The outgone 2019 was one of the most eventful years in the recent past as it witnessed the highpoint of power contest, intrigues, brickbat and the ultimate change of guards. Characteristic of the do-or-die attitude of the state actors, the political climate in the country was expectedly pregnant with uncertainty until the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) successfully concluded the electioneering process and the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari sworn-in on May 29.
The prolonged legal battle that followed between him and his main challenger in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, ended on October 29 with the Supreme Court judgment which affirmed the results of the presidential election declared by the electoral umpire.
As an immediate post election year, 2020 may likely witness a temporary lull in political activities. Even then, some political gladiators who have their eyes on the lever of power are already warming up for another exciting political fisticuff, just as those who have an axe to grind with one another are engaged in some comic dramas.
Top on the list of the key players to watch out for in the months ahead are the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, his counterpart in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), Rivers State’s Nyeson Wike, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Kayode Fayemi Ekiti (State) and Nasir El-rufai (Kaduna State). Others are the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, the President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, among others.
The power struggle between Governor Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, is already a familiar story. As Edo State gets closer to the September 10 timeline set by the INEC for the governorship election, more of this raging drama will likely dominate political event in the state. Since the pronged face-off became a matter of public interest, following the ensuing crisis that heralded the inauguration of the state assembly, the ruling APC has known no peace. All entreaties made by the national headquarters of the party to reconcile the two gladiators have met a brickwall. Obaseki, in his swift reaction recently to the National Reconciliation Committee set up by the party to intervene in the crisis, had rejected the trouble-shooting effort, saying it was a creation of Oshiomhole, the national chairman. The response of the factional chairman and secretary of the party in the state, Col. David Imuse and Lawrence Okah, to Obaseki’s stance, on the other hand, further widened the gulf between the two rival camps. A statement signed by the duo read: “APC in Edo State dissociates itself from the decision of the governor and his cohorts.
“For quite some time now, we have cried to the world that Governor Obaseki is the problem APC has in Edo State, but some persons whom he, unfortunately, brainwashed listen to his lies. However, Edo people, who are the voters, know the truth about Obaseki.
“It will interest President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of our party that this is the fourth time Governor Obaseki would reject trouble-shooting committees on Edo State and decisions made by respected institutions in this country.”
As Obaseki is bent on seeking a second term against the wish and endorsement of his former benefactor, some analysts are quick to predict a repeat of Zamfara State experience where the APC lost the opportunity to present candidates for the last general elections.
Like Edo State, Ondo governor election, according to the INEC, is coming up on November 26. Although Governor Akeredolu has not made a formal declaration of his intention to seek re-election, national dailies have been awash with his underground moves to reconcile with the power-that-be in the Southwest. He is one of the recalcitrant governors who were suspended in the run up to the last general elections for alleged anti-party activities, but recently got reprieve from the national headquarters of the party. The crisis of confidence that culminated in his suspension alongside former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his counterpart in Imo, Senator Rochas Okorocha began on March 1, 2019 when the APC National Working Committee (NWC) fired him a query for the unimpressive performance of the party in the February 28, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Ondo State. The party followed up the query with a suspension order.
Consequent upon his suspension, Akeredolu swallowed the humble pie and quickly paid a courtesy visit on the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, with whom he had fallen out of step after losing the 2012 gubernatorial election to former Governor Segun Mimiko. In company with former National Vice Chairman APC, Southwest zone, Chief Pius Akinyelure, Akeredolu visited Tinubu, presumably for fence mending, having realised that he would need him (Tinubu) to actualize his ambition for a second term ahead of the party’s primary.
Prior to his suspension, there had been widespread insinuation that Akeredolu might not get the ticket for his second term because of his alleged disloyalty to the party. As they say, once bitten, twice shy. Now with the purported rapprochement, the question remains: Will Tinubu still trust him for another chance? The answer is in the womb of time.
Rivers State governor, Nyeson Wike, is one of the strong pillars of the PDP. He alongside other committed members struggled to rescue the party from the brink immediately after its woeful defeat in the 2015 presidential election. However, the festering face-off between him and his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson, seems to have put the PDP in a dilemma. The two have been at each other’s throat over the ownership of Soku oil well, exchanging tirades and brickbats.
Following the judgment of the Federal High Court which returned the disputed oil field to Rivers, Wike has declared not to be a part of the peace initiative being organised by the party leadership, saying the issue had already determined by the court. He said sarcastically: “I don’t know why they are interceding. They have no power to resolve the issue of oil wells. Secondly, the matter has been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. Anybody who is not satisfied should go on appeal.”
Also blaming Dickson for the loss of Bayelsa State to the APC in the last November governorship election, Wike added: “I am not going to sit down with anybody to discuss anything as it relates to Governor Dickson. I have no business with Governor Dickson. They know that Governor Dickson betrayed and sold out the party. They know what Dickson worked with my opponent in Rivers State during the 2019 election. Throughout that period, the National Chairman himself knows that people were calling from all over the country to know the situation. Dickson never called one day. This was because of his alignment with the opposition. I can show proof that Dickson had already made up his mind to go over to APC.”
Since its exit from power in 2015, PDP has been tottering from one crisis to another. With his outburst, Wike has obviously drawn the battle line, widening the fault lines among different interest camps. For his strength of character, Rivers State Governor is one of key stakeholders the party leadership cannot ignore, if they are genuinely committed to restoring peace in the party. Therefore, how well this situation is managed will surely determine the future stability of the party both in the South-south and Nigeria as a whole.
The prolonged feud between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Emir Muhammed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is still very much in the news. The latest in the raging war arising from the creation of four additional Emirates from the existing centuries old Kano Emirate- Bichi, Rano, Karaye and Gaya – in an alleged bid to emasculate Sanusi’s influence due to some political differences, is the setting up of Abdulsalami-Fayemi peace committee to reconcile the two parties. Hitherto, all efforts made by concerned stakeholders, including Northern Elders Forum, to persuade the two sides to sheathe their swords had been rebuffed. The leader of the group, Prof Ango Abdullahi, lamenting how his team was prevented from meeting with Mr Ganduje, was quoted as saying: “The Kano crisis is baseless. It is a political manipulation by some people who think they are the leaders, who just emerged overnight. They are not bothered about people sufferings, but they want to destroy institutions of over 500 to 1,000 years,”
Chairman, APC Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State was said to have initiated the latest peace move in collaboration with Abba Kyari with the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari. Optimism is high that the new committee would achieve its mandate to restore normalcy to the troubled Emirate. Already, the two parties have been enjoined to refrain from taking any further actions until the committee finalises its resolution.
The prolonged face-off got to a head some couple of weeks ago, when a Kano High Court presided by Justice Usman Nabba invalidated the four new emirate councils created by Governor Ganduje on May 8, 2019. The judge said the Kano House of Assembly failed to comply with its own law, which stipulated that a person who is not a member of the House of Assembly could not present a petition to the Assembly. The judge held that the deliberations and resolutions of the House in respect of the law were based on a petition from an outsider, and, therefore, ought not to have been signed into law by the governor.
In a swift response to the judgment, the government initiated a fresh bill, resulting in the signing of a new Kano State Emirate Council Law which allows the creation of a Central Council of Chiefs, consisting of five emirs, with Sanusi appointed as first chairman.
Concerned stakeholders warn that the continued crisis could undermine the political importance of Kano to the northern region, being the only strong state that has the respect of the entire northern region.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has a key role to play in the power sector reform in this New Year. He was appointed by the Federal government in November 2019 as the head of the ad-hoc committee that will review the ownership of the electricity distribution company (DisCos). The decision was reached at the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).
The power sector was privatised in 2013 resulting in six generation companies and 11 distribution companies. Governors representing the six geo-political zones on the Board of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company will serve on the review committee.
The constitution of the committee followed Senate’s resolution to probe the challenges of electricity supply after a motion moved by Chukwuka Utazi, the senator representing Enugu North.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had initially expressed concerns about the under performance of the DISCOs, saying there was need for “a substantial change of strategy”. The Federal Government had said it would conduct a final review of the five-year performance agreement with the DisCos by December 31, 2019. The review is expected to determine if the electricity companies have achieved the performance targets they signed during the power privatisation.
Power sector is the engine room for economic growth and sustainable development. But over the year, electricity distribution sub-sector has been considered the weakest link in the value chain since the privatisation, as it has failed to live up to the performance expectations. All eyes are on the committee to make appropriate recommendations that would enable the Federal Government to take the right decision on the best position way to reposition the sector.
Besides this onerous assignment, el-Rufai also has his eyes on the 2023 presidential race. Possibility is high that he would step up his strategy to actualize his ambition beginning from this year.
In and out of his Edo home state, Comrade Oshiomhole has many battles to fight not only to retain his position as the National Chairman of the ruling APC, but to also remain relevant in the scheme of things. At home, the superiority of his power is strongly being challenged by the incumbent governor whom he single-handedly propped up and installed as his successor. To some analysts, this may be his last political battle, if he fails to stop Obaseki from his second term ambition. While the late Tony Anenih held sway as godfather of Edo State politics, Oshiomhole led the campaign against godfatherism and saw to it that Mr. “Fix it” was permanently retired from politics. Now, Obaseki wants to pay him in his own coin and the battle line has already been drawn. Since the crisis of confidence between the two actors became a public matter, Edo State has been in turmoil, culminating in the prolonged stalemate in the state house of assembly as well as polarization of the APC in the state. Although the national body has indicated its readiness to resolve the crisis once and for all, the governor has faulted the composition of the reconciliation committee assigned to intervene. The question is: who will blink first?
Again, while there is an uneasy calm within the rank and file of the party members who have an axe to grind with the national chairman, there are also indications that his troubles may still be far from being over. Oshiomhole ran into troubled water following the allegations of manipulation of the results of the open governorship primaries in some states during the last general election, including Ogun, Imo, Zamfara states, among others. Some of the aggrieved governors blamed the ensuing crisis in the party on bad leadership and consequently called for his resignation. Following the recent trouble-shooting effort by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, reports say that the matter has been laid to rest. But feelers within the party show that some aggrieved power brokers are still hell bent on seeing Oshiomhole out of office. These are the long range battles he has to grapple with in the months ahead.
For obvious reasons, all eyes are on the leadership of the 9th National Assembly which some critics have described as a rubber stamp legislature. The cynics, who champion this opinion, are often too quick to point at the speedy manner with which the year’s budget was passed into law. They particularly faulted the seeming lack of proper scrutiny of the N37 billion budgeted for the renovation of the Assembly complex, saying it is outrageous.
Controversies have also been raging over the propriety or otherwise of constituency project, which the ICPC report describes as conduit pipe for siphoning public funds.
The intrigue that characterised the election of the principal officers of the two chambers is already a public knowledge. Senator Lawan as the Chairman of the National Assembly has a lot to do to convince Nigerians that the new leadership is truly committed to sustaining the independence of the legislature without necessarily undermining the smooth running of government. For now, the image of the National Assembly leaves much to be desired. And Nigerians are not going to fold their arms and watch things go wrong. They will constantly bring the leadership to the spotlight to ensure effective representation and good governance.
Though without much visible presence at public functions outside the confine of the Aso Villa, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, is one of the power brokers in the Buhari administration you can only ignore at your own peril. Indeed, not many Nigerians appreciated the enormity of his power and influence on certain critical decision making, including appointment into government office until recently when these started to come to the open.