By JIDE AJANI, EDITOR NORTHERN OPERATIONS
At a time when all should well set for the April elections, the political class is again living its folly to the fullest. Presently, there are about 50 cases in court, a plethora of exparte orders and interlocutory injunctions to boot, underhanded tactics of blackmail by politicians and a polity yet to fully recover from the shenanigans of pro and anti-zoning elements.
This report takes a look at the undercurrents in the polity and concludes that with just two months to the general elections, the political class would need to conduct itself in a matured and less combustible manner, hoping that the judiciary would not be a willing tool in the yet unfolding macabre drama called Nigeria’s elections.
It was bound to haunt every Nigerian – court judgments, that is. Now, it is!
President Goodluck Jonathan’s Bayelsa State is the stage for the latest drama.
When in 2007, the Supreme Court, waxing vengeful against the despotism and executive rascality of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, decided that sitting vice president could leave the platform on which he got into office, join another political party and retain his seat as vice president, that landmark judgment was based on what many described as the lacuna in the 1999 Constitution.
Today, the reinstated deputy governor of Bayelsa State, Peremobowei Ebebi, who was impeached mid-last year, had sought the governorship ticket of Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He was denied participation in the contest. He decamped straight into the Labour Party, LP. Today, he would sit with Governor Timpreye Sylva of the PDP as his deputy.
The precedent is the case former Vice President Atiku Abubakar won at the Supreme Court. This development has put Bayelsa on edge. Add to this the fact that most campaign rallies are bombed in the state and accusing fingers are beginning to stick permanently in one direction.
And just as Bayelsa is on edge, the general polity, too, has pockets of troubling incidents which signpost potentials for combustion during the April elections.
Take, for instance, the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF.
Marooned inside the PDP, the body continues to needle the party over the issue of zoning. At a time when there were talks of possible negotiations between the NPLF leadership and President Jonathan, the group came out, forcefully, last Tuesday, after its meeting of Monday, February 14, 2011, to lambast the PDP. For effect, the group wrote off the opposition political parties too. The group actually called on the opposition to rise against the PDP.
However, the real undercurrent resides in the fact that power is almost gradually slipping away from the grip of the North.
Sunday Vanguard discovered that an internal contradiction is beginning to bedevil the NPLF. A few of its members are already looking for ways of joining the bandwagon of President Jonathan. Some have commenced the process whereas a few others are still insistent on fighting it to the finish.
Before last Monday’s meeting, it had been published by Vanguard penultimate week that “a two (2) way forward approach (was) agreed at (an earlier) meeting on the issue of the Northern Presidency including:
“To prevail of Muhammdu Buhari (Gen/Rtd) to negotiate power with other political groups; and
“In the event that Buhari’s presidency can not be eventually actualized, the under listed shall form the next options.
1. Some NPLF members would want to enter into a pact with Mr. President; and
2. That the forth coming presidential election should not hold”.
Sunday Vanguard has learnt that the security agencies have already been put on red alert to continue its surveillance activities. A source said, “the intelligence community in the country is now more alert than ever before to forestall any possible breakdown of law and order before, during and immediately after the April elections. That the National Assembly has been galvanized to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill did not just happen like that. There is a sense that we must keep our peace and stability”.
But if the security agencies are doing their own part, what is the political class doing?
There are presently over 50 court cases regarding candidacy for the April elections- about 90% of the cases involve PDP members.
One of the most ridiculous is coming from a state that is supposedly enlightened – Ogun.
After obtaining a court order that the Chief Joju Fadairo faction of the PDP should cease to parade itself as the authentic state executive committee of the party, the Jubril Martins Kuye faction that former President Olusegun Obasanjo belongs to went to town proclaiming victory. And for the screening of candidates for the party primaries, the national headquarters of the party sent a team to conduct the exercise. Interestingly, both factions submitted themselves to the screening.
Unfortunately, however, when the national headquarters sent its officials to conduct the last set of primaries, fixing a venue for the exercise, Obasanjo, his daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, and a handful of supporters and aspirants remembered the court order and headed for the former president’s private library to conduct their own primaries.
And when the party presented its own list of candidates for the April elections, another court order was procured stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from recognizing the list submitted by the national office of the party. The matter is yet to be resolved. In a show of strength, both factions of the party held separate rallies – Fadairo and Governor Gbenga Daniel held a massive rally at the state secretariat of the party while General Tunji Olurin, the other factional governorship candidate for Obasanjo, held his own solidarity rally in Ilaro. The drums of war are still beating in Ogun.
In Enugu State, INEC only succeeded in resolving the conundrum which had claimed Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo as its first major victim. Sullivan Chime has been finally accepted as candidate of the party. It took a letter dated February 14, 2011, from the legal office of INEC instructing the resident electoral commissioner for Enugu State to proceed with the publication of “the particulars of His Excellency, Governor Sullivan Chime and others on the list”.
The letter, signed by Barrister Phillip Umeadi Jnr., National Electoral Commissioner in charge of legal services, and addressed to “Barrister Josiah Uwazuruonye, The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission, Enugu State”, read in part:
“Please note that sequel to developments in the ongoing proceedings in the matter, the particulars of the candidates earlier sent to you for publication should be suspended.
“On the advice of our legal team, kindly prepare for publication the particulars of His Excellency, Governor Sullivan Chime and others on the list.
“Phillip Umeadi Jnr., INEC National Commissioner in charge of legal services”.
In this instance, the twist began when INEC decided to drop the candidates on the list presented by the Governor Chime faction of the party. INEC had recognised the Anayo Onwuegbu gubernatorial candidacy along with the candidates on his list.
In Imo State, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume finally dumped the PDP for the Action Congress of Nigeria, AC N. he would slug it out with Governor Ikedi Ohakim. For a state that was already on a tinder box, this gubernatorial confrontation promises both excitement and anxiety.
Leave Imo and speed to Akwa Ibom. Senator Akpan Udo Uduedeghe, who has been having a running battle with Governor Godswill Akpabio, has also left the PDP for the AC N. He has promised the governor a showdown and his party is solidly behind him. The contest for the governorship in Akwa Ibom State would be tough.
Although a no contest, the Lagos race would be interesting to follow. Whereas the AC N’s Babatunde Raji Fashola, the incumbent governor, would not have any strong opponent, the PDP is already self-destructing. Ade Dosunmu, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, was last Thursday, stopped by a court in Lagos from parading himself as the party’s candidate based on a case brought before the court by one Prince Oluwo Adeyeri.
In Kano State where Governor Ibrahim Shekarau is the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, his party would square up against a resurging PDP’s Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, as well as Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Into this mix is the Abacha family.
In Borno State, Alhaji Modu Fanami Gubio, the ANPP gubernatorial candidate, was killed. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. But if Gubio’s killing worries anybody, the threat from Boko Haram and the potential for creating high wire confusion during the April elections is real.
In Kwara State, incumbent Governor Bukola Saraki is going against his father, Dr. Olusola Saraki. The latter has thrown his weight behind Bukola’s sibling, Senator Gbemi Saraki, for the governorship of the state and, has, therefore, presented her on the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN. Then there is Gbenga Olawepo of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, as well as AC N’s Muhammed Dele Belgore.
This would be the first time that the Sarakis would be going into an election with a divided house. Governor Saraki has an anointed candidate for the PDP.
In Plateau State, where ethno-religious crises have ceased to abate since December 2009, the political class has further made the situation more tenuous. Lawrence Onoja has dumped the PDP for the AC N. Deputy Governor Pauline Tallen has dumped the PDP too, but for the Labour Party, LP. Enter into this contest for power the raging ethno-religious crises in the state then you have a deadly mix.
Yet, in all of these, Nigeria has an opportunity to get it right.
Presidential candidate of AC N, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, last week, in Abuja, raised fresh alarm regarding the political future of Nigeria, declaring that attempts to make democracy unmeaningful in the lives of the people would only lead to doom.
Ribadu said Nigerians should put one point in mind regarding the important “service of restarting the agenda that makes democracy meaningful in the lives of citizens: if we fail to urgently realise the vision of a modern Nigeria, the echoes of currently muted, but potentially destabilising change will soon consume our land”.
Ribadu raised this alarm at the Colloquium organised by his party to kick start the campaigns for the April general elections.