FELIX NWANERI writes on the tension over the quest for power by the various political gladiators and the possibility of their actions igniting crisis during the general elections.

Tomorrow’s presidential and National Assembly elections promises to be an interesting, but fierce battle as political gladiators go neck-and-neck into a poll that has been characterised by intrigues and a tensed build-up. Many have expressed cautious optimism that Nigeria may be heading to another round of election violence, as comments by some stakeholders have continued to raise concern about the possibility of bloodshed. Even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified crisisprone areas that security agencies must place on red alert. The flashpoints were identified in the six geo-political zones by a committee set up by INEC’s Electoral Institute. Reasons for the anxiety over the elections cannot be farfetched. The country has a history of electoral violence. Of the nine general elections the nation had conducted since independence – 1964/1965, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, none was violence-free. The belief in most quarters is that the presidential, parliamentary and state gubernatorial and assembly elections, scheduled for February 16 and March 2, would be contentious due to tensions within and between the two major political parties – ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). To this end, there have been warnings that if the violent trend continues, and particularly, if the polls are marred or trailed by violence, it would deepen Nigeria’s already grave security and governance crises. Among the possible flash points as the elections commence tomorrow are Rivers, Kano, Imo, Ogun Akwa Ibom, Zamfara, Benue, Anambra, Sokoto, Kwara, Katsina and Niger states.
Rivers The oil-rich state is one to watch during the polls given the tensed political atmosphere that might see a replay of the 2015 experience, in which several lives were lost. There is no love lost among political gladiators in the state at the moment. On one hand is a camp led by Governor Nyesom Wike, while on the hand, is the Chibuike Amaechiled group. The governor and the current Minister of Transportation were allies before they fell apart and it has been an ego war since then. The Amaechi-led APC had hoped to unseat Wike during the polls, but the Supreme Court judgement, which barred the party from fielding candidate for the elections, have cut short of that bid. While it seems a done deal for Wike and his party (PDP), they would be taking a costly political gamble if they believe that the battle is over as APC camp appears not to have given up. Kano The ancient trading city has always been a flash point in Nigeria’s electoral history given its peculiar politics and the large number of political enthusiasts in the state. But, with the rivalry between former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso (now senator representing Kano Central) and his successor, Umar Ganduje, the possibility of the state witnessing large crisis during the elections is very high. Both are not just political allies, they worked together as governor and deputy for eight years and enjoyed a harmonious working relationship that was devoid of rancour. They first came to stage in 1999, and even when Kwankwaso lost his re-election bid in 2003 and was appointed minister of Defence, he picked Ganduje as one of his aides. When he returned as governor, 2011, he also came back with Ganduje and worked tirelessly to ensure that his long standing deputy succeeded him. But few months after Ganduje assumed, a wide crack emerged between the two. The crack came to the fore on October 21, 2015, the 59th birthday of Kwankwaso. The event has always been marked before then as Kwankwasiya Day. Kwankwasiya is the political movement led by the former governor. Both camps later seized fire, temporarily, following the intervention of their party’s national leadership, but the battle was rekindled ahead of the 2019 elections. The intrigues that ensued culminated to Kwankwaso’s exit from the APC for the PDP. Kwankwaso, whose son-in-law would be squaring against Ganduje in the governorship election, has persistently said that Ganduje’s second term bid is dead on arrival, but the governor maintains that the former governor is finished, politically. So, it is a proxy war that may rock the relative peace of the state. Ogun Given what happened at the recent presidential campaign rally of the APC in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, at which the leadership of the party, including President Buhari were booed and stoned, there is no doubt that the south western state is prone to crisis during the elections. The political atmosphere in the state has been tensed over Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s succession plan. His anointed candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade failed to secure the APC governorship ticket and had to move to Allied Peoples Movement (APM), but he face a stiff opposition in Dapo Abiodun, who is the standard bearer of the APC. For Governor Amosun who is contesting the senatorial election on the platform of the APC, delivering bulk of the states votes to Buhari is a task that must be done, but he has the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Governor Gbenga Daniel, who are rooting for the PDP presidential candidate to contend with. Kaduna Kaduna is another hot bed in the North West zone as the ego war between political gladiators in the state – Governor Nasri el- Rufai, Senator Shehu Sani and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi – may plunge the former capital of the defunct Northern region into crisis. Besides the supremacy battle between the political gladiators, there is also the belief in some political quarters that choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the ruling APC in the state poses a threat to fragile peace of a state divided along religious and ethnic lines. This situation in state is compounded by the recent statement credited to Governor el-Rufai, in which he said says any “foreign power” that intervenes in the general election would return to their country in body bags. el-Rufai said as an independent and sovereign state, Nigeria would never bow to foreign powers. “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags,” he said. Kogi The North Central state has always been volatile during elections, but the rivalry between Governor Yahaya Bello and the lawmaker representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye, may introduce a new dimension to it. At a point during the governorship supplementary election campaigns, Melaye aptly captured Bello as the chosen one for the Confluence State, adding that anyone fighting Bello is fighting God. Though the duo were former political allies, the manner they parted ways and the consequent supremacy war that ensued has in the past two year continued to threaten the peace of the state. And with Bello’s camp determined to stop Melaye from returning to the Senate, the stage is set for an intriguing battle, which its outcome cannot be predicted. Akwa Ibom The oil-rich Niger Delta state, was before now controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which explained why elections in the state since 1999 have been relatively peaceful. But, the recent defection of some chieftains of the party led by ex-governor Godswill Akpabio, to the All Progressives Congress (APC) triggered a political crisis that suddenly pitched him against Governor Udom Emmanuel. Interestingly, Emmanuel rode on Akpabio’s back to become governor. The former handpicked the latter, a former executive director in Zenith Bank, appointed him Secretary to the State Government (SSG), groomed and later helped him become governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2015 despite opposition within the PDP then. But the political climate of the state and the relationship between the duo went sour following the formal defection of Akpabio from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on August 8. Prior to his defection, the former governor resigned his position as the Senate Minority leader. His action was celebrated by the APC, but left PDP shell-shocked because it posed a major threat to Governor Emmanuel’s re-election bid. As it stands, the former governor will seize the opportunity of the polls to prove a point to his estranged political godson, who is, however, out to show that he is the new Sheriff in town. Imo There is no doubt that Governor Rochas Okorocha’s uncanny succession plot has turned the once peaceful state into a war zone. Okorocha is hell bent on having his sonin- law and former Chief of Staff as the next governor of the “Eastern Heartland,” but opposition against this bid turned former political allies to foes. The governor has wanted his anointed to run on the platform of the APC, but was resisted by the likes Osita Izunazo, Ifeanyi Ararume and his deputy governor, Eze Madumere. Nwosu, initially got the party’s ticket, but was later knocked out by the senator representing Imo West in the National Assembly, Hope Uzodinma. However, the governor did not back down. He directed his son-in-law and followers to join the Action Alliance (AA). As a result, Nwosu will slug it out with over 60 candidates in the battle for the Imo State government house. This scenario has put Imo in the spotlight among all the south eastern states as Okorocha and his traducers are ready to go the whole hog in proving their respective political strengths. Benue It is another supremacy battle in Benue State, which has witnessed flow of blood over time as a result of the herdsmen/farmers crisis. The contending personalities are Gover-nor Samuel Ortom, who must scale the hurdle set by his former ally and ex-governor of the state, Senator George Akume. The governor, who was elected on the platform of the APC dumped the party for the PDP over “the red card by the APC,” but there was no doubt that he took the decision following a protracted political cold war between him and Akume, over control of the party’s structure. Ortom had lost control of Benue APC to Akume during the ward, local government and state congresses of the party. The governor was unable to take charge of the party’s structure even in his Nzorov council ward of Guma Local Government Area though he explained after the congresses that he came into the party when there was no structure on ground and so he was not bothered whether he controls the structure of the party or not. There is also a senatorial clash between Senator Barnabas Gemade and former Governor Gabriel Suswam, which is likely to stoke fire. Gemade was elected on the platform of the APC, but had to dump the party with Governor Ortom. He, however, got a shocker when he was denied of PDP’s ticket. The ticket was handed to Suswam, who he defeated in the 2015 elections. This explained why he moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to set up the stage for an epic battle for the Benue North East senatorial seat. Kwara The North Central state, before now could pass for a one-party state but recent developments in the polity have turned it to the spotlight. An attestation to this was the huge crowd that attended the presidential rally of the APC in Ilorin on February 11. Such wouldn’t have been possible before now because the state used to be the exclusivity of the PDP. But with mounting opposition against the Saraki political dynasty led the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Kwara is a state to watch during the elections. Interestingly, the opposition against Saraki is not only from the home front. There are elements outside the state, who are out to turn the political table against him. This outside elements believe that there was the need to liberate Kwara of the people from “an oppressor,” but Saraki, who is not new to political battles of such nature has readied his camp to give them a run for their money. Zamfara The north western state is another flash point to watch during the polls and the reasons are not farfetched. There is a succession battle that pitched former Governor Sani Yerima against Governor Abdulazeez Yari. No doubt, Yerima is a household name in Zamfara State. He has made kings and dethroned kings. He has been in charge of Zamfara politics since 1999. He decides who gets what, when and how in the state. He also gives direction as far as politics is concerned in the state. But his influence seems to have been whittled by his political godson, Yari. The situation in Zamfara is worsened by INEC’s insistence that the ruling APC in the state will not field candidate for the polls for dialing to conduct its primaries within the stipulated period for the exercise. Katisna Ordinary the state would not have been a flash point as it has its son – Buhari – at president, but the belief by some citizens of the state that the President is disposed only to his Daura kinsmen has seen opposition against his re-election bid. Those championing this cause have found an ally in the PPD presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who enjoys a level of followership in the state given his relationship with former Chief of General Staff, Supreme Headquarters and founder of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), late General Musa Yar’Adua. Niger The North Central State is really not known for election violence, but the bid by former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida to President Buhari’s re-election may pitch his supporters and those of the President.]]>

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