The All Progressives Congress is working assiduously to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party but the way it is going about it borders on desperation
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep. 1, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
WHAT would have happened if the All Progressives Congress, APC, had lost the August 9, governorship election in Osun State? It is better imagined than described. Political analysts said the party was determined to do everything humanly, financially and spiritually possible to retain Osun State. They feared that with the series of allegations it had heaped on the rival Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over its plan to rig the election, it had already prepared the ground for a desperate reaction if it had lost the governorship election. It was therefore a big relief when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, returned Rauf Aregbesola, the incumbent APC governor, as the winner of the election. Aregbesola’s victory meant so much to the APC which was seen to be losing its grip on the South West geopolitical zone with the loss of Ekiti, in the governorship election on June 21. With Ondo State already out of its reach, there is every likelihood that Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States are under serious threat of changing hands in 2015.
With the next general elections just about six months away, it is very clear that the APC is very desperate and is not leaving anything to chance. Having lost Ekiti State to the PDP, the APC is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that the states where it holds sway, especially in the South West, do not go to the PDP. The party’s desperation was more pronounced during the conduct of the last governorship election in Osun State, where it mobilised all the artilleries in its armoury to secure victory in the August 9 election.
As far as the APC was concerned, all it did to secure victory in the Osun State gubernatorial election was fair in war. But the fallout of that election is still generating controversy in the public domain. While members of the party were patting themselves on their backs for a good outing and congratulatory messages were flying in for the party and Governor Aregbesola, the governor has not relented in his accusation of the PDP government of militarising the state during the election. He accused the security forces deployed in the state of criminal intimidation and psychological assault on the electorate.
Aregbesola, who attributed his victory to the mercy of God upon him, has repeatedly bemoaned the security cordon around the state before and during the election. “It was so sad and unfortunate that the contest that should be a normal routine process was allowed to snowball into a needless virtual war by the federal government and the Peoples’ Democratic Party. Ordinarily, this should be a moment of joy and celebration consequent upon the hard earned triumph of the people’s will. However, this election shows that democracy is still gravely endangered in Nigeria. We witnessed gross abuse of power and due process before, during, and even after the actual voting process,” he said adding: “Our victory is due to the steadfastness and resolute determination of our people to assert and defend their rights. The PDP obviously did all it could in a most desperate manner to steal the people’s mandate.”
But if anyone should ask Marilyn Ogar, spokesperson of the Directorate of Security Service, DSS, it was the APC that was desperate to win the Osun State gubernatorial race more than the PDP. Prior to the election, Ogar alleged that a member of the APC had invited the DSS director, who was coordinating the election, to come and collect N4 million for himself and another N10 million for other members of the force participating in the election process. “It was an offer that she didn’t think was necessary because when it has to do with logistics, as far as the Service is concerned, they would definitely have en-placed everything that would make for a successful operation. The rejection of that money on Tuesday brought on a lot of things that ordinarily we had not seen before anywhere,” Ogar said.
On the demand for the identity and prosecution of the persons involved, she said: “The duty of the SSS is to detect, prevent and deter” and using the President’s carrot and stick analogy, “It is not every time that you go out arresting people.” She said further: “If this same process has been turned down when it had to do with other political parties, and they never took offence, why is it that the APC is taking offence? For me, it’s like pre-empting and presuming that ‘maybe this people are going to go to town with this stuff so we must be able to cow them to a point where they would be unable to expose what we were trying to do. “The person that made the offer knows himself and he knows that we know him.”
Ogar said it would have amounted to heating the polity if the DSS had gone along with the offer and got the APC culprit arrested. Insisting that security agencies should not be dragged into politics, Ogar clarified the issue surrounding the N14million offer being referred to as bribe. “I’m sure the people that were doing the offering didn’t see it as a bribe, and I had never mentioned the word ‘bribe.’ The media has used the word bribe in order to make it sensational. I could make you an offer and say this would assist you in what you are doing. It’s either you take it or you refuse it. I did say here that they offered us money to assist us and we said no.”
However, Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the APC, who earlier reacted to Ogar’s interview on one of the local television stations in Lagos, described her as being childish and lacking in professionalism. According to him, the DSS boss, should not have come on air to make such an allegation, given the calibre of her office and service. “It is unprofessional for the DSS person of Ogar’s standing to go on air and make such a spurious allegation,” Mohammed said.
As the controversy over the alleged N14 million offer by an APC member continued to dominate discussion, the DSS dropped another bombshell when it accused the party of another unsavoury behaviour. On Thursday, August 14, the DSS frontally claimed that the APC had link with Boko Haram, the dreaded Islamic group, which has been carrying out series of wanton destruction of lives and property, especially in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
Speaking in a television interview Ogar claimed that each time the APC lost an election, a spate of bombings usually followed. “It is not the first time security forces are being deployed for election duties. We had provided security for election in Edo and at the end of that election, permit me to say, there was no bomb blast. We moved to Ondo State and the Labour Party won, there was a bomb blast. We moved to Anambra and APGA won the election, there was a bomb blast. We moved to Ekiti, PDP won, there was a bomb blast. We thank God that we were able to deploy appropriately in Osun. The results have come out and the APC has won; thank God there was no bomb blast. We should thank God that since after the Osun State election, there has been no bomb blast. Glory be to God.” Asked if she was insinuating that the APC was responsible for the bomb blasts across the country, the DSS spokesperson refused to give details.
Ogar’s controversial statements, apparently did not give joy to the APC. The party has threatened to institute a legal action against her. Mouhammed said in a statement issued in Ilorin, Kwara State on Saturday, August 16, that the APC would sue Ogar so as to give her the opportunity to present whatever evidence she has in her custody to prove the party’s complicity in the spate of bombings in the country.
The statement said that the allegation that the APC had been behind bombings whenever it lost an election was nothing but share partisanship. ‘That this incredulous accusation could be made by the spokesperson of a security agency without providing a scintilla of evidence to support such claim, has confirmed our fears that the nation’s security agencies have now constituted themselves into the enforcement arm of the Peoples Democratic Party.
For the DSS spokesperson to echo the same capricious statement that has been made in the past by the spokesman of the PDP shows that the agency has dropped its toga of non-partisanship and has descended into the political fray. If the DSS has any professional ethics, if the DSS is not an arm of the PDP, then the agency must publicly dissociate itself from the irresponsible and unfounded allegation by Ogar and disengage her from the service.
‘’Doing that will be the first step in restoring the credibility, or whatever is left of it, of the DSS. In the alternative, we challenge the DSS to present to Nigerians any evidence it may have linking our party to the spate of bomb blasts in the country. After all, it is trite that he who alleges must prove,’’ the APC said.
The APC must have sensed that its support was waning in the South West following the election defeat in Ekiti State and the defection of some key figures from the party to the ruling party. For this reason, some APC governors in the South-West have decided to review some of their policies in order to get the party back on track. For instance, after about two years of a running battle, punctuated by agitations and protests by students, lecturers and non-academic staff of the Lagos State University, LASU, the APC-led government has suddenly realised that an unending face-off would cost it the next election in the state. Hence, on Thursday, August 7, Governor Babatunde Fashola ,at the convocation of the institution, announced the reversal to the old tuition fees regime of N25,000 paid by students of the institution.
Before the reversal, the students who had been made to pay fees ranging from N193, 750 to N348, 750 depending on the course. Fashola stated that the fee was reversed due to the harsh economic condition of the country and that the government had decided to yield to the demands of the students because they had shown that they could choose the path of conflict resolution. “Our students have also shown that they can choose this path of conflict resolution. They have reached out to me for a revision of their fee, which I have acceded to, in consultation with the state executive council for reduction between 34 percent and 60 percent across board.
“In spite of this reduction, the students have again demanded for further reduction. And they have done so, in a most civilized way. And because of this, we had to consult extensively and we have come to the conclusion that the current economic situation of the country compels a reduction to the old tuition fees for the institution.”
The news was welcomed with jubilation and applause for the governor at the occasion. One of those who commended Fashola was Adeola Fatai, a graduate of the Department of Biochemistry, who said the new fee regime would allow her siblings who had hitherto missed admission into the university owing to the prohibitive fee to apply again. But the motive for the reversal was not lost on both the parents and students. A lot of them have also pointed to the fact that the APC was trying to use it as a carrot to lure back to its fold, those who have vowed to vote for the PDP in the next elections. Henry Lebile, a retired civil servant, said in a discussion with Realnews magazine, that the APC leaders are now desperate not to lose any other state in the South West, hence it decision to reverse to the old tuition fee. “Look, if an election were to be conducted in Lagos State today, it would be difficult for the APC to win in a free and fair contest,” Lebile said.
Sharing the same sentiment is a 300-level student of the faculty of education who does not want her name in print. She said in an interview that though she was happy about the development, she suspected that the government was doing it to get votes in 2015. “We are very happy; to me what he (Fashola) is trying to do is that after the 2015 elections, the fees will go up again. They want to get students to their side and I think that is not possible. He is still going to change it, but he just wants people to be happy. I am happy but that does not mean we will vote for the APC; we are going for the PDP this time around”
Expressing a similar misgiving about the fees reversal was Comrade Babatunde, welfare director of the National Union of Lagos State Students, NULASS, who said he was delighted with the decision, but felt it was a political strategy because of the coming elections. Babatunde felt that the APC must have learnt from its loss of Ekiti State and would not want the same to happen in Lagos State.
Indeed, barely a week after Fashola reduced the tuition fees of students at LASU, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, also approved an across-the-board reduction fees reduction in all state-owned tertiary institutions. Addressing a news conference in Abeokuta, the state capital, on Tuesday, August 12, Segun Odubela, state commissioner for education, science and technology, said the new fees regime would take effect from the 2014/2015 academic session. Odubela said that the government arrived at the decision after extensive meeting with the leadership of the various students’ unions and heads of the institutions.
Besides the reduction in fees, the commissioner also disclosed that the state had equally abolished the discriminatory indigene/non-indigene dichotomy in tuition fees regime. This means that all students offering the same course at the same level would pay the same fees. He stated that medical students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, who had been paying N301,610 would now pay as low as N176,596, that is, a 41.4 percent reduction. Also, students of the Faculty of Arts in the same university would be paying N81,112 as against N126,540 which they now pay. That, he said, has translated into a 35.9 percent reduction.
Students of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, would be paying as low N40,000 for Higher National Diploma, HND, courses while National Diploma, ND students are to pay N22,300, a reduction or 31.1 and 9.6 percent respectively.
Odubela also said that first year students of Tai Solarin University of Education, TASUED, would now pay N75,000 instead of N103,435 representing a 27.5 percent reduction, while returning students, who were paying N93,465, would now be paying N65,000, representing a 30.4 percent reduction.
Students of Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, were not left out in the fee reduction booty. For instance, HND students currently paying N118,000, would now be paying N46,000, a reduction of 61 percent. The reduction of fees also applied to the other three institutes of technology owned by the state government.
Apart from across-the-board fee reduction, the state government similarly donated 13 buses to the students’ unions of all state and federal institutions in the state. All these, some analysts have said, were being tailored towards winning the 2015 elections. According to independent sources, the party is compelled to do what it is now doing because of the precarious situation it has found itself especially with the defections of some party faithful to the PDP. The recent defection of Nuhu Ribadu, an APC chieftain and former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to the PDP is said to be a very hard blow to the party. What it is trying to do now is to portray him as an ingrate. The party also accused Ribadu of making disparaging statements against governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State.
Ribadu was the presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, one of the parties that collapsed to form the APC. But in a letter sent to the APC chairman in his Bako ward in Adamawa State, Ribadu said he would forever be thankful to the APC for admitting him into its fold as a member. In the letter dated August 14, 2014, Ribadu said on his alleged attack on Amaechi and Kwankwaso. “I know how difficult it may be for you to come to terms with my defection to another party. But I must assure you that it’s a carefully considered decision for which I do not wish to hurt anyone’s feeling. I’ll not embark on a needless animosity with my good friends, irrespective of political, religious and ethnic affiliations. Let me make it known that I did not issue a statement disparaging the APC and its members, including Governors Rotimi Amaechi, Kwankwaso…
“These were clearly fabricated, expected backlash, by mischievous characters interested in misleading the public and drawing a picture of non-existent feuds between me and my good friends. My defection shouldn’t be seen as an initiation of political antagonism with my good friends in another party. I still hold them in high esteem, and even where there are marked differences, I believe there are decorous and honourable ways of resolving them. So, kindly disregard any statement said to be made by me attacking the personality of any politician since my defection. I’ll never allow myself to be drawn into such disrespectful exchange.”
The defection of Ribadu, is no doubt, another setback for the APC, which is positioning to win elections all over the country, especially the Presidency. Ribadu is seen as a strong candidate for the PDP in Adamawa State which is going for a by-election in October to replace former Governor Murtala Nyako, who was removed from office in July. Nyako, a PDP governor, had defected to the APC last year before his eventual removal by the PDP members of the state House of Assembly. The defection of Ribadu is seen in political circles as a big minus for the APC which had hoped to use his relevance in the state to capture Adamawa.
At about the same time Ribadu had left the party to the PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, also dumped the APC for the PDP, on Friday, August 15. Sheriff told the press that he was joining the PDP in the nation’s interest. “My decisions will be guided by the interest of the nation first. My thinking of moving to the PDP is also in the interest of the nation,” Sheriff said after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock. The former governor had accused Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and a chieftain of the APC, of imposing John Odigie-Oyegun as the national chairman at the recent national convention of the party.
Apart from the defections, what is also getting the APC worried is that the president and his team of strategists are said to have perfected some measures to win votes in APC strongholds especially in the South-West during the 2015 presidential election. A governor, who is a member of the think tank of the president, who recently spoke with a newspaper, said the Presidency believed that it was even wrong for the people of the zone to work against the second term ambition of the president and that the group was now working assiduously to ensure that the states in the South West would deliver their votes to the President as they did in 2011.
The desire of the party and the president to capture the South-West is borne out of the realisation that the South-West zone is densely populated. Records from the Independent National Electoral Commission indicate that the zone comes second in the number of voters out of the six zones in the country. According to the INEC, while the North-West leads with 18,900,543 voters, the South-West comes second with 14,296,163 voters followed by the North-East with 10,038,119 voters. The South-South zone has 8,937,053 voters with the North-Central coming fifth with 7,675,363 voters while the South-East is last with 7,028,560 voters.
For the APC to make any headway, it would need the solid backing of the South West. Already, the PDP is solid in the South-East, South-South, and could split votes with the APC in the North-West and the North-East following the defection of some of the governors from the zone to the APC. The governors that defected from the zone are Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano), and now that Nyako is no more in charge in Adamawa, the state is free for the ruling party. Before the defection, some governors from the zone were members of the APC. They are Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe). But with the current development it is very difficult for the APC to brag about retaining the states in 2015.
This, perhaps, is the more reason why the APC has been ferocious in its attacks on the PDP accusing it of undemocratic acts to win election. For instance, governor Fashola was recently quoted as saying that the Jonathan-led PDP federal government is a total failure because it has not achieved anything in more than three years. Similarly, Mohammed said the PDP was giving a wrong impression about democracy to Nigerians with its actions. He said: “Elections are meant to be won and lost. We would not have been worried if the PDP was planning to win fairly. But instead of this, the party is planning to rig; use federal might like the police, security agencies and other state apparatus to harass and incapacitate the opposition. When you are using ill-gotten wealth to harass the opposition, what you are saying in essence is that the development does not matter and that what the people in government should embark on is to use state funds for what is now known as ‘stomach infrastructure.’ You are saying that people should go into the government and steal.’ But in a war situation, people say every ploy is fair. And since politics is a game of numbers, prisoners’ and even ex-convicts’ votes are important. If you disagree, you may not be a friend of the ruling party.” From all indications, the APC has raised its opposition of the PDP to an act of desperation ahead of 2015 elections.