By Emmanuel Aziken
The background for an interesting year of politics in 2022 was set by several political intrigues in the year that ended yesterday. Of course, as many Nigerians have come to accept in every year before a general election, the political class almost always prioritizes politics over governance.
President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated that at the end of last year when he vetoed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, putting his camp’s 2023 political calculations over and above the general interest of the country.
President Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill mirrored the administration’s vague promises on electoral reform and puts him at the danger of being the only president in the fourth Republic not to have improved the electoral framework while in office.
Your correspondent had in this space last week sufficiently rubbished the lies parroted in rejecting the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, notably the cost of Direct Primaries. If it is worth repeating, direct primaries can be held once and at the same time nominations made for all elective positions unlike indirect primaries which are held in different stages. That is besides the humongous amount of money spent on bribing delegates.
However, there was one unique exception to the gloom in electoral reforms last year. It came as Kaduna State became the first state in the country to use electronic voting and transmission of votes in its local government area elections.
The successful use of electronic voting and transmission of results in Kaduna State, an All Progressives Congress, APC controlled state, will be a moral burden for the party in its opposition to the use of electronic voting and transmission of results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
It is remarkable that as the year came to an end that Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila opined that the National Assembly would pander to President Muhammadu Buhari and remove the stipulation on direct primaries. Speaker Gbajabiamila’s surrender despite the fact that he was the one that introduced the section into the Electoral Act, would underline the lack of fiber and character in the legislative branch of government.
The assertion of Speaker Gbajabiamila mirrors past claims attributed to the senate leadership that it would do anything that President Buhari brings to it. So far, the National Assembly has not disappointed in that pledge.
As the year 2022 opens the debate over the Electoral Bill will surely dictate the pattern of political discussion as the lawmakers decide on what to do with the bill.
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Overriding the president’s veto is going to be difficult as Speaker Gbajabiamila said. The difficulty is set against the background of the different political themes of the legislators.
Many have now rightly discerned Speaker Gbajabiamila’s interest in direct primaries to the aspiration of his political benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The Tinubu camp had hoped that with its strategic alliances with governors of vote-rich northern states like Kano, Katsina and Borno that it would easily brush aside rivals during direct primaries.
However, the bounce of the Tinubu camp is expected to along the way this year recoil as it faces more pressures. Indeed, as the year opened, Kano that was only recently being spoken of as Tinubu’s territory was under attack from Tinubu’s rivals as Governor Abdullahi Ganduje continued to lose ground.
Stakeholders in Kano are already envisaging a possible reunification of Ganduje with his erstwhile ally and political leader, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso. The two men have met at least twice in the last six months, the most recent being last month when Ganduje visited to console his predecessor on the death of his brother.
The permutations in the next year are that Ganduje could defect to the PDP to pitch camp with Kwankwanso if his loss of the APC structure in Kano is formalized by the courts. Indeed, his ‘APC enemies’ have pledged that he will keep on fighting in the courts until after the convention making it that he would not be a sure foot for the Tinubu campaign.
While Asiwaju’s foot soldiers vow that there is no turning back, those pressing the button against him continue to say that the national leader would sooner than later surrender.
The problem for him if he does surrender would be who to back. Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo should ordinarily be the favourite. However, among faithful associates of Asiwaju, the common name being used to depict their most famous disciple in Aso Rock is ‘that betrayer.’
The options for the Tinubu camp if he is blackmailed out of the presidential contest would be what is called the devil’s alternative.
The new year would not be any less interesting for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as party chiefs and governors work to frustrate Atiku Abubakar. Though he has the most visible name recognition among potential PDP aspirants, age, fatigue and zoning are weighty issues against Atiku that many governors are increasingly putting forward to stop him. Few days ago, three PDP governors visited Yola in what some have interpreted as a visit to woo the closest governor to Atiku, Umar Fintiri from the former vice-president.
Though the party’s three governors in the South-South, Ifeanyi Okowa, Nyesom Wike and Udom Emmanuel may lack the name recognition for a presidential contest, party operatives continue to talk of a dream ticket between one of the governors and Kwankwanso which they say would be an unbeatable ticket! The politics that would be played out in the year ahead is what politicos in Enugu State call Extreme Politics.