Unarguably, drums for the 2019 elections have been rolled out and politicians, including those holding elective offices and those that want to unseat them are already holding nocturnal meetings. This is more evident in some states from where our correspondents look at the scheming.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was the first to fire the salvo early this year when it said political parties were expected to complete their primary elections for the presidential, governorship, national and state assemblies by October this year.
In the time table and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections, INEC said the presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on February 16, 2019 while governorship and state assembly elections would be conducted on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
It said the conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from primaries should be conducted between August 18, 2018 and October 7, 2018 for national and state elections while that of the FCT Area Councils were slated for between September 4 and October 27, 2018.
With this in view, the issue of who becomes governor has overwhelmed any other issue in many states.
APC, PDP facing battle of wits in Bauchi
Unarguably, the battle in Bauchi will be tough for both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But pundits believe that the APC will however face the toughest, going by the political wrangling in the party among its strongest members who are also holders of elective offices.
Its federal lawmakers who had since 2015 immediately after the elections parted ways with Governor Mohammed Abubakar, constitute the greatest challenge to the cohesiveness needed for the party to face the 2019 elections, especially the governorship race.
The camp which is led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, YakubuDogara, Senator Ali Wakili and others is a force to reckon with in Bauchi State’s political circle.
Politicians who contested for governorship tickets in 2015 are reportedly working either openly or underground to challenge Governor Abubakar In 2019. Some of them, like the former Police Affairs minister, Yakubu Ibrahim Lame, retired Captain BalaJibrin and ex- minister Mohammed Ali Pate, have already indicated their interests to vie for the governorship ticket in 2019.
However, the lawmakers are not immune to the political threats because, except for YakubuDogara who does not have a strong opponent in his Bogoro/TafawaBalewa/ Dass Federal Constituency, all the others, including the three senators will face challenges from opponents either in their party, the ruling APC or other opposition parties including the PDP that may present candidates with strong political acumen and financial muscle to match their own.
The argument is that in the event Governor Abubakar feels threatened by them, he might go into alliance with other politicians by promising them tickets, especially going by the fact that in most instances, chief executives do have their ways with delegates.
Besides, the PDP as the biggest opposition party in the state will also have its own share of challenges as the 2019 elections draw near.
The Bauchi State chapter of the party almost disintegrated immediately after the 2015 elections because of the strong rivalry between the camps of former governor IsahYuguda, former FCT Minister Senator Bala Mohammed and that of former governor and ex- national chairman of the party, Ahmed AdamuMu’azu.
Yuguda later left the party and joined the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN) where he is presently expected to run for the Bauchi South Senatorial seat to challenge Senator Ali Wakili who defeated him in 2019.
The exit of Yuguda left the stage for other strong PDP members like Bala Mohammed and Senator Abdul Ningi who are all desirous of vying for the governorship ticket. The growing political relevance being enjoyed by opposition parties like the New Nigeria People’s Party ( NNPP) People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Green Party of Nigeria ( GPN) and others will also pose a great challenge to both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP in Bauchi.
However, what the ruling APC and the opposition PDP do in the shortest possible time will determine whether or not it will be an easy ride for each of them and their candidates in the 2019 elections.
For the ruling APC, the much needed reconciliation between its members, especially the lawmakers and other stakeholders including Governor Abubakar, who have been at daggers drawn with oneanother, will save the day.
For many political observers, failure to reconcile members of the party ahead of the 2019 elections may leave the party without focus to face the growing opposition within and outside and that may spell doom for the party.
For the opposition PDP, it may be more epic as most of the forces within the party are not relenting to pursue their interests more than they did in 2015. Senator BabayoGarbaGamawa, Senator Abdul Ningi, Senator Bala Mohammed and ShehuGabam are the forces in Bauchi PDP that may decide its fate in 2019.
Abdul Ningi and Bala Mohammed have already indicated their interests, but Gamawa who is a national officer of the party is said to be holding his cards close to his chest and may make his intention known soon, a move which many believe may change the whole political scenario for the PDP.
Over 30 aspirants in Nasarawa
Barely a year to the 2019 general elections, over 30 politicians in NasarawaState have already shown interest to occupy the governorship seat after Governor UmaruTanko Al-Makura rounds off his second term.
The battle for the governorship has commenced in earnest and old rivalries have been re-ignited amidst heavy political activities that have reached an unprecedented level.
Meetings, intrigues, consultations, realignments and conflicts of interest as well as aggregations have taken the centre stage. Platforms being put together and strategies for consensus are being explored across the state.
The battle in Nasarawa will be between the ruling APC, the PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as any other party.
The major battle for now is in the APC because most of the strong contenders vying for the governorship are under its platform. Right now, about 17 politicians have billboards and posters across the state.
Pundits believe that if the leadership of the party does not manage the situation well, it might affect its fortunes.
Pressure is mounting because the opposition PDP is shrinking following the defectionof some stalwarts including Senator AbubakarSodangi, Hon Ahmed AliyuWadada, the current Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, GodiyaAkwashiki and three members who have all trooped to the APC.
But sources say the PDP is also trying to recover lost grounds with its leadership working day and night and silently to woo opposition figures like LabaranMaku from APGA who left the party shortly after losing the primary in 2015.
Daily Trust reliably gathered that the major hindrance to Maku’s return to PDP is his insistence that he should be adopted as the party’s sole candidate, a condition that has been reportedly rejected by some key stakeholders of the party.
Another factor heightening the climate in Nasarawa is what power mongers call ‘Political correctness,’ that is the struggle for the shift of power to northern part of the state which is yet to produce a governor 20 years after the creation of the state. One other factor that will make the intensity of the battle high in Nasarawa is that the campaign would be brimmed by ethnic and religious sentiment. Most of the candidates from all the parties to watch may likely rely on these factors.
Just last week, one of the strongest contending ethnic groups, the Mada, threatened that if their son doesnot emerge as APC flag bearer, they would not vote for the party in 2019.
The drama will be toughest among gladiators in APC with the likes of the current deputy governor Silas Agara, deputy speaker of the House of Assembly GodiyaAkwashiki, former House of Representatives Hon Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, Architect Shehu Ahmed Tukur, the member representing Nasarawa/Toto Federal Constituency, Architect MuhammedJafaru Ibrahim, the Group Managing Director of Dangote Sugar Company, Engineer AbdullahiSule, Muhammed Musa Maikaya, James Angbazo, InusaMuhammed andTanimuSalihu among others.
In the opposition PDP, the contenders at moment include Senator Philip Aruwa Gyunka, former deputy governor of the state Damishi Barau Luka, Senator Patricia Akwashiki, Michael Abdul and the 2015 gubernatorial candidate of the party, Yusuf Agabi.
In APGA, there is LabaranMakuwhile Senator Suleiman Musa Nagogo is coming from the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Iliyus Favor is from the Independent Democrat (ID).
PDP, APGA, APC to slug it out in Imo
Imo State which prides itself as the “Eastern Heartland’’ is one of the states in the country that will probably experience a hot struggle for power, especially for the exalted office of the governor in 2019. Clearly, it’s not going to be a tea party even for the ruling APC, which Governor RochasOkorocha joined after clinching victory on the plank of APGA, a party he later dumped.
It was learnt that some notable figures joined APGA recently. These include but not limited to prominent individuals such as the former state chairman of the PDP, Dr Alex Obi from EnyioguguMbaise. Also, the notable Mbaise-born road transporter, owner of ABC motors, Mr Frank Nneji, is said to have joined APGA. It is being widely speculated that Nneji is interested in contesting the governorship in 2019. Also, a former governorship aspirant, Bright Nwanne, is eyeing the governorship position on the plank of APGA.
In the same way, Humphrey Anumudu from Mbaitolu and OkeyEze, formerly the United Progressives Party (UPP) governorship candidate in the 2015 poll and a former House of Representatives member, Chief UcheOnyeaguocha from Owerri, left the APC in November 2017 and joined APGA. There are also numerous others who want to run on the APGA platform.
On the part of PDP, it was gathered that the party that once claimed to be the biggest party in Africa is now strategizing and struggling to reach out to those who matter to win the governorship election next year.
Presently, it is not clear whether the PDP will present Chief EmekaIhedioha as its candidate in 2019, according to an insider in the camp of the politician. Ihedioha was the party’s candidate in the 2015 governorship poll.
There seems to be uncertainty in the state APC in terms of the right candidate to succeed Governor Okorocha. It was learnt that Okorocha’s much talked about plot to allow his son in-law, UcheNwosu who hails from the same Orlu zone with the governor, to take over from him might cause the final collapse of APC in the state.
A chieftain of the APC from Owerri zone, Mr Lawrence, said Okorocha would never have his way through manipulation.
“Imo people believe that the offspring of a snake will always be long, they think that anybody coming from Okorocha will just be another RochasOkorocha in disguise. So if APC brings out any candidate with the backing of Okorocha, such candidate should consider himself a loser,” he said.
“The people will just collect their bags of rice, money and still vote out the APC because of the Okorocha factor. They did it to IkediOhakim and they can still do it to Okorocha and his choice candidate,” he added.
He, however, emphasized that the Senator IfeanyiArarume factor should not be ignored in the politics of the state, noting that his existing political structure which he nurtured over the years is a big advantage for the Okigwe-born politician who has always wanted to govern Imo.
It was gathered that by the time the PDP completes its strategizing, APGA sorts out its scheming and APC is through with her intrigues, the coast would be clearer for any political watcher to make forecast.
“But for now, let’s keep our fingers crossed,” he said.
It’s dicey in Yobe
In Yobe, the calculation is dicey because certain factors will play out in both in APC and PDP, the main parties in the state.
Majority of the political bigwigs are in the APC from where the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, is serving his last term in office.
But, his long silence over who would replace him has made the polity too hazy about the candidate to fly the party’s ticket. What is certain is that almost all the prospective candidates are either afraid to declare interest or are waiting to be anointed by the governor.
Political observers in the state believe that although Governor Gaidam has not yet disclosed his preferred candidate, whoever eventually emerges as his candidate would have to his advantage, the 17 local government chairmen, 17 vice chairmen, 17 council secretaries, 68 supervisory councilors, 178 elected councilors and the party structures in the 178 political wards because of their unshaken loyalty to the governor.
The names of Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan, the National Secretary of the APC, MaimalaBuni, a former Chief of Staff to the governor who is now the Head of Service in the state, SalehAbubakar, the outgoing deputy governor Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu and a member of the House of Representatives Alh. SidiYakubuKarasuwa, who served as Director-General of Gaidam’s campaign two times, the minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hajiya Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim and some commissioners are being touted as likely successors.
In the opposition PDP, a war of attrition occasioned by legal tussles has been raging for long with factional excos loyal to ex-Police Affairs minister AlhajiAdamuMainaWaziri and ex-Minister of State for Finance, Dr. YerimaLawanNgama, relentlessly working to tear the party apart.
Waziri and Ngama had at one time or the other vied for the party’s governorship ticket. Another person likely to vie for the PDP ticket is Senator Mohammed Hassan (Dambu). For now, they are silent, maybe trying to capitalize on what the APC would come up with.
Serious contention in AkwaIbom
AkwaIbom State falls into the league of states that will be seriously contending for the votes of electorates in 2019, owing to the fact that political giants in the state belong to the two major parties, the PDP and APC.
While the state governor, MrUdom Emmanuel, Senate Minority Leader GodswillAkpabio and most political bigwigs in the state are in the PDP, other political stalwarts like Senator ItaEnang, the Senior Special Adviser to President Buhari on National Assembly (Senate Matters) MrNsimaEkere, the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission Mr UmanaUmana, the Managing Director, Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Group Capt. Sampson Ewang (Rtd), the member, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Chief John Akpan Udoedeghe are all members of the APC.
These political gladiators showed how divided the state was along party lines during the December 2, 2017 local government elections, where the giants fought tooth and nail to deliver their wards and constituencies through every legitimate and illegitimate means.
While the PDP was declared to have won in 21 local government areas and 329 wards of the state, the opposition party cried foul and wanted a cancellation of the results. This was never to be.
Though frayed nerves have calmed down, the political gladiators have sworn to take the fight to 2019. The PDP have declared that winning the elections is their birth right, and that no otherparty would clinch the mandate in 2019.
In a telephone conversation with Daily Trust, the State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, MrIniobingEmemobong, said since the party was in the majority, and was bound to win the elections.
He said, “The PDP was established for the purpose of going for elections and winning. In AkwaIbom, we are used to winning, it is a habit and I can bet that when any election comes, the God of winning will be on our side and we will win again.
“Mark this, the Egyptians you see today, you will see them no more. This is not our battle, it is a divine mandate. We will wait on the Lord and He will fight for us. The PDP is a religion, PDP is a recurring decimal here,PDP is a corner stone here.
“In politics, the majority will have their way, they will allow the minority to have their say, and the easiest way to have your say is through the media. So, they can keep talking on radio, talking on Facebook, but we will keep winning elections,” he added.
Recently, the PDP in the state seemed to be in troubled waters when Akpabio said his senatorial district may not support Governor Emmanuel in 2019 for not completing projects started by his administration.
When the media went agog with claims of a fight between the erstwhile governor and the incumbent, Akpabio through a press statement denied any rift. He described the insinuation as the handiwork of political jobbers, explaining that he could not be engaged in a feud with an administration he helped to create.
He said, “It is obvious that the concerns raised by the senator during the end-of-year stakeholders meeting organised by the deputy governor that all was not well was misunderstood and political jobbers sought to feast on it.
“What the senator said was that their house should be put in order so that the votes from IkotEkpene Senatorial District would be put intact for Governor Emmanuel in the next election. Senator Akpabio is satisfied that the areas of concern raised by the stakeholders which were further explained by the governor during the follow-up meeting with him to the satisfaction of the stakeholders present at the meeting were receiving the attention of the government,” the statement said.
Ambode’s re-election and Lagos APC’s no auto-ticket claim
In Lagos State, the battle for Alausa Government House is between the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and others. Though Ambode has yet to come out to declare for second term, it is just natural that he would seek to extend his mandate in Lagos, the most economically viable state beyond 2019 like his predecessors – BabatundeFashola and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Ambode has no doubt endeared himself to many Lagosians with the massive infrastructural projects which he has embarked upon and which have made many of his admirers to conclude that his second term bid would be a done deal.
But he has equally stepped on toes with his many policies which seek to bring discomfort to the masses and obfuscate their sources of livelihood. These are some of the hurdles to his re-election bid if not properly handled.
Daily Trust gathered that the stage has already been set for his second term bid and he is only biding his time to declare. The recent minor cabinet reshuffle where he dropped three commissioners was seen as a move to oil the campaign machinery which his followers have already reactivated as recent events have shown.
Some government officials have kicked started the campaign in earnest by floating groups and organizations to make case for Ambode’s second term. This has already become a slogan in government circles.
One of the groups that have become visible in advocating for Ambode is the ItesiwajuEko Group founded by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr. AbdullateefAbdulHakeem, who is believed to be one of the diehard supporters of the governor and a key stabilizing factor in his government by virtue of his activities in fostering harmonious and peaceful habitation of different religious adherents in the state.
But the PDP has already raised an eyebrow over early campaigns for Ambode in violation of the Electoral Act. The PDP, despite losing many grounds with the defection of seven of its eight members in the House of Assembly, as well as the recent defection of a former Defence Minister, MusiliuObanikoro, among many others, still remains the only viable opposition in the state.
Sources say the party is working underground to present a viable and neutral candidate that could give Ambode a run for his money and the so-called mass acceptance.
In the ruling APC, the leadership has vowed that there would be no automatic ticket for any candidate including Ambode but the fact is that Ambode stands the best chance to clinch the ticket.
It was however learnt that those who contested the ticket with him in 2015 have not jettisoned their ambition. Also, there has been no love lost among some chieftains of the party. The National Legal Adviser, Dr. MuizBanire, is not in good terms with the governor and the gulf is widening on a daily basis within the political family.
This is another factor that could play up in the build-up to the election. But in all, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, still has the final say on who becomes the flag bearer for 2019.
Speaking with our correspondent, the APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said calls for Ambode’s continuity were being championed by individuals who believe that the governor has performed excellently to deserve a second term.