The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (XIV)
With an unending controversy over the unsigned Electoral Act Amendment Bill, a peace pact by all stakeholders and a vice-presidential debate dominated by the two candidates of the APC and the PDP ending the week, an otherwise drab 2019 electioneering received some rejuvenation last week, writes Olawale Olaleye
It was not stunning anymore that the leading political parties in the country – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – have not ceased to throw jabs at each other. This is because when the stakes are measured, it would not be surprising either that theirs would be higher.
While APC accused the PDP of recruiting some Russian hackers to manipulate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s data base if the bill allowing electronic transfer of result was signed into law, the PDP alleged that the APC and Presidency had directed the INEC to open phony voting centres on the fringes of the desert, where results would be padded in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But not wanting to be dragged into their dirty fighting, INEC had quickly come out to deny any such thing, describing the allegations as distasteful and regretted that the parties could deliberately embark on peddling complete falsehood about the commission, with the sole intent of discrediting all the good efforts being put in place to ensure a credible 2019 general election. On a positive note, INEC said it was already working out a framework that would enable people in the IDPs vote.
However, the process for next year’s elections received some positive boost when all intending candidates were made to sign a peace pact. A similar peace deal was struck during the last election and so, it was natural that it becomes a part of the nation’s electoral culture. That, unfortunately, landed in the midst of the Olusegun Obasanjo/Muhammadu Buhari diatribe.
The former president had dismissed reports that he had not made up his mind on who to support, saying it was foolish to sit on the fence. The APC quickly came after him and said his candidate would be defeated, regardless. This is as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) denied ever endorsing Buhari. It was a bag of confusion in which the system was thrown.
Even then, states with peculiar challenges still gave reasons why they remain flashpoints to watch. So, who did what last week?
Finding Its Voice
After many weeks of maintaining an unusual silence over the state of things, Zamfara, Governor, Abdulaziz Yari last week found its voice, when pro-democracy activists in the state, under the aegis of the Zamfara Unity Forum, called on President Buhari, to warn the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to steer clear of the politics of the state in order to avert a major crisis.
In a statement issued yesterday and signed by Usman Bungudu, the convener of the forum, the activists alleged that the anti-graft body has been contracted by politicians to intimidate and humiliate Mallam Daudu Lawal, whom the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had nominated as the consensus governorship candidate of the party.
In yet another breath, the state governor, Abdul-Aziz Yari, was the one who told the world that President Buhari shared with them the fact that the economy was in a mess. Needless to say that Zamfara has not been easy since the bungled party primary and with an overwhelming uncertainty. The state is definitely a flashpoint with all the trappings of worry.
Waiting for the Dirty Fight
It was not surprising that the peace and reconciliation committee of the APC could not achieve much. Perhaps, the state of affairs in the party had gone beyond that especially if placed side-by-side the factor of time. However, what is certain as Ogun counts down to 2019 is the likely resort to dirty fighting, this time not one based on lies or propaganda.
There is simmering speculation that the candidate of APC in the state, Mr. Dapo Abiodun may not have served the mandatory one year national youth service, a development said to have since unsettled his camp. Abiodun, who was said to have initially filled his form with eye-popping resume, was said to have withdrawn his initial claims and merely filled WAEC for safety.
Unfortunately for him, the opposition in the state had already gotten wind of the situation and is fast feasting on it. In fact, opposition is of the belief that there is no way he would wriggle out of the messy situation, even though the Abiodun camp has carried on as if all was well.
Meanwhile, Governor Ibikunle Amosun was with the president in the week but no one knew why or what they discussed. However, the governor is believed to be confident about next year’s election, not because of his closeness to the president but his popularity and performance. Well, whatever it is, he has a chance to prove this in 2019. But certainly, Ogun will be interesting.
Still Living in Fear
There is a pall of uncertainty hovering round the frame of the ruling APC in the state. For a majority of the members, there is a sprawling feeling that some members of the party would sell out. Although they tried to pretend that the resignation and joining of the PDP of a commissioner, Olawale Olowu, last week was no big deal, the fear that some more would follow suit is gripping the party.
Perhaps, it is this situation that is emboldening the PDP candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who has continued to call out his APC counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu at every opportunity. Agbaje said last week that the APC was so worried that it threatened the business community not to donate to his campaign.
He has promised to free Lagos from Tinubu and would stop at nothing to get this done. But guess what? Sanwo-Olu does not appear ruffled. Whether or not he is feigning such a demeanor or it was informed by the reality on the ground, only time will tell.
An Evolving Politics of Threats
The place of Kaduna in next year’s election is not in doubt. Violence is likely and surprises too. Nothing however confirms the former than a recent allegation by a House of Representatives aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Yusuf Ali, who urged a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja not to transfer his petition challenging the outcome of the party’s primary election in Kaduna South Federal Constituency to the Kaduna division of the Federal High Court over alleged threat to his life.
Ali, who contested to represent Kaduna South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, is alleging that the primary election that produced Mukhtar Ahmed Monrovia as candidate of APC in the 2019 election was fraught with irregularities. But the APC had submitted the name of Mukhtar Monrovia to INEC as the candidate of the party instead of the name of the plaintiff.
But seriously, such a situation should elicit concern and intervention as it just might be a signpost of what to come. Clearly, Kaduna is a flashpoint of note.
A Recycling Uncertainty
Wednesday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which confirmed that the APC in Rivers State would not field any candidates during next year’s elections, is the one issue that has refused to go away, even when the elections are a few months from now. The court did this by dismissing the appeal filed by the APC governorship candidate in the state, Mr. Tonye Cole.
The Court also confirmed the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu that Rivers State APC had no ward, local government and State Executives, dismissing the appeal filed by Sacked Rivers State APC State Chairman, Mr. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree. The Court of Appeal Port Harcourt Division Special Panel Chaired by Justice Abubakar Yahaya dismissed the two appeals for lack of merit.
Interestingly, leaders of the APC are not worried. For them, the ruling has no effect on the election of Cole conducted by a delegation of national panel of the APC. Yet, there is a recycling uncertainty hovering over the state. Rivers would be interesting to watch.
A Curious Consolidation
There is no pretending about the crisis in Ondo State and this owed solely to the party primary, which stylishly pushed out the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. Since then, there have been allegations of anti-party against the governor as he was believed to have encouraged his loyalists to defect to other parties in the bid to realize their ambitions.
Yet, the governor has a responsibility to deliver the president and so, the need for consolidation to see this happen. It was therefore seen in same light, his recent appointment of 18 caretaker committees for the councils in the state. At that level, mobilisation is easy and so, the governor appears to have his game intact. Whether or not he is engaging in anti-party, the state of the APC in many states is being jocularly dismissed as supporting such.
APC’s Endless Chase
Many still find it curious that the APC is yet to get over the fact that the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal is no longer a member of their party and is therefore doing everything humanly possible to tackle and bring him down.
The APC, Wednesday, asked the Supreme Court to sack Tambuwal on the grounds that the election that produced him as the party’s candidate in 2014 was marred with irregularities. What a way to go!
Counsel to the APC, Abduganiyu Arobo, in a new twist to the appeal seeking the removal of Tambuwal for not being the lawful candidate of the party, conceded to the appeal filed by Senator Umaru Dahiru to get judgment entered in favour of the appellant.
However, there is just one takeaway from this chase; it is a defeatist game, which unfortunately, could only make the governor stronger. Maybe the APC should review its strategy.
The Chicken is Home to Roost
Another state that should interest and excite many observers is Oyo State. The recent pronouncement by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu that he would not campaign for candidate of the party is a confession that should be taken seriously. This is the same situation in Ogun, Imo and several other states.
Shittu is bitter, no doubt, and justifiably so. And if they think he has no power to muster any force, well, he might as well be that proverbial leper, who could undo a collective effort without batting an eyelid. Oyo is just another state where genuine reconciliation appears impossible.
A Move in the Right Direction
Despite its own challenges too, which is not far from what is obtainable in states with post-primary crisis, Niger is looking in some other productive direction ahead of the 2019 elections.
The State government recently outlawed thuggery and the carrying of any form of firearms and other dangerous weapons including the consumption of intoxicants at campaign venues. Titled: ‘A law to prohibit thuggery, use of intoxicants and for matters connected thereto 2018’ the legislation has been signed into law by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
Well, that is a deviation from the staggering confusion that is gradually taking over the polity. It is therefore one initiative that is worthy of emulation by other forward-looking states. This shows the governor is not oblivious of what 2019 has in stock for the state.
Closing the Gaps
One thing the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has proven with his election is that truly, failure could be an opportunity to begin again even more intelligently.
However, it is for whoever can identify it as such. The first leg of Fayemi’s pending victory, which was a court dismissing a suit challenging his eligibility, cannot be overemphasised in the context of what is obtainable today in the state.
In addition to this, however, no fewer than 500 political appointees and elected officials believed to be loyal to former governor Ayodele Fayose, reportedly defected to the APC last week. The defectors, according to reports, were serving and former local government elected and appointed political officials under Fayose between 2003-2006 and 2014-2018.
Fayemi is fast closing the gaps and upping the ante with the kind of finesse missing in Fayose’s era. Sustainability is the word to watch out for though.
A Shake-up in Buhari’s Homestead?
In what may ordinarily appear impossible, there was a mild shakeup in the homestead of President Muhammadu Buhari, when a lawmaker from Katsina State, Hon. Ibrahim Murtala Danmazari, defected from the APC to opposition PDP. Danmazari is representing Musawa/Matazu federal constituency of Katsina State.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, read Danmazari’s defection letter Tuesday morning when plenary resumed and the lawmaker announced in his letter that he was now a card carrying member of the PDP.
Although Katsina is ever considered safe for the president, much as some have argued that the governor of the state, Aminu Masari has continued to hide behind Buhari’s figure to cover up his poor performance, that such a move was mooted in Buhari’s homestead is enough reason to ponder over it.
The political atmosphere in Akwa Ibom has been tense since the failed move to impeach the governor, Udom Emmanuel. That development, however, seemed to have also opened up the state for some hot and engaging campaigns between the two leading parties – PDP and APC.
Recently, the two parties battled over alleged defection of APC members, numbering about 20,000 to the PDP. And in the midst of these, the two candidates had taken out time to sell their policies.
Meanwhile a momentum gathered last week, when the state government raised the alarm over plot to implicate key aides of the governor as cultists. The plot was alleged to be spearheaded by a top ranking PDP member, who joined the APC recently. Whatever it is, Akwa Ibom is a battleground in 2019 and both parties would throw in their all in the pending fight to the finish.