By OBINNA EZUGWU
In many states of the federation, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) primary elections have had brutal outcomes. It’s been, in some ways, like a mafia war. But it is hardly unexpected. In a clime where the biggest industry is politics, a lot is at stake. The APC is the ruling party and in view of how recent elections in Osun, Ekiti and Edo States panned, it would seem that the party has mapped out strategies to win, either by the hook or crook. For many therefore, scaling through the party’s primary is nearly as good as winning the main election.
The primaries assumed crisis proportions in various states last week. In some states, it’s done and dusted with losers biting the dust, and winners reasserting their political dominance. In others, the controversy lingers, and could, if not well managed, have telling impacts on the party’s performance in various elections in 2019.
In all, the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, appears, as some have suggested, to be the key instigator. It is no surprise that he is now at loggerhead with some of the party’s governors, including those of Kaduna, Zamfara, Ondo and Ogun over the outcome of some of the primaries.
Nowhere did Oshiomhole’s ‘overbearing influence’ have more telling impact than in Lagos where he helped in no small measure, to seal the fate of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
As long as Lagos, the country’s economic capital is concerned, it would seem much like a closed case. Ambode came up against the colossus that is his godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As it turned out, he could only muster a listless fight against an unrelenting political heavyweight, backed by his long time ally, Oshiomhole. Lagos has been granted a special status as far as the party’s rules are concerned. The state executive was allowed the “unconstitutional” powers to reverse the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC).
Praised by many for his performance as governor, it had seemed inevitable that Ambode would secure a second term in office. But as Nigerians, or more precisely, Lagosians have learned, politics, in APC context, is not about performance, strictly. It’s also about being a loyal godson and a good party man. Ambode was neither, as Tinubu claimed, and it cost him dearly.
The governor’s ordeal had come as a surprise to many. Indeed, when it first came as a rumour that Tinubu wanted him out, many thought it must have been a joke. Others were confident that even if true, the governor had enough goodwill to achieve his second term bid. But with firm grip on the party and government of the state, Tinubu has practically thrown him out in what was basically a no contest.
A number of the governor’s supporters were humiliated, ridiculed and denied opportunity to vote during last Tuesday’s primary. The deputy governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, quickly jumped ship. Many of those who had praised him for stellar performance quickly turned to berate him for being a failure. And the godfather’s new son, Babajide Sanwo-Olu emerged candidate in a landslide victory.
But it may not have been seamless without Oshiomhole. Mr. Clement Ebri, Chairman of NWC that came to organise the election had dismissed the primary as null and void because according to him, at the time it was being held, the stakeholders had yet to agree on important guidelines for the primary. The NWC would eventually announce the cancellation of the primary. But only for the state executive to announce Sanwo-olu winner. And amid the confusion, Oshiomhole stepped in, having allegedly met Buhari, to validate the election, forcing the NWC to reverse itself.
A lot of speculations have mounted over what really transpired between the governor and his godfather, but it would appear obvious that Ambode was, from the onset, an ‘Ill-fated’ governor holding power in trust, and the interest which entrusted him the power was always going to strike before he grew strong legs to stand on his own.
Accused of already starting to build his own political structure to rival those of Tinubu; transferring LAWMA and PSP’s operators duties of disposing waste to his own Visionscape, and many others, there were justifiable concerns that a second term would make the governor grow wings, hence the need to bring him down.
Several APC sources had noted specifically that his crime was attempting to set up his own political structure, neglecting party men in his contract and undermining schemes like LAWMA. His supporters say they have accepted his fate.
“Ambode has done his part but the supremacy of the party led to his defeat”, said Mr. Sodiq Lawal, a graphic designer who had sworn to support the governor till the end and had designed posters to mobilize support for him.
“For me, apart from the dirty environment which he is unable to navigate adequately and the unfortunate hike in land use charge, he did well and I still support him.”
The governor had since conceded defeat, aware that Tinubu had readied the state lawmakers to impeach him should he attempt any ‘mischief’. In an address last Wednesday, he promised to, as governor, “do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition in the remaining period of this administration and ultimately to the new Governor, come May 2019”. And assured “party members that we remain one family and unite behind the candidate of the party, so that we can continue to move this state forward”.
But the last may not have been heard of it yet. But in the meantime, it is understood that President Muhammadu Buhari had wanted Ambode to continue, for which he had sent Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to intervene, but Tinubu adamantly refused and speculations are rife that Abuja had assured Ambode of “settlement”, not being prepared to risk confrontation with Tinubu in the interest of the president’s reelection.
But in all, the governor has become the first sitting governor, ever in the history of Nigeria to contest for and lose the ticket of his political party. And possibly he will be the only one since this dispensation not to stand as candidate for second term.
But as long as APC primaries intrigue is concerned, Lagos is only one of 36 states. In the FCT, and in each of those, the stories are different only in the nature and standing of the different political players.
In other front line South West states of Ogun and Oyo which had witnessed rivalries among key political actors, the governors: Ibikunle Amosun and Abiola Ajimobi, both of whom are outgoing governors, were able to have their way in securing senate tickets in line with the tradition of outgoing governors retiring in the senate, but neither was quite successful in imposing governorship candidate, more so, Amosun who is now at loggerheads with Osinbajo and Oshiomhole; both of whom he is allegedly holding responsible for the emergence of Dapo Abiodun as governorship candidate.
Osinbajo was said to have backed Abiodun instead of the governor’s choice candidate, Hon. Kunle Akinlade whom he had backed in an attempt to cede power to the Ogun West. And Oshiomhole had ensured the former’s emergence as candidate. But it was also because he had more support than Amosun and his candidate. Indeed, the governor is said to have been at loggerheads with several political stakeholders in the state, with even his Egba constituency turning its back on him.
Owing to the failed bid to install his successor, he had joined other aggrieved governors in what was a gang up against Oshiomhole in Abuja last week. But after several meetings with even Buhari, the party chairman was said to have stood his ground, vowing to “resist pressure”.
In Oyo, Ajimobi had bowed to initial pressure, backed down from his support of Olasunkanmi Tegbe and backed former CBN Deputy Governor, Adebayo Adelabu, who was indeed the consensus candidate of the party, ensuring a seamless primary.
But on the other hand, Buhari’s Communication Minister, Adebayo Shittu, who was screened out on account of not doing the compulsory NYSC, has continued to throw tantrums relentlessly.
Further down South, two states of the South South: Delta and Rivers have presented intense battle flash points. Yet, Cross River and Akwa Ibom are raring to enter the mix with crisis of their own.
In Delta, two parallel candidates emerged in two different primaries in what was a fallout of what has been factional rivalry between the Chief Great Ogboru and Olorogun O’tega Emerhor faction.
The Chief Ogboru group which is recognised as the authentic APC group in the state by the party’s national leadership produced Ogboru, who is from Delta South as governorship candidate. But it was an election said to have been manipulated right from the choice of delegates list. Other aspirants like Professor Pat Utomi were said to have been left in the cold and didn’t even know where the primary held.
Consequent upon which, Utomi, Ochei, and Ojuigboh who are from Delta North Senatorial district – whose turn is to produce the governor for another four years, in line with the zoning arrangement of the state governorship – rejected the result in a joint address and asked party leadership to fix another date for a free and fair election, lamenting that fake delegate lists were used for the exercise.
The group eventually proceeded to organise their own primary which produced Utomi as candidate. Ogboru has meanwhile been recognised as the party’s candidate in the state.
For the equally controversial senatorial primary, former governor Emmanuel Uguaghan emerged in Delta South, while two parallel candidates: Emerhor and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege emerged in Delta Central. And in Delta North, violence erupted when a police officer shot and killed a student identified as Henry Okeke, while another victim of the sporadic gunshots identified as Ndubuisi was rushed to hospital.
Although Omo-Agege is official candidate, Emerhor is yet to back down in what is turning into a major rift.
Delta is a PDP state whose political structure remains under the grip of former governor, James Ibori. The current governor, Ifeanyi Okowa who is from the Delta North will be flying the party’s flag.
But it’s a very complex state where ethnicity is a major deciding factor in who becomes what. And as far as the ethnic configuration is concerned, the odds are stacked against the incumbent.
Although it’s a state made up of three senatorial districts of Delta North, South and Central, and has four linguistic stocks of Igboid who inhabit Delta North. Edoid, comprising the Isoko and Urhobo; Yoruboid, Itsekiri; and Ijoid (Ijaw), spread across the two other senatorial zones, the politics is often of two blocs with the Delta North, mostly regarded as Delta Igbo forming one bloc and the Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw, making up the other bloc.
It’s an arrangement that easily reduces the Igbo group to a minority status, despite being second perhaps, only to Urhobo as far as population of individual groups are concerned, and therefore leaves them needing the goodwill of other groups. That goodwill is hardly available, and it had taken Ibori’s insistence for Okowa to emerge in 2015.
“The politics of Delta has changed,” said Mrs. Julieth Efemena, a teacher. “I feel that Ogboru can beat Okowa this time because Okowa has fallen out with a lot of people in the state, especially those Isoko and Urhobo areas.”
Okowa is increasingly being accused by the others groups of neglecting them and building developmental projects mainly in the Ika part of the state, It is in part what has given impetus to the growth of the APC in the state.
“They say the governor has surrounded himself with his people and has neglected others,” Efemena noted.
Indeed, as things stand in the state, it would be a difficult for the governor to retain his seat. But it’s not an impossible one, because he also has a few things working for him. One critical factor would be the ensuing crisis in the APC which has broken the party’s ranks.
But of more strategic importance is the Ibori factor. Ibori remains the strongest political player in the state and his support for the governor will almost guarantee his reelection. But with Uduaghan, who was an integral part of the Ibori camp and was seen as second in command, breaking ranks to join up with Ogboru and Senator Omo-Agege in APC, things may be a lot different in 2019.
Ogboru would be relying on Abuja’s might to try to match Ibori’s overwhelming influence. Indeed, Delta is a state to watch in 2019.
Rivers is the other South South state where the APC is witnessing crisis of immense proportions. As was the case in Delta, the state held parallel primaries with the Rotimi Amaechi group, the recognised faction, producing billionaire business man, Tonye Cole and Senator Magnus Abe emerging candidate of his own faction.
But it was the Amaechi group that held the highest stake and rifts have continued even within the ranks.
Indeed, before the primaries, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC in the state, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, accused Amaechi of trying to impose his preferred aspirant, Tonye Cole, on the party.
“When the NWC reached the decision that indirect primaries be adopted for the governorship primary in Rivers, as a loyal party man, I accepted the decision in good faith despite the fact that there are pending litigations in various courts, which might vitiate and truncate the process.
“I thus ramped up my campaign, but soon discovered that our party structures from the state executive committee, local government and ward excos across the state have been directed by Rotimi Amaechi, leader of our party in the state, not to allow me access to our party faithful and delegates, but to only support the aspiration of his preferred aspirant, Tonye Cole.”
Cole, coming from Kalabari, is an answer to the yearnings of the riverine communities who make up about 30 percent of the population, to produce governor.
But Rivers is still a PDP state and Governor Nyesom Wike’s upland political bloc controls 70 percent of the voting population. The governor has grassroots support. Indeed, it would have ordinarily taken massive federal might to stop Wike. Yet, with the APC locked in crisis, and Senator Abe looking increasingly likely to pitch tent with the incumbent, having rejected the adoption of Mr. Cole as the party’s candidate, Rivers could be a war zone in 2019.
In the South East, Imo presents the most interesting scenario for the APC. While the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, is bent on installing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as candidate, he is facing formidable opposition from the likes of the Deputy Governor Eze Madumere, Senator Hope Uzodinma, Sir Jude Ejiogu and a host of others.
The Ahmed Gulak APC NWC that organised the governorship primary last week declared Uzodinma winner. But the decision was reversed by Oshiomhole upon allegation by Okorocha that the result was fake and that Gulak had, upon conniving with Uzodinma to organise fake primary, disappeared into thin air.
Oshiomhole subsequently disbanded the Gulak committee and has promised to constitute another committee to organise a fresh primary.
But things are fast getting to a head. The opposition against Okorocha and Nwosu have closed ranks and united behind Uzodinma.
In a statement on Friday, five other aspirants, including Prince Madumere, Sir Jude Ejiogu, Air Commodore Peter Gbujie (retd), Mr. Eche George and Dr Chris Nlemoha insisted that they would not participate in another primary and asked the party to accept Uzodinma as candidate.
“It would be in the best interest of the party to affirm the victory of Senator Hope Uzodinma as the governorship candidate of the party to ensure overall victory during the 2019 general elections in Imo State,” they said.
“Our supporters and aspirants for the other elective positions will neither participate nor accept the result of a repeat governorship primary election in Imo State.”
But with Okorocha bent on having Nwosu as candidate, and is likely to succeed with the backing of Oshiomhole, APC may very likely lose Imo.
The party is never truly popular in the state, and for many, the choice of Nwosu is an ‘insult’ on Imo people. Should he emerge, the Uzodinma group will likely work against him, which may pave the way for either APGA which is a strong contender in the state, or PDP which already has equally formidable Emeka Ihedioha as candidate.
Ihedioha will serve the yearning of the Owerri Zone, comprising of Owerri and Mbaise, to produce governor, having not done so. The Orlu and Okigwe zones have ruled since 1999, more so Orlu Zone.
But apart from Imo, the other South East state up for grab is Abia. The incumbent PDP governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, is seeking for a second term in office. But he is believed to have performed below expectations and many in the state insist he doesn’t deserve reelection.
Indeed, he was widely believed to have lost to the APGA candidate, Dr. Alex Otti in 2015, but the PDP relied on federal might to impose him as governor. In 2019, he faces the same Dr. Otti who is still APGA candidate and is widely favoured to win. Yet, Mr. Uche Ogah, as APC candidate is no push over. On his own, Ogah is popular, but the APC is unpopular in Abia and that would affect him negatively.
The two other states in the zone, Enugu and Ebonyi are strong PDP states where incumbents, Dave Umahi and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are widely expected to retain their seats.
Umahi, being a fan of President Buhari would likely not face the onslaught of federal might. And Ugwuanyi has not done anything to deserve Abuja’s interest in his state.
Though the Enugu governor may face protest vote from people who accused him of imposition in the various PDP primaries held in the state, one which the APC candidate, George Ogara, who surprisingly beat Senator Ayogu Eze in the primary, may profit from. But there is hardly any possibility of him beating Ugwuanyi.
In the North, Zamfara State is probably the most crises ridden as far as APC primary is concerned. Saturday’s primary, predictably turned into a war, prompting its cancellation
The state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, is facing stiff opposition in his attempt to impose his favoured governorship candidate, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris and had boasted before the primaries, that he was not going to take “any nonsense” and reply “fire for fire”.
It turned out to be so. The other candidates who had united against the governor, including the Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala; Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa; former governor, Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi; Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali; Dauda Lawal; Rep Aminu Jaji; Abubakar Magaji and Sagir Hamidu, mounted stiff challenge, which not only ensured the governor’s defeat, but the governor himself risk losing his bid for the senate.
The ensuing crisis prompted its cancellation, with the party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, saying the party would now fix a new date for it.
Yari is one of the governors who spent the greater part of last week trying to get Oshiomhole to act in their interest. The others are Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
Although Akeredolu is not facing election in 2019, he is determined to stop his political adversary, Senator Robert Ajayi Borrofice, from returning to the upper legislative chamber. But Oshiomhole had cleared Borrofice as the sole APC candidate for Ondo North district. It’s a similar situation with El-Rufai in Kaduna State.
Senator Shehu Sani (KadunaCentral), who has been at loggerheads with the governor had planned to defect to the PDP alongside Senate President Bukola Saraki and other Kaduna senators, but was convinced to stay in the party by Oshiomhole who promised him automatic ticket.
In keeping with his promise, the APC NWC screened out other aspirants to the Kaduna Central Senate seat, including El-Rufai’s candidate, leaving Sani as sole candidate.
But it’s a move that has angered the governor who is now deploying every means to ensure that Sani is pushed out. But Oshiomhole has stood his ground.
Last week, the governor said Buhari had directed him to punish the senator whom he called a traitor.
The governor in a letter dated October 2 to the president, listed the ‘compendium’ of sins committed by Sani against him, the president and the APC.
“When your Excellency (Buhari) traveled to London in April 2018 for medical consultation, Shehu Sani ridiculed it on Facebook as ‘Voyage to London, Season 3,” El-Rufai wrote.
“In May 2018, he lamented what he said was Buhari’ s three years of failure to protect human lives.
“In the same month, he wrote that ‘Baba should protect his testicle from any man who always bends down to greet him.
“Your Excellency will recall that earlier this year, you directed me to initiate processes to recall Shehu Sani from the senate to punish his repeated acts of contempt and disloyalty.
“Following your directive, our team in Kaduna studied what was being done in Kogi State regarding the recall of Dino Melaye and drew up a budget. Upon examination of the costs and loopholes in the recall process as brutally exposed in Dino Melaye’s case, and in recognition of the immense of preparations for the next elections, it was decided that it may be more prudent to oust him at the poll.
“The party executives in his ward in Kaduna suspended him from APC in December 2015 for negative comments about your Excellency. It was later extended to indefinite suspension in 2016.”
The governor asked APC not to give a man like Sani the opportunity to “misbehave again”.