2019: The Shape of Things To Come, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
Despite the gloom and political turmoil in the offing, I still believe in the Nigerian spirit of resilience and capacity to brace odds. I also hope the drumbeats of war will be curtailed such that compromises will replace hostilities, good reasoning will replace power mongering, selfishness will replace patriotism and self-servicing politicians will be replaced…
Unlike in 2015, no crystal ball gazer can say with precision how the next one year will be and what the next few months will unravel in Nigeria’s political space. By this time four years ago, things were already shaping up: The rebellion leading to the dumping of PDP by five governors, their friends in the Senate – including the current Senate president, Bukola Saraki and the then speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal (now governor of Sokoto State), and the historic merger of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and renegades of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had taken place. General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) was waiting in the wings to be crowned the flagbearer of the toast of the moment, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and to subsequently become president of the country. Prophets, Ulamas, pastors and a Catholic bishop (normally not associated with such loose talk), seers, babalawos etc. staked it all and predicted where the pendulum would swing. All these characters are now quiet; afraid that they could lose credibility in an event of wrong predictions or assertions.
Such is the murky waters of today’s political activities, being perpetually in a state of flux, uncertainty and frustration, making even the actors/players in the game appear not to understand the script they are playing. Issues of defection, frame-ups, betrayals, mutual distrust, name calling and antagonism, in addition to the old thorny issues of violence, kidnapping, banditry and killings have become heightened and are heating up the polity; they could also be the deciding factors in the days to come.
Here are the issues: How do you manage the rivalry between Governor Nasir El-Rufai and the three senators from Kaduna State? They say a general does not fight on all fronts and hope to win. But El-Rufai is ‘fighting’ with virtually every interest group — teachers, his former co-travellers in the race to unseat the PDP, the APC Akida group, and of course the PDP, besides his cold relationship with the hawks at the Presidency. The first taste of El-Rufai’s pudding came in the local government elections held in the state on May 12. Despite jumping the gun, ahead of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the use of technology in the form of the electronic voting machine, considered an electoral aberration, El-Rufai’s Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KASIEC) could not announce the results until five days after, while some have remained outstanding till date. How he will get properly organised for the main election in 2019 remains to be seen.
In the past few months, politicians have switched parties, without consultations with their constituencies as usual. Apart from those who jumped ship at the twilight of PDP’s fall at the eleventh hour, including on the eve of the elections in 2015, APC received new entrants such as Orji Uzor Kalu, Musliu Obanikoro, and Senator Hope Uzodima, and a host of others either standing trial or facing corruption allegations, early in the day. By far the most ridiculous of such defections is of those who, at one time or the other, represented the face of the opposition. The biggest fish in this category is Ali Modu Sheriff, who was once the factional chairman of PDP, and his ally, Cairo Ojuoboh. After the Ekiti PDP primary election and the bitterness that followed the adoption of the deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olushola by Governor Ayo Fayose, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, then spokesperson of the Makarfi faction of the PDP, suddenly found sanctuary in the very party he claimed was sponsoring Sheriff against Makarfi, and a soulmate in his former arch enemy, both now in the APC.
…there are already known war zones starting with the Ekiti State governorship election next month, to be followed soon by that of Osun State. Both will serve as litmus tests for the two leading parties. For Ekiti, the contest is…a battle between Governor Fayose of the PDP and the federal might represented by Dr Fayemi.
A first timer to the country reading this piece will be confounded by the confusion in being in one party today, opposing a person and then joining hands with the same person the very next day. In this clime, politicians are traders who do not stand for principles, and as such they fall for anything that can put them in the position of relevance. Melaye’s supposed defection is neither here nor there until the coast is clear. Yet, while the politicians scheme, plan and strategise, the electorates who voted them into positions of authority are not factored into their consideration. This set of politicians may well face disappointment and shock in the next few months, for treating the electorates with contempt. I hope voters would take their destinies in their hands and do the needful to the social climbers-cum-politicians at the next round of elections.
Yet, another issue to contend with in the coming days is the make or mar APC convention. Already, the president has shown where his bias is in his open support for ex-Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Fortunately, what was touted to be a titanic battle between the two Edo sons — Oshiomhole and Odigie Oyegun — has turned out to be an anti-climax following the withdrawal of Oyegun, thereby reducing the tension that was building up. Perhaps a possible implosion can be avoided.
Again, there are already known war zones starting with the Ekiti State governorship election next month, to be followed soon by that of Osun State. Both will serve as litmus tests for the two leading parties. For Ekiti, the contest is between Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Prof. Kolapo Olushola, but in actual fact, it is a battle between Governor Fayose of the PDP and the federal might represented by Dr Fayemi. Again, interesting moments from Ekiti State await us in the coming month. Other big battles in 2019 will be recorded in States like Imo, Kaduna, Bauchi, Kogi, Kwara, Benue and Oyo, where the ruling party has so far failed to manage the post-election victory and outcome of state congresses. By far, the biggest battle will be fought in Rivers State between the APC and PDP, as represented by APC strongman and minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Nyesom Wike. The erstwhile friends turned foes and their fanatical supporters will have another opportunity not only to slug it out but also to determine the supremacy of one over the other. I fear for Rivers people, the grass between the two elephants.
The latest trouble is still brewing — Saraki versus Police, and by extension the Senate versus the Presidency. The Police say Saraki has a case to answer over a bank robbery incident in Offa, Kwara State that led to the death of 33 people, including a pregnant woman.
The nPDP has remained a factor. They are already gaining notoriety as a pre-election standby tool – a force for good or bad, a beautiful bride, who springs up at every election period; often gets a suitor, and is open to quick divorce. Their current gamble is becoming too risky even to members of the group. As President Buhari continues to snub them, they just scored another hat-trick with the suspension of talks with Vice President Osinbajo. Too embarrassed to go back to PDP, they are seeking for a change of name in order to make their accommodation look good.
The latest trouble is still brewing — Saraki versus Police, and by extension the Senate versus the Presidency. The Police say Saraki has a case to answer over a bank robbery incident in Offa, Kwara State that led to the death of 33 people, including a pregnant woman. The way this weighty allegation is handled, Saraki’s culpability or not, the Presidency’s meddling or not, and the role of the judiciary in dispensing justice, will all combine to either implode or improve the ruling party’s chances in the next election.
Despite the gloom and political turmoil in the offing, I still believe in the Nigerian spirit of resilience and capacity to brace odds. I also hope the drumbeats of war will be curtailed such that compromises will replace hostilities, good reasoning will replace power mongering, selfishness will replace patriotism and self-servicing politicians will be replaced with those who have the interest of the people and nation at heart. Whatever happens, Nigerians of good conscience should strive to take their country back through legitimate means at the polls.