By Ibraheem Musa, Bode Olagoke, Oyibo Salihu and Daniel Agbo–
The beautiful bride On the campaign trail, General Muhammadu Buhari was the toast of every aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress(APC) as most of those vying for the state and National Assembly tickets, including gubernatorial aspirants, claimed to be his anointed candidates.
At that time, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano state and Mr.
Sam Nda Isaiah were also in the presidential race, but no aspirant identified with them.
In fact, almost every aspirant had Buhari’s photograph on his or her poster, with the general’s picture looming larger than their own.
Radio and television jingles canvassing for support, were always accompanied with either Buhari’s voice or footage of him and various aspirants.
Specifically, the race for the APC primaries was keenly contested because of the general belief that the party’s ticket was a blank cheque for victory at the general election, especially in the north.
In this regard, General Buhari’s perceived support was key to their victory, and aspirants went overboard to hoodwink party delegates by dropping his name and showing off their closeness to him.
Signifi cantly, the retired general and APC presidential aspirant was sparring with his support.
Apart from Malam Nasir El Rufai, a gubernatorial aspirant in Kaduna state whom he publicly endorsed, Buhari didn’t show public support for anyone.
However, to a large extent, he discreetly threw his weight behind Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, one of the gubernatorial aspirants in his home state of Katsina.
Apart from these two, Buhari mainly stayed above the fray much as aspirants wanted to drag him into it.
After the presidential primaries and with the party’s ticket under his belt, the desire to identify with Buhari assumed a feverish pitch among northern APC gubernatorial candidates.
Change without change?
When the APC government came on board on May 29, 2015, most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief, believing that the sordid past had come to an end.
However, the same old problems have remained at both state and national levels.
For instance, allegations of corruption, nepotism and cries of marginalization, including non-payment of workers’ salaries as well as imposition of candidates at the last congresses, still persist till date.
For instance, in Kogi state, some workers have not been paid for two months, others haven’t received salaries for 18 months, and some are being owed 22 months salary arrears.
The story is the same in Benue state, where Governor Samuel Ortom is yet to pay workers for six months.
Likewise, local government employees in Benue state have not received salaries in the last 12 months.
In Oyo, the southwestern state, workers are groaning under salary arrears of 10 months.
The situation remains same in Kwara where civil servants in the state parastatals and local governments are being owed about 8-month salary.
This has virtually turned them to beggars and house helps seeking to do some menial jobs to make ends meet.
In Niger state, the Eastern senatorial district has accused Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of marginalising them.
The Gbayis who are the second largest ethnic group in the state, are from that zone, and at the last 6th Dikko Annual Cultural Day, they vowed not to support the APC administration in 2019.
Senator David Umoru who represents the zone, lamented that “today, the main principal offi ces of the Niger State government do not take cognizance of the Gbagyi as a people.
” He warned that his people will no longer support a government that discriminates against them.
In particular, the Niger East Development Association has kicked against the nomination of Professor Mustapha Zubairu as Resident Electoral Commissioner, arguing that the appointment negated the principle of Federal Character as both Zubairu and Malam Mohammed Haruna, an Independent National Electoral Commissioner(INEC) are from the same Bida town in Niger South.
However, the government has denied the allegation of marginalization.
Fractious state congresses
More than anything else, the last APC congresses that held across the states, ahead of its non elective convention, suggested that the dif erence between the ruling party and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) may just be in name.
In fact, analysts are of the opinion that President Buhari’s perceived integrity is the only thin line that separates APC and PDP.
In the last congresses, allegations of manipulation of delegates’ list and sundry sharp practices trailed the process in most of the states.
Impunity, some party and non party members alike, believe still dominates the political space.
For instance, in Kaduna and Rivers states, the process ended up in violence as thugs invaded the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat when some Kaduna APC chieftains went to ventilate their grievances.
Senator Shehu Sani, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and some members of APC Akida Group had gone to air their grievances at the press centre, but some thugs, led by a police officer, swooped on them, wounding some party members and journalists in the ensuing melee.
In summary, the Kaduna APC chieftains alleged that the delegates’ list was written in Government House.
However, the state party executives insisted that the congress was held in accordance to APC guidelines.
In Rivers, tension was very high as party faithful took to the street to protest alleged imposition of candidates.
Elder Chidi Wihioka, a representative of Ikwerre/Emohua federal constituency, called for the cancellation of what he called fake congress, so did Dr.
Barry Mkpigi, representative of Tai, Oyibo/ Eleme federal constituency as well as former Attorney General of the state, Mr Wogu Boms.
Senator Magnus Abe had also criticized the conduct of the congress.
According to the senator who represents Rivers South East, “we got information that leaders of the party were meeting somewhere.
Then someone said no, that they relocated the meeting to the party secretariat.
Here we are at the party secretariat.
No one is here.
It is under lock and key.
Buhari’s popularity wanes?
With time, even the president’s most ardent supporters believes, that Buhari’s popularity is waning but the fault is being put at the door steps of the ubiquitous cabal at the Presidential Villa.
Generally, Buhari is blamed for the infighting in his cabinet because it shows that he is in power but not in control.
In addition, there is a general perception that his war against corruption is being selectively waged.
Specifi cally, the allegation against Malam Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff , is being cited as a classical example of the government’s duplicity in the war against corruption.
According to reports, Kyari allegedly collected N500 million from MTN, the telecommunications giant, in order to mitigate the $5.
2 billion fi ne imposed on it, especially for failure to disconnect subscribers with improper registration.
However, instead of ordering for a thorough investigation, the President has turned a deaf ear to the allegation.
Similarly, the government is generally seen as being very slow in taking decisions.
For example, it took a long time before Buhari set up a committee to probe suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF), Babachir David Lawal and Director-General of National Intelligence Agency(NIA), Mr.
The committee, which was headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had National Security Adviser, Babagana Mohammed Monguno and Attorney General of the Federation, Malam Abubakar Malami as members.
Having submitted its report to the president on August 23, some two months from now, nothing has been heard about it.
In addition, the administration is seen as provincial and nepotistic, as protagonists of this argument claim that members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet are mostly northerners and members of his family.
Presidential aspirants in the wings
According to reports, the dipping of Buhari’s popularity may have emboldened some governors to throw their hats into the ring in 2019.
In particular, the names of El-Rufai of Kaduna state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Borno state governor and Governor Aminu Bello Tambuwal of Sokoto state have been widely speculated as eyeing the presidency.
Categorically, all of them have severally denied the speculation at diff erent times but the rumour keeps persisting, especially at the last time that the president was away to the United Kingdom of medical vacation.
The speculation was hinged on unconfi rmed report on “Buhari’s poor state of health”.
The idea therefore is that another northerner be allowed to complete his second term in 2019.
Of course, the President had since returned and resumed offi ce.
Speaking to one of our correspondents, an aide to El Rufai said his boss is too preoccupied with delivering dividends of democracy to the people and would not be distracted with “such empty speculations.
” He pointed out that Kaduna APC stakeholders have recently endorsed Buhari for a second term.
Both Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and Malam Isa Gusau, Governor Shettima’s spokesman ,couldn’t be reached at the time of this report.
Without mincing words, former acting chairman of APC said Buhari is yet to inform South-west leaders of the party that he would re-contest in 2019.
Buhari, as a member of APC, will have to slug it out with other presidential aspirants in order to secure the party’s ticket.
Akande belled the cat last Tuesday at the meeting of the APC South-west leaders at Ibadan.
According to him, Buhari has not said he is contesting again and that “anybody in our party is free to become the President of Nigeria.
” The party, Akande pointed out, “will set a process through which a candidate is elected.
If he (Buhari) is lucky to have the ticket, we will present him as our candidate.
” And follow-up interpretations At once, Akande’s statement set the alarm bells ringing as several interpretations followed.
First, the statement was seen as Akande’s voice but Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s hand.
In other words, the strong man of South west politics may be using Akande, his long time ally, to fl y the kite of his speculated presidential ambition.
To some analysts, Akande’s statement is in order and it is in line with APC constitution.
However, in a chat with Blueprint Weekend, Mohammed Suleiman Adamu, a die-hard Buhari supporter, expressed his discomfort with Akande’s position.
‘’Pa Akande, with due respect, should have said that Buhari should be given the right of fi rst refusal.
That if he indicates interest to re-contest, the president should be endorsed without prejudice to other aspirants,’’ he said.
APC governors echo Akande And taking it up from Akande, the APC governors also reechoed the elder statesman’s position.
Just last Wednesday, members of the National Assembly, the party’s National Working Committee and the governors met at the party’s secretariat and resolved that the party’s constitution should be upheld in this regard.
But Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi state was quick to clarify that their position had nothing to do with Akande’s earlier statement.
And like Akande’s statement, the governors’ position was also interpreted diff erently.
First, it was seen as a sign of Buhari’s sagging popularity and a tacit way of dumping the president in 2019.
Second, it was interpreted as a way of presenting a united APC front to the world.
Specifi cally, Akande’s statement was seen as a rebellion of the South west and that Tinubu was spoiling for a show down.
“So, the governors moved to douse the simmering feud within the party,” a source told Blueprint Weekend yesterday.
From all indications, APC may soon implode even as the key gladiators appear to have made up their minds to pursue their presidential ambitions, regardless of whether or not Buhari will contest.
For example, a staunch supporter of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Comrade Timi Frank said contest for the APC ticket “is Alhaji Atiku’s fundamental right.
” According to him, Atiku has the experience and acceptability to win the presidency.
“Without sounding like a do-or-die politician, Atiku will test his popularity again and unlike what happened in 2014 APC presidential primary, the game plan is very different,” he stated.
When contacted on phone, another die-hard Kwankwaso fan vowed that the former Kano state governor “will not step down or be intimidated out of 2019 Presidential Primaries in APC.
” Ikonomwan, a former Special Adviser to exEdo state governor Adams Oshiomohle, blamed governors for Kwankwaso’s loss at APC Presidential primary in 2014.
“In 2015, there was this same fear and rumours in some quarters as to whether he will contest or not, but he went into the contest and came second.
As a matter of fact, if not the Governors that worked against him, he would have defeated Gen.
Muhammadu Buhari,’’ he revealed.
For the camp of former Lagos state governor and APC National leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, the Presidential ticket is open to all aspirants who may wish to contest.
Recently, El Rufai said some APC governors and ministers had resolved to call on Buhari to contest the 2019 presidential election.
El-Rufa’i, who made this known to State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with the President, described the group as an association that aims to promote and defend the president’s, labelling them as the “Buharist Group.
” With the high-level politicking and intrigues going on secretly and openly in the party, one thing political analysts believe is that the 2019 election will defi – nitely make or mar the ruling APC.