….as party leaders, aspirants take to social media

By OLUSESAN LAOYE

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, seems true to be changing or ways of life as President Buhari said in his recent national broadcast. Even political who live and dream all politics have learned a bitter lesson from the virus that life comes first. Everybody appears to be running for dear life.

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus which is now ravaging the whole world including  Nigeria, there were high hopes for political activities to peak Nigeria as two crucial governorship elections are scheduled for this year in Edo and Ondo states, with the political parties already in top preparation trying to map out new strategies to be relevant.

Issues regarding the elections had dominated the news since last year as the incumbent governors, Mr Godwin Obaseki and Rotimi Akeredolu respectively, battled the national chairman of the ruling APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, for the second term ticket, which he seemed to be hell-bent to deny them.

The atmosphere had reached a feverish pitch when the anti-Oshiomhole group actual decided to remove him through legal means by first suspending him at his ward in the state and then getting two courts orders to suspend him. The tension was high in the air as it looked his end had come, but Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s intervention received presidential support to save him. The move also seemed to have resolved the crisis in Ondo state over the second term ticket.

Even before the resolution of this dispute in APC in the two states, the battle for the 2023 presidential race was also already gathering momentum, which many people considered as inordinate and a distraction for the government. With the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari no longer a factor in consideration, new contestants were showing interests, and deft moves were being made as many names come into play.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has sent everybody home and put paid to activities which could have boosted the plans of individuals and political parties that are trying to move ahead of others to win the heart of the people.

In the All Progressives  Congress, the reconciliation move by the party to bring together aggrieved members in all the states has now been put on hold till further notice, while the simmering battle goes underground. The Bisi Akande led Presidential Committee was about to commence work and embark on a nationwide tour when the monster, the coronavirus, struck, ending every political ambition of men.

The Committee had announced that it had received over 150 memoranda and was to set to work. But the week they were expected to move, the lockdown order from the president came, which prompted the secretary of the committee Senator John Enoh to announced that the activities of the committee have been suspended till further notice because of the prevailing situation in the country arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential stay-at-home directive.

It is not only this that the APC had to grapple with. The bigger crisis at the National Headquarters of the party on the chairmanship tussle was temporarily put on hold and most people believed that it was a sleeping volcano that will erupt as the date to the elections in Edo and Ondo states draw near. They believed that unless the party leadership allows the duo to return, the party will have to steal the elections to win in the two states.

Although both warring groups have vowed to fight on, the pandemic could not allow any meeting or gathering where they can come together to map out strategies for their plans. But time is not waiting for them either.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also having its share of suspension of political fate as the party could not carry out any activity both in the states and at the National Office in Abuja. It would be recalled that at the South West rally which put the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde in the peoples’ court and eye of the storm, to have allowed the rally where some strong pillars of the party who had left came back, a special committee to harmonise and draw up a plan that would enable the party take over the South West was set up and to commence work immediately. Unfortunately, the body could not move to carry out its assignments due to coronavirus.

The coronavirus crisis is not only affecting the top major political parties alone, but it is also affecting other parties and political movements which by now would have been rolling out some activities.

Two major events suffering greatly now are the governorship elections coming up this year in Edo and Ondo states. The campaign activities which ought to have commenced, especially for the Edo election that would come first can’t go on until further notice. The issue of party ticket for the poll which seemed to have been settled is still nagging the party and until the primaries are decided nothing appears sure; in politics, a day is a long time to change things.

However, the biggest losers in this situation may the legislature whose oversight functions of MDAs, their main means of controlling the executive arm, which also their cash cow, has been put in the cooler for now. While the executive is still operating in one form or the other, the NASS and states’ legislatures are on lock and key as their normal work requires the gathering of members together to a sitting.

Although the lockdown has dampened the spirit of politicians, you can trust that Nigerian politicians would always find a way out. They have now resolved to subtle ways in social media to drive home their relevance and intentions.

From what is in the public space, it appears that the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who first fire the salvo is still interested in the presidential race and the only way to let people know now is the social media. He issued a press release about the palliatives and how government should handle it and pledged a relief of N50m to the COVID Fund; he was the very first person to donate to the fund. He also later advanced a comprehensive strategy for economic recovery, in which he advocated demand for debt relief with other African countries.

In a statement he signed, Atiku said:

“As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the world, I applaud the various Nigerian state governments who have proactively taken measures, such as issuing stay at home orders, and shutting down non-essential markets and other places of mass gatherings, while also giving guidelines for social distancing.

“However, we must accept the fact that much of the Nigerian public has a subsistence existence. A large percentage of our people do not have the financial capacity to withstand long periods of self- isolation and even lockdown. It is, therefore, incumbent on the federal and state governments to provide palliatives to the Nigerian people to enable them to survive, even as they abide by these necessary measures put in place for their safety.”

“At an approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, the government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among  other palliative measures, with no one left behind.”

“It is thus time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps, by teleconference (in line with the demands of social distancing), to legislate a Stimulus Package Act that will cater for all Nigerian citizens,” Atiku further said.

 

Atiku also calls on all Mobile Telephony Companies in Nigeria to urgently develop mobile money platforms so that the government can reach the unbanked with financial assistance.

“I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least ₦1500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be.”

“I commend all individuals and corporate organizations, who have in one way or the other provided some form of relief for the Nigerian people. This is what makes Nigeria great, when we help each other at such crisis times as this, irrespective of any differences. I further call on more corporations and individuals with the capacity to assist the public in these trying times.”

“To this end, Priam Group pledges N50 million on my behalf as my humble contribution to a relief Fund that will form part of the stimulus package,” he said.

Just last week the leader of the All Progressives Congress Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu came out too, to warn the government to be careful and mindful of the way they distribute the palliatives to ensure even distribution to all parts of the country. He too called on the federal government to distribute money to Nigerians through the BVN, saying that history would not forgive the government if they suffer the people by locking them in and still allow them to starve.

“Security is better served through the BVN.  The government should have compassion for the poor people who needs food and water,” he said.

He condemned the modalities which the Minister of social welfare Sadiya Umar Farouq was adopting for the distributions of cash and food to the people.

Also, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) through the social media platform reached out to the people and condemned the method of government in distributing the palliatives. The party lashed out at President Buhari for the “wishy-washy” way he has been handling the lockdown and the palliatives to Nigerians in respect of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging Nigeria.

The Party also castigated President Buhari for lack of understanding of the plight of people and the futility and ineffectiveness of lockdown as a panacea for the spread of COVID-19 in an economic and social environment such as Nigeria.

The Chairman of the Party Alhaji Falalu Bello expressed the disappointment of the party, with the continued lockdown order of President Buhari, saying, that he got it wrong with his approach, which has been counter-productive and creating another multifaceted social and economic problems for the people of Nigeria, which he was trying to protect.

The party also condemned the aggressive enforcement of the total lockdown by both the federal government and the states, which according to the party, was good on paper but was put together in total disregard to the prevailing environment and circumstances in Nigeria. According to the party, what the Buhari government did was to follow the developed countries in the Americas and Europe,   where their environments are conducive to the lockdown and where they made adequate provisions for their citizens.

In his reaction to the lull in political activities the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP,  Prince Diran Odeyemi who lashed out on the governor of  Osun State, Governor Gboyega Oyetola for the way he treated one of the members of the party who condemned the measures of the government, said the lockdown has affected a lot of things including political activities which cut across all the parties in Nigeria. He said since there was nothing “we can do about it we just have to be patient”.

He, however, frowned at the ways some state governments are implementing the lockdown by making lives more unbearable for their people.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC Mr Lanre Isa Onilu said the present situation is what “we all have to abide with and cooperate with the government. The stand of the government is for our safety and this is the time to put other activities, be it political and other engagements that involve large gatherings aside, until we overcome the pandemic virus threatening the whole world.

He, however, said that despite the lockdown, some of them still work at home and are in constant touch with those that matter in the party.

“We still consult ourselves; it is just that we can’t meet or hold public gatherings. This is just a question of time we shall overcome and God will see us through,” he said.