Loaded Indicators to a Giddy Ride on the Road to 2019

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Ojo Maduekwe draws attention to an increasing number of red flags, interpreted as danger signs by the opposition, People’s Democratic Party, dotting the political landscape

A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research division of The Economist Magazine, in predicting the outcome of the 2019 presidential election favoured the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar over the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the report obtained and published by THISDAY, the London-based magazine said the EIU expects Buhari to “lose power at the February 2019 elections and that the next government will be led by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.”

The EIU cited widespread frustration over increasing joblessness and poverty, as well as, the untamed insecurity in the North-central (Middle Belt) sub-region as the main edge the PDP’s Abubakar has over Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Interestingly, there are statistics to corroborate the EIU’s prediction.

Increased borrowing which has pegged Nigeria’s debt at N22 trillion, far up the N12 trillion Buhari and the APC met in 2015, has failed to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians. Unemployment stands at above 18%, a biting increase up the single digit of 8.3% that Buhari met it in the second quarter of 2015.

The World Poverty Clock ranks Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world. With 86.9 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty, the country has overtaken India as the country with the most extreme poor people in the world. This figure represents nearly 50% of Nigeria’s estimated 180 million population.

In June, the United States Council on Foreign Relations said in a report that it had documented at least 19,890 deaths in Nigeria since June 2015, and caused by the Boko Haram and Fulani militias. In a similar report, the United Kingdom-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide said Fulani militias in 106 attacks on communities in North-central, killed 1,061 people in the first quarter of 2018.

This is not the first time the EIU is predicting Buhari’s defeat. Before Abubakar clinched the PDP’s presidential ticket, the EIU had predicted that the opposition party was going to form the federal government in 2019, citing, most notable as its reason for this prediction, the defection of top APC members to the PDP.

“Intra-party politics would be chaotic ahead of the poll and we ultimately expect the incumbent to lose power,” part of the report read.

Expectedly, both predictions were cheerful news to the PDP, except that the opposition party believes that the ruling APC would rig the 2019 election, and has alleged same on more than three occasions this year alone.

Critics of the report point to the fact that the EIU is a private research consultancy, arguing that its study may be cloaked with vested interest. They insist that the report presupposes that the Buhari administration has not recorded any achievement at all. A member of the APC national secretariat team who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter dismissed the EIU investigation as and termed it “very uncharitable”. According to him, the report is, “an assignment undertaken by the opposition in its continued effort to discredit this government. The next thing they will come up with are so-called independent polls both in Nigeria and from abroad, predicting a Buhari loss. While they depend on these exercises and the yeoman’s job by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on behalf of Atiku Abubakar, we are confident that it is not these foreigners that will vote or determine how the 2019 presidential election will go. We are not disturbed by these contrived reports.”

The first allegation from the PDP alleging that the ruling government was prepared to rig the election was in February, when a United Nations (UN) delegation visited the PDP’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja. Secondus alleged that “all the elections” conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since the APC came to power, have had huge question marks.

Another visit to the PDP chairman by the UN was reported to have taken place in March, the following month. According to the news, Secondus said, “INEC has not lived up to expectation…We don’t have confidence in the leadership of INEC…We suspect that INEC will rig the elections, but Nigerians will resist.”

A recent one was last month, September when the PDP alleged to have “uncovered” plans by the Buhari administration and the APC to use the party’s direct primary to validate their plots on rigging the 2019 elections.

Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary said in a statement that the APC’s choice of direct primary in electing its presidential candidate was used as cover to import fictitious members into its database and create an impression that the APC had enough votes to re-elect Buhari.

The three recorded allegations coming from the PDP are expected and may be deemed biased, but observers point to some “signs” that the APC in cohort with INEC and relevant government agencies, such as the security, may have perfected the plot on rigging the 2019 presidential election, beginning with:

APC’s spurious membership claim

The alleged plot by APC to rig the 2019 presidential election according to observers using its spurious membership began on September 12 when the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole visited Buhari and claimed that the APC had successfully registered 15.6 million members nationwide.

On September 28, the APC then held its direct primary across the entire states of the country to elect its presidential candidate for the 2019 election. In a matter of hours, some state chapters of the party started announcing their results.

Kano, for instance, said Buhari secured roughly 2.9 million votes from members of the party polled across the state’s 484 wards in its 44 local government areas. In Borno State, ravaged by terrorism, it was alleged that Buhari polled roughly 1.2 million votes across the 312 wards in 27 local government areas of the state.

In Katsina State where the president is from, and where the direct primary took place in its 361 wards, Buhari was said to have polled 802,819 votes. Also, members of the APC in Kogi State were said to have gifted the president 387,003 votes.

The rest states later announced their results at the APC Special Convention held to ratify Buhari’s candidature. At the Convention held in Abuja, the APC claimed that roughly 14.8 million members affirmed the choice of Buhari.

During a voice vote led by the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, to affirm Buhari, THISDAY reported that some delegates murmured at the announcement of 14.8 million as being small, but, Fayemi in responding said the number were card carrying members only and that he was certain there were several other Nigerians who do not belong to any political party that would freely cast their votes for Buhari in the forthcoming presidential election.

Aside how easy it was for the APC to collate that number of votes in a matter of hours, there are other curious issues raised by the membership claim. One is that, Borno State that gave the APC 473,543 votes during the 2015 presidential election has in roughly three years produced 1.2 million APC members.

Also, it is suspect that the 15.6 million figure is being thrown around by a party that claims not to have a credible membership register because according to its National Chairman, the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan raided and destroyed its Data Centre sometime in November 22, 2014.

When the APC first decided to conduct direct primary in electing its 2019 governorship candidates, but backtracked to include the option of indirect primary, a major complain by its members that were against direct primary was that the party did not have a credible voter register.

How the party was able to come up with one that Oshiomhole claims to be credible remains a mystery according to political observers.

Lastly, in the 2015 presidential election, Buhari was elected by 15,426,921 votes. From then till now there have been actions taken by Buhari that has pitched the APC against some of its early supporters and depleted the president’s support base. How the party now managed to have a membership greater than the number that elected it in the last election has baffled observers.

50 High Profile Travel Ban List

The Executive Order 6 (EO6) that was in July signed into law by Buhari generated a lot of controversy when in October news spread that the government was using it to prevent 50 persons from traveling abroad over corruption cases.

On the surface, the Order, which was validated by a federal high court, seeks to prevent owners of assets (public officials that served between 1999 and 2015) that are under investigation for corruption by the various anti-corruption agencies in the country from conducting transactions on them.

It was not long after that a list, purported to have been penciled by the Buhari administration leaked, with the PDP alleging that the ruling APC ahead of the 2019 elections, planned on restricting the movement of its members and those who are alleged to be perceived enemies of the president.

THISDAY had reported that Buhari on October 13, ordered full implementation of the EO6, and that a number of enforcement procedures were consequently put in place which included the travel ban on these 50 persons of interest.

Speaking with THISDAY shortly after the ban was exposed, Ologbondiyan, described the travel ban as, “the height of autocracy, despotism, fascism and a plot to railroad Nigeria into a banana republic,” and called on democrats across party lines to resist the ban.

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, also weighed in on the matter, faulting the decision and asking the president to, “wage the war against the menace of corruption within the ambit of the rule of law.”

Falana in a statement said, “Since the 50 high-profile criminal suspects covered by the EO6 have been placed on watch list while their passports have been seized by either the anti-graft agencies or the courts, the travel ban slammed on them by President Buhari ought to be withdrawn without any delay.”

Several legal experts who reacted to the ban said it was not within the powers of the executive arm of government to restrict the free movement of citizens but the courts, and that the ban was a drawback to the military era.

Falana while citing the case between ‘The Director-General, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 340’, said according to the Supreme Court, the right of citizens to freedom of movement as guaranteed by section 41 of the 1999 Constitution and article 12 of the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, “could not be abridged or abrogated by the executive outside the procedure permitted by law.”

EFCC ‘goes after’ a sitting governor

When the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) began making moves to go after Mr. Ayo Fayose, who at the time was a sitting PDP governor enjoying full immunity, those who still believed that the corruption war as waged by the APC government was impartial began to have a rethink.

The manner in which the EFCC went about the matter, while ignoring other obvious cases involving members of the ruling APC, exposed the anti-corruption agency as working for the party as well as the Buhari administration.

Few hours after INEC announced results for the July 14 Ekiti governorship election, wherein Fayose’s protégé and candidate of the PDP, Prof. Kolapo Olushola-Eleka lost to Mr. Kayode Fayemi of the APC, a tweet from the handle of the EFCC read: “The parri (party) is over, the cloak of immunity torn apart, and the staff broken. Ekiti Integrated Poultry Project/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3 billion fraud case file dusted off the shelves. See you soon.

Although an EFCC spokesperson would later deny the agency authorised the tweet; going ahead to place Fayose on criminal watch list even before his tenure expired and then inviting him to the agency’s head office while he still enjoyed immunity as a governor, exposed the anti-corruption agency’s bias.

Writing to the Nigeria Customs Service to place Fayose on criminal watch list, the EFCC claimed that the governor who it said was on probe for conspiracy, abuse of office, official corruption, theft and money laundering, posed a flight risk and may leave the country via land borders, airports or through the seaports.

These all happened while a former Finance Minister to Buhari, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, admitted to forging her National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) certificate, an offence punishable by 14 years imprisonment, was allowed to leave the country without prosecution by the same EFCC.

Another incident that happened recently which again exposed the anti-graft agency as being biased in its anti-graft war was the investigative video that exposed the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje receiving bribe. The EFCC has remained silent, showing no interest in investigating the matter.

These and other instances are the reasons the opposition PDP and its supporters believe the APC’s fight against corruption have rather taken a political dimension, and that as the 2019 general election approaches, there will likely be more opposition members slammed with corruption charges.

QUICK FACTS:

  • Unemployment stands at above 18%, a biting increase up the single digit of 8.3% that Buhari met it in the second quarter of 2015
  • Increased borrowing has pegged Nigeria’s debt at N22 trillion, far up the N12 trillion Buhari and the APC met in 2015
  • The World Poverty Clock ranks Nigeria as the Poverty Capital of the World. With 86.9 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty, the country has overtaken India as the country with the most extreme poor people in the world. This figure represents nearly 50% of Nigeria’s estimated 180 million population
  • Verifiable documents report, at least, 19,890 deaths in Nigeria since June 2015, and caused by the Boko Haram and Fulani militias. Fulani militias have been said to be responsible for 106 attacks on communities in North-central and killed 1,061 people in the first quarter of 2018
  • 14.8 million APC members were said to have affirmed President Muhammadu Buhari as the party’s presidential candidate
  • In the 2015 presidential election, Buhari was elected by 15,426,921 votes
  • Executive Order 6 (EO6) that was in July signed into law by Buhari generated a lot of controversy when in October news spread that the government was using it to prevent 50 persons (largely members of the opposition PDP) from traveling abroad over corruption cases
  • EFCC made moves to go after Mr. Ayo Fayose, who at the time was a sitting PDP governor enjoying full immunity
  • The manner in which the EFCC went about the matter, while ignoring other obvious cases involving members of the ruling APC, exposed the anti-corruption agency as working for the party as well as the Buhari administration.
  • Former Finance Minister to Buhari, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, admitted to forging her National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) certificate, an offence punishable by 14 years imprisonment, was allowed to leave the country without prosecution by the same EFCC
  • The EFCC has remained silent, showing no interest in investigating the investigative video that exposed the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje receiving bribe