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The New Year holds out the prospect of dramatic change in fortunes – positive and negative – for some of Nigeria’s leading political figures. The crisis in the Edo State All Progress Congress (APC) will come to a head one way or another as the governorship election holds in the state. Similar polls would also hold in Ondo State where Governor Rotimi Akeredolu faces a stern test. As for the nation’s two leading political parties, their leaders are coming under increasing scrutiny. Deputy Editor, Emmanuel Oladesu and Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, report on a potentially pivotal year in politics.
For Nigerians, 2020 is a year of hope and expectation. Although some challenges of the outgoing year may be carried into the new one, people expect government at the federal and state levels to implement policies that will reduce poverty and foster happiness.
Students of political economy will revisit the failed Vision 20: 2020 Document, which heightened and dashed the hope of Nigerians for a greater and prosperous future. Why did it become a declaration of deceit? Faulty implementation and diminishing commitment to the prospect of a new dawn.
Attention will be focused on Ondo and Edo states for governorship polls. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to learn from the lessons of past elections and correct whatever mistakes it made. Whether the umpire will succeed in the tasks ahead will depend on the cooperation and support of stakeholders. Will internal democracy manifest at the primaries?
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will compete for power in the two states. Currently, the ruling party is not at peace in Edo and Ondo. Unless peace is restored in these trouble chapters, the primaries may be rancorous.
Observers project that there may be a repeat of the Zamfara scenario in Edo, where the governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, are locked in a curious war of attrition. The activities of the two ‘factions’ may weaken the platform ahead of the poll, unless there is truce. So far, reconciliation has been made near impossible by the hardline position of both sides. The ultimate beneficiary may be the PDP, if the crisis escalates and consumes the actors.
In Ondo, dispute over the congress that produced the current state executive committee of the APC has lingered, warranting the proposal for the dissolution of the party leadership and emergence of a broad-based party executive that will command the support of the various antagonistic blocs in the troubled chapter.
Eyes will be on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who is seeking a second term, and his opponents, who are willing to exact a pound of flesh.
But, the Ondo PDP does not show a sign of promise beyond its sudden exploits at the federal parliamentary polls in 2019. The chapter is, for now, unable to resolve the critical zoning hurdle that is likely to shape its shadow poll.
There will be a new government in Bayelsa, where APC Governor David Lyon will take over the mantle of leadership from the PDP Governor Seriake Dickson. Both parties are likely to resume legal fireworks at the tribunal over the governorship election. The question is: after the judicial resolution of the contest, what next for Dickson?
The recent utterances of River State Governor Nyesom Wike is generating ripples in PDP. Will he back out from giving consistent support for the party chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who he installed? Will he jump ship as is being speculated? Will he reconcile with his party? More puzzles, very few answers.
In the New Year, the debate over presidential zoning ahead of the year 2023 will continue. The early permutations may divert the attention of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. It is an emotive issue. Political tempers may rise as the controversy rages.
OSHIOMHOLE: CAN HE WEATHER STORMS ON MULTIPLE FRONTS?
Adams Oshiomhole, veteran labour leader and former governor of Edo State is not new to fighting battles. But, his current fight as national chairman of the ruling APC appears to be more challenging. He is under fire from multiple sides.
The party is polarised between pro and anti-Oshiomhile forces. His supporters want him to continue in office. His opponents are fed up with his leadership, barely two years in the saddle. Will the combative comrade laugh last?
His predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was consumed by some crises he could not properly manage. He failed to get a second term, following pressures and protests by the same forces that threw him up during the inaugural party congress after the interim chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, stepped aside.
Opinion was divided on Oshiomhole as he mounted the saddle of party leadership on June 24, last year. Some doubted his capacity to navigate the ship successfully, judging by his strong personality, alleged domineering nature, sheer force of character, bluntness and stubbornness. But, many others saw these as great attributes of leadership required to succeed and survive given that his predecessor was perceived as only too willing to bend to powerful forces and personalities within APC.
What kind of party did Oshiomhole inherit from Odigie-Oyegun? It was certain that he will be presiding over a party posing as a pseudo-ideological platform with inherent internal contradictions. The APC has remained an amalgam of seemingly like-minded platforms, but deep-seated contrasting principles, only wielded together by the collective desire for presidential power. After its 2015 victory at the presidential election, no concrete step was made to forge an ideological path and build a cohesive party.
Today, there is no consensus on the doctrine of party supremacy and discipline, which the national chairman claims to be enforcing. It is a paradox because while the elected party organs, which ordinarily were erected on the pillars of legitimacy, should foster obedience to party guidelines, they are either systematically despised or disrespected.
The puzzle is: from where should party supremacy flow? From the actions of the elected party officials or dictates and preferences of entrenched party leaders who as founding fathers should be perceived as moral compass, or a combination of both acting in the collective interest of the party?
The APC has a Board of Trustees (BoT) on paper. It should ordinarily be an influential organ of the party but has not been inaugurated, five years after. There is a party caucus, an assemblage of party men and women locked in mutual suspicion and antagonistic interests. The National Executive Committee (NEC) seldom meets.
The organ is at half capacity; some of its vacancies have not been filled. These are the positions of National Secretary previously held by Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe State, Deputy National Chairman (Southwest), held by Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Industries, Trade and Investments, National Auditor held by George Moghalu, Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority, and National Vice Chairman (Northwest), held by Inuwa Abdulkadir, who was expelled for anti-party activities.
The NEC is polarised into anti and pro-Oshiomhole forces. While the critics of the chairman are plotting his removal, his supporters, who appear to be in the majority, are threatening fire and brimstone. More vociferous among the pro-Oshiomhole forces are loyal state APC chairmen, who believe that the chairman is on course.
Some APC governors, who have become tin gods or lords of the manor in their states have scores to settle with the chairman, who was an obstacle to their politics of exclusion. During the electioneering, they played politics of imposition to the exclusion of their perceived foes as they sought to implement their succession projects.
The party was particularly in turmoil in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Imo, Bauchi, Zamfara, Delta, and Rivers. Although Oshiomhole is a former governor, he could not properly manage his colleagues. At the end of the day, Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Owelle Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) were suspended by the party leadership. Also, Oshiomhole could not broker peace between former Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa in Zamfara over congresses and party nominations and between the camps of Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over the Rivers State governorship ticket.
The only symbol of unity, as it were, is the national leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, a quiet Commander-In-Chief who is reputed for aloofness. In that characteristic indifference, he declined to directly intervene in state chapters that experienced turbulence leading to the February-March 2019 polls, so he wouldn’t be accused of dictatorship – given his past as a former military Head of State. Having offered wise counsel privately to warring members of his party, he refrained from going further to avoid the label of meddlesomeness.
What are the sins of Oshiomhole? Some members of NEC have accused him of running a one-man show. The stage for protest against the national chairman was set by the Deputy Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu. In his letter of May 27 to NEC titled: ‘APC: Its fortune and misfortune: Time to act,’ he said Oshiomhole should resign because he has not lived to expectation. “It is my honest opinion that your ability to ensure that this party flourishes is deficient as you lack the necessary composure and you also do not possess the capabilities to run a political party,” he alleged.
The resignation call was backed by former Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu and Mallam Yahaya Abdulkarim, former governor of old Sokoto State. However, Oshiomhole survived as the six APC chapter chairmen in the Northwest dissociated themselves from the ‘blackmail.’
During the contest for the Senate President, the chairman also came under attack when he openly supported Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe North District against Senator Ali Ndume from Borno South District. To Ndume’s supporters, following the endorsement, there was no guarantee of a level playing ground for contestants, adding that Oshiomhole violated the principles of natural justice.
The primaries of the APC ahead of 2019 general elections boxed the party into serious crises. His predecessor, Odigie-Oyegun, said Oshiomhole presided over the worst primaries in the history of democracy.
The circumstances surrounding the brief invitation to Oshiomhole by the Department of State Services (DSS) on November 4, last year will remain in the realm of conjecture. His detractors said he was interrogated for alleged ‘commercialisation’ of party tickets and ultimate manipulation of APC primaries, following petitions by some governors. He denied the allegations.
After assessing the conduct of APC primaries in Adamawa, the First Lady, Aishat Buhari, expressed displeasure, alleging that Oshiomhole had betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in him. She argued that he should not stay on in office. She condemned the primaries in her tweet, stating that: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously, yet found their names omitted on election day. These forms were bought at exorbitant prices.
“Many others contested and yet had their result delayed, fully knowing that automatic tickets have been given to other people. APC being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under its watch.”
Oshiomhole was also accused of double standard over the options of direct and indirect primaries adopted by state chapters during the primaries. Although it was not his making, he as national chairman had to grant the requests of some chapters that wrote to him requesting for either of the options.
Defending the direct primary, the chairman said it would boost internal democracy. “We also note that direct primary is free from the vices associated with the indirect primary. Direct primary cannot be manipulated. It is not prone to corruption,” he declared.
The direct primaries were to the disadvantage of governors, whose anointed candidates lost nomination to rival camps within the party. They were used to indirect or delegate system, where they could make use of their power of incumbency and statutory delegates. These governors heaped the blame for their electoral misfortune on the chairman.
After losing six states to the PDP, some chieftains said Oshiomhole had case to answer. The state chapters could not resolve their conflicts over congresses and primaries. The affected states were Zamfara, Imo, Oyo and Adamawa, which were APC states prior to the last governorship elections. Abdulkarim said: “Losing in six states is too much blow for members to bear. If Oshiomhole does not quit, the APC will be dead by 2023.”
Before the polls, Oshiomhole had a confrontation with Okorocha over the shadow poll. He took exception to the desire of the former governor to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor. The National Working Committee (NWC) cancelled the primary that produced Nwosu on October 1, last year.
Okorocha was infuriated by the decision. He had more wounds to lick on October 31 when the NWC took a decision to field Senator Hope Uzodinma as the APC governorship flag bearer for Imo. Okorocha cried out that Uzodinma was facing corruption charges.
Oshiomhole chided him for aspiring to build a political dynasty in the state by anointing his son-in-law to succeed him. Already, Okorocha’s younger sister had been appointed Commissioner for Happiness. The former governor fired back, reminding Oshiomhole how he installed Godwin Obaseki, despite the resistance by other chieftains in Edo.
In annoyance, Okorocha asked Nwosu to defect to the Action Alliance (AA). The house was divided. Both Nzodinma and Nwosu lost to Emeka Ihedioha, candidate of the PDP. Following allegations of anti-party activities levelled against him, Okorocha was suspended from APC on March 1.
Oshiomhole also had scores to settle with Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment. On July 23, last year, he threatened to expel him, following his refusal to inaugurate the Board for Federal Agencies’ Parastatals under his ministry. It was a direct way of asserting the supremacy of the party over members, no matter their status in government.
“If the minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party. We must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister, you cannot purport to be an ‘honourable minister’ and you act dishonourably. Nobody is greater than the party. When we expel the minister, we will prevail on the President that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers,” Oshiomhole fumed. Although he was annoyed, Ngige did not respond to the charge.
Former governor of Zamfara, Yari also had cause to openly disagree with Oshiomhole when the chairman cancelled the parallel primaries that produced two factional candidates. Yari was rooting for his Commissioner for Finance, Mukhtar Idris, as successor. He dismissed the decision of the party, warning the NWC not to come to Zamfara again. “If dem born you well come to Zamfara,” he threatened in pidgin English.
“Our issue is with the National Secretariat of APC where Adams Oshiomhole continues to be a dictator to party members; he acts as a mini-god,” he further said.
However, Oshiomhole was vindicated. On May 24, the Supreme Court, in a decision made by a five-member panel presided over by the then Acting Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad ruled that there were no primaries in Zamfara State by the APC, adding that the party could therefore, not have emerged winner in any of the state elections. The PDP candidate, Bello Matawalle, smiled away with the crown he did not win.
There was also a gulf between Oshiomhole and Amosun, following the disqualification of his anointed candidate, Adekunle Akinlade. There were parallel shadow polls. The NWC panel declared Prince Dapo Abiodun as the authentic flag bearer. Amosun motivated Akinlade to contest on the platform of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM). He lost to Abiodun. For committing anti-party activity, Amosun was suspended.
Instructively, the suspension of the former governors was of no effect as they continued to attend party meetings at the state and federal levels. An attempt made by the chairman to seek for their expulsion at the caucus meeting met a brick wall.
In the past, the National Vice Chairman (Northeast), Salihu Mustapha, protested against what he called the neglect of democratic principle at the NWC meeting by Oshiomhole, who he accused of closing the opportunities for participation. Put succinctly, he said the chairman never permitted NWC members to exercise their freedom of speech at meetings.
Also, the National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, said Oshiomhole was usurping his functions. In a letter to the chairman, he said: “I am constrained to put this memo and complaint in writing in the light of the repeated acts of usurpation and deliberate encroachment on my office and attempt to undermine my person and the office. You will recall that you have previously done this in two previous matters wherein you had purportedly without recourse to me briefed the Law Firm of D.D Dido and Co in Suit No: FCT/HC/9265/2018; Ugwumba Uche Nwosu vs. APC and I or”
However, of all the personality clashes, the rift between Oshiomhole and Obaseki has created the greatest headache for the national chairman. This is due to the fact that he hails from Edo, the new theatre of intra-party war.
It started as a proxy war. The two chieftains were locked in a game of denial. However, as their supporters openly clashed at party meetings across the state, both openly admitted the reality of strife and rancour and indulged in a blame game. Oshiomhole accused Obaseki of dividing Edo APC by playing politics of division, hate and exclusion. The governor denied it, saying that the national chairman was denying him a free hand to concentrate on governance.
Some in the APC Governor’s Forum has taken sides with Obaseki on the Edo crisis and other conflicts involving Oshiomhole and other stakeholders. There is no smoke without fire. Accusing the national chairman of violating the party’s constitution, the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukuman, asked the chairman to resign, if he cannot call the meeting of the NEC and the party caucus to resolve what he described as the increasing organisational challenges confronting the party. He warned that the power play between Oshiomhole and Obaseki is a sign that the party is about to reenact the electoral misfortune that befell Zamfara, and Rivers chapters.
Echoing him, Zamfara APC chairman Lawal Liman said APC has lost some goodwill under the leadership of Oshiomhole. He called for his resignation. But, his Lagos counterpart, Tunde Balogun, said those who wanted Oshiomhole out do not wish the party well. He said the party chairman was on course, adding that he is pushing for party supremacy and discipline so that the party can survive. “Comrade Oshiomhole has the support of many state chairmen of APC,” he emphasised.
Sources say pressure is being mounted on the president by some governors to consider replacing Oshiomhole. But, according to reports, the latest coup was foiled by the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, who told the president that those mooting the idea of his ouster wanted to sacrifice him on the altar of 2023 politics. He said they wanted him out of the way to realise their presidential ambition.
To Oshiomhole’s credit, APC has enlarged its coast by winning the governorship polls in the South-south state of Bayelsa and Kogi in the North-central zone.
But, the anti-Oshiomhole forces are not relenting. They may have temporarily beaten a retreat to re-strategise ahead of next year’s mini convention of the party. Sources say a section of the Progressive Governors’ Forum is rooting for Yari as new national chairman. However, Oshiomhole is not leaving anything for chance.
OBASEKI: FIGHTING THE BATTLE OF HIS LIFE
Godwin Obaseki, banker, investment expert and governor of Edo State, is in the eye of the storm. Will he survive? Will the governor get the APC ticket for a second term? Will he be re-elected in next year’s poll?
Since the sudden parting of ways with his leader and APC national chairman Oshiomhole, peace has eluded the state chapter of the party. The initial attempt by Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman Dr. Kayode Fayemi and rich businessman Alhaji Aliko Dangote to reconcile them hit the rocks. According to insiders, there is no end in sight to the conflict. It is escalating every day; underscoring a classic predecessor-successor crisis in the South-south state.
The difference between 2016 and 2020 is that while Obaseki rode to power on the back of the former governor to the Government House, he has now become his own man. He is building structures and battling to secure re-nomination, based on personal effort, strength and power of incumbency.
In 2007, Oshiomhole saw the Iyasele of Esanland, the late Chief Tony Anenih, as a threat and godfather to be dealt with. He succeeded after rallying internal and external forces to achieve power shift after a titanic battle, both at the ballot box, court, and later, he fulfilled his dream of second term. Now, Obaseki sees Oshiomhole as another godfather to be liquidated.
It is now a full-blown war of supremacy in Edo APC – where every window of reconciliation. The camp of Oshiomhole is accusing Obaseki of treachery and disloyalty to the predecessor who paved the way for him to become governor. They say he is working assiduously to demystify and humiliate his former boss by inciting both internal and external forces against him.
But, supporters of the governor differ. In their view, the national chairman is guilty of highhandedness, peculiar imposition and aggression, and has become an obstacle to peace and good governance in the state.
The parting of ways is worrisome to party elders. The Edo APC is in disarray ahead of next year’s poll which the party wants to win. To resolve the logjam, a reconciliation committee headed by Senate President Ahmad Lawan has been set up. But, even before its inauguration, Obaseki has rejected the panel, saying that its members are biased.
In his view, there can be no fairness because many of them are friends of Oshiomhole. The committee members, according to sources, were unhappy with the pre-determined assessment of their envisaged roles at bringing peace to a crisis-ridden chapter.
The governor is particularly opposed to any role for leaders of the National Assembly who had while investigating the controversial inauguration of the state assembly where only five members of the 24-member chamber elected a Speaker in the dead of night, condemned the process.
There is no evidence to suggest that Obaseki was a strong factor in Edo politics before 2016. He operated in the background as a non-salaried leader of the famed Edo Economic Team, which contributed robust ideas and strategies towards the implementation of government policies and programmes. Eyes were not on him as the succession agenda was unfolding. Suddenly, he became the cynosure of all eyes. Since he was not a party man, his choice by Oshiomhole was curious. But, an attempt to resist it failed.
At the historic primary were formidable contenders, including former Deputy Governor Dr. Pius Odubu and former Minister of State for Works Chris Ogiemwonyi. Although Obaseki was perceived as the weakest because he personally lacked large following, he, nevertheless, became the beneficiary of Oshiomhole’s political structure.
Historically, outgoing governors are never indifferent to the process of picking their would-be successors for two reasons – defence of their legacies and cover-up of any unsavoury conduct. Since 2007, only few successors and predecessors have seen eye to eye.
Oshiomhole and Obaseki are poles apart in styles. While the former union leader is a populist, vibrant, vocal, and a lover of crowds, Obaseki is a technocrat, silent worker and lover of paper work with attention to details. As an emergency politician, adjustment to the life of politicking became difficult. The agreement was that while the comrade-governor will continue to be the leader and ‘play politics,’ his successor would focus on governance.
However, both cannot be properly separated. The technocrat’s style of administration contrasted sharply with the populist tendencies of an aggressive and stubborn unionist.
Obaseki’s complaints stemmed from his strict experience as a money manager, a reformist with a knack for proper accounting and an embodiment of financial frugality. He planned to make impact in the critical sectors of education, infrastructural development, technological growth, agriculture, and investment drive.
He loathed wastage, saying that it will not foster development. But, his perception of wastage meant that he was opposed to ‘stomach infrastructure.’ While the governor complained that touts who were hired as tax, rate and levy collectors were abusing the process, he was reminded that the same people he was castigating were his effective campaign managers, who he will also need for his re-election.
Besides, the governor flayed Oshiomhole for marginalising him as the chief executive. He said the former governor was using his position as the national chairman to oppress him. He complained that he was not carried along in matters of federal appointments, either of minister or board members, which Oshiomhole had allegedly hijacked. In frustration, he cried out that, although he was governor, he is not allowed to exercise the powers and influence of governor.
But, Oshiomhole has his grievances. He chided his successor for abandoning his uncompleted projects. A bone of contention is the Edo Specialist Hospital, Benin. The former governor said Obaseki was using the project to blackmail him by saying that, since it had been commissioned before he left office, there was no point giving it fresh attention.
Besides, Oshiomhole said he had been inundated with complaints about lack of normal politico-economic gestures to party men and women who toiled for him during the electioneering. He wondered why the governor refused to constitute boards and parastatals to give them a life line.
Up came the Edo Movement, made up of associates of Oshiomhole, who demanded for the eclipse of the Obaseki administration. Its emergence escalated the polarisation and conflict. The group alleged that the government had derailed from the original vision, adding that, based on its poor performance, the curtains should be drawn on it as from the proposed primary.
As the movement started waxing strong, the governor perceived the danger. During the presidential election, the divided APC chapter could not put its house in order. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar defeated President Muhammadu Buhari, to the consternation of the presidential campaign council. But, the chapter returned to the drawing board afterwards, winning the House of Assembly polls.
After the elections, hell was let loose. Two divisions or factions of the APC emerged in the state; one for Obaseki and another for Oshiomhole. Obaseki tried to become a politician in the survival game. As the 24-member House of Assembly was to be inaugurated, tension was building up.
A proclamation was issued, but many lawmakers-elect alleged that it was issued in the night by the governor to deliberately exclude them. The inauguration was performed at 9.30 pm by the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Audu Omogbai. Five members were present. There was heavy presence of security personnel at the entrance of the Assembly complex. The legislator from Esan Northeast Constituency, Frank Okiye, was elected Speaker while Yekini Idiaye from Akoko Edo Constituency became deputy speaker. Later, the seats of 12 lawmakers who did not show up for inauguration was later declared vacant by the speaker.
The 12 pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers rejected the proclamation and demanded for a fresh one. The governor refused it, saying it cannot be issued twice. The National Assembly waded into the matter, urging Obaseki to review his stand, but without success.
The Edo caucus, represented by Prof. Julius Ihonvbere and Peter Akpatason, urged him to repeat the proclamation in the interest of peace. He relied on the ruling of a Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, which upheld the earlier proclamation. “The Edo State House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly,” declared Justice J.K, Omotoso. The governor said he was bound by the court order.
Rejecting the reconciliation moves, Obaseki said the members are compromised, maintaining that the panel fell short of the integrity test. Apart from Senator Lawan and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase, other members are Chief Bisi Akande, Senator Umaru Al-Makura, Senator Kashim Shettima, Minister of State for Environment Sharon Ikeazor, Alhaji Nosiru Koki, Senator Khairat Gwadabe-Abdulrasak, Senator Binta Garba and Senator John Enoh, who is Secretary.
Obaseki, in a statement by Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu and Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said Lawan and Wase cannot be trusted, having previously ‘meddled’ in the dispute between the governor and the national chairman.
Also, the governor said Oshiomhole as the chairman of the National Working Committee (NWC), which set up the panel, cannot be a judge in his own case. “Governors in the APC-controlled states who are critical stakeholders in the organs of the party were not carried along in the composition of the reconciliation committee, contrary to insinuations that that there was wide consultation before the setting up of the committee. Any genuine attempt to reconcile aggrieved parties cannot excise such important stakeholders in the party,” he added.
Obaseki urged the president to defuse the time bomb in Edo APC before it explodes. Already, the two factions are spoiling for war. The faction loyal to Oshiomhole claimed that it has removed party chairman Anslem Ojezua, an ally of Obaseki. He ran to the court to seek an injunction to keep his position. In a counter-move, the governor’s faction removed the secretary, Lawrence Okah, and suspended Oshiomhole. It also called for his removal as national chairman.
The national leadership of APC has not reacted to Obaseki’s rejection of the reconciliation panel. Unless there is new panel, the current one may not achieve its intended purpose. If there is no reconciliation, the chapter may be doomed. The party may find it difficult to organise a peaceful governorship shadow poll. It may be rancorous, leading to post-primary crisis and litigation that may draw the party backward.
Already, contenders eyeing Obaseki’s job within APC are warming up. Their calculation is that, with the national chairman still at the helm of party affairs, there is no way the governor can secure a second term ticket, unless there is an amicable resolution of the feud. The camp of the governor is intensifying the campaigns for Oshiomhole’s outer as party chairman because he is in a vantage position to influence the outcome of the primary in favour of his preferred candidate.
Also, the aspirants, who are oiling their structures ahead of the selection process are not in support of reconciliation between Obaseki and Oshiomhole because the peace moves, which will definitely favour the governor, is detrimental to their ambitions.
Indeed, the success of the reconciliation committee may determine the fate of the governor and other aspirants outside his camp. Only Obaseki is contesting in his camp. In the camp of Oshiomhole are six aspirants-Odubu, Ogiemwonyi, Kenneth Edebiri, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, Saturdy Umulekwe, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who recently defected to the APC from PDP.
Many hurdles are before Obaseki. There have been rumours of plans for defection, but, he has refuted it. If the feud lingers till the primary, he will have to contend with a candidate backed by Oshiomhole. The party may adopt direct or indirect primary. Both options have implications for contestants. If the governor is truly popular in the party, Oshiomhole may not be able to stop him. The governor has the power of incumbency and financial muscle.
The national chairman will constitute the governorship primary committee for Edo. If Obaseki defects from APC, not all his supporters will follow him to his new party.
To analysts, the only person who can resolve the Edo APC crisis is the president. But, will he do it?
The defection scenario
Speculation is rife news within and outside the state that Obaseki and his supporters have concluded plans to dump the party and join the PDP with the intention of using that platform to contest and win the gubernatorial election next year.
Promoters of this school of thought are insisting that the governor and his backers know very well that they cannot outwit the Oshiomhole camp in the struggle for the APC governorship ticket. “This is politics, a game of numbers. Forget the claims and counter claims all around, Oshiomhole and his people are firmly in control of Edo APC,” a source said.
Speaking further, the party chieftain who was until recently a political appointee in one of the local governments in Edo Central, added that with the removal of Anslem Ojezua as the state party chairman upheld by the National Working Committee (NWC) and Col. David Imuse, recognized as acting chairman, there is no way the governor can make a successful bid for the party’s ticket.
“The governor’s camp is only strong here in Benin-City. Go down to the grassroots and you will agree with me that Oshiomhole people control the party. Edo APC is firmly in their hands and the governor knows this.”
The Nation gathered that the realization that he may not be able to snatch the ticket off the grip of Oshiomhole may have left the governor with no option than to seek an alternative platform to pursue his ambition.
“We are aware of their plans and we will not be caught napping. If it is impossible to make them see reason within the APC, Obaseki will go elsewhere and contest the election. It is the entire people of Edo state who will vote, not Oshiomhole and his people alone,” another source added.
Amidst fear that the Oshiomhole-led NWC will definitely throw its weight behind the Imuse-led state leadership when the time to conduct primaries come, political strategists close to Obaseki have been warning him to be wary of the Lagos and Ogun states’ APC chapter example during the run up to the 2019 elections. “If you don’t have the backing of the NWC, there is no way your faction will succeed in holding an acceptable party primary. And without that, the ticket cannot be yours. That is something Obaseki and co are very much aware of,” our source added.
The legal option is also not seen as a succor given the many lessons learnt from Rivers and Zamfara states’ APC. “The governor is not likely to waste time in court when it is uncertain to predict how the matter will end. These people on the other side will rather see Edo go to another party than leave the ticket to Obaseki willingly. We are all living witnesses to the events that led to the losses in Rivers and Zamfara. While some cases have been instituted over the leadership of the party in the state, I don’t think Obaseki will rely on those alone for 2020.”
And with some prominent PDP leaders within and outside the state said to be openly urging Obaseki to embrace the party, it is likely the opposition party will be his port of call soon. Former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, and his father, the Esama of Bini, are among notable PDP leaders that have expressed affection for the governor since his face-off with Oshiomhole started.
Governors Ifeanyi Okowa and Seriake Dickson of Delta and Bayelsa states respectively are also reportedly supportive of Obaseki’s alleged plan to join the PDP.
The Nation learnt that the PDP governors are courting Obaseki largely because they see him as a possible candidate that can help the opposition make in-roads into Edo ahead of the 2023 general elections. The two, sources claim, have had discussions with the governor on the matter and have expressed their willingness to support his quest for the ticket should he dump the APC and switch over to the PDP ahead of the 2020 governorship election in Edo state. “It is true that the governor is being wooed by PDP leaders,” an aide of Obaseki’s said.
It was also gathered that contrary to claims by some of his aides, the governor may not wait longer in the APC for fear of losing the chance to clinch the PDP ticket ahead of other contenders. According to findings by The Nation, in spite of the defection of Pastor Ize Iyamu from the PDP into the APC recently, the PDP ticket is not Obaseki’s for the asking.
He still has some strong rivals to contend with for the coveted prize. They included well-known names like Mike Onolememen, a former Minister for Works, Kenneth Imasuangbon, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Gideon Ikhine and Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama.
It was also gathered that a couple of PDP governors, including a prominent one from the South-south, are opposed to Obaseki’s coming. Apart from arguing that he cannot be trusted not to return to the APC after being helped to surmount his current challenges, it was also gathered that the South-south PDP governor opposed to Obaseki’s coming has one of the aspirants as his preferred candidate. “Even if he defects into PDP, Obaseki will struggle to get the guber ticket and it is possible he fails to get it,” another source said.
Asked what is most likely to be Governor Obaseki’s surest move, Anslem Orogun, Edo State representative of Committee for Justice and Democracy, opined that with the seeming determination of the governor to forestall any peace move that can reconcile him with Oshiomhole, it appears he is ready to dump the APC sooner or later.
“Look at the way he has rejected all peace initiatives. Even the recent one championed by President Buhari he rejected on the excuses that the national assembly is biased. You can easily read his mind if you try a little.
“With everybody, including himself knowing that he cannot force the APC ticket out of the hand of Oshiomhole in Edo state and the leadership of the party in the state no longer in his faction of the APC, Obaseki’s options are not many again.
“He will either jump into the PDP or look for another party to try his gubernatorial luck come 2020. But nobody can predict the outcome of the general election yet. Obaseki is a sitting governor and that means a lot in this type of political contest,” he said.
AKEREDOLU: CONTENDING WITH A DIVIDED HOUSE
The governorship election is holding in Ondo State next year. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is seeking re-election. Will the primary be smooth for him? Can he get nomination, based on the strength of his structure, the Aketi Team? Does he have a formidable challenger? Is the APC mindful of the threat posed by the PDP, if the crisis-ridden opposition chapter suddenly puts its house in order?
The Ondo APC is not in one accord. Party elders are complaining of being sidelined. Although the leader of Ondo APC Elders Forum, Senator Olorunnimbe Farunkanmi, has never publicly complained, others led by former Deputy Governor Ali Olanusi, have berated the governor for politics of marginalisation. Many party chieftains, particularly the 2016 governorship aspirants – Chief Olusola Oke, Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Dr. Olusegun Abraham, former party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke and some lawmakers, are up in arms against him.
So far, reconciliation has been futile. The peace move by Southwest leaders – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Aremo Olusegun Osoba and Chief Bisi Akande – did not achieve success. Their recommendations have not been implemented. The bone of contention is the primary that threw up the State Executive Committee of the party, led by Chairman Ade Adetimehin. Those who felt that they were excluded from process are pushing for the dissolution of the committee.
Recently, the Aketi Team was polarised by the mutual suspicion and mistrust between the governor and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, a former member of the House of Representatives. Ajayi, who is from Ese Odo Local Government Area, where Akeredolu’s mother hails from, may challenge his boss for the ticket at the primary.
Before he ventured into politics, Akeredolu was a household name. He was a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). During the military, he served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in old Ondo State. He has been involved in reclaiming stolen mandates for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the Southwest.
His first baptism of fire in politics was in 2012. There were many aspirants on the queue. They included Sola Iji, Jamiu Ekungba, Olu Agunloye, Olusegun Abraham and Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose. But, the zonal ANC leaders preferred Akeredolu for the role. However, he lost to Governor Segun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP) at the elections proper.
Having placed his hand on the plough, Akeredolu never looked back. He understood the imperative of personal structure and decided to build one. His ambition to become the party’s National Legal Adviser pitched him against some leaders, who preferred Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN) for the job. At that stage, he started thinking of standing alone, instead of continually to lean on the influence of the forces that initially threw him up as a flagbearer.
But, the 2016 primary was tough for him. Also jostling for the ticket were Prof. Boroffice, Abraham, Oke, Ekungba, Adetula and others. Abraham would have won the primary, but there was a crack on the wall of his support base. Some powerful politicians who were to deliver him switched to Oke’s camp. Akeredolu scored 669 votes to beat Abraham, who scored 635 votes. Oke came third, scoring 583. Boroffice got 471 votes. It was a delegate election conducted by a panel headed by Jigawa State Governor Badaru Abubakar. The shadow poll was characterised by alleged vote buying and no aspirant was an exception.
The intra-party acrimony outlived the shadow poll. It was carried over to the governorship election. Abraham protested its outcome and headed for the court. Oke defected to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to challenge Akeredolu. Other aspirants grudgingly worked for the party, but not because of the candidate. To the advantage of the APC, the PDP was in disarray. The crisis diverted the attention of its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), who only had a few days to campaign.
At the close of the poll, Akeredolu emerged victorious. But, his victory did not herald the healing of primary wounds. No olive branch was extended to the aggrieved. The governor and party chairman, Kekemeke, parted ways. Other chieftains outside the governor’s camp alleged that he continued to relate with them as foes.
During the congress for the election of new party officers, they claimed that they were denied participation. Consequently, they said there was no avenue for them to contribute to party affairs. Some refused to recognise Adetimehin as chairman, saying that he was chairman of the Aketi Team.
During the APC congress for the re-nomination of President Buhari for a second term, some Ondo APC chieftains who were statutory delegates could not take their seats in the Ondo pavilion for fear of being attacked or humiliated.
The division was carried over to the 2019 electioneering. Ondo APC went into the presidential election as a divided platform. Buhari was defeated by the PDP candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. PDP also won the Ondo Central and South senatorial seats and some House of Representatives positions.
It was alleged that since Akeredolu’s camp failed in its bid to get the Ondo North senatorial ticket for the human rights lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, the governor asked him to contest on the platform of the AA against Boroffice. The lawyer lost to the former university don.
In the South, the governor’s preferred candidate, Lucky Ayedatiwa, could not get the ticket. Since Oshiomhole believed that Akeredolu created division in Ondo APC, he was suspended from the party. It was a transient, symbolic punitive measure without much effect, until it was lifted two weeks ago.
After the presidential poll, the governor and other party chieftains woke up from their slumber. They saw the need for unity and cohesion. But, the struggle for the House of Assembly tickets also generated inevitable tension. Nevertheless, APC won comfortably.
Next year’s poll is critical to the survival of the party. Sources say the primary will not be a walkover for the governor. Aspirants who may likely slug it out with him include Boroffice, Abraham, Adetula, Banji Ajiloge, a former Information Commissioner, Kekemeke, and Oke. A source said some party members may again go to court to challenge the congress that produced Adetimehin, ahead of the primary as part of the plan to destabilise the governor’s camp.
However, the greatest threat and confrontation may come from the deputy governor. In 2016, Ajayi was handpicked by Akeredolu as running mate. He has been his confidant, until recently. The deputy governor is said to be popular among APC chieftains, who saw him as the door to the governor. In the South District, he is an influential intermediary between the governor and the stakeholders. Among the lawmakers, he is also popular.
Recently, there were unfounded rumours of ill-health and impending expulsion surrounding the governor. The sanction never happened. It was during that moment of challenge that Akeredolu, according to sources, begun to doubt the loyalty of his deputy, who had allegedly started consultations and fortifying his structures for his governorship aspiration. One of the deputy governor’s fans tweeted: “Who said the deputy governor is not eminently qualified to govern the state? Who criminalised his purported aspiration?”
However, Ajayi strategically denied the rumour of governorship ambition. Addressing the people of Apoi, he said he was not fighting his boss. He blamed the reported dispute on those seeking to cause crisis in the State Executive Council to reap political benefits, ahead of the election.
“You must have been hearing one or two comments here and there about a conflict between me and the governor. Don’t worry yourself. It is a normal thing in politics. The governor and myself are doing well. We are brothers and we are working together for the progress of Ondo State,” he said
A source said although the Deputy Governor denied any conflict, his supporters have not been participating in the second term project of the governor. Indeed, Ese Odo, his constituency, is the only local government where the “Aketi 4+4 project’” is yet to kick off. Also, a group, the Patriotic Builders (PB) has warned Akeredolu to be wary of the public display of loyalty by the deputy governor. Its coordinator, Badmus Anifowose, alleged that Ajayi is plotting to pull the rug off the governor’s feet.
A major weakness in the deputy governor’s aspiration is his lack of adequate financial war chest. His sponsors are not known. But, the governor can only ignore him to his political peril. Unlike Akeredolu, Ajayi is an experienced politician and grassroots operator; calculating and tactful.
If APC aspirants can collaborate and jointly present a candidate among themselves to challenge Akeredolu at the primary, his second term ambition will be in jeopardy. But, it is a remote possibility.
If Akeredolu wins the primary, the national leadership of the APC, particularly his colleagues in the APC Governors’ Forum, will rally round him. But, he will still need to do more work. If the PDP gets its primary right, its candidate will definitely be a threat to the APC. The Ondo APC can only be in a safe position to confront the PDP at the poll, if unity, harmony and peace are restored to the troubled chapter.
Dickson: Sailing into an uncertain political future
What future awaits the out-going, lame duck governor of oil-rich Bayelsa, and supposedly Governor-General of Ijaw nation, as he bows out of power?
In these climes, the greatest political achievement of a two-time governor is his ability to successfully midwife a succession plan that throws up his preferred successor.
Seriake Dickson, former policeman, lawyer and two-time governor of Bayelsa State, had the opportunity. But, he bungled the chance. Exuding confidence on the eve of the poll, he believed the voting pattern would not differ markedly from previous electoral cycles. At the close of polls, there was a wide gap between expectation and reality.
In the New Year, there will be power shift. After handing over the reins, he will be left in the cold, unable to correct the mistakes that brought tragedy upon his party in its stronghold. PDP will face adjustment difficulties as it confronts the reality of playing an unusual opposition role in a state it has ruled for 20 years. The turn of events underscores the dictum: power is transient and no condition is permanent.
During the recent governorship election, Dickson, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and House of Representatives member, was full of bravado. He could not decipher the hand writing on the wall, although it was bold. In his view, PDP was formidable enough to withstand any electoral tremor. Little did he guess that powerful PDP chieftains who were ignored and sidelined would tilt the pendulum of victory towards the opposition. His Restoration Political family could not avert the electoral humiliation.
Next year, he will hand over to a rival, David Lyon of the APC, who is likely to open the books of the state and ask his predecessor to render accounts. Already, the governor-elect has told banks to be wary of any business dealing with the out-going administration, warning that they will be accountable. Also, civil servants in the state are showing caution to avoid likely trouble from the new helmsman.
The contest, initially, paled into an ego battle between Dickson and his former leader, President Goodluck Jonathan. There were many aspirants in the field. But, two of them were the leading contenders; Senator Douye Diri, who was backed by the governor, and Timi Alaibe, who was supported by Dr. Jonathan and other PDP leaders. In the past, the former Commander-In-Chief had supported the governorship ambition of Dickson against Chief Timipre Sylva in the PDP.
Diri won the primary, although his emergence did not generate any excitement. Therefore, the camp loyal to the former president requested the governor to concede the running mate to the group. At first, Dickson agreed. Later, he reneged on his promise and threw up Senator Lawrence Erwujakpor from his native Sagbama Council as Diri’s running mate. A gale of defections by protesting members hit the party. But, chieftains who did not defect wrecked more havoc on the platform on poll day.
According to sources, who accuse the governor of inordinate ambition, Dickson insisted on Erwujakpor as running mate to pave the way for his election as a senator in a by-election, if the PDP had won the governorship. If the senator had emerged as deputy governor, he would have resigned from the Senate. But, it was a miscalculation.
Following the imposition of the flagbearer and his running mate, a party chieftain and former Special Adviser to the governor, Helen Bob, said the adamant attitude of the governor would herald doom for the party. She recalled that when similar steps were taken during the 2019 parliamentary elections, Bayelsa PDP lost some legislative seats.
The poll was full of drama. Lyon appeared on the surface as a weak candidate with communication difficulties. But, the goodwill he had garnered from his philanthropic activities and among the aggrieved blocs in the PDP catapulted him into a position of advantage. The table turned on election day as kinsmen of Jonathan, whose mother had already endorsed Lyon, gave protest votes to the budding candidate. As Dickson alleged violence and called for the cancellation of the Southern Ijaw votes, it was clear that the curtains had been drawn on the PDP hegemony in Bayelsa.
Ahead of the elections, the governor sacked some aides. Many also deserted him without much complaint. Some of his foot soldiers were not committed to his succession plan. At play was the federal might. When the APC saw the crack on the PDP wall, it exploited the party’s vulnerability.
Dickson’s electoral tribulation has become a tonic for his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesome Wike, to mock him and ask for his resignation from the PDP. He said Dickson has killed PDP in Bayelsa. As the national leadership of the party sought to mediate between the duo over the Soku Oil Wells suit, which had been resolved by a Federal High Court in Abuja in favour of Rivers, Wike alleged that Dickson sold out to the APC to evade probe by the anti-graft bodies controlled by the APC federal government.
Rejecting any peace parley with him, the Rivers governor said: “Are they (PDP) interceding on behalf of someone who betrayed the party? They know that Governor Seriake Dickson betrayed and sold out the party. They know that during the 2019 elections in Rivers State, he worked with my opponent. Throughout the period, party leaders were calling from all over the country to know the situation in Rivers. Governor Dickson never called. This was because of his alignment with the opposition. I can show proof that Dickson has already made up his mind to go to the APC.
“Governor Dickson ought to have resigned from the PDP by now so that the leaders of PDP in Bayelsa would rebuild the party. The national leadership of the party should know that the only option left for the party to be strong in Bayelsa is for Dickson to leave the party.”
In few months, there will be a comparison between Dickson’s tenure and the Lyon administration. Despite his weaknesses and inability to correctly comprehend the mood of the people at the twilight of his government, many believe that Dickson is a patriot who did his best for the state.
But, what next for the governor? The poll is not even over. The battle has shifted from the ballot box to the court. Dickson who has alleged rigging and intimidation, is encouraging his party to head for the court to seek redress.
“What has happened in Bayelsa is one of the most brazen acts of distortion and rape of our democracy. What took place was not a democratic election. It was a military coup. It was the height of conspiracy by the Federal Government and security agencies to subvert the democratic rights of our people for the sole purpose of foisting the APC on the people,” he said.
The outcome of the case cannot be predicted. If PDP wins, Dickson may have a second chance, depending on the verdict of the court. If Lyon’s victory is affirmed, the party will have to prepare for a hard future.
The costly mistake the governor made will continue to haunt him for a long time. Will Dickson seek reconciliation and work with aggrieved leaders who abandoned him during the election? Will he join the APC as being insinuated by Wike? Will he retire from politics? Will he still be the opposition leader and rallying point for Bayelsa PDP? The questions are many and the answers are buried in the womb of time.
Secondus: Can he survive battle of wits with erstwhile benefactor?
Prince Uche Secondus is an experienced politicians and committed PDP leader. But, judging by the brewing crisis between him and his major benefactor, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, his days may be numbered as the PDP national chairman.
Secondus joined the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1978. He was the Rivers State Youth Leader of the party in the days of Governor Melford Okilo. In the Third Republic, He was the state Publicity Secretary of the banned National Republican Convention (NRC). He is a former state chairman of the PDP. In 2007, he was the South-south Coordinator of the PDP National Campaign Council. Later, he became the National Organising Secretary of the party. In 2013, he emerged as the Deputy National Chairman, and later, Acting National Chairman, following the exit of Adamu Muazu as chairman. In 2017, he emerged as national chairman at the convention held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Despite his previous personal feats, Secondus, who is perceived as a leader without charisma, owes his elevation to the topmost stage of party leadership to Wike, who insisted that the slot should be zoned to his state, after the expiration of the tenure of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC), led by former Kaduna State Governor Ahmed Makarfi. As the richest warrior-governor, who was also committed to the growth of the party in all ramifications, the party deferred to him.
However, trouble soon started between him and Secondus, who was also subjected to intense pressures by other PDP stalwarts. The bone of contention was the presidential primary. Wike was rooting for his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who won the ticket. During the presidential campaigns, Secondus, who understood Wike’s sentiments, could not encourage him to do much for the party.
The national chairman was even embarrassed when Wike congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari, following his victory in court. Other party leaders were equally taken aback. Wike also stirred controversy recently when he described a committee set up by the Board of Trustees (BoT), led by former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, to investigate Ndudi Elumelu’s emergence as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives as the most corrupt in the history of the party. The PDP leadership preferred Kingsley Chinda from Rivers for the role.
Wike even fired salvos at Secondus, warning the PDP leadership never to toy with Rivers State, because, as he put it, the state will give the party a big fight. The reconciliation visit of six governors to the Rivers governor has not brought any relief.
On the Bayelsa governorship election, Secondus and Wike also differed. Secondus was in a tight corner. Former President Goodluck Jonathan and Wike were backing Timi Alaibe as successor to Dickson. Secondus could not go against the wish of the Bayelsa governor. When Diri emerged, Wike was displeased and refused to lend a helping hand.
Crisis is also brewing between Secondus and Wike over the rumours of the governor’s planned defection to the APC and his 2023 succession agenda on the other. The national chairman is said to be rooting for power shift from Upland to Riverine area. His preferred candidate as successor to Wike is Tele Ikuru, who was deputy governor in the Amaechi administration. He is from the Riverine area.
But, according to sources, Wike has interest in former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Austin Oparah as successor. He is from Ikwere like Wike and Amaechi. Therefore, according to a source, Secondus is also trying to encourage the party chairman, Felix Obuah, who is also an Ikwere, to join the race. The crisis is just unfolding.
The constantly evolving 2023 permutations
Although 2023 is still three years away, politicians are already on the prowl. Both the APC and PDP are scheming ahead of 2023 polls.
The major issue is zoning, power shift or rotation, depending on political interpretations to suit particular agendas.
In the PDP, many party elders are interested in zoning to the North. Their calculation is that, since the last PDP president, Dr. Jonathan, is from the South, the next PDP president should come from the North. That may have informed zoning to the North during the 2019 electioneering. If the slot is zoned to the North, there may be no controversy over the micro-zoning to either of the three regions in the North. The running mate will be zoned to the South. In the South, there will be competition for the vice presidential candidate by the three zones -West, East and South-south. The PDP Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, has clarified that the party has not decided on zoning.
Still, many leaders of opinion have not hidden their position on the contentious issue. Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Prof. Ango Abdullahi, has opposed rotation and zoning, saying that it lacked constitutional backing. He said while it was politically tenable in the past in the PDP, the convention was jettisoned under former President Jonathan. He also said that the so-called geo-political zones do not exist in the constitution.
Being a vexed issue, the remarks drew emotional responses from Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Ijaw Youth Council. Afenifere Publicity Secretary Yinka Odumakin cautioned the elder statesman against provoking other regions, thereby pushing them to the wall.
Ohanaeze National Publicity Secretary, Uche Achi-Okpaga said zoning cannot be compromised, adding: “In all 36 states, every position is zoned. The governor is zoned and the speaker does not come from the zone of the governor. If you go to the National Assembly, positions are zoned. In the APC, there is zoning. The president is from the North. The vice-president is from the Southwest. Is that not zoning? “
The national president of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Porgu, said although there is no zoning in the constitution, there is federal character in the law. He described zoning as legacy of the founding fathers to ensure equity and balance, stressing that it cannot be discarded. “If anyone thinks that because they are in power and can use the machinery of government to coerce other sections of the country into submission, it is simply a call to anarchy.”
But, former PDP Deputy National Chairman Chief Bode George said zoning, despite being an unwritten rule, is sacrosanct, saying that it has the potentials of fostering national unity and giving the regions a sense of belonging.
In the APC, the zoning debate started few months ago. Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai kicked off the debate when he called for the abolition of zoning, describing it as “opaque’ and a barrier to equality. Critics claimed it was his own way of asking the ruling party to block the principle of inclusion and edge out the minority.
Former Works Minister, Adeseye Ogunlewe, who has defected to the APC from the PDP chided the governor for making what he described as an “anti-unity call.”
His Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, alluded to the tension between idealism and realism. It smacked of ambivalence. In a breath, he said everybody should have equal chance to contest while the people decide. In another dimension, the governor said Nigeria as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country should satisfy the yearning for participation by the different zones. However, Ganduje said it was up to the party to decide.
The reality is that the South is anticipating zoning to the South by the APC. Southern politicians are beginning to talk tough. Osita Okechukwu, APC chieftain from the Southeast warned that any party that breaches zoning may lose the presidency.
The zoning controversy may heat up the polity and expose the fragile nation-state to danger of instability. It may cripple unity, cohesion and trust in the ruling party, if it is not upheld. The suggestion that the presidency is the turn if the Northeast may not hold water because the political culture of monolithic North and South, especially in presidential permutations.
At issue is micro-zoning, if the slot is zoned to the South by the APC. Will it go to the South-south, which recently produced Dr. Jonathan, or the Southeast, which has a low numerical strength in the ruling party or the Southwest?
Developments in the New Year in a terrain as unpredictable as politics may yet torpedo even the best-calculated permutations.
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