The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (X)


Officially, the 2019 campaign starts today and the battle for placements by politicians commences real time. Olawale Olaleye writes

Perhaps, it is not by sheer happenstance that the tenth edition of the THISDAY Guide to the 2019 elections coincides with the official kick-off of campaigns ahead of next year’s general election. This is of course, in line with the time-table by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the elections, relying however, on the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

INEC had since January 9, 2018, released the timetable and schedule of activities for the elections, which it had commendably stuck to despite familiar political pressure. The Electoral Act, as amended, states in 99(I) that, “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”

This, therefore, implies that political parties would formally begin campaigns for presidential, national and states assembly elections today, November 18, even though many of the parties especially, the opposition PDP and the ruling APC had contravened this rule through their various groups that had openly endorsed and declared support for their respective candidates.

This aside, the week that just ended witnessed a lot of interesting developments, many of which were directly connected to the APC. For instance, its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole spent the better part of the week defending allegations that he did not collect bribe to give tickets to some candidates of the party in some states.
Particularly interesting was the angle of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who pointedly accused him of the allegations and said he was no longer worthy of leading the party had this happened in a decent society. It is worthy of note that Saraki had pegged his comment on an unproven report of an investigation by the Department of State Security (DSS) which was said to have indicted Oshiomhole.

That notwithstanding, and regardless of the fact that campaigns would officially start today, the different states, typically, had their fair share of the dynamics marking the path to the next election in the week that just ended, some of which this week’s guide would focus on as well as their relevance to the 2019 battle.

An Instructive Test Case
The PDP and the APC in Kwara State, yesterday, had a major popularity test as they battled in a by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency. The seat became vacant following the demise of Mrs. Funke Adedoyin, former occupant of the office.
With yesterday’s election, it was clearly not a battle between the candidates of the major parties but a straight fight between the trio of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki as they struggled for soul of Kwara politics.

It is also worthy of mention that President Buhari recently charged the APC members in the state to take back the state from Saraki, who defected from the ruling APC back to the PDP.

Curiously, Mohammed, the highest office holder in APC from Kwara, is from Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area, which is within the federal constituency in contest, while Saraki, who is highly influential in the state and her politics, had a chance to prove that he remained in control and could command followership even after dumping the APC.
However, with controversy over police’s involvement in an alleged plan to rig the election, coupled with reports of violent attacks on each other in the lead up to the election, it was not surprising to many that the APC reportedly won the election. But clearly, the election was crucial on the eve of a major national election.

Another Message Poll
Just as the Kwara bye-election was crucial, the by-election into the Kankiya/Kusada/Ingawa federal constituency area of Katsina State was equally a message exercise to prove how much President Buhari still holds down his base too.
The election into Kankiya/Kusada/Ingawa federal constituency followed the election of the former member representing the area, Alhaji Ahmed Babba-Kaita, to represent Katsina north senatorial district.

Reports from the state showed that there was no cause for alarm as everything went according to plan. Indeed, the Katsina Governor, Aminu Masari has always been considered one of the luckiest, coming from the president’s state. In other words, his election is not likely to be contingent on his performance or popularity but one who would ride, as usual, on the coattail of the president. The election is just a reassuring message from the Buhari camp and indeed, their victory was expected.

Another Show of Strength
As it was in Kwara and Katsina States, Saturday’s bye-election for Toro Federal Constituency Area of Bauchi State, was just another opportunity for both the APC and PDP to show their strengths, even though the ruling party is always at huge advantage in a scattered election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Bauchi, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, however disclosed yesterday that only the PDP and APC fielded candidates for the election and not unexpectedly, the APC won, just as it did in two other states of Kwara and Katsina.

Taking the Piss Out of PDP
The tide of recent political developments in Lagos State has proven one thing: a smart and intelligent campaign by those, who control the nucleus of the politics of the state. Despite being the party in power, the APC is fast taking the piss out of the opposition PDP, which relies absolutely on nothing but ‘manner from heaven’.

Otherwise, how does anyone explain the fact that it is the party that has everything to its advantage that is visibly going everywhere and meeting everyone, with sound media leverage and support hunt?
Although scanty posters of the PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje are beginning to surface in a few places, clearly, he is not fighting this battle like one who wants to win. But the APC candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu does and no mischief intended. Election is not solely about the grace of God but grace and hard work combined. While Sanwo-Olu appears to have both, Agbaje seems to boast just one: grace. It would be nice to see how far that would take him.

Propaganda Goes Bad
Governorship candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State, Senator Ayogu Eze, threw up a funny propaganda, which unfortunately went bad in the week. He claimed that the PDP was coercing workers and traders in the state to submit details of their Permanent Voters’ Cards.
Steve Oruruo, Eze’s spokesperson had while denying allegations of embezzlement of public funds alleged that “the Enugu workers and traders were being compelled to surrender the particulars of their PVC”.

In a swift reaction, however, the two bodies, while denying knowledge of such coercion, described as false, baseless and mischievous, the allegation and warned politicians not to use the names of the state’s workers and traders to play senseless and devious politics.
They were quick to state that they had earlier endorsed the PDP governorship candidate in Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for a second term in office, wondering therefore what could have informed the unfounded and baseless idea of coercing them into submitting details of their PVCs.

Unfortunately, for the APC, Enugu seems impregnable for the opposition, more so not with a governor generally acknowledged as doing well. Perhaps, the APC needs to return to the drawing board in the state.

A Devastating Setback
Niger State chapter of the APC suffered a devastating setback in the week while the gubernatorial ambition of the PDP received a boost, when the Fulanis, one of the dominant ethnic nationalities in the state, withdrew their support for the ruling APC and its governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello. They threw their weight behind the PDP and its governorship candidate, Umar Mohammed Nasko.

Hundreds of the Fulanis from the three senatorial zones came under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Niger State branch and were led by their state chairman, Alhaji Diko Shakolo. They reportedly stormed the state PDP secretariat in Minna, where they pledged their support and loyalty and those of their members to Nasko and the PDP. They also promised to support the PDP presidential candidate and former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The APC does not need a soothsayer to explain the implications of this. The party might as well begin to count its losses as analysts see it. But this is politics. Never say never until the equations clearly pan out.

A Gripping Fear of the Unknown
Nothing has since changed in Ogun State as far as the situation is concerned and interestingly, in both parties. While in the APC, Dapo Abiodun’s name is the one with INEC, in the PDP, the Buruju Kashamu faction of the party is the one to beat.
Efforts by Governor Ibikunle Amosun to have his choice candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade emerge candidate of the APC may have failed to yield as the forces against him, led by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, are a legion. This has also attracted trade-tackling by both parties.

Although Oshiomhole had tried lately to romance Amosun, describing him as a loyal party man, it is not likely Amosun is still in a position to stop his men from taking their fate into their hands, even if he chose to swallow his pride. What many are expecting any moment from now is what is being touted as Plan B by angry loyalists of the governor.

In the PDP, however, despite the court ruling, which compels INEC to accept the list of candidates from Kashamu’s faction, an order the electoral body had also complied with, the party has refused to take heed of this, saying the provision is clear: that INEC must receive list from the national secretariat and not a state chapter of the party, saying whatever list it had submitted remains the authentic.
On both ends, it is an uneasy calm and the jury, as it were, is still out. Not even the presidential committee that visited the state at the weekend achieved much. It’s a hard nut.

Waiting on the Plan B
Like Ogun, Imo State is also not finding its situation funny and Governor Rochas Okorocha might be compelled to activate what is also being called Plan B in the state. With his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu not likely to make it as the governorship candidate of the party, Okorocha definitely has some things up his sleeves.
It was no wonder that during the week, a recent support march, evidently coordinated by his aides, was organized and the order being dished out was one which recognised Okorocha as the Alpha and Omega of the state and that whatever he said was final.
Unfortunately, the week was a very rough one for the candidate of the party in the state, Senator Hope Uzodinnma, who was reportedly arrested in the week by a presidential team over non-execution of a contract. The matter, as it is, is yet to be resolved – a situation that leaves both camps in serious mess.

Goes Totally Mute
There has been no news yet from Zamfara for a long time now. The last heard from the state was the threat by the Governor to Oshiomhole, whom he believed bungled things for him. INEC has also refused to accept list of candidates from the governor. It is another unfortunate scenario occasioned by the crisis of the primary. But Zamfara remains critical in the scheme of things and worthy of monitoring.

A Familiar Survival Battle
A major political development took place in Anambra in the week, when some members of the state House of Assembly impeached their speaker, Rita Maduagwu and elected in her place, Ikem Uzoezie.

Unfortunately for Governor Willie Obiano, he was in faraway France on a trip with the president, when this happened. But this untoward development was believed to have been occasioned by the inability of some of these lawmakers to get their tickets as promised.
The party leadership was said to have collected between 20 and 30 million naira as the conditions for them to return. However, whilst some of them struggled to get the money and paid, they still did not get the tickets, a development which stirred the internal rebellion.

There is yet another theory which fingers external instigation and indeed, the hands of a former governor of the state in an attempt to fight back the structure on the ground in the state. Whichever is the case, Anambra is fast building towards 2019 and it is going to throw up such surprises that would shock even the bookmakers.

Savouring Presidential Reprieve
With a second court order asking the Kano State House of Assembly to shelve its investigation of Governor Abdulahi Ganduje following allegations of bribery and further sealed by Buhari’s pronouncement that regardless of the allegations, ‘Ganduje is a good man’, the governor should by now be over the moon.

Although there were allegations that the governor recently donated huge cash and some vehicles to the Buhari campaign, a speculation that has not been confirmed yet, the presidential intervention was a major relief for a governor who was largely believed to be on his way out given the weight of the allegation against him.
The president though said the security agencies were still vetting the videos, where the governor was seen collection bribe in dollars, his recent clearance of the governor says it all.

Land of the Living-dead
A weird story came out of Adamawa State recently and it was that INEC reportedly detected the names of 1,224 dead persons in the voter register in the state.
Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Kassim Gaidam, who said this at the commencement of a two-day workshop for Election Monitoring Implementers for the North East Zone, in Yola, the state capital, disclosed that the names were uncovered through the voter clean-up exercise in the state.
That’s quite unbelievable but nothing can be put past politicians especially, in the period of an election, whose stakes are pretty high. Thanks to INEC for gradually overcoming the challenge of the living-dead, but there is a bigger one in the whole of the north: underage voting. It needs more attention.

Taking the Smart Route
The news of the sudden resignation of the Sokoto State Deputy Governor and governorship candidate of the APC, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, was received with greater political understanding. Indeed, it was long overdue and might have been taking the piss out of the PDP in the state. He is of a different political party with his principal and is also standing against him in the governorship election, both being of the two major parties. Truly, Governor Aminu Tambuwal had tried to tolerate him long enough.
Although reports had it that he hurriedly threw in the towel following moves to remove him from office. He allegedly got wind of the plot and quickly took the drastic step to save his political career.

However, it is not yet uhuru for Tambuwal too as his name is conspicuously missing from INEC’s list. What is still there is the name of his anointed godson, Manir Dan’Iya. The PDP has thus accused INEC of manipulating the list to embarrass the party.
But the National Commissioner of INEC on Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the two names published by INEC were the names submitted by the PDP, since they are the names that emanated from the party’s primary elections conducted in the state.

Akwa Ibom
Looking Up to God
Akwa Ibom State embraced the lazy man’s option last week, when it announced a-three day fasting and prayer programme from November 15 to 17, yesterday, to usher in the commencement of political campaigns and other political activities for the 2019 general election.

Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh, who stated this in a statement, added that the three days have not been declared public holidays. He said those in public offices and in private business locations, are expected to gather and pray at the close of work to round off the fasting in the first two days of the programme.

That was absolute baloney. Serious nations don’t resign the fate of a serious matter to just prayer but strategy, planning, dedication and hard work. A typical African thinks his problem is solvable only through prayers without properly analysing what the problem is. Akwa Ibom, with an otherwise intelligent governor, might have failed many by traveling this cheap and thoughtless route.

Still Battling Indiscretion
Since he chose a fellow Muslim sister, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe as his running mate, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna has been struggling to explain the sense in his nonsense especially, given the political volatility of his state.
Last Tuesday, he tried to defend his choice of a Muslim as his running mate when he said the Government House was not a place of worship but a place of work. He however didn’t stop there. He went further to affirm the absurd, when he claimed to have consulted President Muhammadu Buhari before making his choice.

Unfortunately, he forgot too soon that President Buhari himself could not run with either Bola Tinubu or Babatunde Fashola in 2015 on account of their faith and given the state of the nation. So, how could same Buhari have sanctioned his choice? It was just a case indiscretion, which thrives on sheer hubris. Nothing more! However, since he has made his choice, many wait to see how far that choice will take him.

But that is not without acknowledging that el-Rufai scored a big one as Dr. Mohammed Sani-Bello, a former governorship aspirant of the PDP in the state joined the APC. Sani-Bello announced his decision to join the APC at a news conference on yesterday in Kaduna.

On Tenterhooks
Delta State chapter of the APC has some days to wait before the choice of its governorship candidate is finally determined. The date is December 4 and the court, Federal High Court, Abuja, is the one that would determine the fate of the APC candidate, Chief Great Ogboru.
The date was fixed to deliver judgment in the suit seeking the nullification of the Delta State APC governorship primary held on September 30, 2018. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba fixed the date, after parties in the suit adopted and argued their written addresses.

The suit, which was filed by Ochei, specifically asked the court to nullify the APC governorship primary election that produced Ogboru as the candidate of the APC for the 2019 general election on the grounds that it contravened the judgment of the court.
But in opposing the suit, counsel to Ogboru, Chief Nelson Imoh, said his client objected to the matter purely on point of law, arguing that the court being a court of coordinate jurisdiction could not sit on appeal on the judgment of Justice Chikere.

After listening to the submissions of the counsel in the matter, Justice Dimgba fixed December 4 for judgment. Delta is another special terrain, which requires skilled monitoring. But the internal malcontent in the APC is obviously working for the good of the PDP, which currently controls the state. Whatever happens on December 4 will however determine the way forward for the PDP.

A Free-for-All Contest
Whatever informed the decision by 21 different political parties to field candidates for the governorship position in Plateau State is worth studying. With a sitting governor constitutionally entitled to another term, the number of those itching to take his job is disturbing and must have been informed by something pertinent.
INEC confirmed clearing 21 candidates, which were contained in a list released on Tuesday in Jos by Mr. Imahiyereobo Osaretin, the commission’s Head of Voter Education and Publicity in Plateau. He said the 21 candidates from various political parties met all the requirements for the governorship election.

Prominent among them are the incumbent Governor Simon Lalong, who is seeking re-election under the APC; Lt.-Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd) of the PDP, Mr Godfrey Miri of the SDP, Dr. Haruna Dabin, a former PDP Chairman in the state but now the candidate of PPC, Mr. Timothy Parlong, who is contesting on the platform of APGA, Mr. Bitrus Musa of the ADC and Mr. John Bigwan, contesting on the platform of GPN, among others.
Well, analysts believe it is either the governor is not performing and has lost it with the people or these other challengers feel he is vulnerable and choose to take their chances. Whatever it is would be resolved on the field of play next year.

An Insider’s Swing from the Outside
The leadership crisis rocking the Ondo State House of Assembly following the removal of the Speaker, Hon. Bamidele Oloyeloogun and his deputy, Hon. Ogundeji, is not what observers consider sheer institutional shake-up but a development that might have been instigated by some insiders from the outside.

The election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was one that elicited different interests within the party, both in the state and outside it. Indeed, his choice almost balkanised the leadership of the APC, which categorised some as Abuja politicians and others as belonging to the Lagos axis.

But with the turn of the party’s primary election in the state, which might have subtly played out the governor’s loyalists, and now the leadership rumble in the state assembly, there appears to be more to the situation, all of which are not more than the jostle for 2019 and ultimately, the positioning for 2023. Ondo has a lot more to show off in the days to come. Keep a tab.