By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
UNTIL three weeks ago, the Nigerian political firmament was astir and abuzz with activities. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were in their elements politicking, with politicians making claims and counter-claims, and posturing for the 2023 general polls, especially the presidential.
The issue of what part of the country should produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 was on the front burner. Politicians joined issues on whether it should go to the South or remain in the North. And if it goes to the South whether the South-East should be given the opportunity or not as the South-West, which played crucial roles in the emergence of Buhari, raised its hand as the next destination.
Indeed, some politicians angling for political slots started alignment and re-alignments. There were defections from the APC to PDP and vice visa. 2023 posters of some of them were sighted in some parts of the country.
In the APC, the leadership crises reached a crescendo with a salad of cases in the law courts of which for over a week, the party had no clear national leadership at a stage.
In PDP, the stage was set for state congresses to produce state executive committees. Some states succeeded in holding the congresses but some could not.
Now, these political activities have been paused. No thanks to the raging COVID-19 pandemic that at press time had claimed no fewer than 42,000 lives across the globe and infected 845,000 people. In Nigeria, 135 people were affected with two deaths recorded.
Since last week, the APC, and PDP secretariats have been closed. Political rallies and major gatherings have been paused. Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, came under attack for allowing the South-West zonal unification rally of the PDP, penultimate Wednesday, in Ibadan. His critics said he was insensitive to the spreading COVID-19 scourge and inadvertently brought the disease to Oyo via the rally. The Oyo State government has punctured this line of thought but nevertheless apologised for allowing the rally.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has postponed bye-elections for senatorial districts in Bayelsa, Imo, and Plateau states because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The affected districts in Bayelsa are Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West, which their seats in the Senate became vacant following the election of their former occupants, Diri Duoye and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, as governor and deputy governor of the state respectively.
The seat for the Imo North District, Imo State, became vacant following the death of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu. So also is Plateau South District whose senator, Longjan Datong, passed on.
INEC said the postponement of the bye-elections became necessary because of the “health emergency occasioned by the corona-virus pandemic.”
Makinde didn’t contact Covid-19 at Ibadan rally, says media aide Contrary to insinuations in some quarters that Governor Makinde, who on Monday, tested positive to COVIDd-19, contacted the disease at a zonal rally of the PDP held in Ibadan, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, yesterday said that his boss did not contact the disease at the much-talked-about PDP unification rally.
The governor’s spokesman, who spoke to Silverbird Television on Tuesday, explained that there was no known incident of COVID-19 as of the time the rally was held.
He said: “The issue of the governor being said to have contacted COVID-19 at the March 18 PDP South-West Zonal Unification Rally doesn’t come to play because there was no known incident of the virus in Oyo State at that time. Also, the governor didn’t have any symptom(s) as of that time.
“At the time that the rally was held, there was no known case of the COVID-19 and after the rally, Governor Makinde actually put out a message to indicate that if he had got a hint of the existence of Corona-virus in the state an hour to the rally, he would have cancelled the event. He took responsibility for holding the rally.
“So, we can’t afford to politicise the issue of COVID-19. It is beyond politics,” he said.
Adisa, who noted that the only plausible case of exposure that Governor Makinde had to Corona-virus was when he attended the National Economic Council, NEC, meeting on March 19, 2020, a day after the Ibadan rally, said that indeed, all governors who attended that meeting were advised to self-isolate and undergo testing after one of the attendees tested positive to the virus.
He said: “The Nigerian Governors’ Forum had a meeting on March 18 and Governor Makinde joined his colleagues on March 19 for the National Economic Council meeting. He had contacts with people that have now tested positive to the virus. So, we should not politicise an issue like this.”
Adisa warned individuals trying to politicise the governor’s case to desist from doing so and look for ways of supporting the efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
Battle for survival
Although, politicians are incurable optimists, always angling for positions, the issue before them now is natural survival. With COVID-19 seemingly afflicting the high and mighty more than peasants, a horde of Nigerian politicians have been exposed to carriers of the corona-virus. At the last count, no fewer than four prominent leaders have tested positive to the virus following the death Suleiman Achimugu, a former managing director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company PPMC, the first Nigerian, who died of the virus in the country. He died penultimate Monday after returning to the country from a trip to the UK.
Eminent politicians affected
Leading politicians who tested positive to the corona-virus include: Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Buhari; Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna; Governor Bala Mohammed, Bauch; and Governor Seyi Makinde, Oyo.
The provost of the University of Ibadan, UI, College of Medicine, Professors Ezekiel Olapade-Olaopa and his deputy, Obafunke Denloye have also tested positive for Covid-19 pandemic. So also are Mohammed, son of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; and Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammed Babandede.
Those affected interacted with fellow governors, political leaders and a host of other personalities sparking fears that many politicians and their close allies have been affected.
The fear has led to calls for our leaders to be tested.
Currently, Governor Oyetola of Osun State, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra, and one of the daughters of President Buhari are on self-isolation.
Indeed, many leaders have undergone the test and returned a cheering verdict of negative but the fear in the land is palpable as everyone is a suspected carrier until proven otherwise. However, the fact that you are negative today does not mean you will not be positive tomorrow has only worsened fears and made people more cautious. This is beside the fact that gatherings have been banned; Lagos, Ogun and Abuja have been lock-down via President Buhari’s broadcast of last Sunday; many states have announced restriction measures and most past of the country will be locked down next week.