Vantage politics towards 2019 and beyond in APC
FROM the crevice of Aso Villa, Abuja, and now, from Lokoja to Yenagoa, the not-so-hidden desire of the North to maintain its hold on power that returned to the region through the 2015 elections is showing. It is indeed taking some roots.
New kid on the block, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party with which the North now controls power at the centre, and also wields it across the country is showing its stuff. The APC won more states than its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election. But it cannot rest on its oars. It wants to expand and gain more grounds.
The North is already guaranteed a presidential ticket, whether in APC or PDP. While the 2019 election still three years away, the game is already on.
Positioning for control and dictation
From the word go, the North with the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency was poised to seize the initiative. For example, the Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu-led South West caucus had assumed that offices and posts would be shared to reflect their status as a principal partner in the APC alliance.
That did not happen. The manner of appointments into various federal offices, departments and agencies alone shows the game plan. The recent ministerial exercise has further eroded the status of APC South-West as a credible partner.
With President Muhammadu Buhari on one side, a northern cabal, which has quickly materialized in his Presidency along with the President’s own political camp on the other, the North emerged unarguably as mover and shaker of things through, and within the APC.
On Tinubu, the partisan powerhouse of South West politics, the northern camp seems to bare its fangs. He appears faced with a careful silent understanding among his fellow northern travelers to have him checked, and if possible neutralized.
This played out in Kogi governorship election crisis despite that the APC at the home front has its divisions in the state along ethnic lines. There is the perception of Tinubu’s sphere of influence as not only strong in the South West, but capable of being exported further afield as in Kogi. He is Jagaban (warrior) of Borgu Kingdom (Niger State).
The 2019 battle
Meanwhile, APC North believes it has to play for expansion. Part of the strategy appears to gain more grounds in the South, if not necessarily to countermand the South West, but create more political room and enhance chances for the future.
Here, the South East, and the South-South are the targets. Northern interest in getting along with the oil-producing minority states of the South is a peculiar feature of Nigerian politics. It is behind the fierce electoral war in Bayelsa State that, leading to “inconclusive” governorship polls like Kogi.
But as in Kogi, the PDP had controlled the southern minority states and the APC’s lot is fight for a foothold. Aside Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and even Delta, Cross River and Edo have been featuring various forms of electoral conflicts. The PDP alleges that Buhari’s Presidency is out to take over states in the zone by force.
As for the South East, APC North assumes that in future elections, individual politicians would come on board. Personal interest, they believe, would colour the zone’s politics as usual, thus making them susceptible to being manipulated and done down.
The Northern gladiators
It seems rather taken for granted that Buhari is poised to contest the 2019 presidential election, except considerations of age or ill-health stops him. It may however not be a straight-forward decision as it would depend on his first term performance on one hand, and on the other, whether the North feels satisfied with eight years of Buhari.
Thus, some politicians speculate that Buhari may opt out after first term for a younger politician. El-Rufai, Tambuwal, Kwankwaso, Shema, Yuguda and a number of other younger elements are mentioned and said to be standing by.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar cannot be wished off , even as he seems of late on the sidelines of Buhari Presidency’s activities. The flame of his ambition to be elected had burned far longer than most politicians in the field and there is no quenching it.
He was 69 last month and easily the most prepared of the aspirants around. From his end, the APC leadership had better play fair, as there will be no pocketing of the Turaki of Adamawa in 2019.
There are increasing questions over the party’s future health. Its national working committee (NWC) has been torn between Buhari Presidency forces and others outside like Tinubu. Tinubu’s support for Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives was outwitted as Atiku’s speculated interest to assume chairmanship of the APC Board of Trustees ragged when Buhari appointed Pastor David Babachir Lawal from Adamawa as Secretary to Government of the Federation.
Younger elements that played key roles in the President’s election such as Fashola and Amaechi have been appointed ministers. How the APC will get back on the page and work for progress remains a challenge in future.
APC and Kogi governorship crisis
The Kogi governorship saga promises not to go away in a hurry. In the open, the battle is between Governor-Elect, Yahaya Bello, whom the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) presented with a certificate of return and James Abiodun Faleke, the official Deputy Governor-Elect who is vehemently protesting Bello’s replacement of deceased Abubakar Audu. Faleke was absent from the ceremony last week.
The Kogi saga has the background of face-off between Buhari and the cabal in his Presidency and Tinubu whom some politicians say had moved to take control of the state.
But it brings into sharper focus the underbelly of state creation exercises in Nigeria, which had been done to remove domination by larger groups in old Regions and states but ended up creating worse forms of domination.
Kogi and Benue are among the worst examples where states have become smaller but there are dominant ethnic groups. The Igala elites have since creation literally ran Kogi in their own image and Faleke, an Okun (Yoruba axis) who is actually a Lagos politician and Tinubu’s political son, maintains his resolve to continue protesting the controversial replacement of late Audu with Bello.
Faleke had been elected twice as council chairman in Lagos before he went to the Reps and from where he was drafted as running mate to Audu. He wrote to INEC to protest Bello’s nomination and decline to be running mate to Bello.
He was poised to pursue the matter further in court. Like him, out-going Governor Idris Wada, the defeated PDP candidate is also fighting in court. But while Wada’s case seem likely to continue at the judiciary, Faleke’s may wear down with time as the rankles brought to Audu’s supporters with his (Audu) sudden death heals.
Wada and PPD claim to having won the election. They argue that it was wrong for Audu’s votes to be inherited by Bello who was originally not on the APC ticket.
Bello enjoys the support of the NWC and the state working committee who have to back their chosen man. Faleke seems torn between returning to his seat in the Reps and acceding to “peace moves” by the APC leadership. The Kogi governorship crisis may gradually fade into the shadows but is until future elections. When they come, the political/ethnic wars would return in full force.
Buhari and his popularity
As it is, the President continues to ride on his image as best suited for the task of fixing Nigeria. Kogi and Bayelsa elections provided the first crucial test of how elections would be conducted under the APC administration.
The word “inconclusive” is now built into the consciousness of Nigerians as if it were a new phenomenon. This does not necessarily detract from the worth of the elections. But it serves to inform both the Buhari Presidency and the newly re-constituted INEC, chaired by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, that it could create misconceptions about the electoral body.