The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (XV)

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With a gradually building-up tension and increasing global concerns, the 2019 polls have become another huge democratic test case for Nigeria, writes Olawale Olaleye

With a request for more time amid a tumultuous budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari, last week betrayed no emotions in the realisation that the nation had stepped foot on a full blown campaign soil ahead of the 2019 elections. This was further corroborated by some of the jabs thrown by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and vice-versa.

Although the president personally reacted to the chaos that greeted his budget presentation, when he cautioned the irreverent lawmakers that the world was watching, his sermon didn’t appeal to other PDP stalwarts like the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Peter Obi, who seized every opportunity to lampoon the APC, Buhari and their government.

Atiku didn’t hold back when he told the government to stop taking credit for PDP projects. He and Obi also took on the recent unemployment figure in a sense that suggested the APC was a complete failure. While Atiku said the figures were catastrophic, Obi said they were frightening.

Yet, in another breath, the PDP accused the presidency of fleecing farmers’ N1.2 billion funds at a time Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was struggling to defend the tradermoni initiative, saying it was not a form of vote-buying as being insinuated by the PDP apologists.

The week also witnessed some sparring between the two major parties over a recent report by Amnesty International (AI), which stated that the herdsmen/farmers crisis had so far claimed 3,641 lives. APC found the report appalling while the PDP thought it was proof of what it has been saying about the government hence Atiku said the killings would not stop except Buhari was voted out.

However, while INEC has continued to impress it on the people and the world at large that it would deliver a credible election, presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Oby Ezekwesili accused President Buhari of plotting to undermine a credible election process.
These notwithstanding, the battles continued in the states and on different scales.

Kwara
A Trapping Upset
A High Court ruling on Wednesday, which recognised the executive committee of the Ishola Balogun-Fulani faction of the All Progressives Congress in Kwara State, might have thrown a huge spanner in the works for the APC in the state.
Earlier dissolved by the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, after the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; the state governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, and others defected from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, the executive approached court and was eventually handed justice.

The judgment handed by Justice T.S. Umar held that the purported dissolution of the executive committee of the APC led by Balogun-Fulani was illegal, null and void and further advised the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognise the list of members of the executive committee presented by the Balogun-Fulani faction.
By implications, the current governorship aspirant of the APC, Abdulrahman Abdulrasak may be off INEC’s list soon. Even if they appealed, which they have done, the development has already unsettled the APC and played well in favour of the PDP. The jury is still out and fingers crossed.

Ogun
The Changing Dynamics
A lot happened in Ogun State in the week that just ended. In the APC, the national leadership of the party made real its threat, when it announced the dissolution of the current executive, loyal to Governor Ibikunle Amosun and set up a caretaker committee in an election period. Although the Chief Derin Adebiyi executive has dismissed Adams Oshiomhole’s order as a joke, the development has definitely changed the dynamics in the state.
However, the turnout at the campaign kick-off by Allied People’s Movement and its adoption of President Muhammadu Buhari are going to remain the talk of the town for another two weeks, perhaps. Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, governorship candidate of the party has suddenly become the issue in the state and is taking no prisoners as far as the election is concerned.

Interestingly, it is about the same time that candidate of the APC, Dapo Abiodun, is battling certificate scandal, a matter that has enveloped whatever glimmer of hope that his candidacy boasted. His case is already a subject of litigation, and is not looking good for him.
Meanwhile, in the PDP, misfortune hit the camp of Senator Buruju Kashamu, following an Appeal Court ruling, which nullified his candidacy. While the Ladi Adebutu camp has gone to town jubilating, Kashamu has appealed the matter, reminding the PDP leadership that he was still the candidate. Indeed, the dynamics are changing and they are interesting.

Imo
Damning the Consequences
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is presently not a happy man and whoever crosses his path would be made to feel the pang of his wrath. That his choice candidate and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu was denied the governorship ticket of APC is a treatment he would not forgive the national leadership of his party for.

Now that he has taken the matter in his stride and addressing it as he chose, the move by the national leadership to get him to campaign for the APC in the state has been rebuffed by him and he is unapologetic about it.
Thus, like Ogun, Oshiomhole has dissolved the Imo executive too and it is clear Okorocha would fight like a wounded lion, damning the consequences, part of which could mean putting the APC in harm’s way in the state particularly, at the presidential run.

Zamfara
The Die is Cast!
It is clear that Zamfara is one state, where the APC is not going to field a candidate. Except something improbable happens, that matter is closed as far is the state is concerned. Although Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari is believed to have since worked out alternative options long before the close of substitution of candidates like his friends in Ogun and Imo, what is not certain is what lays ahead for the APC at the presidential run.

No one can say for now if like Amosun, Zamfara would vote for a president, who could not lift a finger when it was under fire. The governor had also long warned Oshiomhole to stay away from the state with such tone that did not suggest he was joking.
All along, Zamfara has always shown the capacity and tendency to be different and now, it is full blown. It surely will provide interesting spectacles during the election.

Rivers
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
It is already in the news that the Rivers State APC is still in a quagmire as the latest news from the state was an Appeal Court ruling, which upheld the sack of the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led state executive of the state.
Although the APC leadership in the state appears not perturbed by the development as it has insisted the phase would pass, Governor Nyesom Wike has however taken off his gloves for a bare-knuckle fight.

Wike, last week, canceled the sales of the state’s power plant to some of the companies allegedly owned by the candidate of the APC, Tonye Cole. With this development, it is clear Wike is leaving nothing to chance in the bid to remain in power beyond 2019.
No doubt, Rivers’ politics is peculiar to it especially the often resort to violence. And with this salvo from Wike, the die is cast in the state and it is not going to be an easy bite for either of the camps. All eyes on Rivers!

Lagos
Challenging the Status Quo
Like a Yoruba proverb, which says the first masquerade to perform at a show usually ends up as a spectator before time is called in on the show, the tide appears to be changing in Lagos and interestingly so. Indeed, the PDP candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje has revved up his governorship campaign, leaving nothing to chance in the bid to level up with the ruling party.

He is roving menacingly; he is talking tough and he is mobilising across the state. Whilst certain elements have not ceased to expose their vulnerability by pulling down or defacing his posters and billboards, he is drawing strength from such persecution and growing stronger instead.
He threw a rather ‘nasty’ shade at APC leadership in the state, when he said last week that ‘Pharaoh, let my people go’. Of course, nearly everyone could relate with that in Lagos.
But then, none of these has stifled the candidate of the APC, Babajide Sanwo-Olu from doing his thing. In fact, in the midst of Agbaje’s seeming harassment, he secured the endorsement of the Ndigbo in the state, a boost that cannot be taken for granted.
Like it is often said, ‘Eko for show’, Lagos is waiting to unleash in next year’s election. Wait for it!

C’River
Living in Fear?
Calabar, the Cross River State capital, was hitherto a beehive of activities. Insurance companies, banks and other commercial activities dotted the garden city. With Mo Abudu establishing the headquarters of her company, Ebony Life TV and beaming live from Calabar; other ventures too came on board. The entertainment industry witnessed boost in activities with filmhouse cinema coming on even as the famous Calabar carnival kept the city agog every December from 1st to 31st.

This, in fact, necessitated flights from all parts of the country and massive appreciation in economic activities. The famous Tinapa and Obudu cattle ranch were signatures of the economic power of the state. Sporting activities such as the Obudu marathon also attracted people from far and near.
This image seems to have gone with the Ben Ayade style of governance and technically killing political activities at its own time. It is on record that the once peaceful and secure state is now a fortress for kidnappers due largely to weak security architecture of the state. The insecurity has also informed the relocation of companies from the state. From about 35 insurance companies, there are said to be less than 8 operating in Calabar now.

Banks had shut down many branches, while epileptic power supply aided the closure of the filmhouse, Tinapa and other active resorts. On aviation, only Air Peace comes into Calabar on chosen dates convenient for the company and not passengers. Even the administration is said not to have insured any government vehicle since taking over the helm of affairs.

From what used to be a month-long run, the Calabar carnival has now been reduced to less than a week activity. These are some of the issues that would form the fulcrum of campaign next year when the governor would present his scorecard against the APC’s at the poll.

Enugu
Doing the Dirty Bits
Currently, Enugu is battling the resort to hate speeches and deliberate churning out of falsehood as part of its campaign fantasies. The PDP has said it was a ploy by the opposition APC to cause political discomfort in the state especially when the elections are just a few weeks away. The APC, however, has refused to respond yet.

The dirty news nonetheless, the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has continued to focus on the relevant campaign issues, securing more endorsements in many parts of the state. Although the PDP is said not to be worried about the election, it is just concerned about the implications of such disingenuous campaigns narrative on the psyche of the people.
The APC too is pushing through in its campaigns, nursing great hopes that the election is doable. The dirty pitch of their campaigns are what observers fear could harm the credibility of the polls.

Plateau
Leaving Nothing to Chance
Not many people saw it coming. The Plateau State PDP, on Friday, inaugurated a 41-member Campaign Council that would sell the party in the 2019 polls. PDP Chairman in the state, Damishi Sango, inaugurated the council, alongside Jeremiah Useni, the party’s governorship candidate, and other party stakeholders.

The simple analysis here is that the PDP could see a glimmer of hope and is leaving nothing to chance to seeing it materialise. In the same breath, the APC does not appear perturbed about this. It is in fact, going about its campaigns as if INEC has already announced it as winner of the election.
Plateau is not going to be easy for either of the parties and would be an interesting election.

Akwa Ibom
The Real Battle Hasn’t Started Yet
The rivalry between Governor Udom Emmanuel and Nsima Ekere is not likely to fade away even after the elections. They have both sold their candidacies and de-marketed each other at every opportunity. And with the battle now taken up through proxies, the last may not be heard of it any time soon.

Only recently, a pressure group, which claimed to be committed to good governance and advancement of peace in Akwa Ibom State, the Justice and Development Initiative, said Ekere was not fit to be the governor of the state.
Citing certain dealings, dating back to 2012, the group said a character like Ekere is not supposed to be in an office as huge as the governor’s. What is clear is that Ekere’s people are not going to let this slide. In their own way and time, they would push back.
In all of this, the real battle has not started and whenever it eventually does, Akwa Ibom would be a delight to watch.

 

Situating the Presidential Run

The campaigns have continued at the presidential level without hindrances particularly in the PDP.

Presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar has continued to move from state to state, selling his ideas and policies. He was in Lagos and Abia last week, where he met with the youths and the business communities respectively.

The APC has not been aggressive in anyway. Although President Muhammadu Buhari tried to campaign during the budget presentation, the chaos that attended the event nearly took the shine off that feat. But so far, what the presidential campaign has done is to show that the election is not certain for anyone yet, the incumbent to say the least.

Besides, the drive to make the campaign issue-based is the one thing that would eventually settle the score when the parties get into the thick of it.