the APC in the state. Here was a woman, who gave a good fight in the 2015 election to the extent that a rerun was scheduled.

What it means is that she is on the ground and now that she has left the party, APC should expect a good fight in next year’s election and importantly, Governor Darius Ishaku should brace up for the challenge her exit from the party might have thrown up.



Now, Things Are Warming Up

Until recently, the political situation in Abia State had been somewhat drab and docile. Otherwise considered a PDP state, effort to wrest power from Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for nearly two years of his assuming office had failed, right from the tribunal to the courts proper, including fighting personal battle. As such, it was PDP fighting PDP in Abia.

It therefore goes without saying that the governor has had a field day and was comfortably in charge of things since there was no serious opposition. Suddenly, everything appears to be changing and fast with the emergence of Chief Ikechi Emenike of the party, who has declared his intention to challenge the governor in next year’s governorship election.

Emenike, who recently toured all the local governments in the state as part of his familiarisation tour as well as sell the ideals of the APC, appears confident about his chances in the election. He has been going round de-marketing the governor and PDP and touting the APC as the ideal alternative for the state.

Ironically, the governor does not appear perturbed and has done nothing but ignored what PDP members dismissed as the mere ranting of someone seeking attention, because as far as they were concerned, Emenike was merely seeking attention and that the PDP would not make itself available for such undeserving attention. But it would be nice to see how Abia turns out in the coming week.



A Brewing Supremacy Battle

Hitherto marked safe because it was devoid of the typical rancor that is evident in other states, Nasarawa State has also caught the bug of power tussle as Governor Tank Al-Makura and one of his predecessors, Senator Abdulahi Adamu now tango over the leadership of the state.

Indeed, their disagreement stemmed from the choice of successor in next year’s governorship election. Whereas the governor wanted a candidate from the Northern senatorial district in the person of Mr. Abdulahi Sule, a Managing Director at Dangote Sugar Refinery, because the zone has never produced a governor since created in 1996, Adamu thought the idea would be costly in lieu of what was at stake.

But what was initially a harmless disagreement has gradually dovetailed into personal attacks as the governor has not only set up a panel to probe the tenure of the former governor between 1996 and 2007, he is not taking the current disagreement with kids’ gloves. While he has not personally spoken about the development, his media office has gone on the offensive against the former governor.

Ironically, Adamu has taken the development in his stride but warned there would be consequences for the governor. As far as he was concerned, Adamu thought he had been fair and kind to the governor and would therefore leave him to undo himself.

From the state of things in Nasarawa, it is not going to be a child’s play as the outcome of today’s primary would point where the battle would shift next.



Let the Die be Cast!

It appears the tension preceding today’s primary in Rivers State has begun to subside. The rivalry between former governor Rotmi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe had peaked in the countdown to the primary before the national leadership of the APC said the mode of primary to be adopted in Rivers would be indirect primary.

With this order, Abe threatened to opt out of the race, perhaps, because he knew he stood no chance in the current equation. He had announced his pending boycott of the exercise because according to him, the indirect primary was against the initial understanding. He also said he would not accept the result of such a process.

His threat regardless, nothing seemed to have changed as the party leadership has approved indirect primary for today’s exercise. Besides, Amaechi has refused to respond to his attacks in the last couple of days.

Although Amaechi and co have been accusing Abe of hobnobbing suspiciously with Governor Nyesom Wike of the state, it would be an interesting watch what options are open to Abe after tomorrow. But clearly, Amaechi seems to be effectively in charge of Rivers APC.



Tambuwal’s Yielding Negotiations

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and one of the presidential hopefuls of the PDP appears to be taking effective charge of the state with the way he has been building consensus and negotiating with other actors in the state, ahead of both the governorship and presidential primaries of the PDP.

In the week, one of the governorship aspirants, Professor Hamza Maishanu withdrew from the race, because according to him, the party in the state was better off together than allow ambition split them. This sacrifice, he claimed to have made because he wanted to make things easy for Tambuwal.

But this does not mean that the APC led by former governor Aliyu Wamakko is resting on its oars. There is no doubting the fact that the APC is not taking the political situation with levity and so, either for the APC or PDP, it is not going to be a run-over.

Yet, with the way he has continued to prosecute his presidential campaign, albeit with a tinge of reservation, Tambuwal appears confident about having Sokoto in his grip. How true is this? Time will tell.



Survival of the Fittest

No doubt, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has successful pushed out his adversaries in the APC. The last of them, Senator Shehu Sani, is not finding it funny. He was one senator believed to have initially had his back covered by President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to go when other senators defected on the floor of the state.

Unfortunately, he is up in arms against a governor, who detests being dictated to by anyone, to say the least, the president. In fact, the governor was said to have frowned at how the president unilaterally handed the Imo State party structure to Governor Rochas Okorocha without recourse to legality or due process.

Thus, when the president allegedly promised he would get Sani his ticket to return to the senate, el-Rufai must have snickered cheaply, since he knew he would never take such an order from the president.

As it is, Sani, who recently left the APC and with a poem to depict the state of the party has a huge battle to fight. But other tendencies like Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi might eventually cooperate with him to confront a common enemy. Kaduna, evidently, would be a battle ground with its many interesting dynamics.



Surging against Dankwambo

After eight years in the saddle, there seems to be a movement currently being steered against Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State. And behind this movement is no other person than former governor Danjuma Goje of the state.

Suddenly, Goje has realised the need to take back the state from what he described as the years of the locust, saying Dankwambo’s eight years was notorious for underdevelopment, which he claimed has stressed the gains of the past.

Surprisingly, the governor is yet to dignify the attacks against his person and government with any response. But it would be interesting to see here as a former and sitting governor, both of whom spent eight years, battle for survival.



Ugwuanyi is Still Marked Safe!

It goes without saying that since Senator Ayogu Eze of the APC, signified interest in the governorship of Enugu State, the development had revved up the frenzy of political interests. Whilst many had dismissed the fact that Eze’s governorship dream could alter the subsisting equation, the PDP governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has remained calm and rather counting on his performance sheet as the only way to go.

Recently, when workers and youths rallied round him and gave his re-election project a boost, analysts had queried the chances of Eze, not only in a South-east PDP state but against a governor deemed to have done well in the last almost four years.

But that would not deter anyone, and this is why observers feel the decision by Eze to test the waters should not be taken for granted, more so that there could be other yardsticks outside of performance in choosing leaders in a democracy.


Bindow Clutches at Straws

Before the latest development, which raised allegation of forgery of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate against the Adamawa State Governor, Muhammad Jibrilla Bindow, the governor is believed to have had only the Atiku Abubakar factor to deal with. But, as it is, he has more than he envisaged on his plate.

A rights group, Global Integrity Crusade Network (GICN) had sued the governor, because according to the originating summons, the governor did not complete his secondary education at the Government Secondary School, Mangu in Plateau State.

GICN therefore asked the court to compel WAEC to produce the governor’s certificate, even as it included as defendants, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC), WAEC and the police.

Naturally, this has brought a different colour into the Adamawa mix and as it is, the current development is bound to constitute huge distraction for the governor pending when he finds a solution to it. And unfortunately, it may further open up his flaks for more attacks.


Situating the Presidential Run

Nearly every day, the stakes for the presidential run scale up and in each of the parties, varying from candidate to candidate. In the APC, the party has elected President Muhamamdu Buhari in nearly all the states of the federation as its candidate for the 2019 elections. He is waiting only for ratification by the national convention of the party.

In the PDP, however, the battle continues. All the aspirants have continued to canvass for support ahead of the party’s national convention slated for October 5.  In fact, prelude to the presidential primary, the party held its 82nd National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, where it further fine-tuned modalities for the primary.

Although the party has had to battle over the choice of location for the primary, a development that even compelled Governor Nyesome Wike to threaten the party of the consequences of moving the convention from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, it was later resolved with a clear understanding that there would not be any undue interference from any quarters.

So, far so good, everything is running according to plans in both parties except anything changes in the last minute. Whilst a recent poll is said to have placed Saraki as the most favoured to win the ticket, followed by Atiku, this extrapolation is not sacrosanct yet in view of the changing dynamics a few days to the main event.