2019: Northern politicians move against Buhari
When policemen were said to have been deployed in Bamaina community, Birnin Kudu local government council of Jigawa State, to ostensibly forestall a festive rally put together by some youth in the state, it was mainly to ensure that the former governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, does not continue his usual visibility as political leader in the state.
Although the rally was meant to restate calls on Lamido to make up his mind about the 2019 presidential election, the action of the security personnel was a continuation of what has been going on quietly in parts of the country.
While he warned leaders to “beware of the consequences that flow from tyranny, impunity and abuse of human dignity,” Lamido pointed out that if the acts of intimidation was because of his ambition, if he has been destined to be president, “they cannot stop or deter me.”
The Jigawa clash represented the major outcropping of ongoing political alignments by career politicians in the north “to arrest the uncoordinated, purposeless and mediocre leadership that has been foisted on the north.”
Against that backdrop is also the growing general perception in the northern part of the country that the 2019 general election would be decided by “focused and development-oriented politicians.” As such, those politicians, including former governors and federal legislators have been mobilising in such a way that should President Muhammadu Buhari decide to seek another term in office, he will run the risk of being a lone ranger.
Even before Engineer Buba Galadima declared that Buhari would run alone if he decides to throw his hat in the ring in 2019, most politicians that have weathered many political battles in the north had started working together to regain the zone.
But seemingly oblivious to the stiff opposition to a possible Buhari second term in the north, the President’s handlers are deep in their calculations on how to divide the Southwest, appropriate the Southeast and scupper whatever could be garnered from the South-South to ensure a solid ground for the President’s electoral assault.
It was based on their determination to insist that their principal does a second term that Buhari’s henchmen ensured that he started traversing the country, in a vibrant effort to connect him with political actors in various states. But while PMB is working hard to make inroads, the career politicians in the north continued to highlight his perceived poor leadership credentials, particularly in the spheres of economic and social management.
The thinking up north also is that President Buhari’s narrow leadership style is responsible for the seeming fragility of Nigeria’s unity and opinion leaders from the zone believe that 2019 is auspicious enough to get the political leadership right, so that the north could continue to benefit from the stability of the nation as has been its historical tradition.
A former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, accurately captured the prevailing sentiments in the north in an interview with The Guardian. He said: “I am one of the people who hold that running a government is not a one-man show, but a collective responsibility. And with the current situation in the country, neither APC nor Mr. President can do it alone. I said this in a letter to the President; it is not what one man can do. You saw the way and manner Obasanjo ran his own government, it was encouraging. He toyed with the idea of unity government while in power. He brought PDP, his party and APP by then; gave them ministerial appointments and they worked as a team. That was why he succeeded. But when you say winner takes all, in a country like Nigeria, winner cannot take all. That is the problem we have, President Buhari should open his hands and make everybody feel they belong to this country and then as a leader, everybody will support him to move the country forward.”
It is that perceived lone-ranger tendency that has become the rallying point for experienced northern politicians, most of whom recall how during the search for a northern consensus candidate in 2011, Buhari was not considered based on the present isolationism he is said to be exhibiting.
Re-jigging APC, Possessing The Reins
But Buhari’s men are not resting on their oars, they seem to be squaring up to the challenge. They have been pushing and pulling the President in political directions to emphasise his claims of being a born-again democrat. That was why the President was in Edo on two occasions before the governorship election, as well as, in Ondo to campaign for Governor-elect Rotimi Akeredolu.
Beneath the grand design was how to ensure that Buhari maintains absolute control of the party structure to ensure that the presidential aspirations of such bigwigs like Atiku Abubakar do not pose some threat to the President’s ‘interest’.
Although the plans to replace Oyegun seems to have been played down, Buhari’s influencers succeeded in replacing the party’s former spokesman with Senate President Bukola Saraki’s loyalist and former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi. It was a feat that also exposed the hidden plot to avoid a midterm convention stipulated by the party’s constitution, during which such replacements through election by all the delegates should have taken place.
Despite the suspension of Timi Frank, the deputy publicity secretary, APC has not found peace in the makeshift National Working Committee, where gaps exist due to the appointment of former members into the Federal cabinet and the Presidency.
From subtle preference for Oshiomhole to take over from Oyegun, the President’s political matchmakers are now looking to the Southeast to give APC a much-needed third leg to stand on a truly national party. This stimulation has led to the recent rash of defections from PDP to the ruling party in the Southeast, particularly Anambra, where a governorship election is on the front burner.
The President’s handlers believed that the cap fitted Oshiomhole, instead of Tony Momoh, who was initially touted as the best urbane alternative to Oyegun. But as the Presidency toys with the idea of appointing the former Labour leader, Adams Oshiomhole into the cabinet to confront incessant labour disputes that have characterized the administration’s hammer thumb approach, the inner men are looking to the east to get a pliable hand to drive the party machinery.
How far the new gamble would go to put the APC structure firmly in the grip of Buhari and his men depends to what extent they are able to fend off the growing Turaki appeal in the geopolitical zone, in addition to the growing climate of ethnic consciousness among the youth.
The bitterness within the traditional APC base is said to have been exacerbated by Buhari’s indifference to recognise and reward chieftains that suffered for the party and worked for the electoral victory. The delay in approving appointments into boards and parastatals, as well as, abandonment of party stalwarts that lost elections, particularly governorship, is also being cited as sources of low acceptability rating of the President in the party.
Who Is Where
The subject of Buhari’s second term electoral plan has been hanging in the air like a thick fog. And basically because 2019 seems to be far away, it has not been easy to know who is where.
However, two notable political developments gave an inkling as to the possible dividing lines in the APC. First, fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, while delivering an address at the launch of a book written by Chido Nwakanma, We Are All Biafrans, on May 31, 2015 in Abuja, threw his weight for restructuring of the country. He was to expand his argument during a lecture at Arewa House, Kaduna, stressing that the north should not be feeling agitated against calls for restructuring the country.
Although many people, within and outside the APC seem to take it for granted that the Turaki Adamawa would contest the 2019 presidential election, his bold assertions of support for the vexed issue of restructuring placed him at odds with the establishment. In fact, the national chairman of the party, Oyegun, perhaps, in his usual haste to be his master’s voice came out to condemn Atiku’s call for restructuring, maintaining that that was not top on the plate for the ruling party.
Recently, the Kaduna State governor had occasion to crosswords with Atiku over the issues of corruption perception. El Rufai jumped at the opportunity and recalled that Atiku has always wanted to be president, but also that he was working against the interest of President Buhari, right from the division in the National Assembly.
So it has become an open secret that part of the source of irritations and irreconcilable differences in the APC is the second term ambition of President Buhari. That may be what informed the recent promise by Imo State Governor and Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, that the President would soon inform party faithful on the way forward.
Okorocha, who spoke after meeting with the leaders of the House of Representatives, noted that even though change remains dear to them, the party had not carried on well with their victory. Yet, while the party faithful waits, perhaps, for eternity for the President address them, a subtle campaign of blackmail and mischief is going within the party.
Members of the legacy parties, particularly ACN and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) that used to align against others seem to have moved slightly apart. Elements from the CPC wing now hold their meetings, apparently making up for any eventuality, particularly against suspicions that Tinubu’s ACN and the nPDP activists are up to some political plots.
The War Up North
While the heat is being turned on suspected opponents to Buhari’s second term, the real war against possible rivals is in the north. The antagonism is mutual between active politicians in the north and Buhari’s foot soldiers. Some of these politicians who maintain a kind of cult following by street boys and the less privileged, have continued to educate the masses on the negative tendencies of the Buhari administration.
To level up, some die-hard Buhari supporters in government positions, particularly the EFCC and the Department of State Services are reportedly targeting these politicians to ensure that they are dislocated and disoriented before the 2019 presidential election. The recent travails of acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, is remotely connected to the schemes by Buhari’s insiders to ensure that they possess all the levers of coercive powers of government to ensure that the pendulum swings to their advantage. At least their plan B is said to be that even if Buhari does not ultimately appear on the ballot, he should have the final say on who should succeed him.