The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (XIX)

Across all interests, the campaigns peaked last week, writes Olawale Olaleye

In spite of its rejection by about 61 political parties, which frowned on some of the provisions contained in the electoral guidelines, INEC last week, released the document. With about 22,643 candidates seeking to fill 1,504 positions across Nigeria, the commission definitely has a huge task at hand.

INEC has though said it would stop the collection of PVCs by February 8 and that anyone with temporary card would not be eligible to vote, campaigns by all political parties went some notch up last week.

The leadership of African Democratic Congress (ADC), for example, came out openly to campaign against President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC, asking voters to reject them both on February 16. But Buhari, on his part, promised not to abuse the trust of the people if re-elected.

However, the political temperature of the country rose a bit when the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar visited the US last week. The development definitely rattled the camp of the APC.

It was generally a week of intense political activities with events fast assuming shapes in the states.


Is it Dusk Already?

INEC released the full list of candidates up for election next month and the names of the APC candidates in Rivers had been yanked off. This followed a lingering legal battle over the process that produced the state executive of the party and by extension, every fruit that came therefrom.

While the APC is waiting on the Supreme Court, PDP’s Nyesom Wike might stroll back to power except something happens, even though he is believed to be behind APC’s legal misfortune. It is not also certain how this would affect the presidential polling in the state. The situation in Rivers is not a pleasant one, but Tonye Cole and APC are sure things will change.


Buruji Kashamu

The More Things Change

Just last week, Senator Buruji Kashamu pretended to have surrendered the governorship ticket to his rival, Oladipupo Adebutu and asked his supporters to rally round him. But when INEC’s final list came out, Kashamu was the candidate. That, of course, dealt a terrible blow on the Adebutu camp.

The development is certain to alter the existing equation and disrupt other extrapolations as that was INEC’s final list. But other candidates like Adekunle Akinlade of APM, Gboyega Isiaka of ADC, Dapo Abiodun of APC and Dimeji Bankole of ADP have continued with their campaigns, thus raising the bar. Sadly, however, the more things change in the state, the more they remain the same.


It’s Getting Hot in Here

Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, last week, received the shocker of his life when the party suspended him for anti-party. But the governor has dismissed the suspension news, saying he remained in the APC. For all that it is worth, Imo has never pretended about what it was up to as far as 2019 is concerned and it has not fully begun yet. It would definitely get fiercer in the days to come.


Different Folks, Different Strokes

Two former governors in the state are in the senate race in the two leading parties – PDP and APC. While Theodore Orji is from Central, while Orji Kalu, his predecessor and former benefactor, is from Abia North. Orji is however not comfortable with some developments. He accused some of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s people of challenging him, a move he said would alter the Equity Charter that governs the state’s political process.

In other news, an Abuja High Court has unsettled the ranks of the APC, when it recognised Chief Ikechi Emenike as against Uche Ogah as the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the state. Yet, there is said to be another order from a Federal High Court, Abuja, upholding Ogah’s candidacy. Things are getting really interesting in the state as different folks battle different strokes.


Kashim Shettima

A Niggling Uncertainty

The security situation in the whole of the North east is not abating and this is prevalent in Borno State, which has remained the hotbed of insurgency. The situation was so overwhelming that the governor, Kashim Shettima cried before President Buhari recently and sought his intervention on behalf of his people.

But the attacks and killings have not abated, meaning it could affect election in the state and environ. As it is, the situation is one of staggering uncertainty about the fate of the willing voters. Even INEC had once alluded to the possibility of an election, depending on the state of security in the region. Borno has too much on its hands already.


The Resort to Self-help

The recent attack on the family home of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki in Agbaji, Ilorin, Kwara State by thugs believed to be loyal to the opposition in the state pointed to one thing and one thing only: that the security architecture of the state is weak and penetrable, albeit it could have been politically orchestrated.

Although the state is one of those that recently signed the peace accord, coupled with a ban on rallies by the governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara is not looking very good in terms of violence and it’s the very reason the new and acting Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed must pay attention to the state.


The Return of Melaye

After spending weeks in police custody, Senator Dino Melaye was last week granted bail, when police could not defend why he was still being kept in their custody. Melaye, who is being challenged by Senator Smart Adeyemi is seeking to return to the senate, in addition to being on the PDP presidential campaign council.

It is therefore understandable why he has remained a menace to the APC in the state. But with his experience in the last few weeks, it is not certain whether he must have been cowered or hardened. Whichever it is, Kogi’s election would be a blockbuster especially, when the governorship bout is not holding yet.



Grazing Routes Still the Issue

The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and the presidency had a good sparring in the week, when they accused each other of hate campaigns. In fact, the governor thought it was a move to set him up against the president and quickly dismissed it. But if anyone thought it was over, then, Buhari’s assertion about Benue’s grazing routes yet raised another round of debate, which forced the governor out again to say the state did not have grazing routes.

There is no doubting the fact that Benue and the presidency had pitched different tents since the 2018 New Year’s Day killing, which claimed 73 people and in fact, forced the governor out of the party. But with the election a few weeks away, the rivalry has increased and sure with some telling effect on the likely outcome of the elections.

Akwa Ibom

Are the Fortunes Changing?

In both camps of the two leading parties in the state – PDP and APC – things appear to be coming up fine as they both continue to count down to the elections. The PDP, Governor Udom Emmanuel had been having a bad time since his benefactor, Godswill Akpabio, defected to the PDP. This was also followed by a series of defections by many of his aides and appointees. But last week, a former speaker in the state and lead campaigner for Buhari, Ignatius Edet defected to the party with about 5000 supporters.

In almost equal breath, candidate of the APC in the state, Nsima Ekere secured the backing and endorsement of some key elders in the state. These two situations have naturally heightened the stakes and up the ante. Akwa Ibom is not going to be a walkover even though the incumbent might cash-in on the weight of his office.


A Sample of the Power Game

Since the disrupted kick-off rally of the APC in Lagos some two weeks ago, things have not been the same again in the state. Some of the hardened supporters of the party had suspected official involvement in the attack, which reportedly left one dead and many injured, including the Treasurer of the NURTW in the state, Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo.

But the power game became fiercer when the police commissioner in the state, Imohimi Edgal, was redeployed and another, Kayode Egbetokun moved in. But within 24 hours of this announcement, immediately after the change of guard at Abuja, a different signal came, which asked Edgal to stay back. Again, the move to remove Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has been renewed amid refusal by the state assembly to deal with the 2019 budget. This is already complicating the entire Lagos 2019 equation.



Fighting the Unusual Elements

If there is any state with the highest level of civility, Enugu State and its governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi could have no competitor. Despite being in charge and with the general assumption that the election is his to lose, opposition still often rides roughshod over the state, not because the governor does not know what to do but refused for politics to turn him into a monster.

Last week, five campaign vehicles branded with the pictures of the governor and his running mate, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo were burnt by thugs suspected to be loyal to the opposition. That is only possible with a civil and cosmopolitan governor like Ugwuanyi. Ironically, there is a swirling belief that such harassments have changed nothing but increased his chances. The governor knows he is dealing with strange elements and he is sure handling them well.


It’s Two Fighting

One state whose electoral battle would be interesting is Katsina. This is because being the homestead of the president, there is a growing assumption that the election in the state is a walkover for Governor Aminu Masari. But that may be false assumption. That the security situation in the state has deteriorated despite being the home state of the president is enough sign that nothing can be taken for granted.

But the APC and PDP took their rivalry to a different level when the Katsina State Government through its Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, accused the PDP of buying the PVCs of its prospective supporters across the state. Funny! But the state PDP Chairman, Hon. Salisu Yusuf Majigiri, has dismissed the allegation, describing it as false and misleading. Katsina may shock many on February 16.


A Refreshing Twist?

A recent report has claimed that former Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, might pull off an upset in the race for Delta South senatorial seat, giving the impression that nothing is cast in stone yet as far as the election is concerned. Unfortunately, this has not changed the mindset of the ruling party, which has never seen him as a threat.

Even when he was in the party, the PDP hardly saw him as an asset, therefore, it would be intriguing to see the recent projection play out in a state, where heavily entrenched heavyweights play crucial roles in who emerges what? Delta is not friendly to any other party except the PDP hence the eagerness by many to see Uduaghan change the equation.

Situating the Presidential Run

Yesterday’s presidential debate that was jettisoned by the duo of Buhari and Atiku marked another low in the nation’s drive for a better electoral culture, which seeks to facilitate an improved leadership recruitment process. Although Atiku was present but declined to debate because the president was not present and tendered an apology, Buhari did not hint at his absence.

But kudos to the trio of Oby Eekwesili, Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moghalu, who made it to the show and debated raging national issues. In truth, it would have amounted to sheer waste of time not debating against a man, who was supposed to run on his record otherwise other debaters would have been scored against nothing. The race continues

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