With recent developments on the political scene occasioned by alignments by different forces ahead of primary elections of the various political parties, it seems the 2019 general elections would be unpredictable, tortuous and engaging, not only at the centre but across the states.
The space for political various contests is so congested that many Nigerians are already confused on how the political class will handle the race for the various offices, including the presidency, National Assembly, governorship and state assemblies.
Thousands of aspirants currently occupying offices at all levels have signified interest to re-contest. Those constrained by the Constitution to do only two terms are angling for new fortress and a multitude of contestants watching from outside equally want to push themselves into the circle of the privileged few to have a taste of power.
The struggle at the centre
Analysts predict the fiercest fight ever for the presidency to dislodge President Muhammadu Buhari, and this is not unconnected with the allusion that the president has stepped on many toes in the past three years, and will do the “worst” if he gets a second term.
Therefore, Buhari is already confronted by multi-front wars, including the gang up by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led opposition, the ex- generals and an emerging force in the Middle Belt, among others.
Ahead of 2015, the general consensus was that it was just a fight to finish between the North and a section of the South as evident in the way then candidate Buhari, a northerner, was fielded by the APC with massive support from the Southwest. On the other hand, the PDP fielded then President Goodluck Jonathan who had unmatchable support in the Southsouth, Southeast and moderate acceptability in the Southwest and Northcentral.
However, the calculation has changed now as both the PDP and APC, the two titans in the contest, would field their presidential candidates from the North and their deputies from the South.
This means President Buhari would slug it out with his “brother” from the North even though the personality the PDP or any other party would present would count a lot in determining the outcome of the contest. For now, the PDP has more than a dozen candidates in the race, including ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, ex- governors Sule Lamido, Ahmed Makarfi and Ibrahim Shekarau, Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, Barr. Tanimu Turaki, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed and a host of others.
Following the recent PDP alliance with 39 political parties, it means more candidates will emerge and it is from among the number that one would be picked to confront Buhari.
But curiously, despite the new “consensus” for parties to field their candidates from the North, the challenge for the presidency would not be a tea party as more issues come to the fore.
In November 2017, prominent lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), floated the National Intervention Movement (NIM). At that time, he said it was not a political party, but a new movement which sought to galvanise Nigerians towards building a national political consensus.
But in June, NIM adopted the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), a relatively new political party as the platform upon which members would contest the 2019 general elections. Agbakoba said the decision of NIM to fuse into ANN was borne out of the need to realise its vision for Nigeria, saying the limited time to the general elections would not permit NIM to register as a political party to pursue its vision.
NIM’s steering committee members include Donald Duke, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Kemi George, Isa Aremu, Dr. Abduljalil Tafawa Balewa, Rabiu Isiaku Rabiu and Senator Abubakar Gada.
The tendency is that they might present their presidential candidate who may likely be picked from the North or collapse their strength into the PDP to fight the APC.
The next challenge for the Presidency will come from another quarter. In May, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) adopted the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as the political platform to be deployed to unseat President Buhari. The party said it had already registered millions of Nigerians into its fold.
Obasanjo on January 23 this year, launched CNM with a scathing criticism of the Buhari administration and during the adoption of ADC in Abeokuta, he said after detailed consultations, bearing in mind the orientation, policies and direction of CNM, they agreed to adopt ADC even though he claimed he was no longer a member in line with his earlier retirement from partisan politics.
Analysts believe that Obasanjo is not alone in the struggle, saying he is actually representing the club of “ex-military mafia” which is not comfortable with Buhari’s second coming on the grounds that while most of them had escaped his anti-corruption fight in the last three years, their dossiers would be ransacked after 2019.
Sources said the ultimate goal of Obasanjo and co, working from underground, would be to pick a former governor from the Northwest and field him as their presidential aspirant.
A source close to the scheming said, “The candidate they would put may be picked from any of the political parties but from all indications, even the so called PDP aspirants would all look unto Obasanjo, IBB, Abdulsalami Abubakar and many other top military generals who held sway in the past but still determine who gets what.”
The source added, ”So we are going to see a grand alliance in the coming weeks and the sole candidate that would confront Buhari might be a dark horse, it is actually a struggle for survival which entails fighting a common enemy. They would get someone that would resonate in the North.”
Besides, the Middle Belt which has a large chunk of its “territory” in the North is also out to fight for the Presidency under what observers call “fault lines.”
On Thursday, a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, announced his intention to vie for the Presidency under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Also, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher has thrown his hat into the race under the SDP.
Their appearance came to the fore after days of speculations that powerful leaders in the Middle Belt had directed some of their leading politicians to join the race for the Presidency under various platforms.
Those asked to showcase their popularity, according to sources, include: Prof. Gana and a former deputy governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia. Others are a former Plateau State governor, Senator Jonah Jang and Olawepo-Hashim, among many aspirants that went through the rigorous screening.
They purportedly said the Middle Belt has a stake in Kwara, Kogi, Niger, FCT, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Borno (South), Bauchi (South), Kaduna, Kebbi, Taraba, and Nassarawa, hence their indispensability in determining who wins the 2019 election.
But those in support of President Buhari said all would be well.
“We know all those that we are going to confront at the ballot but they are no match to Mr President, Nigerians are wiser and they know that Buhari means well for them,” said Malam Mohammed Lawan, a key figure in the 2015 APC Presidential Campaign Council.
Alhaji Danladi Pasali, the National Coordinator of Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), said in a recent interview, “We have had corrupt and sentimental leaders in Africa, but this time, we have a credible leader which is why people are supporting him. So, it is an issue of people identifying with somebody that they know has integrity.”
Intrigues in the National Assembly
The ongoing cat and mouse game between the Presidency and the National Assembly will also play out in 2019. It was gathered that forces at the Villa are working hard to ensure that they do away with the headache they are currently contending with.
On the other hand, both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, will look for nothing below their current positions.
“Left to those fighting for Buhari, the leadership of the two chambers should not even return to the National Assembly, not to talk of winning the two coveted chairs again,” a source said.
He said part of efforts towards achieving this is evident in the increased acrimony in many APC states where besides the deep rooted misunderstanding since 2015, a new trend of infighting is coming to the fore. In most of the places, the governors are hiding under their “love” for Buhari to fight their antagonists.
In Bauchi, the battle is between Governor Mohammed Abubakar, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the senators from the state and some members of the House of Representatives.
The governor is scheming to frustrate the return of the federal lawmakers who have been feuding with him since after the 2015 elections.
The lawmakers who have been laying claims to the electoral victory of the governor in 2015 are also scheming to stop him from returning to the Bauchi Government House. The battle for the governorship will be fierce as Governor Abubakar has a lot of ‘enemies’ to contend with. Already, the top political shots are ganging up to come up with a candidate in a viable political party to challenge the governor. Analysts say should they go ahead with the gang-up, Governor Abubakar would find his second term a Herculean task.
About 30 elders from the state, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari last week, expressed solidarity with Speaker Dogara and urged the president to intervene in the impasse.
Notable among the elders that signed the open letter to Buhari are; Alhaji Muhammad Bello Kirfi, Malam Isa Yuguda, Bar Muhammad Habib Aliyu, Alhaji Garba Muhammad Noma, Dr Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, Amb. Yusuf Tuggah, Major General Yakubu Usman and Prof. Suleiman Bogoro.
However, it is believed in some quarters that their action would only anger the governor the more as they clearly took sides by declaring support for Dogara.
The case is not different in Kaduna State where Governor Ahmed Nasir El-Rufai holds sway. It is no longer news that El-Rufai is fighting many political battles ranging from federal lawmakers from his state to other political figures in the state.
The governor is at loggerheads with all the three senators from the state namely; Shehu Sani, Uthman Suleiman Hunkuyi and Danjuma La’ah. Also, a number of the House of Reps members from the state are at loggerheads with the governor.
Within his political party, the APC, there is already an implosion as some members of the party have started leaving for the opposition PDP. A notable member of the party to have done so along with others is Isa Ashiru Kudan.
El-Rufai’s campaign chief in 2015, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, has announced his departure from the party. Besides, some of the policies and programmes of the Kaduna State government under El-Rufai, laudable as they may be, are seen as anti-people, hence the elite in the state are capitalizing on that to cause more disaffection between the governor and the people.
Political pundits have opined that the 2019 governorship election in Kano State would be a titanic battle between the camp of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
Since Kwankwaso’s departure from the Kano Government House in 2015, the relationship between him and Ganduje,his former deputy, has been anything but good.
With his Kwankwasiyya Movement said to be still intact, the former governor has vowed to unseat Ganduje in 2019. It is believed that Kwankwaso is rooting for a number of persons to challenge Ganduje, including the current Deputy Governor, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, who has since said he would not be available to join the governor as a running mate in 2019.
As a matter of fact, analysts believe that the governorship election in Kano will be the greatest epic of all elections next year, owing to the fact that each side is claiming to have the support of majority of the Kano population.
Also in Kano, the fight for the Senate would be an interesting one. Ganduje has already ceded Kwankwaso’s seat to Senator Bashir Lado who recently defected to the APC and analysts believe that even if Kwankwaso will only vie for the Presidency, he would love to have someone from his side to take over the senate seat.
In the Kano South Senatorial district, the battle is between ranking lawmakers. While Kabiru Gaya, the present occupant of the seat would like to return, he has a big rival, AbdulRahaman Kawu Sumaila, a ranking lawmaker at the green chamber until 2015.
The PDP and APC governorship tickets remain hot cake as the race to the seat of power will be interesting. The incumbent governor, Abiola Ajimobi, will be leaving office in 2019, having broken the jinx of being the first person to serve for two terms of eight years.
Former governors Rashid Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala are said to be eyeing the same record set by Ajimobi. Though other political parties, including the PDP, Accord Party and SDP will present formidable candidates, the tussle for the APC ticket is expected to be tough as Akala, the current Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Niyi Akintola, and a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Adebayo Adelabu, are ready to slug it out at the primary election. The minister of communication has continued to engage in a supremacy battle with Governor Ajimobi over the governorship ticket.
The tussle in Imo State promises to be equally intriguing as Governor Rochas Okorocha and his deputy, Eze Madumere, have already parted ways due to the intense battle for the APC governorship ticket.
Okorocha’s decision to endorse his Chief of Staff and son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu, for the governorship seat has swelled the camp of the opposition against him.
The key political figures in the state who oppose the governor’s antics include Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Benjamin Uwajumogu and Osita Izunaso.
Interestingly, Ararume, who is among the arrowheads of the opposition, is equally said to be eyeing the APC ticket. Hope Uzodinma, whose recent entrance into the APC has not received the blessing of Okorocha, is also said to be preparing to fight for the gubernatorial ticket. With the court’s nullification of the state congresses, Okorocha may regain control of the party structure and get the opportunity to produce the governorship candidate.
But the APC candidate will eventually face a formidable challenge from the PDP which is working to return to power and APGA which is plotting to extend its territory beyond Anambra. Okorocha has nonetheless remained resolute in his bid to enthrone his son-in-law. Already, he has set the machinery for the impeachment of his deputy and members of the state House of Assembly have gone far in the proceedings as they have directed the state chief judge to investigate various allegations against Madumere.
A former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, will once again return to the trenches in 2019 with Governor Nyesom Wike. In 2015, Amaechi backed the current Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, to succeed him. But Wike, with the support of ‘federal might’, won amid political violence. As the 2019 general elections approach, the two political juggernauts have resurrected their suspended battle.
The tussle over the APC leadership in Lagos State during the recently concluded congresses is an indication that Governor Akinwumi Ambode may face opposition from other governorship aspirants at the forthcoming primary ahead of 2019.
Though Ambode’s positive performance is seen as a good credential for his re-election, the conduct of parallel congresses has further justified the fear that some key political figures in the Centre of Excellence are still nursing grudges since 2015.
The former governor and current Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had sponsored another aspirant in 2014 that challenged Ambode, who is the candidate of the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The battle for Yobe East Senatorial District will be one of the epic clashes in the elections, with two political titans indicating interest to man the seat. The incumbent senator, Bukar Abba Ibrahim and Governor Ibrahim Gaidam are going to slug it out in the February 2019 poll.
While Ibrahim has publicly indicated interest to return to the upper chamber for the fourth time, Gaidam’s body language has done so for him.
Barring any change of mind, the race for Zamfara West Senatorial District will be between a god father and his political god son. Governor Abdulaziz Yari has informally indicated interest to takeover the seat of Senator Ahmad Sani who has been in the senate since 2007 when he completed his second term as governor.
In political circles in Gusau, the state capital, there were reports that Yarima and Yari had reached a pact on their next move come 2019. Until recently, it was reported that Yari had agreed to allow his boss produce his successor while he would be given the seat of Yarima at the senate in return.
But sources said Yari has since jettisoned the pact and is said to be interested in Yarima’s seat, and wants to bring his successor, hence the epic battle.