BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, BENEDICT NWACHKWU, MAYOWA SAMUEL AND BRIGHT JACOB
J ust 19 days away from the 2023 general elections, political analysts and key stakeholders have argued that the disconcerting fuel scarcity, unavailability of the newly redesigned naira note, or even old ones, and escalating insecurity crises across the country could pose serious danger to the polls. According to them, as things stand, no one candidate can claim to be sure of victory on the first ballot.
They, however, argued that should the elections hold as severally asserted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, some leading political parties, including the All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, New Nigeria People’s Party and their presidential candidates, would have to refocus their campaign methods to ensure that their targets were contacted before the polls.
They further argued that as things were, the presidential poll might go into a run-off and cause a constitutional crisis as a result of the prevailing “pull-him-down syndrome” and infighting ravaging the political space. While others stressed that there were underground plans for some cabals to scuttle the polls, others opined that elections would hold but that they would be so keenly contested that there wouldn’t be a winner at the first ballot.
An elder statesman and former Nigerian Ambassador to the Philippines, Yemi Farounbi, in an interview with our correspondent, said the election might end in a two-horse race whereby Nigerians would choose between APC and PDP, which he described as “two sides of a fake coin.”
He opined that the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, because of his influence in the South East, might cause the other candidates not to have the required 25 per cent votes and two-third of the country.
This, according to the political scholar may lead the country’s presidential polls into a run-off and constitutional crisis as some candidates may reject the outcome of the polls. While making a prognosis of how each candidate and their parties stand amid the crises assailing them, Farounbi said the crises would determine how far their candidates would perform.
APC, TINUBU, BUHARI CONTROVERSY Those who were interviewed were mainly of the opinion that the notion that the ruling party’s northern governors would work behind the curtains for Atiku was no longer strong, especially with Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s expose about interests working against the APC presidential candidate in the Villa.
“The confidence that Atiku will pack northern votes overwhelmingly is no longer there.
If this is what he and his strategists are banking on, they have a few days to restrategise,” a top politician, close to the Presidency, said.
The former ambassador, Farounbi, however, contended that one of the challenges of the APC presidential candidate was that President Muhammadu Buhari might end up working against his success, saying the body language of the Number One Nigerian had shown that he was not in support of his party’s candidate, a claim that has been debunked many times by officials of the party and other loyalists of the President as baseless and mere conjecture.
On Saturday, President Buhari assured a mammoth crowd at the presidential campaign rally in Lafia, Nasarawa State, that he would continue to campaign for the victory of Bola Tinubu in the February 25 election. “As Tinubu said, in his speech, I have known him for more than 20 years, and I will continue to campaign for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is a committed Nigerian and I believe he will give his best to Nigeria,” he said. Farounbi, however, stated, “There is still a disconnect within the APC. All those who contested the ticket appear not to be with Tinubu.
Maybe they are still nursing their losses. Even President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown any serious sign that he is supporting Tinubu. We have seen an aloofness and lack of involvement of the presidency in the APC campaign, at least before now. “This is why some people have called for the restructuring and reconfiguring of Nigeria before the next administration. It might not just be that the whole crisis of fuel scarcity and naira redesign is targeted at Tinubu.
“There is no person in the presidency who is usurping power. We shouldn’t blame those who are not in government for Buhari’s failure. He knows what is happening and there is nothing that happens that he would claim ignorance of.”
ATIKU’S FATE AMID WIKE-LED G5 GOVERNORS’ ABSENCE
The former Ambassador noted that while Atiku Abubakar of the PDP might be facing difficulty in enjoying the support of some notable governors in the party, those who were against his chances, including Nyesom mammoth crowd at the presidential campaign rally in Lafia, Nasarawa State, that he would continue to campaign for the victory of Bola Tinubu in the February 25 election.
“As Tinubu said, in his speech, I have known him for more than 20 years, and I will continue to campaign for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is a committed Nigerian and I believe he will give his best to Nigeria,” he said. Farounbi, however, stated, “There is still a disconnect within the APC. All those who contested the ticket appear not to be with Tinubu. Maybe they are still nursing their losses.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown any serious sign that he is supporting Tinubu. We have seen an aloofness and lack of involvement of the presidency in the APC campaign, at least before now. “This is why some people have called for the restructuring and reconfiguring of Nigeria before the next administration. It might not just be that the whole crisis of fuel scarcity and naira redesign is targeted at Tinubu. “There is no person in the presidency who is usurping power.
We shouldn’t blame those who are not in government for Buhari’s failure. He knows what is happening and there is nothing that happens that he would claim ignorance of.”
ATIKU’S FATE AMID WIKE-LED G5 GOVERNORS’ ABSENCE
The former Ambassador noted that while Atiku Abubakar of the PDP might be facing difficulty in enjoying the support of some notable governors in the party, those who were against his chances, including Nyesom Wike and others, might also lose out if care was not taken.
He explained that Wike and his cohorts were in a fix as regards announcing their preferred presidential candidate because their personal interests would be jeopardised, especially since some of them were seeking a second term under the same platform.
He said, “Some Northern elements in the PDP are not toeing the line of party but tribe. They appear to be interested in retaining the power in the North. If the power flips from their hands, people would take over the streets and there might be a termination of the election outcome.
“In analysing the Wike group versus Atiku and Iyorcha Ayu, we must go back to the PDP convention. The PDP had an arrangement that there will be an alternation of the presidency between the South and the North. As a matter of fact, the concept of rotation on a geographical basis was one of the greatest donations of the PDP to the democratic process in Nigeria.
When they met in Abuja and they decided in their wisdom or lack of it, not to obey that, they triggered off a process that exists today. And why did they abandon their own principle? It was because some people felt that the power must still be domiciled in a certain part of this country.
So, pressure was put on the Governor of Sokoto State to withdraw so that they could have a northern candidate. What we are seeing in the APC is also because of the fact that their candidate is not a northerner. “So, you might find out that the two of them (APC and PDP) are two sides of the same coin and that they are trying to achieve the same goal. The goal that they achieved in 2015 when they told us that Jonathan was very clueless, when they told us that Jonathan was a drunken fisherman.
We all drove him away in our wisdom or lack of it and I am sure most Nigerians regret that path now. But, again, it’s because, sometimes, we are impatient to look carefully at the forces that are at play.” Farounbi noted, “The problem you have in PDP is simply because there are some Southern Governors and perhaps the Benue man who says he has a personal grudge, personal disagreement with Atiku because, according to him, Atiku sold his people off when they were being attacked, massacred and killed in large numbers by the Fulani herders, that Atiku kept mum. Of course, he (Atiku) also kept mum when a Christian lady was killed in Sokoto.
So, apart from Ortom; all the other Southern Governors have something to rebel against. We have seen that the party doesn’t matter, once they find out that their own man is not going to be there, they will find where their man is and they will go for him. “Only some days ago, some Northern elders said they were sure that Kwankwaso would step down for another Northern candidate.
That was the kind of thing they did when they pressured Tambuwal to step down for Atiku. It looks like it’s the same manipulation that is at play and I think that, perhaps, they are not too sure of the success of that manipulation, they think that the other thing is not to have an election; to create a crisis in which we all know that when there is an interim government, they will be the ones to dictate.”
SUSPICION TRAILS REDESIGN OF NAIRA
A political analyst, Oluyemi Omotosho, argued that the new naira crisis might portend great danger to the conduct of the general elections, and accused Buhari of conniving with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to frustrate Nigerians.
He said, “Buhari didn’t put a round peg in the right hole. He has always shown himself to be nepotistic. What prevents him from changing Emefiele? It’s no longer news that some cabal in the presidency planted Emefiele there and somebody must have prompted the President to still retain him.
This problem in the country is caused by the deceitful, sabotaging nature of the CBN Governor, who wanted to be President at all costs. The President saw how the presidential aspirants were going about with dollars and naira during the primaries and he is trying to curb it but this is not the right method. “There are crises in all the major political parties. In APC, it’s about Tinubu and the cabals alone.
In PDP, Wike has been at loggerheads with Atiku and Iyorcha Ayu and he has vowed to work against his victory. I just want to urge Nigerians to get their PVC and vote according to their conscience.” Another analyst, Kehinde Adebisi, said, “Whether there is infighting or not in APC, every blame is at the doorstep of the President. I don’t think the current crisis is targeted against Tinubu; it’s targeted against Nigerians.
The heroes are the masses. The rich people don’t go and queue up to vote for anybody. Without restructuring, there is no way Nigeria can conduct an election that will be credible. “Judging by the body language of Mr. President, he has not been putting so much into the APC Presidential Campaign.
He doesn’t look like someone who would like to hand over the presidential baton to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Not only that, majority of the people who contested the presidential ticket of APC with Tinubu have been conspicuously absent at his campaigns. People like Yemi Osinbajo. Even Rauf Aregbesola has not been seen with him.
“Even when Buhari joined Tinubu’s campaign, he still asked people to vote for any candidate of their choice. We understand that Buhari, being a Fulani, wouldn’t want to support someone from another tribe. The President instructed his ministers not to join the campaign and that anyone who is interested should resign and do that. This goes a long way to show that the party may not go far.”
Another analyst, Oyedokun Ali, said, “I don’t want to subscribe to prophets of doom who had predicted in so many fora that there won’t be an election this month. It’s meant to precipitate the masses against their party APC since they don’t want Tinubu. Tinubu is not their candidate but I don’t know who their candidate is. “The fuel and naira scarcity will sway Nigerians against Tinubu and Atiku will emerge. Their target is to have a protest vote against him.”
‘TINUBU WILL OVERCOME’ A member of the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Remi Omowaiye, said that despite the reported plans to scuttle the presidential candidate’s chances, Tinubu remained the man to beat on February 25.
“I can assure all Nigerians that Tinubu is the man to beat. Yes, we are aware of some elements that plan to stop us but we are forging ahead. We are concentrating our energy on our campaigns and I can tell you that people are accepting Tinubu and he will overcome his enemies,” he assured.
Others, however, think differently. A legal practitioner, Livinus Agomuo, said that he believed the LP candidate had been enjoying an “unassailable lead” as events unfolded. According to Agomuo, Obi could be the runaway winner because of the crises still brewing in the PDP and APC.
Agomuo said that the recent endorsement of Obi by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum would be a game changer that would “flock voters from those regions into Obi’s nest”. He also noted that Obi had grown to be “the people’s man” after the former Anambra Governor was seen boarding a commercial flight with other Nigerians. Agomuo also emphasised how important it was for Nigerians to have what he called “positive change” after almost 24 years of the APC and PDP.
He said Nigerians no longer wanted to be short-changed, adding, “As things stand now, I think Peter Obi is enjoying an unassailable lead over the other candidates. If you look at what is happening to the candidates of the APC and PDP, you should understand that Obi would emerge victorious. “Tinubu, all of a sudden, is embroiled in a crisis being perpetuated by certain unnamed elements in the Presidential Villa as alleged by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai.
According to the governor, these elements are opposing Tinubu because their own candidate lost during the presidential primary of the APC. And that candidate, I suspect, is the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan. “But you see, my hunch is not enough.
ElRufai should be bold enough to name names. Nigerians are fed up with the hide-and-seek games by politicians. And then Atiku has run into a ‘go-slow’ with Wike. I understand he told voters that governors could no longer dictate to them who to vote for. Sadly, whether you like it or not, in Nigeria, most governors still hold all the aces in such delicate matters in their respective states.
“For instance, look at what happened to Local Government autonomy. They threw it out. The governors want to keep maintaining a stranglehold on the people. And, unfortunately, at this stage of our national life, Nigeria has not attained the level of the United States, where voters have a mind of their own. Here, stomach infrastructure by governors is still alive and thriving. “As for Kwankwaso, he has suddenly gone silent.
I am glad he refused to bow to Atiku by endorsing him. Nigerians will remember him well for that. And, personally, I salute him. He has shown courage even in the face of imminent failure at the poll. For that, he is an honourable man.”
NO RUN-OFF, PDP CRISIS LIMITED TO RIVERS ONLY
Former Chairman of the PDP in Lagos State, Captain Tunji Shelle, asserted that whatever crisis the PDP might be facing today was limited to Rivers State only. He contended that there won’t be a runoff, boasting that Atiku would win on the first ballot. Shelle said, “PDP’s crisis is limited to Rivers State. As of today, there is no other crisis. Other governors in the G5 have accepted the situation the way it is.
They may not come out openly but they are party men, they understand that Atiku Abubakar has done the needful because the experience, maturity, and wisdom are there as well as the ability to, at least, manage crises. There may be no-go areas; anywhere he doesn’t touch is a no-go area. I think PDP is comfortable, the crisis is restricted and won’t stop PDP from winning.
The other candidates, I wish them luck but they are coming behind. “Peter Obi will win the South East, nobody is denying that but how many votes are coming from the South East? Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, all these states will split in some places and Obi will have it but if you put everything together, how many votes will that amount to? Go and write this down, Obi will only get 25 per cent between 12 and 14 states out of 36, but he needs 24. Kwankwaso cannot get more than six or seven states.
I leave APC with their troubles. I don’t want to go there, they have enormous trouble there, both internal and external and self-inflicted problems. PDP is safe, and we are playing safe, the experience will be brought to bear when it matters. “There’ll be no runoff.
The only person (Tinubu) that can get more than 24 states, which is the constitutional requirement, will be beaten by the total number of votes. He’ll likely get 25 per cent in 24 states but the overall performance, that’s the total number of votes will not be in his favour.
Atiku will be ahead of everybody. It’s a simple calculation, we have been in this game for quite a while. We are not experimenting this time around, we are using experience. This is a case where money will not matter again, money will not work this time around.” “They can’t put money in BVAS, they can’t go anywhere and start snatching BVAS, and if they do, there are consequences.
“Some Northern elements in the PDP are not toeing the line of party but tribe. They appear to be interested in retaining the power in the North. If the power flips from their hands, people would take over the streets and there might be a termination of the election outcome”
People know where they want to use money and it will be stopped. All the bad boys, their leaders will know that it’s not going to be business as usual this time around, especially in Lagos, other states will not take such nonsense,” he added.
CLOSE RACE FOR THREE Port Harcourt-based political analyst, George Kingsley, told The Point that the three major candidates – Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu – were neck to neck in his own opinion. “It is still a keen and close battle among the three front runners – Obi, Atiku and Tinubu.
They are neck to neck and their popularity is growing by the day. The only person that is rather dropping is Kwankwaso. From what I am seeing and hearing from people, there is no clear leader. One thing I want you to know is that people are looking for different things from these candidates.
“Anyone who will meet the people’s desire will eventually emerge the winner. If any of these candidates trust in vote buying, he will be totally disappointed because the song on the lips of the people has gone beyond the selling of their votes. People are wiser.
They will collect money from the politicians and still vote for the candidate of their choice. I’m telling you what I observed from the field at the grassroots. So with this, no candidate can boast of victory for now,” Kingsley predicted.