The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (VIII)

With the uncertainty fever cascading the political turf, 2019 elections cannot be less interesting, writes Olawale Olaleye

Across the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – it’s been one week, multiple crises since the battle for 2019 unofficially took off especially, in the lead up to the congresses and conventions and eventually, the party primaries.

It is evident that the two parties have yet to resolve the internal malcontents that greeted their primary elections and at the same time, have continued to trade tackles in the struggle for placement, not just for 2019 but ultimately 2023.

Some of the issues that dominated the week that just ended included the certificate scandal of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Dubai trip of the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, efforts by Buhari to mediate in his party crisis, the APC campaign discontent and the general political intolerance that has become irremediable.

But in different states were peculiar challenges, some of which are the carryovers from the previous weeks, whilst others battle new challenges. What is important, however, is the connection of these developments to the big day – 2019. Shall we now run some of them by you?



A Looming Political Depression 

In the two major political parties in Ogun State, it does not appear their crises will be over any time soon. In the APC, for example, despite the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in the week, where he visibly sued for peace, the crisis in the party has continued to escalate and incidentally, the alleged meddlesomeness of the National Chairman of the party, Oshiomhole is the bane of the crisis in the state.

Whilst the party is yet to resolve the puzzle over which governorship candidate truly emerged from the two processes, the other positions that were re-conducted by the Col. Ali Ciroma panel is again said to being tampered with, thus compounding the situation in the state. It is therefore not surprising why neither of both parties is unwilling to give up in a battle that might consume, not just the party but the election of Buhari in the state.

Suffice it to say that there have been speculations that associates of the governor might activate what is being described as Plan B as the aftermath of their disappointment with the Oshiomhole leadership, there are however no indications yet to that effect. So, it is fingers crossed.

In the PDP, the recognition of the Senator Buruju Kashamu faction of the party by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in obedience to a court ruling has terribly unsettled the party. Although the Ladi Adedibu faction has refused to accept the verdict, what this portends for the party in the state, including the state of the APC is an opening for a third force, which might reap from the current malcontents in both parties. What is therefore visible here is a looming political depression. 



Okorocha on the Offensive

The free-for-all that the political situation in Imo State has become has yielded space for all manners of speculations on the actual state of the party in the state. Clearly, as it is with about two other governors, this is not the best of time for Governor Rochas Okorocha, who may have failed to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as the next governor of the state.

The story in town now is that Senator Hope Uzodinma is the name submitted to INEC as the APC candidate in Imo State, although there were those who claimed it was Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. But whatever it is, with these two other names flying around, Nwosu might have actually lost out of the equation, a development that has since dealt a devastating blow on Okorocha. Nwosu is yet to accept this as his fate either.

Like others in his shoes, Okorocha has since called Oshiomhole different names, showing gross disapproval for the way the man has handled the situation in his state. The question now is how a disenchanted governor is going to deliver the party in the state, given the resources at his disposal.

Besides, Okorocha too had been accused of attempting to manipulate the process of the primaries in his state, including allegation of $2 million bribe offer by Ahmed Gulak, the man who conducted the governorship primary in the state. But except something really dramatic happens, he might go on full offensive soon.



Yari’s Disturbing Silence

Suddenly, the Zamfara State Governor, Abdul-Aziz Yari has gone disturbingly silent over the state of the party in his state. He was initially amongst the vocal few, threatening fire and brimstone, including spearheading the plot to remove Oshiomhole. But with all the failed attempts to bring the situation under control, Yari has since muted, creating a sort of panic on its own.

Although the confident North West governor had said a long time ago that Oshiomhole was merely joking, that his candidates would be on the ballot and on the platform of APC in 2019, even when INEC was not willing to give any concession. How he plans to pull that off is yet to be seen. But it would be interesting to see what the governor and the party make out of Zamfara, a state from a critical geo-political zone.



Now Boasting a Unity of Purpose

A recent statement by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that he would campaign vigorously for the victory of President Buhari and the governorship candidate of the party in the state, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has changed the tenor of political developments in the state, including his planned impeachment. This was immediately enhanced by the visit to the governor by both Sanwo-Olu and his running mate, Dr. Femi Hamzat.

Particularly exciting to an average political observer in the state is the fervor with which the APC team has continued to campaign in the state, despite being in charge of all the resources. This level of commitment has encouraged many voters and gradually shaping opinions that the team is not taking anything for granted.

In the PDP, on the other hand, apart from the recent appointment of Mrs. Haleemat Busari, a lawyer, as the running mate to Mr. Jimi Agbaje, governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, there has not been much to their campaign lately.

Although the choice of Busari, a law graduate from the University of Lagos, who was on the board of several companies, including being a director in First Bank, Sierra Leone, excited quite a few, the party has yet to do much to battle a grounded and menacing APC in the state.

Perhaps, things will pick up in the next few weeks and rev up campaigns in the state with the latest development.


Still Smarting from a Bad Primary

One of the governors, who easily indicated his desire to see the back of the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole, is the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, following his abysmal loss in the just concluded primaries of the party in the state.

Akeredolu is not contesting next year, because his election is not due, but other political offices in the state would be up for grab, a situation that leaves him dangerously at the mercy of his enemies.

Akeredolu believes his misfortune in the state was orchestrated by Oshiomhole, who must have been aided by the now famous Lagos cabal. Unable to conceal his pain, Akeredolu is willing to support any cause that would show Oshiomhole the way out and that project is still ongoing.



el-Rufai’s Enviable Political Fiefdom

If there was any governor, who had comfortably ‘called the bluff’ of the president and party and is having his way pretty good, it is the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai. He did not joke when he said Senator Shehu Sani would not secure his re-election ticket and despite the many interventions by the president and other APC stakeholders to compensate Sani for being such a “good boy” at a critical time, el-Rufai stood his ground and won the battle.

His candidate, Ubah Sani eventually got the ticket and was recognised by the national leadership and eventually submitted to INEC.

However, whilst the dust raised by that was yet to settle, el-Rufai is being accused of picking a Muslim woman, Hadiza Abubakar Balarabe from Southern Kaduna, which is predominantly Christian as his running mate. His current deputy, Barnabas Bala has taken his career a notch up by heading out to the senate. Unfortunately, the choice of Balarabe is believed to have since created some ill-feeling in the state as grossly insensitive especially, considering that there is serious crisis in that part of the state now.

But that also remains in the realm of speculation as there is another school of thought that claimed Balarabe is a Christian, albeit with a Muslim name. If that is true and correct, the cry over his pick for running mate might be in vain and he might as well be on his way to clinching his re-election. 



A Peculiar Mess

The PDP in Delta is, without doubt, in a comfortable place. With Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, effectively in charge, supported by the founding fathers of the party in the state, there is no cause for alarm in the party in the state.

But same cannot be said of the APC. With threats by the Ijaws in the state against Oshiomhole, coupled with a recent court ruling which alleged contempt against the chairman, APC is definitely not having a good time in the state. Besides, the party is also divided along factions, a situation that does not put the APC in a good place.

The state does not look good for the APC, either in form or shape. But nothing can be written off at this stage. The climate is still fluid as it is in many others, even the comfortable PDP.



A Make or Mar Restart

The state of Rivers APC is not one to be envied at this stage. The last few weeks have not been exciting in the state as the party has hopped from one issue to another. The latest now is a court order for a fresh congress, which if not well handled could completely alter the equation in the party.

Apart from Governor Nyesom Wike, who might be having a good laugh, neither of the two warring camps in the APC – Rotimi Amaechi and Magnus Abe – is at peace with itself as far as the situation in the party is concerned.

Now, having to start with fresh congresses from the ward to the state level to re-conducting a new primary, the party is definitely in a big dilemma. It is surprising though how the annulment did not affect the adoption of Buhari as the party’s presidential candidate. That would be a case study for legal scholars. But, for now, the primary assignment is not an enviable one.



This Distraction Won’t Fizzle Out

The ongoing bribery allegation against Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State is a sad development that would not go away by itself except it is addressed holistically. In circulation now are about four different videos showing where and how Ganduje, in a cozy atmosphere, received bribes in dollars.

When called to testify, publisher of Daily Nigerian, an online news portal, which uploaded the video, Jafar Jafar was confident enough that he promised to release more videos. Ganduje, on his part, has continued to deny collecting bribe. When his Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, appeared before the state assembly, he maintained that narrative too.

But the evidence in public domain does not support their denial. Yet, only a competent court of law can determine ultimately the veracity of that claim. This development, unfortunately, has taken the shine off other political events in the state and except something quite dramatic happens, this might be the situation for a long time until resolved.



The Bug of Discordance Tune

One of the states that had been without much distraction was Bauchi. Not because there were no challenges but because theirs was minimal. But the news of the defection of a former governor of the state, Isa Yuguda from Green Party of Nigeria (GPN) to the APC appears a development that would accelerate events soon in the state.

How much that would also enhance the chances of the APC would have to prove self for all to see, coupled with the understanding that the PDP would not close its eyes and watch the APC have a field day.


Cross River

Slowed Down by Minority Malcontent

While the APC appears to be managing its challenges in Cross Rivers State and getting-by gradually, the PDP, which had hitherto maintained some modicum of peace, is back on the trenches, thanks to one but Emmanuel Ibeshi.

Ibeshi, a governorship hopeful, recently sued the PDP in the state, including Governor Ben Ayade and INEC for omitting his name amongst the aspirants meant to contest the governorship primaries of the party in the state on the grounds of rights. He is suing the PDP and INEC for disobeying the court.

It is not clear at this stage how much of distraction the development could cause the ruling party in the state and how the opposition APC that is fielding Senator John Eno, could take advantage of the situation.



Nursing a Tall Ambition

The APC in Kwara appears not to be taking anything for granted in the bid to take over the state – a state believed to be under the firm control of not just the PDP, but the Saraki dynasty. President Buhari recently ordered the party to go forth and ‘snatch’ Kwara from the Sarakis and leader of APC in the state, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is not leaving anything to chance in this onerous assignment.

This rather huge ambition was believed to have received some boost recently, when other aspirants in the party elected to support the candidate of the party, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman in the election for the party’s sake.

Interesting, this coalition is building at a time the PDP candidate, Abdulrasaq Atunwa is having NYSC certificate issue. Although he has since denied any such thing, that is still one of the things the APC is capitalising on ahead of next election.

Interestingly, none of these extrapolations has shifted the place and the hold of the Sarakis on the state. This is why it would be interesting to see the APC plan to upstage a dynasty that has had the state in its grip for years materialise.



Battling Post-election Trauma

Ordinarily, Osun should not have been one of the states on the political chart for any serious extrapolation, at least, in the countdown to 2019, given that the state recently, on September 22, held its governorship election, which produced Gboyega Adetola.

But with the certificate scandal still haunting PDP candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, Osun might be in the news for now and the development, either by accident or design, is sure to help shape things – positively or negatively.

Adeleke was recently arraigned by the police and was subsequently granted bail on self-recognition. This is going to drag for long, whilst he also pursues his governorship case in court. So, Osun might be on the radar for some time.


Akwa Ibom

Pulled Out of Its Shell

The invitation, two weeks ago, of the campaign handlers of Governor Udom Emmanuel by the police over allegation that they were harassing the opposition APC in the state had set the tone for the current state of things. PDP believes it was a ploy to distract and intimidate them, but the party does not appear like it is going to give in cheaply.

As it is, the PDP in the state might be up against other institutions of state that might be deployed to prosecute the election. The APC is believed to nurse a weird feeling that Akwa Ibom is take-able especially that a former governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio recently defected to the party.

Whilst Emmanuel has not shown sufficient fighting spirit in an environment that people go all out to take ‘what is theirs’, it still does not seem like taking over the state is going to be a walkover. All eyes are actually on the state.



Throwing Bianca in the Cold

The failed effort of Bianca Ojukwu, widow of the late Biafran leader, Odumgwu Ojukwu, is not one development that would pass as if nothing happened. The development is currently being viewed as a deliberate humiliation, not of Bianca, but ultimately of her late husband, who not only labored hard to set up APGA but made it an issue in the South-east.

However, the leaders of the party did not think Bianca merited any such consideration and as such, did not think twice as they watched her lose gallantly.

Although an aide to Governor Willie Obiano, Ifeanyi Obi-Okoye explained recently that all the signals of what would become of her were sent to her, including prevailing on her, both in public and private to not run, she was however determined and went ahead to run. And as expected, according to Obi-Okoye, she failed. It is not clear yet if this would just pass or take its piece in due time.

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