Row over 2015 Election

Nigerian politicians are giving the electorate a lot to worry about as they continue to bicker over every issue and strategise for 2015 election thereby heating up the polity

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Jan. 20, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

The jostle for power by politicians ahead of the 2015 election in Nigeria is gaining momentum and causing unnecessary tension in the country. Both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Alliance, APC, the main opposition party, have seized every available opportunity to get on each other’s throats in their struggle for supremacy. The politicians indulge in all manner of antics and unruly behavior, mudslinging and pouring invectives on opponents just to upstage each other in the various states of the federation and win sympathy from the public.

One of the states where the unsavoury and worrisome behaviour is playing out is Rivers. The situation in Rivers State is fast becoming a tinderbox that may explode into a great conflagration if it is not nipped in the bud.  The political temperature in the state has been high since Governor Chibuike Amaeachi, the state governor and formerly of the PDP, fell out with the leadership of the PDP. Amaechi was also one the five PDP governors who defected to the APC in November last year. Other governors that defected to the APC were Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara); Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano).

 Amaechi
Amaechi

On Sunday, January 5, an explosion rocked the high court on Omoku Road in Ahoada, headquarters of Ahoada East Local Government Area, damaging the premises thereby causing anxiety in the political circles. As if that was not bad enough, another high court in Okehi, headquarters of Etche Local Government Area, was razed by suspected arsonists on Monday, January 6. Mercifully there was no casualty recorded in both incidents but court documents and properties were severely burnt prompting Reginald Okwuoma, council chairman, to describe both incidents as a deliberate act by the opposition to ensure the declaration of a state of emergency in the state. The APC, Rivers State chapter, accused the PDP of being behind the violence in the state. But in a swift reaction, Felix Obuah, PDP chairman in the state, blamed the incident on those he called government agents for the bomb blasts.

What, perhaps, makes the Ahaoda court incident instructive is that it is there that the suit on the controversy over the issue of speakership of the state assembly is being heard by Justice Charles Wali. The tussle is between Otelemaba Dan Amachree, who represents Asari-Toru Constituency, and Evans Bipi, a former domestic aide of Patience Jonathan, who is representing Ogu/Bolo. The court could not sit because of the incident as the judicial workers, litigants and lawyers were asked to vacate the premises.

Last December 16, Wali, acting on interlocutory injunction by Amachree had restrained Bipi from parading himself as speaker of the House. Two days later, Wali’s office and car park were hit by explosion at 3:00am. A guard on duty was missing. The motion on notice for interlocutory injunction was billed for hearing on Monday when the office was engulfed in fire hence, the court could not sit.

Andy Nweye, interim publicity secretary of the APC, Rivers chapter, in a statement, described as barbaric, the bombing of the Ahoada court, while also blaming the PDP for it. Nweye’s statement said: “We totally condemn the present resort to physical violence against the judiciary and officials of court in Rivers State by members of the PDP. The extension of violence to the judiciary in Rivers State by the PDP and their agents started to assume a dangerous dimension, after Justice Wali of the Ahoada High Court granted an injunction on December 16, restraining the member representing Ogu/Bolo in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Evans Bipi, from parading himself as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.”

Obasanjo
Obasanjo

About a week before the bombing, the APC spokesman alleged that Felix Obuah, chairman of the PDP in the state, issued a statement in which he alleged that Amaechi was trying to use the same Ahoada High Court to protect Chidi Lloyd, leader of the state House of Assembly, and said that the claim was “vexatious, malicious and patent falsehood.” Nweye further alleged the PDP agents had planted bombs in the Ahoada High Court complex to prevent the court from sitting to hear arguments on the interlocutory injunction barring Bipi from perpetually parading himself as speaker of the state Assembly.

The spokesman for the party further alleged that: “Just yesterday, six individuals reportedly linked to Hon. Evans Bipi and Senator George Sekibo (the representative of Rivers East Senatorial District, an ally of the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience, who wants to be Rivers Governor in 2015) were arrested on their way to Ogu/Bolo with seven AK-47 assault weapons, among others, by men of the JTF.” He said the arrest of the six associates of Sekibo and Bipi had confirmed the APC’s worst fears that the PDP had resorted to using terrorism as official party policy. Nweye insisted the arrested, well-armed six men were part of the ruthless snipers PDP trained for use against political opponents. The APC thus, pleaded with the authorities to compel security agencies to act quickly to avert a situation whereby individuals and groups would resort to violence to protect themselves.

But Obuah, in a statement, blamed the APC for what he called the senseless and barbaric destruction of the court. “The PDP makes bold to suspect that the reported bombing was carried out by the agents of the Rivers State Government to prevent the court from sitting, so that the court would not be able to vacate the interim order made by the Ahoada High Court Judge, Hon Justice Charles Wali. Also, their aim of bombing the Ahoada High Court is to further create a state of insecurity in Rivers State, to justify their continuous call for the removal of Mbu Joseph Mbu, state commissioner of Police.

“The PDP wishes to remind Rotimi Amaechi and his agents of darkness that the interim order issued by Justice Charles Wali of the Ahoada High Court lasted for only seven days, and it has since expired. Therefore, bombing the court to prevent it from sitting is a wasted, wicked, callous and shameful exercise by agents of Governor Rotimi Amaechi,” the PDP chairman said. Obuah said what had happened in Rivers State tantamount to the governor’s desperation for power and assured that Amaechi will be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the state.

Clark
Clark

Apparently irked by the situation in the state, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Tuesday, January 7, challenged the National Security Adviser, NSA, and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation into the incidents. Okey Wali, NBA national president, in a statement in Abuja, said the news of the brazen and dastardly act of bomb explosion in court premises amounted to desecrating the temple of justice. Wali called for an immediate probe of the incident and asked that the report be made public within 30 days.

The statement said: “The Nigerian Bar Association condemns these acts of brigandage and views them not only as sacrilegious, but also as a desecration of the temple of justice. The Nigerian Bar Association reiterates that, on no account will it ever idly stand by and watch these acts of violence and impunity to our courts, which are tantamount to an affront to the rule of law and threat to our democracy.”

Apparently in furtherance of his quarrel with Joseph Mbu, commissioner of police in the state, Governor Amaechi has described the police chief as a member of the PDP. Amaechi, who made the remark shortly after signing the state 2014 Appropriation Bill into law, on Wednesday, January 8, also accused Mbu of attending PDP meetings and carrying out illegal actions on behalf of the ruling party.

The governor alleged that a group of persons, led by some politicians in Abuja and the state police commissioner had planned to stop the state legislature and judiciary from functioning in the state. “I hear that one of them is telling people that he has been able to stop the House from sitting, he has been able to stop the judiciary from functioning. The truth of the matter is that none of such things could happen other than the fact that they are using the state apparatus which is the police. The commissioner of police is completely not a policeman. He (Mbu) is a known PDP politician who attends meetings with them and carries out illegal actions,” Amaechi said.

The situation in Rivers State seems to further exacerbate the already charged political atmosphere caused by a letter written by Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, to President Goodluck Jonathan in December 2, last year. The letter has created a dichotomy among the political class since it became public on December 11.  In the 18-page letter, Obasanjo had accused President Jonathan of ignoring fight against corruption, insincerity about his promise to spend only one term in office and training of private army to eliminate about 1000 political opponents, among other allegations. But in his reply dated December 22, 2013, President Jonathan said all the allegations were fabricated lies and dared Obasanjo to justify any of them. Jonathan said Obasanjo’s letter was designed to incite Nigerians against him. Nevertheless, the president said the government would send the allegations to the Human Right Commission for investigation.

Nyako
Nyako

While the PDP caucus was working frantically to avert factionalisation in its rank over the controversy, Edwin Clark, former minister of information and an Ijaw elder statesman, appeared to have stoked the fire when he lent his opinion to the controversy. In a 10-page open letter to Obasanjo, dated Monday, January 7, Clark called the former president “a liar, manipulator, two faced hypocrite” and that “you have an egoistic craving for power and live a life where only men of low self esteem thrive.” The Ijaw leader wrote: “Ordinarily, I never intended to join in the affray of accusations and counter accusations between a former president and a sitting president and a daughter in between. But, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in your usual characteristic hatred and use of sarcastic remarks about Ijaw, you have again berated and insulted us the Ijaws in your letter to Mr. President. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has never for once acted nor behaved as an Ijaw man since he took office as President, and we hold no grudge against him for that.

“In addition, I want to buttress the assertion that all Nigerians are equal no matter where they come from, that is no one is a second class citizen of this nation. You have no right to plunge Nigeria into crisis as your past actions and recent open letter to the president connotes. The generality of Nigerians think your letter is treasonable.” The former minister then described Obasanjo as an unrepentant trouble maker, adding that he had in the past embarrassed former heads of state through his toxic open letters.

But it appears the former president does not possess the exclusive right to toxic letter writing. Iyabo Obasanjo, his daughter, was quoted as having written a letter, also in December last year, to the father accusing him of being arrogant, manipulative and hypocritical. Although Obasanjo said his daughter did not write the letter, there has not been any communication to suggest otherwise.

While the PDP which the president and Obasanjo belong has been trying to diffuse the tension and reconcile the warring leaders, the already in-fighting within the party seems to fester. Recently, the ruling party lost 37 of its lawmakers in the House of Representatives to the rival APC, thereby losing its majority in the process. Some of its members in the Senate are also expected to follow suit sooner or later. But the implication of the present situation, according to analysts, is that it would now take a lot of time for bills originating from the Presidency to get passed. “It means that the PDP will no longer enjoy the kind of majority that allowed it to be a rubber stamp and force its policy on people. And it means that for the Presidency to get its bill passed, it has to negotiate with opposition parties,” Victor Okhai, a public commentator said.

Buhari
Buhari

Apart from that, the PDP is seriously embattled in the five states where their governors defected to the APC in November, last year. To salvage the situation, both the Presidency and the leadership of the PDP are said to be working round the clock to mitigate their losses, especially in the five states. For instance in Adamawa State, the PDP is believed to be courting Buba Marwa, a brigadier-general, and Marcus Gundiri, former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria which merged with two other parties to form APC. Marwa and Gundiri are prominent APC chieftains who are alleged to be unhappy over the handing over of the party’s structures in the state to Governor Murtala Nyako. The PDP, it is believed, has been mounting pressure on the two APC men to defect to the party. The thinking in the party is that if Marwa and Gundiri should join the PDP, the effect of Nyako’s defection to APC would not be felt so much in the state PDP. Marwa was once a chieftain of the PDP, but when he lost the gubernatorial primaries to Nyako in 2011, he defected to the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC.

The PDP leadership fear that the combination of Nyako, Marwa and Gundiri working together in Adamawa State will be a walkover for the APC in 2015. Both Marwa and Gundiri had contested the governorship race against Nyako in 2011 in a poll that was adjudged by many observers as one of the most keenly contested governorship elections in the country. Marwa and Gundiri are highly regarded in the state, but their ambition to govern the state may pull them apart especially now that they are in the same party. Both the ACN and the CPC, along with the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, have since merged to form the APC.

Although both Marwa and Gunduri have been reported to have so far spurned entreaties from the PDP, some of their supporters were allegedly asking them to reconsider the ruling party’s offers, especially to realise their ambition.

Ditto for Sokoto State. It is believed that the PDP leadership has been working very hard to convince members of the PDP stakeholders in the state not to follow Governor Aliyu Wammako to the APC. But the efforts seem not to have been making the necessary impact because on Wednesday, January 8, 27 out 30 members of the state’s House of Assembly, elected on the platform of the PDP similarly defected to the APC. Confirming the defection, Wamakko said, “Yes, it is true that 27 members of Sokoto State House of Assembly have defected to the APC. They were not forced, they did so on their own volition and even three members of the House are still in the PDP. We won’t force them to leave. With the defection, it is clear to all that the PDP is dead in the state. The APC is soaring higher in the state as it has been accepted by all and sundry.”

Tinubu
Tinubu

Indeed, the defection has put the PDP in the state in a serious dilemma and will also put to test assurance given by Muktar Shagari, deputy governor, who has refused to follow his principal to the APC. Shagari had visited Namadi Sambo, vice-president, in Kaduna sometimes ago, assuring him that the governor’s defection would not affect the fortune of the PDP in the state. But with the defection of 27 legislators to the APC, it means that deputy governor himself is no longer safe in his post if he remains in the PDP.

Shagari, former minister for water resources, had stepped down as the PDP governorship candidate for Wamakko, who had defected then from the defunct ANPP, to contest the 2007 election. Wamakko, a former deputy governor, had parted ways with the then Governor Attaihiru Bafarawa, and had used the platform of the PDP to win the governorship seat while Shagari served as his deputy. As compensation for his loyalty to the PDP, the party leadership has pencilled him down for the party’s governorship’s ticket in 2015.

According to sources, the PDP hierarchy was also considering wooing Bafarawa to the party, considering the stormy relationship he had with Wamakko towards the end of their tenure in office. Besides, the handing over of the APC structures in Sokoto State to Wamakko, his reported political foe, is envisaged to be too much for the former governor to stomach.

Similarly, in Kano State, sources say the PDP is equally using all its available contacts to mitigate the effects of Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso’s defection to APC. The ruling party is allegedly trying to capitalise on the complaints by some APC stakeholders led by Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor and former presidential candidate of the defunct ANPP, over the control of the party structures in the state. Already, sources said, there is battle for control of the party machinery between Kwankwaso and Shekarau over the control of the APC structures in state. Supporters of Shekarau have been arguing that the former governor, being a founding member and a former presidential candidate, should be the recognised APC leader in the state, but supporters of Kwankwaso think otherwise. According to them, the governor, being the chief executive of the state, should be accorded respect to lead the APC.

Despite the power tussle, Shekarau was said to have bluntly told the PDP emissaries that recently visited him that he had no intention of leaving the APC, because of what he described as “my disdain for anything PDP.” But the PDP leadership is not willing to give up on persuading Shekarau yet because he is considered a force that can swing the state in its favour and neutralise effect of Kwankwaso’s defection.

In the meantime, the PDP is banking on the popularity of Mohammed Abacha, the eldest surviving son of the late General Sani Abacha, former head of state, to shore up its support base in Kano State. In the last few months, Abacha has been quite visible in the state. Recently, he was part of a PDP delegation that accompanied Bashir Yuguda, minister of state for works, which inspected some federal government projects.

Tukur
Tukur

It is very clear that the PDP would have to work very hard to get Kwara State on its side. For now, the state appears to be solidly in hand of the late Olusola Saraki political dynasty. Bukola Saraki, former governor and currently, a senator, appears to have the state under his arm. For a start, it was Saraki who appointed Ahmed, the current governor, as his successor in 2011. The combination of Saraki and Ahmed is said to be so formidable in the state that it would be difficult for the PDP to penetrate. Ahmed made that clear sometimes ago when he told the APC delegation on a visit to the state that “given the prevailing political structure in Kwara, only Dr. Saraki, a serving senator, could determine the next move of the PDP members in the state.” The people of Kwara State, he said, belonged to a political dynasty and would not give away the structure at any cost. “It is an existing structure for the past 40 years with assured election winning machinery. We are one big family here, under a political structure inherited by our leader Dr. Bukola Saraki. He has given all of us joy and comfort that he can lead us well,” the governor said.

That does not mean that the PDP would not try to wrestle the state back to its fold. But getting people with the political clout to do so does not come easy. According to analysts, getting Dele Belgore, a scion of the Belgore family, governorship candidate of the defunct ACN in the 2011 election, to join the PDP is not an option either. Belgore has been the leader of the APC in the past two years and now, it looks inconceivable to expect Governor Ahmed to play a second fiddle in the state. Besides, a lot of people in the state do not believe that Belgore has the kind of political structure to dislodge the Saraki dynasty.

However, the PDP is said to be depending on Ishola Balogun-Fulani, former chairman of the party in the state, to lead the mobilisation for its support. Added to that, the PDP is equally embattled to regain control of Ekiti and Osun states where governorship elections are to hold this year. While the state governors under the APC are busy flaunting their record of achievements, the PDP is also busy plotting wrestle power from them.

Buruji Kashamu, chairman, organisation and mobilisation committee and Adewole Adeyanju, national auditor, assured that the PDP would surmount all the problems facing it and bounce back stronger to win all the next elections in the South-West, starting with the Ekiti State governorship election. Kashamu and Adeyanju said the party had given them the mandate to recapture the South-West for the PDP, and as such they must find a way to dislodge their common enemy. “As the chairman of the organisation and mobilisation committee, I believe in myself that if we are to win the south-west, we need strong people, political soldiers that can mobilise and organise in order to challenge our enemy. And who are our enemies, we all know that our number one enemy in south-west is Bola Tinubu. And when you’re not strong, tough and sure of yourself, you don’t have anywhere to go if you have to contend with people like him. If we’re ready to work, I’m ready to go if you will stand by me. If you are ready, let us start with Ekiti State governorship election and make it a sample to them,” Kashamu said.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if the PDP’s desperate measures will be enough to reverse the dwindling fortunes of the party in these states. But while all the PDP is working on its own agenda, the APC was reported to have held a reconciliation meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, January 7, to resolve various leadership crisis rocking the party by defection of the five governors from the PDP. The meeting, chaired by Audu Ogbeh, former national chairman of the PDP and now a chieftain of the APC, was said to have told the defected leaders that it was important to work together for the good of the party.

Nwakwo
Nwakwo

On its part, the PDP appears to have shot itself in the foot on Tuesday, January 7, when it announced that it would not offer automatic tickets to its incumbent members in the National Assembly in 2015. “There will be nothing like automatic tickets for anyone; incumbents and challengers seeking the PDP ticket must go through the normal process to secure it,” Joseph Gumbari, PDP chairman, Zone 3 of Kaduna State, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying. This was apparently in response to recent reports which had quoted some federal lawmakers as insisting on automatic tickets for the 2015 race to stop them from joining others that defected to the APC. But Gumbari, a former member of the House of Representatives, insisted that conceding to the demand for automatic would “kill the PDP.”

“No one can blackmail the PDP into making such concessions; we shall give the party’s ticket to only those who deserve it. Those who have performed and are still popular should have nothing to fear. There are many law makers today that cannot visit their constituencies for fear that they could be attacked by their constituents,” he said.

If the policy is sustained then it would be almost impossible for the proponents of automatic ticket for President Jonathan to win. Although he has yet to announce whether he will run for re-election in 2015, it appears that the president’s personal campaign is on course. During the yuletide, Jonathan attended services at different churches in Abuja, to talk about the government policy and programmes. Speaking at the Church of Christ in Nations, COCIN, Area 1, Abuja, where he attended the first Sunday of the year service, on January 5, the president said the flurry in political activities which seemed to be heating the polity was normal. “I will not bore you, but let me reassure you again that myself and those who have been elected this period, that the political environment is always noisy all over the world. There is nowhere you won’t hear so much noise. Even the United States of America, not long ago, the country was almost shut down. For so many months, people were worried that the country that had practised democracy for so many years could get to that situation. But that is politics for you,” Jonathan said. He, however, assured that his administration would continue to work harder to improve the quality of lives in the country. He also said that his administration was committed to tackling all the challenges facing it.

Tackling the challenges facing his administration may earn the president some accolades but it is believed that he will have to work harder for him to be re-elected. Besides, a lot people see Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the PDP, as President Jonathan’s albatross whose leadership style was given as an excuse by the defected governors. But it is believed in some quarters that if the president wants to re-contest he would need Tukur beside him to ward off opposition. That notwithstanding, some analysts said the defection of some members of the ruling party to the opposition party would continue have a negative impact on the president’s leadership capability. “I think President Jonathan is a very weakened president at the moment. He’s been a failure and he really has to do a lot to win back popular support,” Clement Nwankwo, a political analyst and director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, said in an interview recently. Nwankwo said the only way for the PDP to retain the presidency was for Jonathan to tackle all the major problems facing the country or make way for another candidate to pick the PDP ticket.

Dapo Thomas, a lecturer at the Lagos State University, said the defection of members of the ruling party to the opposition was enough for the president to know that he had become unpopular. “He has to choose between saving his party and the realisation of the damage to his own political ambition. “I don’t see the party’s fortunes improving. I see continuous decline of the party because the defections are going to continue to be on the increase for as long as this disenchantment persists,” Thomas said. But Olisah Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, said there was no cause for alarm and that defection was part of politics and should be expected.

Indeed, the defection has apparently shown a shift in the balance of power in the political situation in the country. But it appears that the APC is going to have its own serious challenges soon when primaries are being held for those who will contest the next general elections. A chieftain of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired major-general and former head of state, is believed to be still nursing a presidential ambition and enjoys support in some parts of the north. But that support may not earn him the desired ticket to run on the party platform. One of the options being considered by the APC, according to media report, is to field Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives as its presidential candidate.

As the two parties continue to hold each other in the jugular in order to gain political advantage, it is obvious that the road to 2015 is strewn with a lot of sharks that impeded their success at the poll. In the time being, all the political parties are working frantically to gain the upper hand but how that is going to benefit them is yet to be seen.