In a couple of weeks, Nigerians will be filing out to elect their president, governors as well as state and federal legislators. There have been developments, pleasant and not-too-pleasant, in the build up to the exercise. STEPHEN GBADAMOSI examines some of the intrigues and preparations of the main contenders and political parties across the nation.
AHEAD of the February starting point of the general elections, Nigerian electorate are getting prepared. But for these preparations of the electorate in the 36 states hve their different strokes. While tension is building in some states, intrigues, political horse-trading and tales of defection have been the order of the day in some others. The developments, both healthy and unhealthy, mostly revolve around the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The dominant topic of discourse, also, is the February 16 presidential election, apart from the governorship and National Assembly polls in a majority of the states.
Guns boom, casualties recorded ahead elections in Lagos
Campaigns for next month’s elections have since taken off in Lagos. Last Tuesday, the ruling APC took off with its rally in Ikeja area of the state which turned bloody at the end of the day. Members of the party belonging to a section of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) stormed the venue, wielding dangerous weapons, including guns, cutlasses, knives and others, attacking one another and party faithful. The incident occurred while the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was reading his speech at the podium.
At the end of the mayhem, four people were reported dead. A leader of the NURTW, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo) was stabbed in the neck, and is currently receiving treatment at the hospital, while journalists who came were not left out as three of them were shot and wounded.
The occurrence, which attended the launch of the campaign of the governorship ambition of the APC candidate, Olusola Sanwo-Olu, had resulted in the party leadership cancelling the next rally, which ought to have taken place two days after at another scheduled venue in the state.
Following the development, tension has since risen in the state and not a few people of Lagos are of the opinion that the coming elections will be tough, especially between the APC and PDP.
The APC is still trying to manage the crisis in Lagos it generated following the denial of Ambode a second term ticket.
Now, the PDP is having Jimi Agbaje as its governorship candidate. He, incidentally, was the same candidate the party fielded in the last election in 2015. It is believed that he gave a very good showing at the said poll and only lost to the incumbent by about 100,000 votes, with some of his supporters insisting that he actually won the poll but was rigged out.
During the 2015 elections, the Igbo community in Lagos gave the main opposition, PDP, which was then the ruling party at the centre, a very good support. For the first time ever, the party was able to produce eight members in the House of Assembly and six House of Representatives members in Abuja.
APC, PDP, ADC, ADP, ZLP battle for the soul of Oyo
Political activities in the Oyo State are revving up as candidates of major political parties in the state have kicked off campaigns and revealed their manifestoes. It is a virtually clean template for all political parties as the incumbent, Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s second term come to an end on May 29.
Though the INEC has listed 37 political parties to contest the governorship seat, the battle is expected to be among five parties which boast of ‘strong’ candidates.
The ruling APC leads the pack, followed by the PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Expectedly, the outgoing governor is rooting for the emergence of his party’s candidate, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Adelabu can rely on the support of the incumbent, his family name and his possession of the needed war chest.
Seyi Makinde, candidate of the PDP, is a businessman making a second attempt, while, a former governor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, is seeking return to the Agodi Government House.
Other prominent candidates in the race are a former senator, Olufemi Lanlehin of the ADC and a former secretary to Oyo State government, Sarafadeen Alli, who is the candidate of the ZLP.
So, far, the campaigns have been issue-based, with each political party and candidate stating what they have in store for the electorate through various media campaigns.
In Ogun, no party is certain of victory
The build-up to the general election has begun in earnest in Ogun State also, with major political parties embarking on rigorous campaigns to canvass for votes from the electorate.
However, it is believed that with the situation on ground, none of the political parties can be tipped for outright victory for now. This is because the four major political parties in the race are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure success at the polls.
Despite the rigorous campaigns, there has been no tension, so to speak, in the last few days, but there have been allegations by the APC that there were plots by a particular political party to foment trouble during its (APC’s) campaigns.
Sunday Tribune’s investigations, to this end, revealed that billboards and campaign posters of different political parties were being vandalised across the state. This has, however, not bred any serious tension.
APC, PDP trade words over destruction of Atiku’s campaign Ondo office
In Ondo State, attention seems to be more on the National Assembly and state House of Assembly election, since the governorship election will not hold in the state. The current governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, who was elected in 2016, will be completing his term in 2021.
However, the two major political parties in the state, the ruling APC and PDP have been intensifying efforts on their campaigns, while the Zenith Labour Party, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and others are not left out in the build-up.
Already, there is an increase in the tempo of campaigns and political activities by the various actors, while the candidates are reaching out to the electorate, especially those at the grassroots. Political parties are orientating voters on the need to use their voters’ cards to elect leaders that will benefit them. Obviously, the electorate are also ready to speak with their votes.
As observed by our reporter, residents of the state look determined to vote according to their conscience, with many vowing not to be bought. The idea seems to be that the era of see and buy is over in the state.
Political parties and their candidates have been selling their programmes and manifestoes to the people. While those seeking re-election are campaigning on the basis of their past records. Others are building their campaigns on the need for good governance.
It has been observed that security has been a serious challenge in the state. Therefore, most of the candidates are hinging their campaigns on putting an end to the security challenge facing the state.
The ruling APC in the state has shown its determination to stamp its authority as the party to beat in the elections. It has put in place a 15-man Peace and Reconciliation Committee to settle all the crises in the party.
The APC in Ondo, however, had been engulfed in one crisis or the other since the inauguration of Akeredolu as governor of the state. The crisis that emanated from the conduct of the party’s congress and primaries has remained with it.
Situation unpredictable in Gusau
In Zamfara State, the situation surrounding the 2019 general election is like a pregnant mother; no one can predict what would be delivered.
The major political parties believed to have chances of winning the hearts of the Zamfara electorate have not been able to put their houses in order. For example, the ruling APC is still in court over its primary election crisis, with about eight contenders.
There are also indications that the PDP is also comatose, with factions between the two governorship candidates, Honourable Bello Mohammed Mattawale and Honourable Ibrahim Shehu Gusau. Each of the two gladiators claimed it won the primary elections conducted by the factional leaderships.
Besides, going by what has been happening in the state recently, Zamfara has been in the news for the wrong reasons. Insecurity has been the order of the day in most parts of the state. This is a development over which political observers have expressed fear that is capable of putting the election on hold.
There is palpable fear all over the state, considering the number of displaced persons, particularly in places where armed bandits are terrorising the communities.
The disturbing security situation has hit almost every local government area in the state. None of the 14 local government areas of the state can boast of not having experienced armed bandits’ attack in one way or the other.
Though the state government has been able to curtail the challenge of political thuggery since the inception of Governor Abdulaziz Yari’s administration, the resurgent of armed banditry is the major concern of every citizen in the state.
It’s defection galore in Birnin-Kebbi
Kebbi State, in recent times, has been witnessing a gale of defection. Many have moved from the opposition PDP to the ruling APC. It all started on December 26, when, in the ancient town of Arugungu, chosen for the flag-off the party’s governorship candidate’s campaign rally, the national treasurer of the PDP, Alhaji Buhari Bala, formally bade farewell to the party he had served as national treasurer since 1998 when PDP was formed.
Before then, no fewer than 2,000 members of the party, led by a business tycoon and petroleum magnate, Alhaji Yusuf Asaija, defected to the APC at a colourful ceremony in Ambrusa town on the outskirts of Birini-Kebbi. This was followed by the surprising defection of the state secretary of the party, Alhaji Mohammed Zaure Sakaba, who went to the APC with about 800 of his supporters and youths in his local government area of Sakaba.
As of the time of filling this report, the state chairman of APC, Bala Kangiwa, is receiving another batch of 2,500 supporters and members of the PDP, led by Alhaji Musa Timeri and Alhaji Matatu Koko. The reason given by each of the defectors was always “the good leadership style of the state governor and his achievements since he came into office over three years ago.”
Watchers of the state’s political landscape have said the atmosphere has been friendly and exciting. Security operatives, it has been observed, have been on top of campaign rallies all around the state, while there has been no report of rancour, molestation or harassment of anybody either by political thugs or other crime-minded persons.
All eyes on Benue as tension heightens over gov, godfather row
As the elections draw nearer, all eyes are on Benue. This may not be unconnected with the raging war between the state governor, Samuel Ortom, and his estranged godfather, Senator George Akume.
It will be recalled that Senator Akume helped Ortom to become governor in 2015 before things fell apart for the two political gladiators, a development that had made the latter to defect to the PDP.
Since the crisis started between the two politicians, they had vowed to use the forthcoming elections to show each other who is superior.
At several forums, Senator Akume had said that the days of the governor in the government house are numbered. He had boasted that he would remove him at all costs.
The governor too appears to have drawn the battle line, insisting that he would be the one to retire Akume from politics.
With this threat, tension has heightened across the state. Sensing the looming crisis, the chairman, Benue State Traditional Council and paramount ruler of Tiv nation, Professor James Ayatse, at the signing of a peace pact in Makurdi last Tuesday, had not only warned the political leaders against causing violence, but also placed curses on whoever instigated crisis before, during and after the election.
Though the coming election is poised to be an explosion in the state, Governor Ortom’s administration seems to have gradually clipped the wings of the APC opposition allegedly by capitalising on the herdsmen invasion of the state in 2018.
The constant attacks of herdsmen on Benue valley leading to the loss of over 800 lives and displacement of over 200,000 from their ancestral home last year alone had pitched the state against the APC-led government.
Observers claim that over two-thirds of the population of the state hate to hear or have any affiliation with APC/Mohammadu Buhar. In fact, the APC, according to analysts, is regarded as Miyetti Allah party in the state. Sunday Tribune reliably gathered that as days pass and the nation inches close to the election, so the rank and file of the APC is depleting in the state.
According to a leader of APC in the state, Adam Kajo, “the problem with the APC now in Benue is legions. One, the party has credibility problem occasioned by herdsmen invasion of the state. Second, the party seems not to have money now to prosecute the coming election. As I am talking to you, how to go about our campaign is still shaky because the leaders are complaining of lack of money.
“You know the nature of politics in this state. If you don’t have money, you cannot play politics here. As I talk to you, many of our members are already fraternising with PDP.
“The only thing that can save the party here now is probably the repeat of 2015. If Buhari wins the presidential election, then, rest assured that the bandwagon effect will sweep to Benue because no one would like to be in opposition party.”
If Kajo’s submission is anything to go by, the Ortom-led PDP is having a smooth ride. This has manifested in all the campaign rallies already held across the state with people trooping out in their hundreds of thousands.
As of the time of filing this report, the state APC is yet to commence its campaign officially. But sources at the party’s secretariat hinted that it is embarking on door-to-door campaign, particularly at the grassroots.
“Whatever the case may be, February 16, the judgment day, is fast approaching,” David Ada, a political analyst in the state, said.
PDP still holds the ace in Enugu
Enugu, the Coal City State, right from the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999, has been controlled by the PDP. The party won all the political seats from local and state to the federal level in the last general elections. There are indications that it may repeat the feat this year.
Investigations revealed that the PDP and the APC are the two dominant political parties in the state, while others are only seen on scanty posters in the streets of major towns with little or no structure on the ground, suggesting they are not seriously preparing for the forthcoming polls in the state.
Further checks showed that the only serious gubernatorial challenger to the re-election of the PDP governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, is Senator Ayogu Eze of the APC who seems to be finding it difficult to change the mind-set of the people of the state largely due to the long cordial relationship the incumbent had built with them.
Unlike in the past, the rising profile of Ugwuanyi has made the mood to look like a campus election as there is no much anxiety in the state, except for the air waves where jingles of candidates are heard.
Current events showed that the major power blocs in the state may have settled for the incumbent (Ugwuanyi), apparently to avoid alteration of the rotation arrangement of governorship, an unwritten agreement entered into by the founding fathers of the state led by the late Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh to reduce tension and political upheaval during elections.
For instance, former governor of old Enugu State and founding national chairman of the PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, has come out openly to support the re-election of Ugwuanyi, while the like of Senators Jim Nwobodo and Ken Nnamani, although in APC, are known to be strong allies of the PDP governor.
Even the controversial Enugu Catholic priest, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, and traditional rulers are not left out in the league of those endorsing Governor Ugwuanyi for a second term in office, as they chorused that the incumbent deserved to serve another four years as a result of his giant strides in development of infrastructure and government of inclusiveness.
The return of former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani from the United States of America (USA) to pursue his Enugu-East senatorial seat poll on the ticket of the PDP has further doused tension in the state. Dr Nnamani has cult following in the state.
One striking feature in the state is that many people seem to be indifferent to the presidential contest. They see the “war” between President Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar, the leading candidates, as a Fulani affair.
Be that as it may, the police authority is not taking the prevailing peaceful atmosphere in the state for granted as the state Commissioner of Police, Muhammed Danmalam, last Wednesday held a meeting with stakeholders, including traditional rulers, INEC, sister security agencies and media practitioners where he made the leaders of political parties and their candidates to sign a peace accord.
The police commissioner, who warned against violence before, during and after the elections, enjoined everybody to work toward having peaceful, fair and credible polls in the state next month.
Fierce contest anticipated in Kwara
“O to gee” is a Yoruba expression meaning, enough is enough. This expression has become what political parties and their supporters in Kwara State use to taunt one another as the general election draws nearer.
To members of the opposition APC in the state, enough is enough of alleged godfatherism and slow infrastructural development by the ruling PDP-led government.
Also, supporters of the PDP and loyalists of leader of the Saraki political structure in the state are saying “o to gee to hunger, political persecution, insecurity and unemployment” which they claimed have been imposed by the ruling APC-led Federal Government.
Thus, shouts of “o to gee” rent the air at political gatherings, as well as on airwaves, particularly, whenever opponents of the two leading political parties meet.
Another major issue in Kwara State politics is the the crisis rocking the APC in the state. There is disagreement between the two factions of the APC in the state, as each of the factions lays claim to authentic leadership of the party. The court-recognised APC faction in the state, led by Honourable Ishola Balogun-Fulani, while inaugurating a 45-man 2019 campaign council in Ilorin, said that the inauguration of the campaign council was in line with the recent decision of the Ilorin High Court.
According to the chairman, the court granted the 13 reliefs sought by the applicants in the matter, adding that the sixth relief allowed his leadership to undertake activities and processes related to election at all levels of government in the state.
However, the APC led by Honourable Bashir Bolarinwa has denied the rumours doing the rounds that the party’s congresses and primaries had been nullified.
The APC chairman was responding to an online report that the INEC had upheld the ruling of the state High Court that recognised the Balogun-Fulani-led executive of the party.
The online newspaper had reportedly said that INEC had formally written the national leadership of the APC, indicating its intention to give effect to the Ilorin High Court judgment nullifying the congresses and primaries conducted by the Adams Oshiomhole-led executive of the party.
But while the APC is trying hard to find solution to is factionalisation, the PDP which has kicked off its campaign is using the crisis in some South-West states to discredit the APC.
The leader of the party in Nigeria, Dr. Bukola Saraki, members of the party to alleged attempt by the opposition to take people of the state to South-West geopolitical zone of the country.
Speaking at the flag off of the PDP campaign at Bode Saadu in Moro Local Government Area of the state last week, the Senate President said that people of Kwara State would resist plans by members of the APC and its candidates in the coming general elections to annex the state to the South-West.
The Senate President said that Kwara State belonged to Kwara people and all efforts by seasonal politicians to hand it over to their Lagos and Abuja paymasters should be frustrated.
“This election is not about me or our governorship candidate, Razak Atunwa. It’s about this state, our culture and tradition. Time will tell about whatever we do today. We go back to PDP because we need a government that will care for our people, give jobs to our people. We should not vote a candidate whose DG said he does not care,” he said.
Rivers may remain hotbed of electoral politics
As the country enters its last weeks to the next general elections with campaigns in full gear, Rivers State, as always promises, to remain a hotbed of Nigerian politics. Considering its proclivity to electoral controversies and attendant violence, many groups and organisations had held and are still holding seminars, workshops and campaigns aimed at changing the narrative of electoral violence in the state. But much as these go on, it is yet becoming clear that the coming elections will be characterised by widespread controversies and violence. That has been a serious source of worry to political observers in the state.
Currently, the body language, speeches and actions of political gladiators in the state clearly point to that direction.
However, the manner in which the whole scenario will play out this time around promises to be totally different from the immediate-past experience.
In 2015, for instance, the controversy was more between the two leading political parties in the state, the PDP and the APC, with the third leg being the usually alleged role of security agencies and the election umpire, INEC.
But in the coming elections, an interesting, confusing and complex dimension has been added to the controversies associated with elections in the state. That is the current intractable internal disagreement within the APC, which is currently dominating the discussion of the elections in Rivers State.
Since the Saturday, July 29, 2017 nationwide non-elective local government delegates congresses of the party, a disagreement between its top leaders has been tearing the leading opposition party into factions, one led by the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and his erstwhile friend, the senator representing Rivers South-East, Magnus Abe.
For Edo, it’s only presidential election fever
While the opposition PDP in Edo has hit the ground running, wooing voters, all appears to still be quiet in the camp of the ruling APC, with regard to next month’s elections.
The state governorship election is not due until next year. What is, however, at stake is who wins the presidential election, the three senatorial seats, the nine House of Representatives seats and the 24 House of Assembly seats in the state.
With the campaign mantra of ‘operation rescue Nigeria,’ from the North senatorial district to South and Central, the PDP has taken its message of prosperity to almost all the 18 local government areas in the state.
In Edo North senatorial district, the stage, no doubt, is being prepared for what promises to be a battle royale between incumbent Senator Francis Alimikhena of the APC and Abubakar Momoh of the PDP.
The ruling party candidates may not have started mounting the campaign podium, but if elections are to be won by giant billboards and television adverts, the APC is definitely seen to have an edge over the PDP. From downtown Ring Road, Benin to Sapele Road, Airport Road to Sakponba Road and the main street of Akpakpava, Buhari’s posters and billboards and those of other APC candidates are ubiquitous.
To this end, Charles Idahosa, former Senior Political Adviser to the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, during his time as governor in Edo state, recently declared that the ruling party had started campaigning, based on the number of billboards and posters on display.
Idahosa also faulted the state PDP chairman, Dan Orbih, who had recently in Benin at the flag off of his party’s campaign in Edo South senatorial district challenged the APC to kickstart its campaign, insisting that the party was engaged in a different campaign strategy.
The former political adviser said what President Buhari had going for him was his personal integrity.
Orbih had warned that by not campaigning, it was obvious that the APC had nothing to tell Edo people in terms of achievements and that it was planning to rig the election through manipulation and vote-buying.
Lafia stands still for Buhari’s wife, Atiku campaigns
Political activities in Nasarawa State are also on the increase. The three main political parties PDP, APC and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) have been dominating the political scene.
The state’s governorship contest is expected to be tense, as the candidate of APGA, Hon Labaran Maku; that of the APC, Abdulahi Sule; and David Ombugadu of the PDP are now engaging in war of words.
Stakeholders ready in Ekiti
The various stakeholders in Ekiti State have expressed readiness for the coming general election, and the signs are obvious that the preparations are nearing crescendo.
The security agencies have also expressed readiness for the elections, just as the people have also said that should the election be today, they were all set to elect the candidates of their choice. Some of the people who spoke with Sunday Tribune, from across the various political parties, said they had their voter’s cards intact and were set to use them on the D-day.
So far, the only fear harboured by the potential voters borders on the readiness of the INEC to declare the true results of the polls. Some of the voters have identified this as one of the snags that could mar the entire process at the end of the day.
Thus, the expectations of the people, which is also a source of hidden tension, is the expressed lack of trust in the INEC. At best, many of the people who responded to the enquiry by the Sunday Tribune were skeptical of the sincerity of the commission, especially when, according to some of the people, they are coerced by the political parties and top echelon of the security apparatus to bend the rules to certain predetermined end.
On the part of the policial parties, the candidates appear all set. The two major political parties in the state, the APC and the PDP as well as their candidates have been up and about in their quest to win the support and popular votes of the people.