Desmond Mgboh (Kano), Onyedika Agbedo (Lagos), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Joe Effiong (Uyo), Rose Ejembi (Makurdi)
Since the result of the February 23, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections was announced, the defeat of some political bigwigs at the poll and in their hitherto political strongholds has dominated political discourse. These include the likes of Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio; Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Senator George Akume. These are all former governors of their respective states of Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Kano and Benue. While Saraki, Akpabio and Akume sought to return to the Senate, Kwankwaso did not but his much-touted Kwankwassiyya Movement was trusted with the assignment to deliver the state to the opposition party. Besides, Kwankwaso has been having a running battle with his estranged godson and governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje, and the presidential and National Assembly elections were seen as a supremacy battle between the duo in the state. Kwankwaso’s camp performed far below expectation. Nevertheless, fresh facts have emerged on why they all lost out.
Saraki lost his bid to return to the Senate for the third time to Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after a second attempt at contesting against him. Oloriegbe, who was a member of the Kwara State House of Assembly and Leader of the House during the era of late former governor Muhammed Lawal, had contested on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 but lost to Saraki.
Saraki, who is a medical doctor, stormed Kwara politics in 2003 by riding on his father’s profile. His loss indicated that he has lost his hitherto firm grip on Kwara politics. Oloriegbe polled 123,828 to beat Saraki who scored 68,994.The loss is a major setback for the Saraki dynasty in 43 years since the patriarch of the family, the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, a former senate leader, dominated Kwara politics. The dynasty has installed six governors since 1979, hundreds of lawmakers at the national and state levels, councillors and chairmen of local government areas.
Speaking on the defeat, an APC stalwart, Iyiola Akogun, said: “Hunger, underdevelopment, poverty, retarded growth, lack of value for other human beings, selfishness, self-centredness and many more are the lot of the people in Kwara in the 16 years that Saraki has been in the politics of the state.”
According to him, Saraki came into Kwara politics during the battle to rescue the state from his father by the late governor Lawal.
“The senior Saraki was said to have heeded advice over the complains of the people who challenged him to bring his own son to contest for governor in the state when the disagreement ensued between him and Lawal. The late Saraki brought his son who was accepted by most young men around then because of his age, and with the belief that he would change the status of the state. In fairness to Saraki, he did change the status of the state with some achievements attributed to him during his two terms as governor of the state. Interestingly, some of those who embraced the younger Saraki are the ones who worked against him and saw him defeated in last Saturday’s election.”
Other observers also reasoned that Saraki was defeated due to the insincerity of some of his foot soldiers who worked against him with their behaviour and attitude in handling assignments given to them. But others say that Saraki lost as a result of his arrogance, selfishness, self-centredness and disconnection with the people, especially civil servants who have allegedly suffered more with him at the helm of affairs.
“Oloriegbe defeating Saraki in the just concluded senatorial election was made possible by the fact that residents of Kwara Central Senatorial district did what they called a protest vote. They wanted to test the waters and see if truly the state doesn’t have enough resources to cater for her people or if it was Saraki that deliberately made them suffer. Surprisingly, Saraki failed to go back to the drawing board when the opposition APC in the state started mobilising and came up with a political slogan, ‘O to ge’ (enough is enough) which became a street language and resonated with all segments of the society. Saraki’s followers had responded with another refrain ‘O tunya’, which means ‘continuity with Saraki’s rule’ but it didn’t stick.”
A former assistant PRO of PDP, Femi Yusuf, however, sees Saraki’s defeat from a different dimension by saying it was just the law of karma. According him, he simply reaped what he sowed when he betrayed his late father and sister, Gbemisola Saraki.
Today in Kwara, the expression on many lips is that Saraki is gone for good in the state and Kwarans now breathe fresh air. Although the newly elected representatives have not started work, the people see his defeat as a new dawn in Kwara politics.
It is probably not a big deal that President Muhammadu Buhari overwhelmingly defeated the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in Kano State, where a former governor of the state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is believed to hold the ace. What would have been news, in all sincerity, is if the results had gone the other way round. In the informed judgment of a majority of Kano people, both characters are certainly no match in the politics of the state.
For a start, while Kwankwaso controls a good following drawn largely from the belief that one day soon, he would spring a come back to power as he had proven and done on several occasions in the past, Buhari is blindly adored, incomparably exalted and impulsively endorsed as the representation of the sensibilities of the Kano people in the very complex Nigerian politics, in which each subsisting group strives hard to stay atop or be shortchanged.
But beyond this general statement, there are certain variables that played out during the conduct of the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, which could account for why Kwankwaso, a highly rated politician performed dismally below expectations, returning nearly about 400,000 votes for Atiku to Buhari’s 1.4 million.
Some experts have argued, and rightly too, that the 2019 elections was really no different from the 2015 polls. They may differ in time and context, in characters and personalities, but the few shifts notwithstanding, the fundamentals of two historical contests are the same, they said. The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku, is a fellow Muslim and a northerner, but in the actual sense, he was seen as one who would bend too much to the interests of other regions and therefore, not one to be trusted with the votes of Kano people.
In the person-to-person and door-to-door campaigns that heralded Saturday polls for instance, he was castigated for the choice of a running mate from the South East. He was also attacked as a promoter of restructuring – a term which is locally interpreted to mean reducing the scope of opportunities of the people of the North to the advantage of their southern rivals.
Even more intriguing is the fact that not all northerners are northerners of the same ranking. Atiku comes from Adamawa State and not from a core northern state. Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and their likes are not in the same ranking as Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states. Certainly to the man in Kano, Buhari who is from Katsina State is much more his kith and kin than a man who is from Adamawa.
Kwankwaso’s fall was not entirely his own making, but sadly a result of several forces beyond his control — interplay of forces he would not have dared in the first place, if not that he was overwhelmed by shadows of his own self-estimation.
The politics of Kwankwaso in Kano and beyond, although very courageous, was confronted by a lot from these combinations of forces that desperately desired his downfall. It was his overreaching his luck that made him assume he could fight not just Buhari, but a combination of political characters in the state all at the same time, forgetting the time tested wise saying that a good general does not fight several battles all at the same time.
But Kwankwaso was fighting a grudge war with his successor, Governor Ganduje. He was also at war with his long-time arch-political enemy, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. He was at war with the very popular Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Yusuf Gwauna, who controls a large chunk of the youths in Kano Central. He was also at war with the former Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Hafiz Yusuf, who resigned his office and defected to the PDP in the hope of a governorship ticket, but was turned down at the last minute.
It must also be rightly acknowledged that the effective management of the security of the state by the courageous and fearless Commissioner of Police in the state contributed in no small measure to the nature of the electoral outcomes in the state. Within a week of his assumption of duty, he raided hideouts and black spots in the state, ensuring that about 1,600 political thugs were held behind bars on the day of the polls. This certainly ensured that Kano went to the polls with a breath of fresh air and discountenanced the use of thugs in the exercise. It’s noteworthy that all the political actors from all the parties had invested greatly in nurturing a tribe of thugs but were denied their active use in the conduct of the polls. So, the de-escalation of violence in the state encouraged more decent people to come out and vote – many of whom came out to vote for President Buhari and his party.
Man by his nature is a master of his own fate and misfortune. Kwankwaso proved much of this saying when he and the PDP failed to release the party’s logistics well in good time.
“As at midnight to Saturday’s presidential election, the party had not released the logistics which was supposed to cater for fees to party agents and provide different sorts of incentives to their field men,” said a party chieftain
“The result is that given the vastness of the state, we were unable to reach out to so many of our field workers and agents before the commencement of the polls. In some areas, agents had either left the polling units in anger or had been compromised by our heavy spending rival party before our arrival,” he added.
The insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained however that their leader acted in good faith, adding that his decision to wait a little was largely informed by his fear that the polls maybe postponed again by INEC.
On another plain, Kwankwaso failed to shine in the presidential elections in Kano State because the PDP went to the elections as factions of different interests, rather than as a single family in a quest for political victory. There were members of the Kwankwassiyya who do not share the same philosophy with Kwankwaso when it comes to dislodging Buhari. Yes, they love Kwankwaso and his ideology, but they equally love Buhari as the president. Many of this class of Kwankwassiyya are rather fighting the state governor, Ganduje and not Buhari. This class definitely voted for Buhari against the general directives that they should vote against him.
Many members of the legacy (original) faction of the PDP in the state also did not even bother to vote, not to talk of investing time, energy and resources to push the party forward in the polls.
They were still hurt by the fact that the headquarters conceded their party to Kwankwaso and relegated those of them who nurtured the party over the years to the background. The Aminu Walis, the Bello Hayaitus and the Dogowas are certainly not happy with the way things were constructed against them and certainly did not commit their best.
To make matters worse, the political narrative of the power equation in the state did not accord prominence to any force in the PDP outside Kwankwaso. He was seen as a demigod.
“If, for instance, he had won the presidential polls penultimate Saturday, all the credits would have gone to him alone and no other person would have been mentioned. That is why many of these PDP members stayed back so that the headquarters of the party can get a proper picture of the extent of his power and influence in the state,” said a source.
If in June last year some prophets had told Akpabio or anybody from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, nay the entire Akwa Ibom State, that when the 9th Senate convenes in June this year, he would only be watching proceedings on television screen as a former senator, whose people rejected at the polls, people would have seriously doubted the prophecy. Akpabio himself was so sure of returning to the Senate almost unopposed that during a reception and grand endorsement organised for him and Governor Udom Emmanuel on July 16 by Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, officially known as Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, he boastfully said in his acceptance speech: “Don’t worry about election; election is all about voting. Today, you notice that I did not shout too much about party because you have endorsed Akpabio as an unopposed candidate. And this unopposed candidate cuts across all the political parties.
“Whether you call it Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), no matter the political party, we are saying let God’s will be done again. For those who want to divide us, let God Almighty not allow them.”
Ironically, Dr Chris Ekpenyong, the man who has now sent Akpabio to the political wilderness, was the chairman on that occasion. But barely three weeks later, precisely on August 8, 2018, Ikot Ekpene township stadium, the same venue for the grand endorsement, was again jam-packed with human beings to witness what was tagged Akpabio’s “uncommon defection” from the PDP to the APC.
But just as Akpabio and his new political friends were assembling at the stadium, another crowd of who-is-who in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District was meeting at Ritman’s University premises owned by Sen. Emmanuel Ibokessien to rue over and publicly denounce his defection. They had earlier issued a statement a day before Akpabio defected to warn him against taking the step.
But like a dog meant to get lost, Akpabio never heeded the warning of his people, rather he went on rampage making inciting declarations such as that with him, the whole of the South South would be captured by the APC; and that election in Akwa Ibom would be akin to ‘Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw’.
Feeling insulted, the elders of the senatorial district led by his erstwhile political godfather, Brig. Gen. Michael Afanagide, teamed up with others and fielded Ekpenyong, the former deputy governor of the state. And even then, most people saw Ekpenyong as an underdog in the race. Ekpenyong’s candidacy looked more like a mere academic exercise just for the PDP to save face than a real political contest.
But when the D-Day eventually came, the people massively rejected Akpabio by queuing behind Ekpenyong to give Akpabio his first electoral bloody nose. Despite belatedly fighting tooth and nail, the “uncommon defector” could only garner common 83,158 votes against Ekpenyong’s 118,215 votes. Can anyone ever imagine Akpabio losing election in eight of the 10 local government areas of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District where he hitherto had a cult following?
Mr Nsikak Ekpong, who has just been elected to represent Ikot Ekpene federal constituency, gave reasons. “APC is not an acceptable party in Akwa Ibom State. Our leaders who later defected to APC had drummed it into our ears consistently that broom signifies houseboy syndrome. So that sank into our subconscious. It is not because we don’t like our leader that defected; but because he taught us what is right and we knew that the right thing is right. So, we couldn’t go left.
“Then secondly, APC doesn’t not have people on ground. They recycle their crowd. This election was the freest and fairest I have ever seen or taken part in. Every vote counted. It was a test of popularity, a test of strength of each of the political parties. So, APC is not on ground in Akwa Ibom State; and people do not like them or their ideologies and their performance at the federal level,” he said.
Another House of Representatives member-elect from the senatorial district and former Commissioner for Information to Akpabio, Mr Aniekan Umanah, said Akpabbio’s woeful outing was a direct consequence of the strength of APC in Akwa Ibom State.
“Akwa Ibom is predominantly PDP. The election showed the strength of each party. And PDP will continue to win election in Akwa Ibom State because every major politician in this country knows that Akwa Ibom is a PDP entrenched state and the structure of political and electoral process belongs to the PDP — 329 councillors, 31 local government chairmen; 21 House of Assembly members; in the national assembly, nine out of the 13 members in both chambers belong to PDP. And the governor has more than 500 appointees across the state. So, on what structure can any other party win election in Akwa Ibom? It is difficult. So, the APC should understand that they were running on hallucination,” Umanah said.
But Atuekong Don Etiebet, who is now a chieftain of APC, attributed Akpabio’s and other APC candidates’ woeful outing to rigging and electoral fraud perpetrated by Akwa Ibom State government in collaboration with INEC in the state.
“You were there in Akwa Ibom State. Can you say none of the APC candidates could win election in their own local governments including Nsima Ekere’s local government, my own local government, Umana Umana’s local government; including Uyo? Could you say we didn’t have support in Uyo where you live? This is atrocious and we are not going to accept it.
“How can Godswill Obot Akpabio lose in Essien Udim Local Government Area? How can Don Etiebet lose in Orukanam? Since 1978, I have not lost election in my own local government. I have not lost election in the state. How can that happen? All the stories we hear is that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) there was in connivance with the state government and Udom.
“Do you think that the elders of Essien Udim will be so annoyed that they wouldn’t vote for Akpabio after what he has done for them by turning Essien Udim, which was a village, into a town? The whole exercise was atrocious and we are working to make sure that such a result does not stand,” Etiebet said.
It was a thing of both shock and joy in Benue when news broke that the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State, Senator George Akume, had lost his senatorial seat and would not be part of the 9th National Assembly.
Akume, a former governor of the state and three-time senator representing Benue North West District lost to Hon. Orker Jev, a three-time House of Representatives member.
Some months back when the former governor led APC topnotch in the state on a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja, it was gathered that he (Akume) said that the killings in Benue were not being perpetrated by the Fulani but by Benue indigenes themselves.
Many Benue people who heard the news felt so bad about it and interpreted it to mean that he said the Benue people were killing themselves and not the Fulani. This was further buttressed during the presidential campaign of President Buhari in Benue when Akume mounted the podium and said that Benue people never had any problem with Fulani.
Akume, who stated that he was governor of the state for eight years without any issues with the Fulani, said those killing Benue indigenes were livestock guards whom Governor Samuel Ortom had armed to kill.
His claims did not go down well with the people and they revolted with their votes. There is also the Governor Ortom Factor to Akume’s defeat. It’s a known fact that Akume, who contributed in no small way to the emergence of Ortom as governor in 2015 was his godfather for almost three years until they fell out sometime last year.
Ortom had claimed that he left the APC because his political godfather gave him a red card even as Akume had also insisted that he was given a red card because of non-performance.
Since then, Akume who insisted that he picked Ortom from the gutter and made him governor seized every opportunity to apologise to the people of the state for foisting him on them. He also vowed to ensure that Ortom never returns as governor for a second term.
Ortom, on the other hand said that Akume had forgotten that it is God that enthrones and dethrones, and promised that he would retire Akume from politics this time around.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the Benue North West Senatorial election result in which Akume lost, the elated Ortom said: “Have I ever said anything before and it didnt come to pass?”
Apart from the above issues, there was also a resolve by Benue people to retire all the old politicians from the Senate and inject new blood. And they were resolute this time as Senators David Mark, Barnabas Gemade and Akume will no longer be returning as their seats have now been taken over by Comrade Abba Moro, former governor Gabriel Suswam and Jev respectively.
Some of Akume’s constituents also alleged that although Akume had been into active politics for 20 years, there was hardly anything to show for it in terms of developmental strides. And they vowed to vote him out with their permanent voter cards and were happy that it worked this time.