Thursday, 21st September 2023

2019: Pregnant with signs of possible re-alignments

By Leo Sobechi
09 October 2016   |   3:35 am
The quiet unraveling of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), started innocuously, with the party waltzing in superficial invincibility. Having been empowered with coerced loyalty and questionable electoral victories....
President Miuhammadu Buhari

President Miuhammadu Buhari

Given some unwholesome gyrations in the polity, those who dream of the beautiful prospects for a bi-partisan democracy in Nigeria would have a rethink. There are indications that four relatively strong parties, chancing on the political scene to test their might in the 2019 general election could be in the offing. When that possibility happens, the country would not only re-enact the second republic scenario when NPN, UPN, NPP and PRP; were the dominant political parties, not minding that the GNPP later split from NPP.    The process of reforms in Nigeria’s electoral system has not yet borne its fruits through the flower of internal democracy within the political parties. Politicians across party lines may not easily acknowledge it, but it could be the lack of democratic dynamism in the parties that is behind the present covert push for fresh re-alignments in the polity.

From Octopus PDP To Osmotic APC  
The quiet unraveling of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), started innocuously, with the party waltzing in superficial invincibility. Having been empowered with coerced loyalty and questionable electoral victories, PDP could not recognize its downward slide. Right from the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as its first presidential candidate, the PDP could not be said to have ever selected its presidential flag bearer through a transparent democratic process.
It was obvious that after his imposition on the party and eventual ‘electoral triumphs’ in subsequent general elections, Obasanjo did much to implant the culture of might is right, or what has come to be known as impunity, on the party.
The demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, midway into his first term as Obasanjo’s successor opened the door of political benevolence for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. And from the doctrine of necessity, which sort of postponed the evil day, the former vice president became substantive president, thereby succeeding his departed principal.

And from the garland of doctrine of necessity, President Jonathan was awarded a full term via the 2011 general election, due mainly to the connivance of PDP governors, most of whom craved  a second term in office. It was, perhaps, on account of the surprising victory with which the then incumbent president bested other presidential candidates, among them two established ones from the north, that necessitated the seriousness accorded the merger of fringe parties.
Furthermore, being encouraged by the 2011 poll victory and programme of transformation, the then president decided to seek another term in office. That decision brought about a division in the party, as some of his former allies, mostly governors, resolved to turncoat. But either out of incredulity that the defectors would be accepted in the fledgling APC or sheer political naivety, both the former president and his foot soldiers attached no value on the exodus of the five governors and a former vice president, who contested the 2011 PDP presidential primary.
The balance of power that was building up in the polity could not have garnered momentum in favour of the inchoate APC if the fourth republic vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, contested the 2015 election on another platform. To avert such a possibility, the proponents of the merger negotiated an understanding with the former vice president, by extracting his commitment and those of other presidential aspirants to the effect that they would abide by the outcome of the presidential primary, which had been tailored to produce a preferred outcome.
Whether the magical defeat of PDP in 2015, for the first time, was wrought in guile or subtle imposition, the former political Octopus kissed the dust and yielded to the new ruling party, APC. And with the displacement of PDP, APC began to exert similar osmotic pressure on the polity, drawing members in droves from its vanquished rival, just as PDP did from All Peoples Party and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as well as, from the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
But for the debatable performance of the ruling party in its first year on the saddle, the defection would have attained a catholic dimension. However, apart from the fact that politicians that had defected to APC enjoyed a sort of immunity from harassment from the anti-graft and similar agencies, the party’s trouble with the members of the nPDP threw a blanket of caution to intending defectors.

Like PDP, Like APC
WHEN PDP started heaving under the burden of political power and electoral conquest arrogance and conceit set in. Instead of adopting internal mechanism for healing, the party resorted to bringing the might of external influence to bear on the management of its politics.

Consequently, the then president forgot about the architects of doctrine of necessity and sought for a fresh four-year mandate. But the foot soldiers had been depleted, and those that remained craved pecuniary gratification. Having alienated his former lieutenants the then incumbent was forced to fight alone, amidst the half-hearted keenness of some of the party’s leaders. 
The state governors, who had been the arrowheads of the party’s 2011 campaigns, sought to redefine the game so as to, at least, protect and preserve their political future interest. And believing in the famed power of incumbency, the then president lost sight of the power of dialogue, consensus building and party caucusing.
First, the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was pressured to resign, yet those calling for his head were not assuaged, because they had other issues they felt deserved the input of all. But, predicting what the ‘non-conformists’ wanted to bring to a discussion table, they were systematically shot out in the name of party supremacy and technical importunity. Only the national chairman, the party said, could summon National Executive Committee meetings.
Having come to that dead pass, the non-conformists explored the option of defection to, at least, show that if they could not contribute to the development of the party, they could help in its deconstruction (destruction?). A lot of people still hold that the trouble with PDP started from the exit of the five governors and former vice president. A former president produced by the party was later to join the exodus, leaving the party traumatized and flummoxed.      
Prevailing circumstances suggest that the APC is heading in a similar position, accentuated by the same cul-de-sac as PDP, when its stock of power and influence appeared inexhaustible. For good one year after the party mounted the saddle at the commanding heights of national politics and governance, it has shown much hesitation to hold a NEC meeting.

Add to that, the party has become top-heavy, shying away from the inclusion and synergy that helped it combine ideas and forces to uproot PDP. It took the government something that looked like eternity to enthrone a federal government, as the president explored the possibility of going solo, since after all, the momentum for eventual electoral victory was built around his person.
At a time the country had slid into economic recession, neither the party nor the president wants to take responsibility for the socio-economic quagmire brought about by the lack of political aggregation of ideas expected from the party that was voted into office. As citizens agonize over the scheme of things, some APC faithful wonder whether the government is implementing the party’s manifesto or running a one-man and cronies’ administration.     
As the smoldered voices of discontent begin to rise in crescendo, it is becoming obvious that the party lost it in the first six months of coming into power and that the president pushed the country into economic recession by shutting down the economy through vacillation in constituting the federal cabinet and fishing for ideas from distant lands.
Like PDP before it, APC seems to have come to a sorry pass when governance and politics tangle in curios competition for ascendance. Not minding that the president’s first term is yet to gain traction, plots for a second term have taken pre-eminent spot.
It is this desire for a second term that has opened the country’s polity to schemes and realignment of political forces. Could it be that the hasty emphasis on a possible second term for the president demonstrates political foresight or a strategic necessity? Whatever option APC and President Buhari’s handlers choose, the bottom line of talks about 2019 presidential election at this point in time signposts a poor performance balance sheet.
If the incumbent, like Jonathan before him, is interested in a second term, it all means that those with similar ambition would leave the APC. The problems of recent Ondo State governorship primary could be said to be remotely connected to that possibility.
When PDP’s crisis started, APC felt comfortable. Now that APC is entering into its own trial period, PDP appears to be getting serious with the urgent need to heal their rift. It is not over yet. Nigerian politicians being what they are, out of the patchwork in PDP, talks of new incarnation could still be heard. And as some disenchanted members of APC try to resurrect Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the Southwest, the chieftains of former Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) may retain the rump of APC. As such, when PDP’s preference for a particular presidential aspirant becomes obvious, there are indicators that some politicians from the Southeast could see the need for the possible rebuilding of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Should that scenario play out and with the ongoing emphasis on electoral fidelity, it would be foolhardy to expect that one political party or candidate would make it in the 2019 presidential election.      

EDO 2016: INEC In Tangle Of Facts And Figures
THE difference between 319, 483 and 253, 173 is 66, 130. And that magical number was all the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), needed in Edo State, to exorcise the specter of inconclusive elections that has followed it to various polls in recent time.
But, in its effort to escape from the incubus of inconclusive poll, INEC may have fallen into another mess. As a result, only the final verdict on the commission’s performance awaits the judicial scrutiny of whether the facts of the election corresponded to the figures that INEC dished out as the ballot garnered by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its old rival, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 
True to predictions, the Edo State governorship poll did not go without suspense and excitement. It began with the surprised postponement of the election from its earlier date of September 10 to 28. Although INEC and security agencies agreed on the two weeks postponement to avert the threat of violence, it is the same period of grace that PDP and other political parties now cite as providing APC the opportunity to fine tune its ‘winning’ strategies.
However, the postmortem of the Edo governorship produced winners and losers. Governor Adams Oshiomhole, sounding triumphant over the poll, said it was his last battle. The governor accused the PDP of rigging the election, stressing that APC would avail itself of an opportunity in court to reveal how the party manipulated the election.
Oshiomhole declared that had the election not turned out to be a fraud, there was no way the PDP candidate could have earned more than 50, 000 votes. The governor said the Pastor Ize-Iyamu he knows “could not have polled more than 50,000 votes if the election was not rigged.”
Ironically, the PDP has threatened to approach the election petition tribunal, insisting that the APC rigged the election. From their various positions, APC and PDP faulted the election for fraud. While the parties had 66, 130 between them, INEC was accused of conniving with APC to return its candidate as winner.
Four political parties, namely New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD); Social Democratic Party (SDP) and KOWA; are siding with PDP in the belief that APC did not win the election fairly. Interestingly, the state chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Ukonga Frank, led the three parties to protest the outcome, calling on INEC to cancel the results.
The IPAC chairman, alongside candidates of the other three parties, Dr. Omorogieva Gbajumo, Thomas Osadolor and Andrew Igwemoh, pointedly accused INEC of falsifying the result in favour of APC.
Apart from the general allegation of inducement of voters, the candidates told journalists in Benin that the figures INEC declared did not tally with the figures in the hands of their agents and observers from polling units across Edo. The SDP candidate, Dr. Gbajumo stated: “Nigerians are wondering how INEC came up with about 66, 000 missing votes.” He noted that since voters voted simultaneously as they were accredited, the commission must have credited APC with PDP votes.
So, from inconclusive elections, did INEC devise a new trick of connivance with the ruling party? That is one of the posers the Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal would solve when it begins sitting. But INEC has assured that it remains far above board in the Edo governorship election.

Ondo: Slithering In The Shadows Of Edo
FROM the look of things, it may be impossible for Ondo governorship poll to go the way of Edo. In Ondo, the All Progressives Congress is still writhing in pains over its inability to hold a rancour free governorship primary.
APC’s crisis of confidence, which the primary exposed, may simmer for a long time and if proper care is not taken, it could boil over to an imminent divorce. The winner of the governorship primary, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, has literally not known peace ever since he was registered as the party’s flag bearer.
Not only did the primary pit the party’s national leader against the national chairman, in the absence of an incumbent governor as in Edo, Ondo may end up as problem candidate in the November 26 poll. The challenge for APC is not only whether it could effectively calm frayed nerves within the next seven weeks, but also above all, whether it could garner the momentum to win voters consideration.
Even as Akeredolu tries to reconnect with the national leader and get his support for the election, he walks a thin rope in the emerging storm within the national leadership of APC. Within the week, he tried to correct the impression that the spat between the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu and the national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, was based on his emergence as the party’s flag bearer.
If according to Akeredolu, there are other reasons why Oyegun was being asked to resign instead of the outcome of the Ondo governorship primary, it is left to be seen how many party chieftain would attend Aketi’s campaign kickoff or round off.
Even as he boasted that the same fate that befell PDP in Edo awaits it in Ondo, the former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) president failed to recognise the disparate circumstances in the two states. PDP has an outgoing incumbent in Ondo, just as Edo had Oshiomhole at the point of exit.
The disparities do not stop there. APC has witnessed a splinter group moving over to another political party to contest the same election on November 26. Most people would want to see how it is possible for a house divided against itself can stand in the Ondo governorship.
But the recent fracas between supporters of Akeredolu and those of his rival, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, gives more than an inkling of what to expect in the days ahead. While one of the governorship aspirants that contested the party’s primary alongside Akeredolu has crossed over to AD and emerged as its flag bearer, others that are still in APC may prove a source of distraction for Akeredolu.   
The challenge for Aketi in the coming poll is manifold. First, the general impression in the state and environs is that those who want to destabilize the Southwest are using him to rubbish the political profile of the national leader of APC. Given this stance, whoever would try to campaign in his favour would be labeled as enemies of Asiwaju and Yoruba unity. Above all, in the midst of the finger pointing across the party, who would provide the governorship candidate with the enormous war chest needed to battle an incumbent that has a political son in whom he is well pleased?
Will money come from Lagos, Kaduna or Edo that is not yet out of troubled waters? Those who understand Yoruba politics say that it is in times like the present one that their group interests come alive through effective grassroots mobilization. An amorphous group, Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC), which suddenly emerged to join the fray summarised the coming battle when it stated that APC’s performance would shock President Buhari.
The coordinator of the group, Akinsuku Samuel, told journalists in Akure that APC leaders in Southwest are mobilizing support for AD and its governorship candidate, Olusola Oke. Whether it was a political kite to re-engage the leaders of APC or make the party revisit its position on the governorship primary, the division in the party if allowed through to the November 26 election would mark a significant turning point in the fortunes and structure of APC in Southwest.    
And talking about an Alliance for Democratic Change, could it be that leaders of APC in the zone are already thinking about a possible collaboration with progressive elements from PDP to forge a common front towards 2019?

Supremacy Battles
THE Ondo governorship poll may open a battle front for the contest of political interests in Southwest. Sources disclosed that a serving governor from the zone was behind the protest by some youth to the APC national headquarters during which the national leader, Tinubu, was traduced and his democratic credentials questioned.   
Those who want to have their freedom for political expression at the centre at the expense of Tinubu would have to show their capacity in Ondo. All the same, the nature of politics surrounding the Ondo governorship suggests that a big supremacy battle is brewing in APC. Could it be that the northern politicians that have always accused Tinubu of intruding in leadership selection in their zone; want to take the battle to his court? Tinubu must by now considering the wisdom of joining the fight against military incursion into politics only to end up returning political power to a former brass hat.
The positive thing that could ensue from the emerging battle could be the agglomeration of civilian democrats against military apologists that have mid-wifed a quasi-democracy into the polity since 1999. Consequently, 2019 may bring about anti-thesis and synthesis of political forces. November 26, 2016 would form the possible basis for that conjecture.