It was not clear why army chief General Tukur Burutai called on Commander-in-Chief Muhammadu Buhari the other day. It might be, among others, in response to summons for full explanation for the rapidly deteriorating security situation in different parts of the North. However, the version given to Nigerians was the claim of hundreds, if not thousands, of Boko Haram killed by Nigerian soldiers. Reporters allowed him to escape by not asking him how Boko Haram casualties were counted.
Efforts of our soldiers are appreciated but Nigerians are no longer being convinced about all these claims of imminent collapse of Boko Haram. Barely 48 hours after Burutai’s visit, Boko Haram struck heavily in Borno area, leaving scores dead. Whatever the success against Boko Haram, the fact remains that, on assuming office in 2015, Commander-in-Chief Muhammadu Buhari gave marching orders to Nigerian armed forces to wipe out the insurgents within three months, a deadline which expired in December 2015. We are now into the fifth year.
Way back in 2014 or even earlier, Nigerians were told by our armed forces that Boko Haram leader Shekau had been killed. He soon rose from the dead and has since been taunting and tormenting Nigeria’s military. Instead of any progress report, Nigerians are more interested in the end of the insurgency. And why not? Was it not the case that an army General on duty against Boko Haram was caught transporting a whopping sum of N400 million (yes, four hundre million naira) obviously for his personal enrichment? He has just been convicted, demoted in rank and recommended to be disgraced out of the army. Would he be the only one caught in such practice or the only one unlucky to be caught?
It is the tradition all over the world and through the ages that wars serve no purpose except to enrich a few. The General involved in the N400 million scandal saw to that.
Spell, unlimited confusion in APC
There must be some kind of spell on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), such as is roller-coasting the party to an uneasy, if at all, victory in the 2023 general election. Otherwise, what is the explanation for the party to embark on everything unwarranted or ignore essentials for political correctness all the time? The latest is the party’s do-or-die affair over Edo State governorship election, a showdown between incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor/national chairman Adams Oshiomhole.
Were these the same two party men who, in the 2016 election, were, figuratively speaking, like Siamese twins? That picture is best illustrated by a video clip on the social media on Oshiomhole’s unrestrained testimony for Obaseki’s suitability, competence, experience, reliability, loyalty, etc., complete opposite of today’s critical views of the same Oshiomhole on the same Obaseki. Indeed, Oshiomhole may have an impossible or at least difficult task taking back all the good things attributed to Obaseki. The clip only needs to be viewed. Equally, Obaseki will have much to explain to undecided voters how he lost such tremendous goodwill of his benefactor (Oshiomhole) within two years.
After series of mutual brickbats, the bone of contention came on what method, direct or indirect, primary election to pick the party’s candidate for the coming governorship election. In the series of verbal encounters leading to the screening of candidates, Obaseki made a serious allegation that his problem arose because he refused to share the state’s money. Such an allegation should have been investigated, but got drowned. APC’s constitution provides for any of direct or indirect primary election to select candidates for elections. Unfortunately, that option has rendered the party inconsistent, depending on vested interests of party leaders.
The situation is not helped by APC’ peculiarity as the only party with three leaders (a) President of the Federal Republic (b) The party’s duly elected National Chairman and (c) The party’s unelected National Leader, each with his own influence and vested interest. But who wields the final or even national authority? None. Hence, the party is firm on an issue of direct or indirect primary election only according to the interest of the various party leaders. The 2019 election was a good example, and today, an irony for both Governor Obaseki and (now suspended) Chairman Oshiomole, who both have a point on their respective stand in this controversy.
There is nothing unusual in Obaseki’s insistence on indirect primary elections, moreso as the party’s constitution provides for such an option. What is more, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State was granted that option or did he defy the party’s national directive for direct primary? In any case, that concession granted El-Rufai disgusted Senator Shehu Sani out of the party. On the other hand, former Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun’s insistence on similar indirect primary election to pick his successor was turned down by the same national headquarters of the party under the chairmanship of the same Oshiomhole, as helpless as he was in case of Kaduna State. The conduct of the primary election in Lagos State for the same 2019 governorship election is better not recalled, in view of the humiliation of the team sent from the party’s national headquarters to conduct the election. The team had to ratify primary elections it initially denied ever took place.
Since these inconsistences were recorded in APC’s primary elections in 2019, it will be unfair to presume that Chairman Oshiomhole singled out Governor Obaseki for victimisation. On the other hand, Oshiomhole should not have been lilly-livered in allowing El-Rufai to defy the party’s directive for direct primary election. It was a dangerous precedent, which should also have been extended to Obaseki. Of course, state governors are not without vested interest in insisting on indirect primary elections to pick their party’s ticket, especially for their second term and/or picking their successor. Towards that end, state governors, immediately on assuming office, sometimes appoint up to 5,000 special assistants, who at any subsequent direct or indirect elections to pick the party’s candidates are automatic delegates with voting rights as the faithfuls of their governor. There is no limit to the number of special assistants a governor can appoint.
Both Obaseki and Oshiomhole have their future political prospects on the line. For Obaseki, it must have been a tough decision.He had the Ambode option. The former Lagos State governor, after unsuccessfully vying for a second term ticket, accepted his benefactor’s clampdown and withdrew from the public. Obaseki was not even allowed to vie for the ticket as he was barred at the screening (of candidates) stage. Instantly, he resigned from APC and indicated seeking his political fortune on another platform. He must be so confident. Otherwise, his decision is a big gamble he cannot afford to lose. For a man facing such an uphill task, how did it happen he was so outflanked to be stripped of almost all electoral support?
On the other hand, Oshiomhole himself was so outflanked by Obaseki. Otherwise, where was Oshiomhole when his ward and local government party branches were infiltrated by his political enemies who got him suspended, a seeming joke now upheld by courts of law? With that development, the upper hand Chairman Oshiomhole all along seemed to have over Governor Obaseki has been dislocated. But the damage is not beyond repair. In the PDP primary for the presidential ticket in 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo lost the election in his ward and and local government. Yet, he won the presidential election. Therefore, Oshiomhole can only hope to win his appeal at the Supreme Court or regain the support of his ward and local government branches to return to the party.
Incidentally, there was the intervention of a Good Samaritan and top PDP figure, Ebenezer Babatope, who defended Governor Obaseki against what he (Babatope) described as APC’s unfairness to the governor on his educational attainment. Babatope submitted that, since the issue was not raised against the governor in 2016, it should not have been raised in 2020. The onus is on a political aspirant to make his educational requirement beyond any doubt. APC did not raise the issue in Bayelsa in 2019, only to lose its entire victory of the party’s governorship candidate. That bitter lesson must have influenced the party’s tighter screening of its candidates for the coming governorship race in Edo State.
The illustration is simple. If you journeyed through a route last time and lost all your belongings, it is only wise next time to fortify yourself against any repeat. If Governor Obaseki was sure of himself, all he should have done was to tender his educational attainment in a court of law and seek declaration that he attained all requirements or explain any discrepances. For the avoidance of doubt, this submission is not in any way, an endorsement of APC’s screening committee for the party’s candidate in the coming governorship election.
On a note of humour, my good friend, Ebenezer Babatope, is another politician. Very smart. When the APC lost the Bayelsa governorship, the beneficiary was Babatope’s PDP. If the APC repeated the Bayelsa disaster in Edo State, the beneficiary again would be Babatope’s PDP, which can never be altruistic in sympathising with an APC disqualified candidate.
Postscript: A reader, Dr. C.C. Nwagwu, should, please, get the message straight on the bereaved or the major survivor after the sudden death of Burundi’s President Nkurunziza as mentioned in this column last week. The deceased almost chocked the country with the blood of scores of thousands of Burundians, such that it was a relief for the country to survive Nkurunziza. For a repeat, sympathy goes to scores of thousands of widows, widowers and orphans whose husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles and aunties were killed during the late president’s rule of blood for 15 years.