The Road to 2019: Flashpoints to Watch (XXIII)

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With the rescheduling of yesterday’s elections, expectations might have been altered greatly as the nation journeys to the elections next week. Olawale Olaleye writes

YYesterday’s postponement of the 2019 elections was by every measure an anti-climax of the week’s electioneering activities. With the period of campaign over and everyone set to put the election behind them, the compelling rescheduling, according to INEC, changed the mood of the nation and by extension, might have altered the equation ahead of the rescheduled dates.

Typically, a majority of the stakeholders had begun to read meanings to INEC’s audacious decision, many of them insinuating it could be a ploy to rig the election in favour of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC). But unknown to the international community, the United States and the United Kingdom had been advocating the imperative of a credible election and in the case of Nigeria, contended that its gains would spread across the whole of Africa.

But as the two main political parties came out to condemn the postponement even though INEC too stood by its action, saying it was in national and collective interest, there were unconfirmed reports from insiders, which hinted that INEC was actually under intense pressure to go ahead with the election regardless, a development that could have undermined the credibility of the entire process if agreed to.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s nationwide broadcast on Wednesday, where he tried to do a last minute sales of his candidacy also attracted its own criticisms as many reckoned he lost the opportunity with a rather poor content that was deemed as only self-serving and not advocating collective interest. In fact, Atiku thought it was a farewell speech.

In the same stretch, former president Olusegun Obasanjo had to battle allegation that he left the country on the eve of the postponed election, whereas he was at home. The insinuation was that the shepherd had abandoned his ship midway into a long walk.

Generally, last week was essentially in the mood of the election until INEC threw in the shocker. And one of the low points of the week in question was the ‘untrue’ story from Kaduna that about 66 people died on the eve of an election, a story believed to have been put together by the state government as part of its own campaign strategy even though it was dangerously divisive, given the religious slant.

While that was being pondered including the decision by a former United States President, Bill Clinton to stay back from witnessing the final signing of the peace pact between the two leading candidates – Buhari and Atiku – on the grounds of the reactions that trailed a statement by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai that foreign observers, who interfere with the election would return in body bags, the election postponement was the seal that ended some of the productive engagements of last week.

But just as these were ongoing, the states too continued to battle their challenges, a majority of which could have been properly situated with the outcome of yesterday’s election had it held. But then, some of the states posted interesting reports last week as part of their countdown to the presidential and national assembly elections.

Rivers

Now a Closed Chapter!

The crisis besetting the Rivers State chapter of the APC came to a sad denouement last week, when the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of a lower court, which failed to recognise the candidates presented by the party for this year’s election. This was a battle with many cases at the different courts and all of them ended up against the interest of the APC in the state.

There were beliefs that the state government of PDP might have helped the APC to fail in that avoidable expedition. But by the ruling of the apex court, however, nearly 50 positions were denied members of the APC, albeit on account of their own poor management of the many tendencies in the party.

Although the party tried to protest their plight in the week, when its members blocked the INEC office in the state, it was a move in futility as the matter was purely a legal concern and addressed as such. Sad as it is, the fate of the APC offers a serious lesson in political leadership and going forward, it is hoped that the actors would have learnt their lessons.

Zamfara

Running against Time

If there was any state chapter of APC, whose political fate was long determined, it was Zamfara State and INEC, despite the many threats, has refused to cringe. The inability of the Zamfara APC to field candidates for this election was a development guided by statute and so, manipulation became somewhat impossible.

Of all the courts that had also ruled on the matter concerning the state, the overriding ones had always exempted the state from being recognised by INEC. It was also for the same reason that when the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the federation, Abbakar Malami, allegedly wrote to INEC, instructing it to enlist candidates of Zamfara, the commission was helpless, because it is a case already determined by law.

This, in spite of the postponement of yesterday’s elections, Zamfara APC stands to gain or lose anything. It is neither in reckoning nor in a position to make any case as far as this election is concerned. All it is doing for now is running against time.

Ogun

The Joke of a Rally

Last Monday, Ogun State held its own presidential rally and mid-way into the show at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, things started to fall apart as members of the party from other states appeared to have congregated in the state, mainly to openly fight the governor, Ibikunle Amosun and by extension embarrass him.

Unfortunately for these visiting leaders, Amosun seemed popular with his people, who stood up against the oppression of the minority few, who had stood before a crowd that was majorly Amosun’s and ran him down. While Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had even tried to be a bit diplomatic and civil, the evidence of poor formal education as displayed by the immediate past governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, literally incited the crowd and set the place on fire.

Although in spite of the confusion that later ensued, the rally was believed to have achieved its purpose, attempts to later blame Amosun for the crisis thereafter failed, because a majority of the people realised it was a design to undermine him in his state. Above all, what happened last Monday was a strong indication that election in Ogun State is a serious matter.

Kaduna

Nasir El-Rufai,

A Dangerous Resort to Rumour

On the eve of the postponed election, the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai had alleged that there was a killing of some 66 Fulani, a development that created serious panic and also believed to have influenced the INEC decision on the election. But it has turned out that the report was a hoax by el-Rufai as it has no semblance of truth with happenings in the state.

Now, the development has caused serious concerns, both locally and internationally as people believed it was a mischief conceived by el-Rufai to set the state on fire and by extension the country. In fact, there is a movement now against the governor, seeking clarification to the hoax raised at the level of el-Rufai.

Whatever the Kaduna governor intends to achieve with this, it may have been badly punctured with the Saturday postponement. But beyond that is the need to unravel the reason a governor would resort to cheap gutter politics, hinged on sheer falsehood. Kaduna has by this development brought needless attention unto itself and at the same time, el-Rufai has inadvertently strengthened his opponents in the state.

Cross River

Sprawling in Confusion

The battle between Senator John Enoh and the Minister of Niger Delta, Usani Uguru Usani, over who is the authentic governorship candidate of the APC in Cross Rivers State has yet to subside.

With multiple and conflicting court rulings on who should be the candidate of the party, it may appear that the battle for the standard bearer of the party may be far from over. Even in the last days of campaigns, both candidates were still out on the field in search of votes.

It is not sure yet whose name is on the list of INEC although it was the hand of Enoh that President Muhammadu Buhari raised and handed the party’s flag, Usani has not given up and the party has continued to sprawl in confusion in the state.

Borno

Kashim Shettima

Flashes of an Ugly Plight

Borno has never left anyone in doubt as to its challenges. It has been under the menace of insurgency for many years and in spite of the songs of technical defeat by the federal government, nothing has changed significantly about the plight of the people.

Weeks ago, Governor Kashim Shettima of the state cried to the president about the plight of his people, who are daily being killed by Boko Haram. The president though promised to change their story by paying more attention to the state; it didn’t appear he recalled even making such promise.

But last week, the unthinkable happened in the state when the convoy of the governor was attacked by the terrorists, leaving no fewer than four people dead, including a soldier. Such a scary development has gone ahead to confirm the reign of the anti-social group in the state. And with that one ugly flash, Borno is clearly on the edge.

Kwara

Battle against Saraki Shifts to Kwara

For over three years, the government of Muhammadu Buhari has frontally gone after the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, with such determination that sought to destroy him politically. From allegations that he forged the rules book that was used to elect him to allegations of false asset declaration and a poorly planned removal scheme, Saraki has survived all without as much sustaining a scratch.

Regardless, it does appear that the government and its agents are not done with Saraki. He is seen as one thorn in their flesh hence they are not relenting from seeking his fall. The next move against him is an unusual concentration on Kwara for this election. And this, they are doing without moderation and the possibility of an unseen tomorrow.

As small as Kwara is in terms of size and population, it got two men of the DSS posted to it for the elections, one of whom is said to be DSS’s number two and all to sit on Saraki and possibly strangulate him. Whilst no one knows yet what and how they intend to achieve this, Saraki’s game is tighter and would not watch them ride roughshod over him.

Enugu

Ugwuanyi

Still Standing Firm for PDP

Consistently, Enugu has secured and still maintains its place in all of the extrapolations ahead of this year’s election. A strong PDP state with a governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, generally deemed as performing, the state has been written off at different times as impenetrable for the opposition APC.

Although the APC through Senator Ayogu Eze, who was initially the candidate of the party, was trying to put up appearances on the turf, that has since changed immediately a court stood down the candidacy of Eze and recognised one George Ogara.

Unfortunately for the APC, it has been a rather impossible task fighting a governor, who is not only running on sterling record, but also boasts the capacity to manage the various tendencies in the state, nearly effortlessly. Enugu is still standing and firmly for the PDP.

Kano

The Game Changer

Until last week when the PDP held its presidential rally in Kano, the state had almost been conceded to the incumbent as part of its catchment areas in the North West. This assumption was further given fillip to when it became impossible for the governor to visit the state for a couple of years.

But all that changed last week, when Kwankwasiyya, a movement loyal to a former governor of the state and senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso, mobilised its members, who crowded and choked the street of Kano in clear and open support for the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

That rally has since been tagged the game changer, with an effect that transcends the state. That Kano has always been a natural flashpoint every election year, the control and influence currently being boasted by Kwankwaso is not only exciting, but also disturbing.

Niger

Abubakar Sani Bello

Taking an Awkward Chance

While others are consolidating ahead of the elections, using everything humanly possible to enhance their chances, the Niger State Government, last week dissolved the 25 local government areas of the state, having served out their three years constitutional terms.

Curiously, what would have happened in other places is an extension of their tenure to cover the period of election before discarding them. In other words, they would have been deemed useful for the elections.

But with the dissolution, it is either that their electoral value is non-existent and the governor needs to appoint others who would be able to deliver for the period of the election or that the governor is under intense pressure to expand the frontiers of political patronage. The local government usually comes handy.

Whichever one is deemed appropriate, the state government under the leadership of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has taken a rather awkward chance with this idea, politically, and it is yet to be seen how this pulls through for him at the polls.

Situating the Presidential Run

The presidential election suffered a major setback last week with the postponement of the exercise on the grounds of logistics. Also, in the week, the two candidates of PDP and APC signed for the second, a peace understanding that would ensure nothing goes wrong.

Although the elections have been rescheduled for next week, the cancellation is also yet another opportunity by the parties to review their current stand and firm up their places of advantage.

Also, reactions to the cancellation have also proven that the entire world takes the Nigerian election very seriously and these fears would be laid to a final rest next Saturday, when the elections have been rescheduled.