16 September 2018

Nigeria: The Road to 2019 - Flashpoints to Watch

Next year's general election promises to be dynamic from state to state, writes Olawale Olaleye

At the breaking of each day are breaking news reports about developing political trends, each indicating some of the dynamics that could ultimately typify next year's crucial national elections. By implications, what these developments point to is that politics has come to full play and the business of governance suspended for now.

From the activities that characterised the recent procurement of nomination forms at all levels to the choice of primary elections, which is itself a different contention, the road to 2019 has been carefully paved in virtually all the states of the federation with some of the dynamics covertly assuming their stations.

As it stands today, a few states currently top the chart in the struggle for power and political influence, based on some of the internal extrapolations that are daily sculpting the variants. Although nothing is as it seems since most of these situations are still very fluid, certainly, a peep into some of the flashpoint states confirms it is that time of the year, when everything gives way to real-time politics.

Lagos

The Tinubu-Ambode Showdown

The situation in Lagos State is best described as one of economic battle, beyond the struggle for power. With a minimum of N35 billion as its monthly internally generated revenue, the battle for the soul of Lagos has never been taken with levity even though its nucleus is assumed to be in the hands of one man - Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was governor between 1999 and 2007.

But 12 years after leaving office, Tinubu still calls the shot. Unfortunately, his decision to not want to allow the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to return for another term is currently upsetting the turf. Although no one could say in specific what might have been responsible for the no-love-lost between them, Tinubu is said to have rebuffed every peace overture, the latest being the prodding of an alternative candidate against Ambode, Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu.

Not unexpectedly, Ambode is not going to quiver cheaply but continues to forge ahead, including involving President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene. As it is, nothing is sure. But whatever it is, Ambode does not seem like one who would go down without a fight, the outcome of which no one can predict. Yet, with this internal cracks which had divided the party and their support base, Lagos is one flashpoint to watch next year.

Ogun

Amosun's Succession Discontent

In the neighbouring Ogun State, the situation is not calm either. Outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun has come up with a unity list of all the 40 elective positions up for grab in the state. But this has not gone down well with some part-time members of the APC, who felt left out because that could mean their aspiration has been rested.

Although the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole has hinted the party would not accept consensus arrangement, Amosun too, in a smart move has not ruled out direct primaries. But what he has done, according to him, is to come up with a list of those presumably preferred by the party leadership of which he is the shot-caller, which by implications meant he has simply shown other APC members, who to vote and for which position.

His major challenge is traceable to the people of Ogun East, the Ijebus to be precise. They were angling for the governorship, while the governor has been of the view that since the over 40 years of the creation of the state and based on the three senatorial standings of the state, Ogun West is deserving of the governorship for fairness and justice hence is choice of Hon. Adekunle Akinlade.

Although the likes of Mr. Dapo Abiodun, the CEO of Heyden Oil and Gas from Ogun East, is determined to go all out, the fact that he is not a regular party member could make his push for a redress inconsequential in the equation. But it does not mean no one would give the governor a fight at all. How this will unsettle the entire situation is yet to be seen.

Ondo

Mimiko's Disturbing Presidential Bid

Ondo State would have gone into the elections of next year unnoticed had one of its former governors, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko not thrown his hat in the presidential contest. Mimiko, a few days ago shocked many people when he indicated interest in an office that is almost a general consensus that it's been zoned to any of the northern regions.

But to his awe too, his ambition was met with stiff opposition from the party on whose platform he plans to realise his ambition. The Labour Party in the state rejected him, because it was not aware of his intention except for a private arrangement with some people.

That, of course, is a clear signal to Mimiko. But it does not mean it would stifle him from running, the same way his ambition may not pull significant weight given the part of the country he hails from. But it would be interesting to see how and where this ends.

Osun

A Crucial Five-horse Race

First off, Osun State is due for a major governorship election next weekend, September 22. But what is important is that the outcome of that election would tell on the elections of 2019. However, for the Saturday election, there are 48 parties fielding candidates, but five of them are keenly in the race as top contenders.

The parties and their candidates are APC, fielding Gboyega Oyetola; PDP, fielding Ademola Adeleke; ADP, fielding Moshood Adeoti; SDP, fielding Iyiola Omisore and ADC, fielding Fatai Akinbode.

However, more than anyone else, the election is a legacy and survival battle for outgoing Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who though stands astride in both Osun and Lagos, however, has a lot to lose should Osun slips off his grip.

Besides, he never shies away from acknowledging that he holds it down in Lagos as much as he does Osun, but the outcome of the Osun election would point the way for Osun in 2019 particularly Aregbesola's next political moves.

Oyo

It's An All-comers' Affairs!

Being the old capital of South-west politics, Oyo has never ceased to spring surprises each election year, often with great volatility. It is no wonder, therefore, that the build-up to next year's election has been electrifying with all the trappings of the intrigues that often typify elections in the state.

In the line-up of the ruling party are former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; Dr. Owolabi Babalola; Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Mr. Joseph Tegbe, Dr. Olusola Ayandele; Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, Chief Adeniyi Akintola and Professor Adeolu Akande. But in the PDP, the main opposition party is Seyi Makinde, who has been consistent over the years in the pursuit of his governorship bid.

There is also another critical block, the ADC led by former governor Rasheed Ladoja, which is pulling intimidating crowd in the countdown to the elections. Although Governor Abiola Ajimobi has indicated interest in returning to the senate, what is on his hands as far as the governorship contest is concerned is more than his ambition. Oyo sure offers an interesting spectacle in next year's election.

Ekiti

Beyond the Ceremonial Handover

Ordinarily, Ekiti should have worried less about the 2019 elections since a major election just held on July 14 and a new governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is waiting to be sworn in sometime next month. Even more instructive is that the leadership of the party in the state is essentially in the hands of Fayemi and another former governor of the state, Adeniyi Adebayo.

But it does appear Fayose is not willing to leave office without any attention on his trail. Known to be attention-grabbing, the outgoing governor, on the eve of his exit from office, has sought a fresh loan of N10 billion, which has already been approved by the legislature and this development is causing avoidable ripples in the state.

Of course, other elections into the state and national assembly will come up along other states next year. However, with Fayose's legacy of winner-takes-all, it may not be far-fetched what to expect in the election with another party in the saddle. That aside, Fayose is not done until he leaves office and that currently qualifies Ekiti as a flashpoint state.

Delta

APC and the Battle Within

In the ruling PDP in Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is daily consolidating and occupying his territory. In fact, the governor is said to have become so comfortable that he had no feel a former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan left the party, although exercising his right to free association.

But in the APC, which is the opposition party in Delta State and ruling at the centre, all is not totally well as the governorship contest promises to be intense, as much as the run for the senate, which was the basis for Uduaghan's defection.

Between the two factions of Great Ogboru and Professor Pat Utomi, the governorship contest in the APC is not going to be an easy run, while Uduaghan might have a tough time unseating Senator James Manager in the National Assembly. But generally, Delta's election promises to be a delight to watch.

Bayelsa

Between Sylva, Lokpobiri and Alaibe Factors

The state of the party in Bayelsa State appears uneasy. It's a three-way power struggle amongst the trio of former governor Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri and former Managing Director of the NDDC, Timi Alaibe.

The governorship fight had hitherto been between Sylva and Lokpobiri, but with Alaibe's return to the turf, coupled with support he has been getting, engagement in the space has increased.

Therefore, Bayelsa is worthy of attention as the Professor of political economy and management expert descends fully into the arena to engage with the traditional politicians.

Rivers

A Looming Proxy Fight

Naturally, there has never been a dull moment in Rivers State every election year. While there is no one seriously struggling with Governor Nyesom Wikein the PDP except the individual wants to get crushed, the opposition party in the state, APC, has a lot to deal with ahead of the election of next year.

Although the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has denied having any candidate for the election, he is believed to be the pillar of strength behind a businessman and oil mogul, Tonye Cole, who recently threw his hat in the ring.

But such a support would not stifle Senator Magnus Abe, who is determined to contest the governorship regardless. Interestingly, however, he is believed to have the tacit support of the party's National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

Another battle also appears to be looming between Amaechi and Oshiomhole over Buhari's campaign. As far as Oshiomhole is concerned, the campaign office is basically for President Muhammadu Buhari's nomination and the moment he emerges, everything will be collapsed under the party, which automatically edges out Amaechi. This too will be seen when it starts playing out.

Akwa Ibom

The Godfather and His Godson

Following former governor Godswill Akpabio's defection to the ruling APC and a whiff of affiliation to the PDP, his weight in the political artery of the state would be put to a serious test when he faces his godson, Udom Emmanuel in next year's election.

Already, he has renounced Emmanuel and publicly apologised to the people of the state for fielding him, saying the governor was his biggest mistake. Immediately too, he has been handed the responsibility to perform his streak by making sure the likely APC candidate and Managing Director of NDDC, Nsima Ekere emerges the next governor of the state.

He yet has a battle to fight with other leaders of the APC in the state who are not inclined to handing him the sole leadership of the party in the state. Thus, fighting from the two sides, Akpabio is not one to be envied and therefore makes the state a flashpoint.

Cross River

Confronting the Peculiarities

Between the APC and the PDP in Cross River State, the internal peculiarities of both parties are what will either make or unmake them. In the APC, the leaders of the party are slugging it out with the Chairman of the NDCC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who is itching to be back in the senate. His ambition is therefore an issue of concern in the party.

On the other side again, there is a disquiet in the ruling PDP in the state as leaders of the party are not only unhappy with Governor Ben Ayade, they are making his re-election an issue he cannot afford to ignore.

Therefore, whichever way Cross River chooses to go, certain peculiarities, which whether or not anyone likes it, would make distinguishing expectations from the state as far as 2019 is concerned.

Imo: Okorocha's Uncanny Succession Plan

In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha's succession plan is the least smart in all the states of the federation. Until he was recently relieved of his job as Chief of Staff, Okorocha's son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, had been ticked to succeed his father-in-law.

Although the sack was to enable the young man prepare for his aspiration, the move has no doubt created serious upset in the party. But Okorocha does not seem to care.

It was on the basis of this that people like Senator Osita Izunazo, Ifeanyi Ararume, former deputy governor, Eze Madumere and other stakeholders teamed up to take over the party from him, which they did successfully before President Buhari took the party back from them and handed over to Okorocha.

The governor is not backing down on his decision to make his son-in-law governor and he is ready to go the whole hog. Indeed, of all the South-east states, Imo is where the action would be.

Benue

Divided by Ambition

Benue State is one of the few states, where succession battle started quite early. For an otherwise non-performing governor, who found solace in the appalling security situation in the state and a platform willing to condone his inadequacies, Governor Samuel Ortom is not done fighting.

Determined to cut short his dream, former governor George Akume is said to be raising other candidates to challenge the governor, a move the two camps are not taking lightly.

However, while the battle for the governorship bid subsists, there is another for the senate run on the side. Between Senator Barnabas Gemade and former governor Gabriel Suswam, the senate contest looks tougher each passing day.

But again, the joker is that Gemade's SDP structure appears menacing the reason he is believed to be confident about giving the ambition his best shot. The Benue scenarios promise to be engaging.

Kwara

Leader is in Charge!

Like Lagos, the dynamics of the Kwara State politics is solely in the hands of one man, Senate President Bukola Saraki, whose refreshing politics of youthful interaction is changing the direction in the state.

Although there have been those who want to challenge the status quo, observers are waiting to see how hard they can push otherwise Kwara is firmly in the hands of leader as Saraki is called.

Kaduna

A Movement against El-rufai

Since assuming office in 2015, perhaps, there is no other governor, who has courted more crises and controversies like the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai. For a man, who once described his three senators as useless, he chose to fight dirty a long time ago.

While he is believed to be sponsoring candidates against the three senators, one of them, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi has also elected to challenge him in the governorship contest, having left their party, APC to seek nomination elsewhere.

But El-rufai appears to be having issues with Senator Sheu Sani, even though he is believed to be sponsoring Uba Sani against him. Unfortunately, his moves come with an unpleasant burden. Senator Sani seems to have the support of the president, who was said to have assured him of his return ticket, when he went back to the party after initially defecting with the first set of senators, who left for the PDP on the floor of the senate.

What this means is that Buhari's credibility is at stake, even as the current state of Kaduna politics is believed to have strained the relationship between El-rufai and Oshiomhole, who is ready to do the president's bidding even if it was at a cost he could not afford.

Katsina

A Victim of His Own Record

Generally dismissed as having done poorly, except that he is still hoping to ride on President Buhari's coat tail, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State is one governor, who would have strolled back to office, without as much a challenge.

But as at the last count, no fewer than eight people had indicated interest in the governor's job and they are Abubakar Ismaila, Isa, Umar Abdullahi Tsauri, Abdullahi Garba Faskari, Musa Nashuni, Muttaqha Rabe Darma, Ahmed Aminu Yar'Adua, Senator Lado Danmarke and Usman Bugaje.

Although nothing is cast in stone yet, what is certain is that even if Masari would come back, it might cost so much that he would rather let go.

Sokoto

Battle of Two Friends

One of the North West States, where the actors are likely to take no prisoners is Sokoto State. Unfortunately, these actors were once friends. The lead up to the 2015 elections showed former Governor Aliyu Wamakko and his successor, Aminu Tambuwal work closely for the success of the party.

Today, the tide has changed and the once enviable friendship has completely gone awry. While Tambuwal had quit the APC to contest the presidency in the PDP, because according to him, Buhari has failed; Wamakko stayed back in the APC to prove to Tambuwal that he was nothing in the Sokoto equation.

As such, Sokoto is one flashpoint that would throw up a lot of intrigues especially that Tambuwal might not be coming back as governor and Wamakko is saddled with the responsibility of delivering his party. Already, the two men had tested their strength through crowd-pulling rallies. The last has not been heard or seen of them.

Kano

The Real Battleground

Of all the states of the federation, Kano has consistently been a flashpoint state and this was taken a notch up since the elections of 2015. With Governor Abdulahi Ganduje and his benefactor, former governor and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso parting ways, Kano, beyond throwing up some funny equations could also introduce unprecedented violence.

At some point when Kwankwaso newly defected to the PDP, the thinking was that by combining forces with former governor Ibrahim Shekarau, it would be easy to take out Ganduje and also deplete the president's votes, but all of that changed the day Shekarau left PDP for the APC.

Presently, nothing is sure as far as Kano is concerned. Although Kwankwaso has not been to the state for some time on security advice, his cult followership is ever consistent. But with Shekarau now in the camp of APC, it is impossible to gauge the possibilities that could be thrown up in Kano in 2019.

Ironically, the rivalry between Ganduje and Kwankwaso remains shocking to many observers. For friends who had been together for nearly 14 years and had become brothers before the recent development, the bitterness of their parting would be revealed in the battle for 2019.

Adamawa

The Colour of Presidential Influence

Although the APC in Adamawa has endorsed Governor Bindow Jibrilla for another term, his biggest threat however comes from the presidential quarters as Mahmood Halilu, First Lady Aisha Buhari's younger brother, recently picked his expression of interest and nomination form to contest the state's governorship in 2019.

Whilst this has not deterred the governor in anyway, it is a move he cannot afford to ignore given the threat that such an influence poses to his aspiration. And with the peculiarity of the politics of Adamawa especially as a North Eastern state, the decision of Aisha's brother to join the race could not have been by sheer happenstance.

To further compound his case, a former speaker of the state House of Assembly and one time acting governor, Ahmadu Fintiri has also joined the race. It is certainly not a walkover for the governor and of course, not impossible.

Situating the Presidential Contest

Ultimately, the whole gamut of the extrapolations is expected to berth at the shore of the presidential contest, which of course is the real deal. It could be said that the presidential race in the APC is sealed. President Buhari is the undisputed candidate, even though a few pretenders claim to be in the race in the party. But the party has not pretended about where it stands: it is Buhari or no one.

However, it is an open race in the PDP with delegate election being the plausible choice of primary. The party has also given the people an array of choices to pick from. In the race here are former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; former Senate President, David Mark and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.

Moving forward, how the PDP manages its primary would go a long way in the next phase of the general election of 2019. Indeed, there are many questions. Can Tambuwal fly, given his age and the weight of those in the race with him? Will Atiku pull this off this one time? What is the push behind Saraki's confidence? Will Kwankwaso do it again having come a shocking second in APC in 2014?

The posers are endless but the coast is not clear yet. One thing is sure: the battle is for one winner but whether or not the others see themselves as losers or co-winners is what would define the pathway therefrom.

... Now the Unforced Political and Economic Errors

More than the indicators of the state by state analyses in the countdown to 2019, certain developments also stand to be counted as either value-adding or removing from the totality of the 2019 expectations.

For instance, the recent invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the DSS was interpreted variously because of the timing. Importantly, it was considered not to be unconnected with 2019. Although the move cost the former DG DSS, Lawal Daura his job, it is not likely the agency has learnt anything.

The invasion of the Abuja residence of Chief Edwin Clark by the police without authorisation was another ignoble operation that has further shot down the police before the people. Whilst it is commendable that the police immediately took action and dismissed three of the officers; that it happened at all is bizarre.

And of course, this weekend, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reportedly raided the headquarters of Standard Chartered Bank in Lagos, ostensibly to arrest the Managing Director, Bola Adesola, a move that has been largely condemned the move sent panic through the investor community, sending worrying signals around the world about Nigeria.

Typically, the EFCC denied any such thing and that, perhaps, could be the end of the ugly development. But such unforced errors would definitely count against the government of the day and the more they come, the more minuses that would be recorded against the Buhari administration.

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