THISDAY WEEKLY GUIDE TO 2019…

The state of play and build-up to next year’s gen­eral elec­tion re­mains fluid, writes Olawale Olal­eye

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE -

Last week came with its own sur­prises in the build-ups to next year’s elec­tions, but there was no sig­nif­i­cant game changer. The post pri­maries bounce for The PDP - Peo­ple Demo­cratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar pres­i­den­tial run seem to have ebbed as the cam­paign or­gan­i­sa­tion go into plan­ning com­mit­tees ex­pect­ing to re­turn with a big bang ef­fect once the cam­paigns get un­der­way; the lin­ger­ing in­ter­nal mal­con­tents in the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) took a rather in­trigu­ing twist in the week that just ended. Na­tional Chair­man of the party, Adams Osh­iom­hole had a rather spe­cial, but cu­ri­ous, in­vi­ta­tion from an im­prob­a­ble quar­ter – the Depart­ment of State Se­cu­rity (DSS).

His in­vi­ta­tion was pred­i­cated on some still un­proven bribe-for-ticket al­le­ga­tions by some mem­bers of the party and from about 3pm on Sun­day af­ter­noon, when he ar­rived at the of­fice of the se­cu­rity agency, he did not leave for some eight hours. In­deed, there have been dif­fer­ent ac­counts of what tran­spired with the DSS, and who leaked the in­for­ma­tion, the sum­mary of his visit is that it is not yet uhuru for the hard hit­ting chair­man and his tra­duc­ers.

Af­ter the or­deal, Osh­iom­hole trav­eled abroad im­me­di­ately to cater for his dear wife who was hos­pi­talised in the USA. He re­turned Fri­day night to a chat with jour­nal­ists in La­gos. Emerg­ing de­tails in­di­cate that Osh­iom­hole may not have been the only APC Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber chat­ting with the spy agency rais­ing con­cerns about the role of the se­cu­rity agency in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The con­cerns in­creased amongst diplo­mats cov­er­ing Nige­ria when the op­po­si­tion PDP praised the ac­tion of the DSS and even asked Nige­ria In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA) and the IN­TER­POL to ap­pre­hend the rul­ing party Chair­man. One diplo­mat told THISDAY in Abuja last week that PDP should rather be care­ful what they wish for. “should the ta­bles turn and the DSS go af­ter PDP, they should not cry foul!”.

That notwith­stand­ing, there were other pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments in the week. Apart from the list of some of the suc­cess­ful can­di­dates of dif­fer­ent par­ties that was re­leased by INEC, the elec­toral body has also be­gun to clean up its reg­is­ter ahead of 2019, a move that was re­spon­si­ble for the delist­ing of about 300,000 nonel­i­gi­ble vot­ers.

Be­sides, INEC also re­ceived an en­dorse­ment from the US As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for African Af­fairs, Ti­bor Nagy, who ex­pressed op­ti­mism that INEC would con­duct a cred­i­ble elec­tion in 2019. The US am­bas­sador also used the op­por­tu­nity to dis­miss spec­u­la­tions that the US had a pre­ferred can­di­date in next year’s elec­tion.

But INEC re­ceived some spanking from a prom­i­nent rights lawyer, Kay­ode Ajulo, who ad­vised that the com­mis­sion should have re­jected all the names of can­di­dates sub­mit­ted to it by the APC, be­cause he could prove that there was nowhere the party held pri­maries. He de­scribed the APC ap­peal panel as a huge em­bar­rass­ment and con­tra­dic­tion to po­lit­i­cal san­ity as ev­ery­one knows it.

IMO All Cleared But One

The list of can­di­dates re­leased in the week by INEC must have left the Imo State Gover­nor, Rochas Oko­rocha hugely dis­traught as the name of his can­di­date and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu was con­spic­u­ously miss­ing.

While INEC recog­nised Hope Uzod­inma as the APC can­di­date in Imo, it recog­nised Sen­a­tor Ifeanyi Ararume and Emeka Ihe­dioha as can­di­dates of APGA and the PDP re­spec­tively. But Nwosu was not on INEC’s radar.

What is how­ever cer­tain is that Oko­rocha is not giv­ing up yet. Aside from go­ing to court, what he does next from here is the thing no one knows. But that he would take it in his stride is likely not char­ac­ter­is­tic of his huge ego, which there­fore makes Imo a con­stant place to watch.

BAUCHI A Chance Cam­paign

This is one state that has made good use of a rare op­por­tu­nity to sell his re-elec­tion ticket. The deeply un­pop­u­lar Gover­nor Mo­hammed Abubakar of Bauch State, while ad­dress­ing a del­e­ga­tion of Is­lamic schol­ars from the King­dom of Morocco, Al­ge­ria, United States of Amer­ica, Malaysia and Sene­gal un­der the lead­er­ship of the Grand Khal­ifa of Ti­j­janiya, Sheikh Muham­madu Kabir, who paid him a cour­tesy visit at the Gov­ern­ment House, re­it­er­ated his re­solve to be fair to all, ir­re­spec­tive of re­li­gion, creed or sta­tus.

Need­less to say that the gover­nor’s emer­gence as the can­di­date of the APC was by the whiskers, let alone not fac­tor­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the re­cent po­si­tion of some stake­hold­ers, who in­sisted the party as at to­day does not have a gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date be­cause there was no pri­maries to start with which con­notes a mix bag of con­fu­sion, how­ever, while there are those who hold the view that if the gover­nor de­ploys po­lit­i­cal diplo­macy and sus­tains his cur­rent out­reach, what stands be­fore him might not be too dif­fi­cult to sur­mount. At the end, will Gover­nor Abubakar be pun­ished by the Bauchi elec­torate and they had done with for­mer Gover­nors like Ah­madu Muazu and Isa Yuguda? Time will tell.

KWARA Hold­ing Down the Dynasty

On the sur­face, it ap­pears the leader of the PDP in Kwara State and the strong­man of the state, Dr. Bukola Saraki is not ruf­fled by what­ever is go­ing on around him. That may not be cor­rect. Those close to him say he has only grown to de­velop such thick skin that even if his house was on fire, he would be smil­ing while put­ting out the fire.

This is why, in spite of mount­ing op­po­si­tion against him, he has car­ried on as if all is well. His re­cent do­na­tion of N10 mil­lion to flood vic­tims in the state and in his ca­pac­ity as the po­lit­i­cal leader of the state could not have come at a more aus­pi­cious time. While his op­po­nents would talk their way to noth­ing, in­clud­ing sling­ing mud, he ac­ti­vates ac­tion plan and re­mains prac­ti­cal. He is still the man to beat in Kwara.

AKWA IBOM A Smart In­vest­ment Plan

It could not have been any­thing but a well-timed cam­paign move by the Akwa Ibom State Gov­ern­ment, which re­cently dis­closed a plan to float a State Se­cu­rity Trust Fund that would as­sist se­cu­rity per­son­nel in the state, who might be in­jured or die in the course of fight­ing crimes in the state. The ex­ec­u­tive bill is be­ing pack­aged al­ready for leg­isla­tive back­ing.

Speaker of the State House of As­sem­bly, Mr. Onofiok Luke, who dis­closed this de­vel­op­ment, said the ex­ec­u­tive and the leg­is­la­ture were in­ter­fac­ing to be able to come up with the Trust Fund. He how­ever stated that for the record, the Ex­ec­u­tive Bill was the brain-child of Gover­nor Udom Em­manuel.

For a gover­nor whose re-elec­tion chal­lenge ap­pears very dif­fi­cult, given all that had hap­pened in the state in the last few months, such moves could not have come at a bet­ter time. But how well such ini­tia­tives are re­ceived and in­ter­preted by the peo­ple is a big deal in think­ing good strat­egy at such a time.

BORNO Court­ing a Cru­cial Con­stituency in the face of un­ac­count­abil­ity

An­other smart move came from the sta­ble of the Borno State Gover­nor, Al­haji Kashim Shet­tima, who last week gave an ul­ti­ma­tum of two weeks for the bot­tle­neck af­fect­ing pay­ment of pen­sions to be re­solved. The gover­nor re­port­edly held an emer­gency meet­ing with the State Chair­man of the NLC, ex­ec­u­tives of Nige­rian Union of Pen­sion­ers and some rep­re­sen­ta­tives of pen­sion­ers fac­ing prob­lems with pay­ment over bot­tle­necks aris­ing from on­go­ing data cap­tur­ing and stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of pen­sion­ers’ pay­ments in Borno State.

He was said to have im­me­di­ately set up a com­mit­tee made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing some jour­nal­ists and gave the com­mit­tee two weeks ul­ti­ma­tum to en­sure all con­cerns re­gard­ing the bio­met­rics are cleared in or­der to en­sure that pen­sion­ers, whose data and other doc­u­men­ta­tion are yet to be cap­tured, be­gin to re­ceive their pen­sions like a ma­jor­ity of oth­ers al­ready col­lect­ing theirs af­ter pass­ing through the bio­met­ric.

For a gover­nor, who is de­ter­mined to put a cho­sen suc­ces­sor in of­fice de­spite mount­ing op­po­si­tion, court­ing a very cru­cial con­stituency in the state was not

just smart but in­tel­li­gent. The pen­sion­ers can con­ve­niently com­pete with the youth in terms of pop­u­la­tion and lock­ing down this de­mog­ra­phy may be strate­gic think­ing. But the ques­tions fac­ing the Borno Gover­nor re­main: what he has done with the bil­lions of fed­eral al­lo­ca­tions and fund­ing from in­ter­na­tional donor agen­cies in a state stymied by Book Haram - when most cit­i­zens have re­lo­cated to the state cap­i­tal? Is there a nexus be­tween this un­ac­count­able fund­ing sit­u­a­tion and the con­tin­u­ing Boko Haram in­sur­gency?

ENUGU Some More Big Wins

One of the few gover­nors that have savoured good stand­ing from a van­tage po­si­tion is the Enugu State Gover­nor, Ifeanyi Ug­wuanyi, who has con­tin­ued to count both on his record of per­for­mance and re­la­tion­ship with his peo­ple.

He scored some more big wins in the week when some for­eign en­voys – the Eu­ro­pean Union and Nether­lands – ac­knowl­edged his ef­forts and de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives. It didn’t end there. Nkanu East, a crit­i­cal pop­u­la­tion in the state also en­dorsed him in the week, thus swelling the list of en­dorse­ments in the state.

But this would have suf­fered a bit had the moves by the op­po­si­tion in the state gone un­ad­dressed. The op­po­si­tion had ac­cused the gover­nor of aban­don­ing an iconic high-life mu­si­cian from the state, Chief Mike Ejeagha, a de­vel­op­ment the camp of the gov­ern­ment didn’t find funny.

But Ug­wuanyi didn’t just take it in his strides. He im­me­di­ately put a lie to the spec­u­la­tion by pay­ing an un­sched­uled visit to the man, who out of ex­cite­ment en­dorsed him for a sec­ond term in of­fice. That was an­other po­lit­i­cal knock­out be­lieved to have sent the op­po­si­tion to Siberia.

KADUNA Mov­ing on to the Next Phase

Kaduna State Gover­nor, Nasir elR­u­fai was un­der at­tack for the whole of last week for pick­ing an­other Mus­lim, Hadiza Abubakar Balarabe as his run­ning mate since the cur­rent deputy gover­nor, Barn­abas Bala has se­cured a ticket to go to the se­nate.

But the hul­la­baloo gen­er­ated by this didn’t move el-Ru­fai a bit. On the con­trary, he has moved on to the next phase of his jour­ney to 2019 by ap­point­ing his new run­ning mate as the ‘Se­nior Ad­vis­erCoun­sel­lor’ with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

A state­ment signed by Sa­muel Aruwan, gover­nor’s spokesper­son dis­closed this. She is cur­rently the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the State Pri­mary Health Care De­vel­op­ment Agency. Gover­nor el-Ru­fai thinks this move would en­able her un­der­stand the work­ings of the gov­ern­ment as well as prepare her for the task ahead.

Like or re­vile him, el-Ru­fai is one gover­nor, who ap­pears to know his way around the cor­ri­dor of power and is prov­ing this by waltz­ing his way through all that he de­sires.

KOGI Mis­plac­ing the Pri­or­i­ties

Un­like other gover­nors, who were re­ported to be mak­ing some smart choices as ef­forts that would ease their jour­ney to 2019, re­ports from Kogi re­vealed some­thing else, in ad­di­tion to the fact that the state hardly churns out pos­i­tive news.

This time, it was said that rather than pay civil ser­vants and pen­sion­ers, who are owed many months salaries and pen­sions, the gover­nor has been pay­ing his po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees. This move is be­ing de­scribed by a ma­jor­ity of ob­servers in the state as clearly mis­placed. In­deed, many of them see next elec­tion as a ma­jor test case for the gover­nor’s elec­tion in 2020 since his of­fice would not be up for grab next year.

OGUN En­tan­gled by Con­flict­ing In­ter­ests

It was not un­ex­pected that the Na­tional Chair­man of the APC, Adams Osh­iom­hole ex­pressly pointed to the still im­pla­ca­ble Ogun State Gover­nor, Ibikunle Amo­sun and his coun­ter­part from Imo State, Rochas Oko­rocha as those be­hind his re­cent or­deal. The trio has had a bad en­gage­ment in the last few weeks, fol­low­ing the Oc­to­ber 2 pri­mary elec­tion of the party. But Amo­sun has since, ex­pect­edly, come out to deny any such thing. He would rather the chair­man ad­dressed the al­le­ga­tions against him and stopped point­ing fin­gers.

The Ogun sit­u­a­tion re­mains in­ter­est­ing, be­cause in spite of the al­leged in­ter­ven­tion by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, the pri­maries con­ducted by the Osh­iom­hole - led APC which pro­duced Bil­lion­aire Dapo Abio­dun as can­di­date, re­mains sacro­sanct. Aside from mov­ing against the Na­tional Chair­man, the Gover­nor is also mov­ing against Dapo Abio­dun’s sup­port base. Last week he got the pres­i­dency to change Bode Mustapha as Chair­man Des­ig­nate of NDIC - re­plac­ing him with his com­mis­sioner and one time Gov­er­nor­ship as­pi­rant, Ronke Sofekun and has re­fused any deal with Dapo Abio­dun. The ques­tion here is: who will pla­cate Ibikunle Amo­sun ? Will he throw Ogun to the op­po­si­tion?

ZAM­FARA Still Serv­ing the Silent Treat­ment

It still beats the imag­i­na­tion of many that sud­denly, the Zam­fara State Gover­nor, Ab­dula-Aziz Yari has de­cided to keep quiet in the midst of all that he is go­ing through. Not a name of one per­son has been ad­mit­ted from the state by INEC. Zam­fara was one state that was badly caught in the shenani­gan that typ­i­fied the APC pri­mary.

Ef­forts to re­solve this had been made dif­fi­cult by the po­si­tion of Osh­iom­hole, who sacked the panel meant to con­duct the pri­mary. And like Imo and Ogun, Zam­fara has since been left in the lurch. Cer­tainly, he has his plans but what­ever it is, is what is not known. Pray it does not undo the party.

LA­GOS Eyes on the Fu­ture

It was not sur­pris­ing to hear some peo­ple lately at­tempt­ing to ra­tio­nalise why Gover­nor Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode failed to clinch his re-elec­tion ticket. Truth is that the state has moved on from that stop. Am­bode and the duo of Baba­jide San­woOlu and Obafemi Hamzat had bridged the gulf be­tween them and fo­cused on win­ning the next elec­tion.

Iron­i­cally, de­spite be­ing the gov­ern­ment in power, they have left noth­ing to chance in go­ing all out for the 2019 elec­tions. Al­though there are still some el­i­gi­ble La­gos vot­ers, who did not like the way Am­bode was treated, some of them have been im­pressed with the way the APC had gone on with its cam­paigns.

Per­haps, the PDP would take a cue now that its can­di­date, Jimi Ag­baje has ap­pointed a wor­thy run­ning mate in the per­son of Mrs. Haleemat Busari, a law grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of La­gos, who was on the board of sev­eral com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing be­ing a di­rec­tor in First Bank, Sierra Leone. But things are yet to pick up as ex­pected in the camp of the PDP, short of hid­ing be­hind INEC’s em­bargo on cam­paign.

KANO No Re­treat, No Surrender

The sit­u­a­tion in Kano is both trou­bling and dis­ap­point­ing for many APC mem­bers. Gover­nor Ab­dul­lahi Gan­duje has been ac­cused of bribery through many videos that have now sat­u­rated the sys­tem. The de­vel­op­ment has prompted the state as­sem­bly to com­mence in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which ul­ti­mately might cul­mi­nate in his im­peach­ment and sub­se­quent re­moval.

But the gover­nor has been con­sis­tent too in his de­nial. He claimed the videos were doc­tored and that he never col­lected bribe. This en­cour­aged him to ap­proach a court to stop the as­sem­bly from prob­ing him, a re­quest that was granted.

Un­for­tu­nately, the as­sem­bly has re­fused to take heed of the court in­junc­tion and gone ahead with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The sit­u­a­tion is still not look­ing good for the gover­nor yet, ex­cept some­thing sig­nif­i­cantly dra­matic hap­pens.

RIVERS Stem­ming the Tide of Un­cer­tainty

Rivers State APC is go­ing through what some­one de­scribed as three ma­jor phases: le­gal, ju­di­cial pol­i­tics and pol­i­tics proper. The le­gal is the mat­ter as it were in court and await­ing ad­ju­di­ca­tion based on the facts be­fore it. The ju­di­cial pol­i­tics is also the abil­ity of the ac­tors to un­der­stand the swing of the ju­di­ciary and able to play their game ac­cord­ingly. The third, how­ever, which is the pol­i­tics proper, is the is­sue of who the party fields as its can­di­date. It is the most im­por­tant.

The is­sue of the pri­mary and how it is af­fected by the court rul­ing is not seen by a ma­jor­ity of party men as a big deal. Even if the state ex­ec­u­tive is not coming back or grossly af­fected, the fact that the pri­mary is con­ducted by the na­tional lead­er­ship of the party ex­cites party men, more so that the NWC has al­ready sub­mit­ted the name of their choice can­di­date, Mr. Tonye Cole.

Thus, with the po­lit­i­cal coast a bit clear, all ef­forts and at­ten­tion are be­ing diverted to the le­gal and ju­di­cial pol­i­tics, which hope­fully APC mem­bers reckon would yield pos­i­tive re­sult.

The PDP is how­ever not as re­laxed as ex­pected. With grow­ing sus­pi­cion that the rul­ing party in the state has a hand in the APC cri­sis, Rivers elec­tion prom­ises to be one of the most in­ter­est­ing and also vi­o­lent to be wit­nessed.

Abubakar

Oko­rocha

Em­manuel

Saraki

Gan­duje

Am­bode

El-Ru­fai

Amo­sun

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