2015 Elections: A Time to Choose (3); Focus on Akwa Ibom, Nasarawa, Taraba, Oyo, Kano, By Olusegun Adeniyi

Posted by News Express | 22 January 2015 | 4,930 times

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I wonder how my friend, Abba Risqua Mohammed, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial running mate in Kano State, would have felt on Monday to see his late father and national hero, General Murtala Mohammed being denigrated on the front page of a national newspaper. It is all the more galling that such stupidity was sponsored by a governor within his own party who is promoting President Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately, while a person like Ayo Fayose may lack the capacity to appreciate the danger inherent in such recklessness, nobody in government has had the presence of mind to distance President Jonathan from the advertorial that is hate speech writ large.

To show how sinister the advertorial is in its divisiveness, Nigeria’s first military leader, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, who died in office in similar circumstance as Murtala was conveniently omitted just to make the callous and patently false point that leaders who hail from a section of the country usually die in office; and so for that “reason”, Nigerians should not vote for Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) on February 14. And I feel personally offended that any sane person would criminalise the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (to whom Jonathan was deputy) just because he died in office aside putting him in the same league as the late General Sani Abacha. Nothing can be more irresponsible.

“Ma f’orun yo mi, gbogbo wa la jo n lo” is a popular Yoruba adage which translates into “don’t make mockery of the bereaved because death is a debt we all owe”. Unfortunately, the import of such a wise saying is beyond the comprehension of some people who are saddled with responsibilities far beyond them. Even at that, how can anybody canvass that Nigerians must vote for Jonathan for no other reason than that some previous leaders who hail from the North died in office against the background that his main challenger also hails from that zone, and may therefore die if elected? What worries me is the danger such a campaign portends at this most delicate time in our country’s fractured history. Perhaps what should worry the pro-Jonathan crowd even more is that such adverts don’t win you friends, they are usually counter-productive.

I need to stress, for all that it is worth, that I am not a fan of Buhari because the contradictions of his stewardship as Head of State three decades ago were just too many and beyond the current façade of changing his costumes from Port Harcourt to Abeokuta, I have not seen any evidence of the “change” he promises. I am also not one of those Nigerians who would, because of my disenchantment with the status quo—and I have serious misgivings about the stewardship of the incumbent—argue that it is anybody but Jonathan. I am too reflective and mindful of Nigeria’s history of disappointment with leaders to be easily swayed by such campaign. I must be convinced of the change being sold to buy into it and I am yet to be convinced of what Buhari brings to the table, as disappointed as I am about the way and manner the Jonathan presidency has (mis)managed some critical national issues.

However, it is much evident that the people around the president are running scared of the All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential candidate in the way it never happened in the past and for that reason, some of them are doing dumb things. By targeting Buhari and making his religion, his region, his ethnicity, his certificate, his age and all such things that may matter little to the voters their campaign manifesto, the president and his handlers are merely, albeit inadvertently, creating the impression that they are desperate.

It is indeed one of the most cruel ironies of the times we live in that politicians who have scarcely any ideas on how to make our lives better have resorted to brandishing the spectre of death for their opponents. Instead of being asked to exercise the democratic right of choosing between the prospects of good versus bad governance, we are being asked to exercise our franchise on the foolish assumption that age has a correlation with death. To the extent that Nigerians are shopping for a genuine leader, the silly posturing of some merchants of death and scare mongers would have no effect on February 14. Fayose should therefore find better ways of expressing his gratitude to those who facilitated his return to gubernatorial eminence.

What should worry important stakeholders in the Nigerian project is that at a time our country is in a critical juncture in her history, neither the incumbent nor the challenger is prepared to begin a proper conversation on how to wean our economy of oil, reduce the size and cost of governance, revamp the education sector, tackle the security challenge, find an enduring solution to the seemingly intractable power situation etc. All we are being told are either to just expect some mythical Eldorado from an opposition party whose membership is derived mainly from the same ruling party it derides or wait for some for phantom jobs (in millions) that the incumbent would create if re-elected, something he has been unable to do in the last five years when he has had more petrodollars in his hands than he would possibly have in future.

All these and many more are, however, not issues for today as I want to continue, and probably conclude, the series on the gubernatorial contests in the states. In the two previous editions of this series, I have looked at some of the factors that will shape the elections and the fact that the future may be far different from the past given that oil prices are now on a free fall. With the 2015 budget projections now in total disarray, many of the states will be hard-hit by the economic crunch that will come as their allocations from the Federation Account dwindle.

AKWA IBOM: Governor Godswill Akpabio is a man made for the soap box and it is from that platform that he declared that the upcoming election in Akwa Ibom is a battle for the soul of the State. Nobody will disagree with him on this. Akwa Ibom is one of those states that politicians and public commentators refer to as a PDP state. However, the evidence on ground and the governor's admission of a brewing battle suggests that some things have happened to alter the calculus and put Akwa Ibom in play. A review of these developments will give some insights to enable credible analysis.

Upon assuming office in 2007, Akpabio appointed Umana Okon Umana as Secretary to the State Government. Umana had served as a commissioner-colleague of Akpabio in the previous government of Obong Victor Atta where he handled the finance portfolio. It was not a secret that Akpabio either intended to (or perhaps was obligated to) hand over to Umana who helped his aspiration to be governor at a time Attah had plotted to hand over to his son-in-law, Bob Ekarika, who was also a commissioner in his government. Indeed, most people in Akwa Ibom believed that then Deputy Governor Nsima Ekere's governorship ambition in defiance of Akpabio's disposition led to his precipitate resignation from office in 2012. But Umana himself was sacked by Akpabio the following year. These are the main events that have set the stage for the unfolding drama.

To succeed Umana as Secretary to the State Government, Akpabio tapped Lagos-based Executive Director of Zenith Bank, Mr Udom Emmanuel. The governor's body language was not difficult for stakeholders to read. The SSG post was to groom Udom Emmanuel to take over from Akpabio. Apart from Udom Emmanuel's considerable accomplishments as a banker, he also fits into the zoning formula being promoted by the governor and later adopted by the PDP state chapter. Ikot Ekpene, Uyo and Eket are the senatorial districts. Akpabio is from Ikot Ekpene while his predecessor, Atta hails from Uyo. So zoning the governorship to Eket will be the fair thing for rotation. However, things are never that straight forward especially in Nigeria. The majority Ibibio people bestride the three senatorial districts but the Oron people, the third in the tripod after the Ibibios and Annangs are in Eket senatorial district and are demanding that one of their sons be made Governor. While Udom Emmanuel is from Eket senatorial district, he happens to be Ibibio!

Before the PDP primaries, it was evident that with Akpabio’s backing, Udom would get the ticket so Umana opted to join the APC and wrestled the party's ticket from Udoedeghe.  But after Udom emerged victorious, all the other 22 aggrieved PDP aspirants rejected the process. Now dubbed G22, their efforts in Abuja to jettison Udom came to nought and last Saturday they returned to a mammoth crowd at Uyo airport and have now thrown their weight behind Umana.

To be sure, the Akwa Ibom gubernatorial contest is not a referendum on the governor’s “uncommon transformation” but rather a fierce battle from those who resent the idea of one man imposing a candidate for the state. There is no doubt that Udom is a calm and intelligent man who would run a successful administration in Akwa Ibom if elected. But passions are running so high that even my brother and arm-chair politician, Edo Ukpong has left his lucrative law practice in Lagos and relocated to Akwa Ibom to line up with the anti-Akpabio forces. He is, however, not alone. Heavy weight politicians like the Obong Attahs, the Don Etiebets, the Ime Umanahs, the Rita Akpans and others have also teamed up against Akpabio. Even Senator Ita Enang who once declared that PDP senators who defected to APC have automatically vacated their seats has himself now defected to the APC and joined the anti-Akpabio forces.

Notwithstanding, Akpabio still remains a popular man with the people of Akwa Ibom and he has a record with which to campaign for his candidate. However, the fallout of the PDP fractured primaries in the state and subsequent realignment of forces has hurt the party so much that while the odds remain hugely in favour of Udom, nobody will be surprised if the February 28 election produces some “uncommon outcome”!

NASARAWA: This state enjoys a stretch of boundary of convenience with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) but without a commensurate level of beauty and development of Abuja. Its brand of democracy is stewed in primordial considerations in which tribe, religion and all sorts of imponderables feature as state policy. In the 2015 elections, there are two main parties, PDP and APC and a third movement being spearheaded by the former Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku who has pitched his tent with APGA.

In Nasarawa State, PDP had traditionally been the party of choice beginning from 1999. However, the equation began to change in 2007 when one of the biggest political gladiators in the state, Solomon Ewuga changed parties and introduced a semblance of deliberate opposition with the ANPP on which platform he contested and won election as a senator. Ewuga also ensured the success of some members into both the state House of Assembly and the House of Representatives. That would lay the foundation for the opposition politics that gave birth to the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) government of Tanko Almakura that is now part of the APC machine.

Although the PDP won the 2011 presidential election in Nasarawa state by a considerable margin, Al-Makura’s CPC was able to win the governorship election because of protests within the then ruling party that saw to the defeat of then incumbent Governor Aliyu Akwe Idoma. However, while PDP ended up being in the opposition, it has had more members in the State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives as well as two senators. 

In the coming election, the PDP, which has remained a troubled opposition in the state, has as its governorship candidate, Mr. Yusuf Agabi, a retired director in the federal civil service. Even though Agabi is generally seen as a political neophyte, he is definitely not a push over otherwise he would not have won the primaries. As for the APC, the flag bearer is the incumbent Al-Makura who has virtually alienated all the people who helped him to power in 2011. It is also on record that under him community crises have enveloped the state to the point that 64 or so security men lost their lives in a sleepy village called Lakyo in Lafia Local Government area. Additionally, the Eggon people who gave Al-Makura the critical support that made him win the 2011 governorship have openly shown their animosity to him.

That perhaps may be what is giving impetus to the aspiration of Maku, a practicing journalist until 1999 when he was introduced into non-student union politics as a commissioner for information in the Government of Abdullahi Adamu. Four years later in 2003, Maku became the deputy governor but efforts to succeed his boss in 2007 failed and he was in political abeyance for almost two years until Governor Doma recommended him to President Jonathan as minister. He was reappointed in 2011 and became part of the inner caucus until ambition made him to resign in the bid to be governor on the platform of the PDP. He lost the primaries of December 8th, 2014 and petitioned the party's headquarters but was not pleased with how things were handled so he left PDP and he is now the APGA gubernatorial candidate for the state. Maku is probably relying on his Eggon people who feel short-changed that someone from the southern zone would be staying in power for another four years. 

On all grounds of ethnicity, religion and zone, Maku is justified to feel angry by the turn of events in his party but the tedium of politics requires much more than that. From all indications, APGA does not have a structure on the ground while the feeling within the PDP is that the only beneficiary from Maku’s aspiration is incumbent Governor Al-Makura. However, as it was in the past, the real alignment of political forces in Nasarawa State will begin after the February 14 presidential election. So for now, the race is still too close to call but the incumbent has an edge.

TARABA: In this state, former Niger Delta Minister, Mr. Darius Ishaku is up against a serving senator, APC’s Hajiya Aisha Alhassan and a maverick billionaire, David Sabo Kente running on the ticket of the SDP. Currently, the three musketeers are in Jalingo and environs trying to garner support from the one million odd voters who would determine their electoral fortunes on February 28. But Darius clearly has an advantage. He is the consensus candidate from Southern Taraba and is said to be the choice of General T.Y. Danjuma.

It is believed that Danjuma was given the opportunity by the national leadership of the ruling party to produce the gubernatorial candidate for his home state and he tapped Darius whom he had earlier nominated into the Federal Executive Council. Beyond this, the zoning formula in the state favours southern Taraba- the zone that has not produced a governor so far in the history of the state. And there is the little but very important detail that Darius hails from Takum, the home town of Danjuma.

Incidentally, Taraba has witnessed some macabre political drama ever since Governor Dambaba Suntai had a plane crash in 2012. Three weeks before the crash, he had got the House of Assembly to impeach his then deputy, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi. In his stead, Suntai brought in Umar who would later seek to upstage his boss. But amid the drama, the Supreme Court ruled to invalidate the impeachment of Danladi who is now back as acting governor and helmsman of the state. He has thrown his weight behind the party and its candidate. So in a way, Darius is enjoying the power of incumbency which favours power shift while Acting GovernorSani is running for Senate from the Northern senatorial zone.

The APC candidate, Senator Aisha Alhassan, is running on the need for a gender power shift. In a recent campaign rally she said the state should look beyond geographical consideration and rather focus on gender matters. She said a woman would make a better leader in the state. Alhassan, a former commissioner and an Abuja based judge, has an uphill task in the sense that Taraba is still a conservative society. But Alhassan is still a strong contender who is campaigning hard and brandishing her achievements at the senate.

The last of the titans is Kente, a former deputy director of finance at the National Assembly, who is running on the ticket of a relatively unknown party- the Social Democratic Party (SDP) after he was defeated at the PDP primaries. The aspiration of Kente, who is from the southern part of the state, is causing disquiet because the zone wanted to present a single front at the poll. He is running on what onlookers view as his popularity among the youth. But Taraba is a predominantly PDP state and for that reason, Darius remains the man to beat on February 28.

OYO: For the first time in the history of Oyo State, five major political parties are presenting strong contenders in the mould of the incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi (APC), Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala (Labour Party), Senator Rashidi Ladoja (Accord), Senator Teslim Folarin (PDP) and Mr. Seyi Makinde (SDP). Perhaps for the first time also, the local saying that “Ibadan people never serve a governor twice” may be dealt a decisive blow as most pundits believe that between the incumbent Governor Ajimobi and either of his two predecessors (Alao-Akala and Ladoja), one will win the February 28 election.

It is indeed noteworthy that since Oyo State was created in 1976, no civilian governor has been elected twice. In the Second Republic, the late Chief Bola Ige of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was governor from 1979 to 1983 when he was defeated by Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo of the equally defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Olunloyo’s tenure barely lasted three months when the military struck and truncated the regime.

In the aborted Third Republic, the late Chief Kolapo Ishola was elected governor in 1991 and also spent about two years in office before the experiment was truncated. And since the current dispensation begun in 1999, it has been a succession of one-term governors. The late Alhaji Lam Adesina was governor until he lost his re-election bid to Ladoja of the PDP in 2003. Ladoja, whose tenure was characterised by unrest due to the cold war with his godfather, the late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu could not get re-election in 2007 and also suffered impeachment in-between the turbulent four-year tenure. Akala, the erstwhile Deputy-Governor who became the beneficiary of Ladoja's impeachment ruled for the 11-month interregnum before he was elected in 2007 as a substantive governor under the same PDP. 

However, Akala’s bid for re-election failed as he was defeated by Ajimobi in 2011. Incidentally, both Ladoja and Akala have resurfaced to bid again for the governorship of Oyo State in contest in which four of the main contenders hail from Ibadan: Ajimobi, Ladoja, Folarin and Makinde while Alao-Akala is from Ogbomosho.

Without any doubt, Ladoja’s political machinery is formidable despite the fact that he runs on the platform of Accord party. Senator Folarin of PDP is also not a push over in any election and with the backing of the Federal Government solidly in his favour, anybody who underestimates him does so at his or her own peril. Even though Akala and Makinde left the PDP after they lost the party primaries, Folarin appears to have made more success in reaching out to other defeated aspirants. He also enjoys tremendous support in Oke-Ogun through the influence of the incumbent Deputy-Senate whip, Hosea Ayoola Agboola who hails from the area. The youngest of the contenders and perhaps the biggest spender is Makinde, who is popular on the streets but one cannot say the same of his party that is new to the state. However, given the way the race is panning out, the incumbent Ajimobi remains perhaps the man to beat in a keenly contested race that may perhaps even go to the second ballot.

KANO: Under the current dispensation, Kano is the only state where the outgoing Governor  (Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso) has put his support and structure behind his deputy, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of APC who will slug it out with Salihu Sagir Takai of the PDP in a contest that promises interesting outcome.

A former Local Government Chairman and one time commissioner under Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (now Education Minister), Takai was the ANPP candidate in the 2011 election who ran against the incumbent Governor Kwankwaso and he lost. But being a close associate of Shekarau, it was easy for him to secure the PDP ticket with the added advantage of having as his running mate, Risqua Mohammed.

On the APC side, Ganduje was a former director in the federal civil service in charge of Abuja Development Control before he became Kwankwaso’s running mate and eventually deputy after they won in 1999. After the 2003 election, he became Kwankwaso’s adviser as Defense Minister from where he was appointed as Executive Secretary of Lake Chad Commission. In 2011 he returned as Deputy to Kwankwaso and is now the APC flag-bearer. Governor Kwankwaso has been lucky to have had an opportunity to govern Kano at two different times and to the extent that he has done well, that goodwill will naturally be transferred to his deputy. What’s more, Buhari has a cult like followership in Kano that will quite naturally rub off on the APC gubernatorial candidate.

Another respected candidate in the race is Bashir Ishaq who is running on the platform of the People's Democratic Movement (PDM). A mechanical engineer by profession, Ishaq is perhaps the only one who is discussing issues. He wants a debate on such issues as basic education from Primary to Secondary level, how to revamp and put agriculture and commerce on the front burner as well as on how diversify Kano’s revenue base. With extensive experience in the private sector, Ishaq comes with brilliant ideas on how to construct dual fuel power plants to resuscitate the comatose industrial sector in Kano, address the challenges of manpower shortages in the health sector and equip all Secondary health care facilities to world standard. He also intends to initiate small scale industry schemes via Microfinance banks to provide financial linkages for tailors, butchers, carpenters and other artisans. As lofty as these objectives are, the problem with Ishaq’s aspiration is that he is running on the platform of a party that does not have a strong structure either in Kano or anywhere else.

So at the end of the day, the contest in Kano would most likely still be a straight fight between Ganduje of the APC and Takai of the PDP and the odds favour the former.

•This piece by Adeniyi (shown in photo) originally appeared in his column “The Verdict” in today’s edition of ThisDay. He can be reached via olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

Source: News Express

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