The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (VIII)


Not in many places did significant political activities take place last week, preparatory to 2019. A majority of the states were caught in plain campaign lockdown, writes Olawale Olaleye

President Muhammadu Buhari’s not assenting to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 was clearly not a good way for the people to end the week. That this happened for the record fourth time has begun to attract different interpretations, a majority of them quite unpleasant.

Yet, the president, earlier in the week, had reaffirmed his commitment to a credible poll in 2019. But with his not signing the Electoral Act Amendment bill, because of the timing, which he reckoned posed huge threat to the 2019 polls, a majority of the people still felt his decision contradicted his earlier position.

This however came at a time the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) had raised the alarm over alleged plan by the presidency to disrupt election in 10 states. The same CUPP had also earlier adopted the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its candidate in the presidential election of next year.

But one of the National Leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu may have taken attacks against Atiku as a personal responsibility. He spent the most part of last week shading the PDP candidate particularly, accusing him of incompetence. But Atiku has since refused to dignify him with a response.

Notwithstanding, some 59 pro-Buhari groups, last week, reportedly switched support for Atiku, thus swelling the ranks of the former vice-president, amid complaints of no money to fund election.

Curiously, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari stirred a fragile debate in the week, when she accused two unidentified men in the government of her husband as having hijacked the administration. Although not new to controversial statements, her comments last week further raised political discourse at a different level.

While all these lasted and the uncertainty over next year’s election continues to mount, the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, listed some of the threats to the 2019 elections to include increasing rate of vote-buying, rigging plans by political parties, acts of thuggery, flashpoints of electoral violence, ballot box snatching, small arms/light weapons and militant groups.
Interestingly, everyone appeared to be overwhelmed with campaigns activities last week and very little manifestation of the flashpoints or internal malcontents were exhibited. But some of the few that did, indeed, went on the overdrive.

The Dirty Fighting Continues
Till the time of the election next year, Imo is one state that is not likely to stop giving itself away in terms of what to come. Governor Rochas Okorocha, last week, sent another message to President Muhammadu Buhari to call the national chairman of his party, Adams Oshiomhole to order.

The Imo governor is still smarting from the way the primary election that edged out his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu was handled and had since resolved not to have anything to do with Oshiomhole. But the chances of his son-in-law shone a bit when some members of the APC in the state assembly – about 19 of them – joined him in the Action Alliance (AA) party he had defected to penultimate week. This development leaves the state of affairs in Imo in very uncertain condition and continues to present the race as a free-for-all.

A Multiplicity of Confusion
The situation in Ogun State is clearly a complex one, with each to its own. In the APC, Governor Ibikunle Amosun would have nothing to do with the party’s candidate, Dapo Abiodun but unapologetic about his support for his choice candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade.
In fact, the state’s First Lady, Mrs. Funsho Amosun was in Ipokia, Ogun West to campaign with Akinlade and she went all out selling the choice her husband made with such marketing mastery. She reportedly excited her crowd when she said to them that Akinlade was the one with the ticket while Abiodun was only keeping the envelope in which the ticket came.

However, in the PDP, the party leadership made a significant move last week, when it handed Mr. Ladi Adebutu its flag, indicating he was its choice for the election as against Senator Buruju Kashamu, who currently enjoys legal privileges and is recognised by INEC. Unfortunately, this has not only created a mixed bag of confusion, it has further deepened the crisis in the state’s chapter of the PDP.
Expectedly, all the candidates in the state are said to be gearing up to effectively push up their campaigns this week.

A Knotty Survival Battle
Despite surviving an impeachment plot penultimate week, respite is yet to come the way of the Akwa Ibom State Government as it alleged last week that the federal government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was planning to indict Governor Udom Emmanuel, and some officers of the state over a purported withdrawal of N1.7 billion from the state coffers.

The state government in a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh, argued that the alleged indictment of the officials by the EFCC was a “baseless and malicious allegation, tainted with political undertone to malign the integrity of the current Government of Akwa Ibom State.”
For some weeks now, the leadership of the PDP has been alleging attempts by the ruling party to surreptitiously take over the oil rich state. And everything so far playing out looks so much like it. Akwa Ibom, for every reason, has become a critical flashpoint and the last is certainly yet to be heard of the situation in the state.

Another Respite for Ganduje
By now, the Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Ganduje might have heaved a relieving sigh as a Kano State High Court, presided over by Justice Ahmed Tijjani Badamasi, Thursday granted an order of injunction restraining the state House of Assembly’s Investigative Committee from further investigating the $5million bribery allegations involving Ganduje.

The court had earlier ordered the state House of Assembly to maintain the status quo ante pending the determination of the originating summons filed by the National Coordinator of Lawyers for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria, Mohammed Zubair, which ruled in favour of the plaintiff.
With the latest development, Ganduje can now face his campaigns even though, there are no guarantees that the issues of bribery would not come up again in the thick of the campaigns. But at least, not to the extent of the threat it constituted to his career had the assembly gone ahead to investigate him.

The Real Battle is Just Beginning
Before the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jimi Agbaje launched last week, his counterpart in the APC, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had literally taken over town, in what was nearly turning out to be a one-man show.
But that is no longer the case. Agbaje only stayed calm because INEC had not lifted embargo on campaign for his category of election. And now, he is no longer holding back as both candidates now attend almost the same events in a sense that suggests competition for attention.

An example was their attendance at the Experience, an annual praise and worship crusade by Pastor Paul Adefarasin, during which the crowd excitement that heralded the introduction of Agbaje outshone that of Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
It is true that the APC is the ruling party and has everything at its beck and call, this election is however not a walkover for it. Regardless of all that Sanwo-Olu has to his advantage, the election is neither of both to lose. The winner would have to walk through the hurdles and breast the tape through hard work. The battle is just beginning in Lagos.

A Developing Petty Billboard War
Strangely, in nearby Edo State, candidates of the APC and the PDP in Edo South Senatorial District, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon and Senator Matthew Urhoghide traded blame over the destruction and defacing of their campaign billboards in some parts of Benin City, the state capital last week.

Obahiagbon in his usual verbosity fired the first shot, when said he was flabbergasted beyond words that political opponent could still resort to politics of primitivism and crudity by resorting to billboard vandalism either directly or by proxies. He said such acts must be deprecated by all decent and reasonable men in any civilised society.

But Senator Urghoghide, on his part, said he was taken aback by the political intolerance being displayed by his opponent, because according to him, “You cannot see me retaliating. The electorate knows who is serving them and I have told the PDP and my supporters not to retaliate. I am calling on APC and the Edo State Government to call their people to order. We need election to be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.”

Although not much has been heard of Edo State for some time now, the kind of news it has churned out has no elevation in whatever sense but one that called for caution from all the actors in the state, because at the very least, the state might be tilting towards violence with such tendencies.

Situating the Presidential Run
The PDP presidential campaign train moved out last week with so much force that showed it was ready for the battle ahead. From Sokoto to Kwara and Oyo, the party held down the states in the North West, North Central and South-west zones with relatively intimidating crowd.

Of course, the two parties have not backed down on trading tackles as it has formed the core of their engagements since the emergence of the candidates of the two leading political parties in the country.

But the presidential end of the campaigns hit hard on the PDP yesterday, when the party raised the alarm that the bank accounts of its vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi had been frozen by the federal government. Although there was no official response yet to the allegation, observers have begun to interpret this as an element of intolerance on the part of the government.