The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) faces a litmus-test in next year’s general elections after enjoying what looked like an easy ride in 2015 as it appears set to lose grip of some states.
After the conduct of the presidential, governorship and legislative primaries, the ruling party is facing some challenges as the number of aggrieved aspirants and stakeholders surge ahead of the general elections coming up in less than four months.
Across the states, aggrieved APC members and aspirants have been protesting alleged imposition of candidates, automatic tickets as well as lack of justice and internal democracy in the just concluded primaries.
The development has led to the sudden movement of party members to other political parties to seek either re-election or work against the ruling party.
As a result, there is the likelihood that some states currently being held by the APC may fall into the hands of opposition political parties in 2019, unless urgent and concerted efforts are made to address the discontentment.
How Lagos may slip out of APC control
In Lagos State, chances of the ruling APC to retain the governorship seat had not been in doubt until now. Its machinery, which has been instituted since 1998,had since been piloted by the party’s National Leader and former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It has been winning repeated elections from the old Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999 and 2003, to the Action Congress (AC) in 2007, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 and the APC in 2015.
However, for many political observers, at no time in all those years had the winning machinery of Tinubu been challenged like it was in the last few months when a political battle of survival and confidence broke out between the incumbent governor, AkinwunmiAmbode and Tinubu in one hand, and the governor and the party leadership on the otherhand. At the end, Ambode’s hope of earning a return ticket for second term was dashed as one of his aides and a former commissioner, BabajideSanwo-Olu, propped by Tinubu and other chieftains,defeated Ambode in the party’s gubernatorial primary.
Although Ambode has since conceded victory and announced his intention to work for Sanwo-Olu’s success at the poll, the fractures and bruises left in the hearts of many teeming supporters of the governor, especially those believed to have been recently wooed by the party,are feared as the major basis for disloyalty that may reverberate next year.
Already, speculation is rife on the governor’s alleged plot to starve the APC of financial assistance that may enhance its victory, though this is subject to verification. There has also been an allegation that the governor is working in connivance with a major opposition party candidate to undermine his party. If any of these should be proven, pundits are saying that the party’s chances of retaining Lagos will suffer.
As if that is not enough, the major opposition candidate, Jimi Agbaje, is a well-known figure and respected technocrat. Having lost out as a standard bearer in two previous occasions under the platforms of the Progressive Party Alliance (PPA) in 2007 and PDP in 2015, many are placing their bets on Agbaje.
Indeed, Agbaje is not known to be a push-over. In all the five gubernatorial elections so far conducted in the state since 1999, only on two occasions did Tinubu’s political machinery fail to defeat the candidate of the major opposition party with less than 200,000 votes. The first was in 2003 when Tinubu himself defeated the late Funsho Williams of the PDP with a margin of 171,107 votes and in the 2015 general election when Ambode defeated Agbaje with 152,206 votes – that was the closest ever. For bookmakers, Agbaje’s impressive record in 2015 only requires a little fine-tuning in 2019 to earn him victory and with the right alliances and expansion of base, it is assumed that he may succeed in his quest after all in and fair contest.
Amosun’s action may affect APC in Ogun
For keen watchers of the unfolding political events in Ogun State, especially in the ruling APC, winning the next governorship election may be a difficult task, if not impossible.
A similar crisis which culminated in the defeat of the then ruling PDP in the state is playing out in the APC. Who flies the APC governorship ticket? The response to this poser has left the APC ranks in disarray.
Adekunle Akinlade, the anointed candidate of the outgoing governor, Ibikunle Amosun and an oil magnate, DapoAbiodun, have been laying claims to the APC gubernatorial ticket in the state. However, Abiodun, who is allegedly being backed by some political forces within and outside the state, had his candidature ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC. Yet, Amosun remains adamant, saying Akinlade is the “official candidate.”
In the past three weeks, the governor had made frantic efforts to reverse the decision having met President MuhammaduBuharimore than three times. Yet, the coast seems not clear. In 2011, the then outgoing governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, had anointed GboyegaNasiruIsiaka (GNI) as the PDP candidate but his alleged imposition met stiff opposition from party leaders, especially former president OlusegunObasanjo who equally backed another candidate, TunjiOlurin, a retired military officer.
Eventually, Obasanjo had his way. GNI, as he was popularly called, pulled out of the party and joined the People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN) where he contested and lost. Although, Daniel stayed put in the PDP, he allegedly masterminded the defection and bankrolled his candidate’s campaign.
Amosun, who had run on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), benefited from the PDP crisis as he won the governorship seat. Just last week, there were reports that Amosun had concluded plans to dump the APC for another party. The governor, however, denied this.
He equally stood his ground on his anointed candidate, saying, “I hand over the reins of governance of our great state to the popular choice of majority of our people, Hon. Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade.”
However, candidates from other parties like Isiaka, the two-time governorship candidate and now the flag bearer of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), are warming up to unseat the incumbent party next year if the party fails to resolve the crisis before the election.
For instance, Isiaka came second in the final governorship election results released by INEC. Amosun polled 306,988 votes to return elected. Isiaka, who contested under the PDP, had 201,440 votes.
Apart from Isiaka, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, who is the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and the PDPcandidate, LadiAdebutu, whose candidature is shrouded in controversy and litigation, are ready to pull the rug off the foot of the ruling party in 2019.
Ajimobi may scuttle chances in Oyo
The fallout of domestic primary elections of the APC in Oyo State which appears not to have been managed well, may affect the chances of the ruling party in the elections.
The withdrawal of a former governor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, from the primary and his defection to the Action Democratic Party (ADP) to contest the governorship election may have negative consequences for the party.
Aside Akala, an aspirant of the party, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), also announced at the venue of the primary that he had quit partisan politics as a result of what he perceived to be imposition.
Others who have left the party are the senators representing Oyo Central, Monsuratu Sumonu, Oyo central, Soji Akanbi, 14 members of the House of Representatives from the state and a reasonable number of the members of the state House of Assembly.
The candidate of the party and a former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Chief Bayo Adelabu who is new in the political terrain may find it difficult to battle the likes of former governor Akala.
In 2015, Ajimobi defeated other contestants with about 35 percent of the total votes cast which may be difficult to gather in 2019 because of the current personalities involved in the race to Agodi Government House.
According to a recent report circulating across the state via social media, Adelabu is yet to reach out to his co-contenders to solicit their support.
Instead, he has maximized every opportunity to further detach himself from the people that should rally forces with him. Already, those spoken to disclosed that the former CBN chief is already conducting himself as an awaiting governor even ahead of the election. Adelabu is confident that his closeness to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his last-minute adoption by Ajimobi are enough to get him the seat without support or input from party chieftains and former aspirants.
Just recently, Adelabu was allegedly reported to have lambasted a local government chairman from Oke-Ogun and disparaged other party supporters at a get-together organized in his honour where he accused them of planning to reap where they did not sow.
These factors, political observers say, could affect the ruling party even though the African Democratic Congress (ADC) is battling with the scourge of imposition by the leadership of the party.
But the Director of Media, Research, Strategies and Publicity, Secretary of the party, Dr. AbdulAzeez Olatunde, said the party’s chances are not in doubt regardless of the defections.
With the towering influence of Senator RashidiLadoja, a former governor in the ADC which has received members of the PDP, the political sagacity of the PDP candidate, SeyiMakinde, and the ambition of Alao-Akala, the APC may lose in 2019 if it fails to embark on genuine reconciliation.
Not yetuhuru in Kaduna
The attitude of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State may affect the chances of the ruling APC in his state next year, political analysts say. El-Rufai’s posture has finally led to the defection of Senator ShehuSani to the PRP. Before Shehu’s defection, Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi had returned to the PDP.
Pundits say with the current strength of the PDP in Kaduna State, the APC needs to work extra hard to retain the governorship seat as any gang-up against the governor will not affect the chances of President MuhammaduBuhari.
An analyst, Tony James, says the PDP seems to have the upper hand in 12 of the 23 local government areas in the state.
According to him, the PDP may secure victory in two of the eight LGAs in Zone 1, especially Makarfi, where former governor Ahmed Makarfi hails from and Kudan, which is the domain of both the PDP governorship candidate and Senator Hunkuyi.
James said in Zone 2 that has seven LGAs, the PDP may control Kaduna South, Chikun and Kajuru whose representatives in the National Assembly are not from the APC.
He said Zone 3 with eight LGAs is a predominantly PDP-dominated area as the all the current representatives in the National Assembly were elected on the PDP platform.
Coast not clear in Benue
In Benue State, despite many misgivings against the party, it does not appear clear if the APC will lose next year as the current situation depicts that the pendulum could swing to any direction.
The APC and the PDP still remain the dominant parties, but new parties such as the SDP, PRP and APGA can’t be taken for granted following the primary elections.
There are existing sharp divisions among people in the state over which party to support in the election as a result of many issues of concern that border on famers/herders crises, political cross-carpeting and performances.
The argument among aggrieved minds has always been on poor handling of the famers/herders crises by the federal government. So, pundits believe that if nothing is done to douse these grievances or rebuild their confidence before the election, the party might lose the state, and this seems serious.
Other opinions hold that the unpaid salaries would likely be a factor as it did in 2015 unless the current administration does something urgent.
For a political observer, Kenneth Eche, “If Governor Samuel Ortom was still in the APC, I can confidently say another party will win the state. But now that he has moved to the PDP, we don’t know what will happen.
“People can use so many ways to win election because politicking is quite different from winning election. This means that people are not happy with his performance so far but it is not enough to say he wouldn’t win the election. This game is full of surprises.
“On the other hand, what APC as a party has done to Ortom, how are we sure it won’t do same thing to Emmanuel Jime (APC flag bearer)? People have lost confidence in the APC. Because of Ortom, they may also not want to vote for the PDP. And as at today, SDP doesn’t have structure on ground across the state. So, that is the dilemma. If PDP wins the election, it might be through a slim margin,” Eche said.
INEC’s stand may give Zamfara to opposition
Since the current political dispensation in the country in 1999, the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) later All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), ruled Zamfara for about 12 years largely during the eight-year tenure of Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima and later Governor Abdulaziz Yari.
Although the PDP ruled Zamfara for about three years when Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi, who was elected on the platform of the ANPP in 2007, defected to the PDP in 2008, he could not win the governorship re-election bid in 2011 as the ANPP reclaimed the state when he was defeated by Governor Yari.
Despite the popularity of the APC in Zamfara, being a state with a seemingly weak opposition, if the current crisis rocking the party is not properly managed, the party could lose the state. INEC recently hammered the APC for not being able to conduct governorship and legislative primaries before the October 7, 2018 deadline. INEC said the APC in Zamfara would not be able to field candidates in 2019 because it failed to conduct primaries.
The crisis in the state APC stemmed from the endorsement of the Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Mukthar ShehuIdris, as the governorship candidate by Governor Yari Abubakar, which was rejected by eight other aspirants led by Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa, the senator representing Zamfara Central.
The rejection led the APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) to order the state APC to adopt Direct Primaries to elect it governorship and legislative flag bearers, a move opposed by Yari which led to fragmentation of the APC, thereby hurting efforts to conduct the primaries.
So, the on-going tussle within the APC in Zamfara and the party’s NWC regarding the stand of the electoral umpire not to allow the ruling party to participate in the 2019 elections may become an added advantage for the opposition in the state.
The obstacleto opposition victories in 2019 is only if the court which could grant the APC permission to participate in the elections. But if the court upholds INEC’s stand, then opposition parties could take the state.
Amaechi-Abe feud threatens APC in Rivers
The political tussle between the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe is threatening the chances of the APC in Rivers State.
Analysts say the APC can’t take the lingering feud to challenge the incumbent Governor NyesomWike, who is seeking re-election.
Amaechi is sponsoring Arch. Tonye Cole who is the APC flag-bearer. But Abe believes that he is the APC governorship candidate produced by the Peter Odike-led faction.
Amaechi and Abe who had enjoyed good relationship were locked in a fierce political battle when the permutation on who flies the party’s ticket began. Abe had in 2015 positioned himself for the ticket but that was not to be as Amaechi succeeded in installing his closest ally, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who emerged as the party’s governorship flag bearer. Dakuku’s emergence does not go down well with critical stakeholders of the party. The matter was resolved but the aggrieved members were said to have worked against the interest of the party, a development that led to the party’s defeat in 2015. Peterside was defeated by Governor Nyesom Wike with over one million votes. Abe settled with the Rivers South east senatorial district seat in the National Assembly.
The issue of who flies the party’s ticket dominated the political space again in May this year when the party conducted its primaries. Abe alleged that all his supporters that bought forms for the primaries were disenfranchised.
The senator headed to a Port Harcourt High Court which nullified all the congresses. The court ruled that the statusquo be maintained while all the congresses as well as those elected were nullified. The matter lingered untilthe Supreme Court last week upheld the decision of the High Court that all the congresses conducted remained invalid.
Amaechi raised tension in the party when he told APC stakeholders in Lagos that he had in mind a Lagos-based businessman, Dele Tonye Cole, as the party’s governorship flag bearer. Amaechi’s decision did not go down well with some leaders of the party but he eventually had his way. APC held parallel congresses that produced both Abe and Cole as the party’s governorship flag bearers.
But with last week’s ruling of the apex court, APC may end up without a governorship candidate in 2019.
Protest votes may affect APC in Imo
Imo State has been described as one of states on the cliff hanger for the APC following the inability of the state chapter of the party to resolve the issue of who flies the party’s flag in 2019.
Since last year, when Governor Rochas Okorocha indicated his interest to have his son-in-law, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, to succeed him, things have continued to worsen for the party. The unrelenting effort of the Imo APC Coalition to stop him has made the struggle very tense.
Okorocha has not had an easy sail in his Uche Nwosu project. Since the May 5 ward congress, where the coalition appeared to have taken away the party structure from him, the governor has been trying to win back the control of the structure without success.
As it is, the battle has been narrowed to Senator Hope Uzodinma and Ugwumba UcheNwosu.
While Uzodinma is the product of the Ahmed Gulak governorship primary election committee which conducted the October 1 election, Nwosu on the other hand emerged after the Ibrahim Agbabiaka-led panel which conducted its own primary on October 6.
The emergence of Uzodinma, who is the senator representing Imo West, was as a result of the inability of the coalition to agree on a consensus candidate from eight out of the nine governorship aspirants in the party.
Even the emergence of Uzodinma might not have assuaged the desire of the coalition members as it appeared he might have betrayed an agreement that he should hold the position in trust for the possible emergence of a candidate from Owerri.
In Sokoto, votes split may affect APC
In Sokoto State, there is a shift of loyalty among APC members following the movement of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to the PDP.
With Tambuwal’s movement, members of the House of Assembly are divided as some defected to the PDP with the governor while others remained in the APC.
The development has pitched the governor against his benefactor and a former governor of the state, Senator Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, the leader of the APC in the state.
Pundits say the latest political development in the state will definitely have negative influence on the voting pattern in 2019 as Tambuwal and Wamakko have continued to exchange banters ahead of the elections.
In 2015, Tambuwal, the then APC governorship candidate, polled 647,609 votes to defeat the PDP’s candidate, Sen. Abdallah Wali who scored 269,074, winning in all 23 local government areas.
In 2019, Tambuwal will lock horns with the deputy governor, Ahmed Aliyu, who emerged the APC governorship candidate.