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Latest by-elections: INEC and APC, how free, how fair?

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Though I haven’t yet collated all the information there is on the by-elections held by INEC last Saturday in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi, it seems there was a lot of the usual PDP days’ rigging and vote-buying in these elections held under the APC we all generally voted for freely in 2015. This is quite sad.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

But then what do you expect when the wine is old, even when the bottle is brand new?

APC has turned into a vehicle for elections mouthing Change platitudes. Its chief luck was/is General Muhammadu Buhari as flag, mascot and for the religious and worshipful, even a saint, and vote-grabbing deity of sorts.

Reports from observers suggest the senators of Bauchi, Katsina and the House of Reps of Kogi by-elections was a replica of the Ekiti elections. It was a contest of PDP types in PDP and the same types in its new incarnation in APC. The Katsina and Bauchi by-elections allegedly saw money changing hands for votes. There were no reports of serious thuggery unlike in Kogi where ballot box snatching and use of thugs was the order of the day.

Whether 2019 will be like that or not, what is not in doubt is that the innocence and saintliness of the APC that used to have the General Buhari aura as its stamp of cleanliness has finally been shattered by the many irregularities in Ekiti, in Bauchi, in Katsina and Kogi. In Ekiti, maybe it had to go the way it did because it was a contest of old foes — Fayose, the business-as-usual “stomach infrastructure” politician, and Fayemi the bookish intellectual who has learned that books don’t give you votes.

In Katsina and Bauchi, on the other hand, the governors are experienced PDP practitioners of politics who joined the Buhari bandwagon to get the votes in 2015. They expectedly wouldn’t allow any chance for the massed opposition they have accumulated since 2015 to shake the faith of their faithful supplicants in their ability to return “no matter what” in 2019.

The only hope for the opposition across the states is their ability to present a united front to tackle rigging, thuggery and vote-buying by generating more than a passing interest in the elections of 2019. The mass of the people have to be made more interested in the outcome of the elections in the same fashion the Buhari political train did before finally berthing in APC and winning the 2015 elections. A national consensus of the opposition is not quite likely; as such GMB still appears the surest bet in 2019 and beyond.

2019: No, not  Kingibe again!;  Give  us GMB, with all his faults

In politics as in most things these days you don’t discount any story you hear, especially with the concept of “manufacture of consent” the Western Media and Governments are masters at. They fly kites, mainly sponsored by the propaganda outfits of the intelligence services to see the do-ability of a course of action.

Some analysts, my humble self included, have theorised that the undeserved national honour GMB gave to Ambassador Baba-Gana Kingibe alongside Late MKO Abiola over June 12 was part of plans to restart the presidential campaign of the veteran intelligence agent and friend of the Nigerian military who is well versed in international diplomacy as a UN technocrat.

Even though Femi Adesina, GMB’s spokesman has debunked the Independent newspaper story that broke the news that the international community is pressuring GMB to drop his bid for president in 2019, it is not something one should discount offhand. It may well be true that the Kingibe campaign is revving up in a fashion similar to the way the same Kingibe manouvered his way to become a candidate while ostensibly serving Late General Shehu Yar’Adua, his boss. Yar’Adua had planted and watered his image as Chairman of SDP during IBB’s days to work for a Yar’Adua presidency.

Kingibe betrayed his boss, Yar’Adua, using these same whispering campaign tactics to undermine him and emerge as presidential candidate with the support of SDP state governors he’d successfully turned against their political leaders.

Scheming Kingibe also upstaged the older breed politicians in another double-edged betrayal to become MKO Abiola’s running mate. He subsequently betrayed MKO to become senior minister in Abacha’s military government as Foreign Minister.

Lucky Kingibe yet again resurfaced after Obasanjo’s term. He became Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) under late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as president.

Such is Kingibe’s profile, seen as the Hausa say,  a snake that doesn’t construct an own home but sneaks into one already made by other more industrious beings, edging and expelling he original owners.

These assumptions gain currency with Kingibe having an ally in fellow Kanuri as the powerful Chief of Staff in the Presidential Villa, Abba Kyari, who does no wrong in the eyes of GMB and is believed to lead the most effective cabal in the GMB Government. This makes it a lot easier to sell such a conspiracy theory. If these assumptions are true, it would be such a sad development for our beleaguered polity.

It would mean there is a really desperate need to now restart the search for a truly peoples’ presidential candidate in case of the possible eventuality of GMB not contesting in 2019.

The other alternative suggested by the Independent newspaper tales, from within the GMB circles, Hadi Sirika, the hoary haired man at Aviation may have shown some quality traits as a Lawmaker, as a politician and as manager of the Aviation sector under GMB, his Daura village mate.

But he will be a difficult sell as the many other possibilities in the GMB camp/camps (I say camps because of the obvious divisions in the GMB government). The others won’t fly either. They are el-Rufai, Kaduna’s aggressive governor with his well-known PDP tendencies of gross impunity and Malami, the young SAN and GMB government’s chief law officer whose professional reputation has been terribly battered by his disdain for the courts that are his professional temple.

As for any possibilities in PDP, being in the party alone is a major stain that cannot be erased in another 16 years, and changing parties doesn’t change or remove that stain. It hasn’t changed any of the stain on nPDPians in APC or those from PDP now back in APC such as Senator Akpabio.

Up north, we are in trouble even if it is still our turn to keep the Presidency if GMB is forced to not contest. We may end up with a serial betrayer if Kingibe happens on us or forced to contend with a Southern president. And that after our own choice, GMB has by his personal choices and the focus of his government, been more of a Southern president than any southerner since General Aguiyi Ironsi.

It is important we don’t get caught pants down. We have got to seek out and mould an alternative for 2019 if GMB refuses to contest. I pray he contests as the resolution to this quandary.

Even if he contests we need an alternative to pace him, to shadow his integrity with a great more measurable competence and polititical savvy. We need a candidate with a lot less of the GMB character flaws and age and health constraints that have hampered optimum performance of our hero, General Buhari. For us now and beyond 2023 surely, Kingibe and a Kingibe type are surely not right for this job. Not an old man with all the frailties of age at near 80 again.

By Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo

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