The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (XI)

1

With  engaging campaign kick-offs, the road to 2019 is definitely a rough one, writes  Olawale Olaleye

The two leading political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last week, opened the floor for the 2019 campaigns with the launch of their respective presidential campaigns.

The APC tagged its policy document ‘Next Level’, a choice campaign theme that is already generating controversy over alleged intellectual theft, whilst the PDP said its compendium of ideas was designed to get the country working again. He was quick to also add that he spent 18 months with experts, putting the ideas together.  

To that extent, both the official and unofficial foot soldiers of the two parties had immediately gone to work. Mostly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers had taken to town to charge the people to re-elect the president, citing different reasons. In the same breath, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s people had warned of the implication of re-electing a government it glibly dismissed as incompetent.

With such disagreeable campaign tones, which had rather aggravated the otherwise unsavory rivalry before the electioneering was officially declared open by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – it goes without saying that the road to 2019 is definitely an undulating one.

It was therefore understandable when INEC warned as quickly as possible against any contravention of the Electoral Act and its election regulations, vowing to strictly monitor campaigns by political parties. INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this during a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.

However, two things exacerbated the tenor of campaigns that began in the week under review. First was the statement by a former United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development and member of the UK Parliament, Priti Patel, that the penchant of the APC-led federal government to disobey court orders was responsible for the country’s economic woes

Although Buhari didn’t like the tone of that statement and had immediately dismissed it as wicked, the PDP immediately latched on to it, claiming the statement vindicated its position on the Buhari administration.

The other issue is the recent killing of nearly 120 soldiers by Boko Haram in Melete, Borno State, a development that is already generating intense ill-feeling about the government of the day especially, when the situation seemed to confirm insinuation that the government might have been lying about the situation report on the fight against insurgency.

Indeed, the Senate, as a result of this unwholesome situation, adjourned plenary, describing the situation as unacceptable. In the same spirit, the US government also cautioned against a crisis-ridden election and enjoined actors to eschew hate speeches as they walk deeper into the campaign depth.  

Nevertheless, the president met with some South-east governors and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in the week, about the development of their zone, the meeting however added nothing to the state of campaigns and so the fever had since begun to spread across the different states of the federation.

 

Kwara

Offa Robbery on the Dial

Whist the dust raised by last week’s bye-election into a federal constituency was yet to settle in the state, the pending Offa robbery case reared its ugly head again in Kwara, however, on a different scale.

The police leadership had come out to announce the passing on of the principal suspect in the April bank heist, Michael Adikwu, which claimed over 30 people, months after Senate President Bukola Saraki had raised the alarm that the chap had been killed.

Interestingly, the police had come out to dismiss the possibility of the demise of the chap affecting the prosecution of the case, shamefully so. But the truth is that while the opposition may want to make the Offa robbery an issue in the election, the police cannot say with such confidence that the passing of the prime suspect would be of no consequence.

The assumption that he was killed is more grounded than the story being dished out. Whatever it is, all eyes are on Kwara in next year’s election and it is because of the place of Saraki in the scheme of things.

 

Ondo

It’s Getting Hot in Here

In Ondo, the crisis plaguing the APC is far from being over and it is the bitter fallout of the primary elections in the state. Last week, a group, Concerned APC leaders called on the national leadership of the party to dissolve the state executive led by Mr. Ade Adetimehin, over alleged anti-party.

Alleging that the state executive of the party was undermining the APC national leadership, the group said the Adetimehin-led state executive had been indirectly encouraging aspirants to approach the court over the outcome of the party primaries in the state. The group was led by a former deputy governor in the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.

It was no wonder that Hon. Olemija Stephen, representing Akoko North-East/West of Ondo State, reportedly dumped the ruling party in the week.

In another breath, aggrieved lawmakers of the state House of Assembly, who effected the removal of Speaker Bamidele Oloyeloogun, and his Deputy, Hon Ogundeji Iroju, recently rejected the lifting of their purported suspension by the Assembly. This followed their insistence that Oloyeloogun and his deputy remained sacked and do not have the right to preside over the functions of the assembly.

Interestingly, the decision to lift the suspension was sequel to the intervention of the stakeholders and notable leaders within and outside the state in resolving the crisis. Ondo definitely has a lot on its hand in next year’s election, even though it won’t be holding a governorship election.

Akwa Ibom

A Foretaste of 2019

Week in, week out, Akwa Ibom is proving to be one of the states to really watch out for in 2019. With the alleged plot to take over the state by the APC, recent developments may be playing to vindicate the PDP. The police, which sealed off the state House of Assembly penultimate week, lifted their siege last week.

This has not however deterred the PDP from crying out that there were alleged attempts by the APC in collusion with security agencies to make the state ungovernable ahead of the 2019 general election. The party said the strategy was to make it possible for the APC-led federal government to declare a state of emergency and pave the way for easy manipulations of election results in 2019.

But while the PDP was struggling to assert itself in its domain, some of the other dynamics do not show a party comfortable in power. That some of the governor’s aides have continued to resign are clear indications that the office of the governor might be under huge threat. But the jury is still out as far as Akwa Ibom politics is concerned.

Enugu

A Needless Billboard Battle

In what is best described as a declining electoral culture, the two main parties in Enugu State resorted to billboard battle in the week, such that signaled avoidable violence in the lead up to next year’s election. First, the APC had accused the PDP of intolerance by not letting it erect billboard, an allegation that the ruling PDP in the state denied.

However, PDP Chairman in the state, Hon. Augustine Nnamani, took the issue a notch higher , when he addressed newsmen over alleged destruction of the PDP-led government’s billboards at the entrance of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, welcoming the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to the state. But the APC had immediately denied this, saying it was all lies.

Yet, the PDP scored another big one at the weekend, when Steve Oruruo, spokesperson for the APC governorship candidate, Senator Ayogu Eze, defected to the party. This has further swelled the ranks of the party and reaffirmed the imposing stature of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of the state.

 

Lagos

A Peculiar Presidential Campaign

In Lagos, while the APC governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu is practically running a one-man show at the expense of PDP’s lazy campaign approach, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, last week injected fresh breath into the mix, when he inaugurated 5,000 participants into a dedicated campaign team in the state to champion Buhari’s re-election.

The event, which took place yesterday in Ikeja, had in attendance participants drawn from the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas across 347 wards in the state with a mandate to build formidable political support base in their respective areas of control.

Fashola’s initiative has been commended largely as a product of good thinking especially, when it appears that the current structure in the state is neck deep in the governorship electioneering, thus, assuming the Buhari election would naturally assume its place in the scheme might be delusional hence the initiative to contain possible tacky loose ends.

 

Benue

The Logic in Ortom’s Advocacy

After months of dueling with the Benue State Government over the enactment of anti-open grazing law, which had cost the state many deaths, the federal government, recently, set up a presidential committee on farmers-herders crisis, a move Governor Samuel Ortom has described as a step in the right direction.

Ortom, who spoke while receiving members of the committee led by General Musa Ibrahim of the Nigerian Army Defence headquarters, Abuja, at Benue Peoples’ House, Makurdi, said the committee was a better initiative than the earlier utterances by the Minister of Defence on the Benue State killings, which to a large extent, injured the sensibilities of people of the state.

Now that common sense has finally prevailed in the state, it is important that going forward, both the federal and the state governments appreciate the fact that their roles are complementary. It is therefore the view in some quarters that with this development, Benue may not only experience a peaceful election, but may savour an atmosphere of peace for a while.

Osun

Adeleke Still Gasping for Survival

It appears the thrills and frills of the September 22 governorship election in Osun State are yet to completely subside. This is evident in the PDP. Last week, the PDP put three of its members under investigations for possible sanction on account of their suing the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the Osun election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, over alleged fake certificate.

The members are Olalekan Awosiyan, Thomas Ojetade and Sina Awodire. They will be recommended for sanctions in accordance with the party’s constitution. Adeleke was recently granted bail on personal recognition on account of his certificate scandal.

But despite fighting internal squabbles, the party seized the occasion to throw shades at the outgoing Governor Rauf Aregbesola and described his government as a disaster. Although Adeleke is still in court, it is yet to be seen how further up he could push his resolve to reclaim his allegedly stolen mandate and if the PDP can approach the election as a united house.

Sokoto

Embracing a New Chapter

The resignation, last week, of former Sokoto State Deputy Governor, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto had immediately closed a chapter in the life of the state and her politics. Sokoto, who is of the APC, did not defect with his principal, when Governor Aminu Tambuwal left the APC. And to make his resignation a matter of moral compulsion, he too emerged the governorship candidate of his party. But he did not resign his position until he learnt of the moves to impeach him.

Apart from that, the news that the name of Governor Tambuwal was missing on INEC list was another development that unsettled the state in the midst of other challenges.

However, last Thursday, the state House of Assembly, confirmed the appointment of Alhaji Manir Dan-Iya as the new deputy governor of the state. This followed the adoption of a motion by the Deputy Majority Leader, Alhaji Ibrahim Sarki (PDP-Sokoto North II) at plenary.

In the same breath, INEC has also confirmed the name of Tambuwal as the candidate of the PDP in Sokoto State, thus closing the governorship ticket of the party as a deal. For the duo, it is a different and new chapter that just availed itself.

 

Niger

Dangling a Curious Carrot

Niger State government, last week, dangled a curious carrot before a critical constituency in the state, when it said it would settle outstanding pension gratuities, and death benefits owed relations of retirees, adding that he had directed the immediate release of N3billion for that purpose.

But he is believed to be doing this because the crisis that trailed the party primary elections is yet to simmer. Already, the Niger east chapter of the party has vowed to “fight to the last” over the substitution of its candidate. The national leadership of the party had given automatic ticket to incumbent Senator David Umaru as against Alhaji Sani Musa, who won the primary election. But Musa has decided to press on, regardless.

Besides, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Abu, representing Lavun/Mokwa/Idati federal constituency of the state, left the party in the week. Abu defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). When all these are put together, it is understandable why he might be seeking some soft-landing in certain areas hence his attempt at bringing the pensioners close.

Bauchi

A Different Phase at Election Eve

While many states of the federation are battling real time political challenges in the run up to 2019, Bauchi has something different to contend with. There were some killings recently in Yelwa, Lushi, Kagadama and Kusu areas of the state during some night parties. This development has forced the state Police Command to place a ban on all forms of social gatherings without approval from the command.

Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, DSP Kamal Datti Abubakar, explained that the decision was in line with Public Order Act and their statutory responsibility of prevention of crime and therefore warned that anybody found violating this order would be arrested and dealt with according to the law.

There is the fear that this untoward development might affect political activities in the state; to what extent is what many cannot say. But certainly, Bauchi is in a different phase on the eve of a major election.

Anambra

At War with the Peacemaker

For about two weeks running, Anambra has not been at peace with itself, following a shake-up in the state House of Assembly, which saw to the removal of Speaker Rita Maduagwu and the emergence of Ikem Uzoezie as the new speaker.

But the police had sealed off the assembly in the heat of the crisis, ostensibly to forestall thug invasion. Members of the state assembly had however condemned the sealing off of the assembly by the police, saying they might take legal action against the police if they failed to vacate the legislative complex on or before Tuesday, 27 November, 2018.

The fight in the state assembly is simply about the return ticket of members, which they claimed was paid for but not delivered to them by the party leadership. But should the angry lawmakers take over the assembly, it could spell doom for the governor, who they reckon is one of the conspirators of their ill-fate. The Anambra scenario is a developing event and would definitely assume full swing in due time especially, given insinuations that the assembly shake-up might have been instigated externally.

Rivers

Abe Bares It All!

Currently, there is no let-up in the battle for the soul of Rivers APC as the senator representing Rivers South East constituency, Magnus Abe, last week came out to explain why he was at loggerheads with his leader and benefactor, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. According to him, Amaechi humiliated him in the presence of his wife.

He also claimed Amaechi’s dictatorship might hurt the APC badly in the forthcoming elections, saying the minister was running a one-man show and stoking a personal cult. In a recent interview with a Magazine, Abe narrated how the feud between him and Amaechi spilled into his family circle, when the minister visited him at home.

Although unlike Amaechi, he was yet to respond to the attack by Abe, THISDAY however learnt that a reply is certainly coming the way of Abe this new week but from someone at his level. The Rivers’ crisis does not look like what would be over soon. Rivers is always a state to watch out for.  

Ogun

Indicators Still Hazy

A pall of uncertainty is still hovering on both the PDP and APC in Ogun State as far as next elections are concerned. While the alleged ‘Plan B’ of the loyalists of Governor Ibikunle Amosun is yet to start manifesting, the defection of one of Amosun’s staunch loyalists, Hon. Mukaila Kazzim, representing Abeokuta North/Obafemi-Owode/Odeda Federal Constituency is a pointer that cannot be brushed aside. He defected to Allied People’s Movement (APM).

Although expectations are high that other loyalists of the governor might follow suit in the days ahead, the development is believed not to forebode well for the APC in the state.

In the PDP, while Senator Buruju Kashamu has successfully substituted his name as the governorship candidate of the party, fighting the attendant constitutional lacuna attached to the manner of his emergence is another challenge that awaits him and which the PDP national leadership of the party is waiting to exploit.

In both parties, therefore, it is not yet uhuru as the last is yet to be heard of the intrigues unsettling their fate.

Kaduna

Between Religion and Performance

More crises appear to be lurking in the corner for Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State since he picked a fellow Muslim, Hadiza Balarabe as his running mate. The Southern Kaduna Political Group (SKPG) told him recently that the governorship election in the state would largely be determined by performance and not by religious sentiments.

The group however said the governor had failed if his intention of embracing a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2019 governorship election was aimed at creating religious dissension and infusing division among the people.

The governor had tried to defend his choice of a Muslim as running mate when he said last week that the Government House was not a place of worship but a place of work. He also claimed to have consulted President Muhammadu Buhari before making his choice. But the group is now challenging him on performance. Kaduna is not only crucial in next election; it would play up a lot of intrigues and surprises.

Ekiti

Fayose, Olujimi’s Tango Continues

The struggle for leadership in the PDP in Ekiti State between former Governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi does not seem like what is primed to end soon. With the latest development, colossal damage is believed to await the party ahead of the 2019 elections as many PDP members are said to be prepared to dump the party in the state.

A faction of the party was recently said to have endorsed Olujimi as the leader, being the most senior political office holder in the state, but some others were insisting that Fayose’s leadership was incontestable and unchallenged in the state.

Inside sources had revealed that thousands of PDP members might have concluded arrangements to go with the senatorial candidate of the APC in Ekiti South district, Dayo Adeyeye, to his new party. If the deal is closed successfully, Fayose’s leadership of the PDP in the state might be threatened for real and Olujimi might actually stand a good chance.

Borno

Interesting Checks and Balances

The PDP and the APC in Borno State are at each other’s trail – bumper to bumper. This is on account of the fact that the PDP thinks it stands a good chance in the election since the incumbent is not returning, having served out his two terms of eight years. But the APC feels comfortable as the owner of its territory.

Little wonder the PDP in the state recently told the APC-led administration in the state to face its responsibilities of bringing succour to the people and stop meddling in the politics of the opposition parties.

A statement by one of its factional leaders, Alhaji Zannah Gaddama, the PDP said the APC was reckless in the statement it put out recently in reaction to a sincere call that the owed pensioners’ salaries should be paid. But by the time the APC would respond, it dismissed the PDP candidate in the state, Alhaji Muhammad Imam as a factional governorship candidate, a statement that the PDP said smacked of political immaturity.

Election in Borno is also going to be very interesting being the hotbed of insurgency and coupled with the fact that the governor, Ibrahim Shettima is believed to have not done badly. It is a contradiction the PDP is trying to play on and how that would yield in favour of both parties is yet to be seen.