By Ikenna Omeje
There are a lot of things expected to happen in the Nigerian political circle with just few weeks to the 2019 general elections.
While it’s impossible to predict with certainty what will happen at the poll, there are a few things that we expect to happen which are likely going to transform the political dynamism of the country.
Let’s start with the all-important decision that Nigerians will have to make at the poll on February 16, 2019; a decision to choose who will be the leader of the country for the next 4 years.
President Muhammadu Buhari, is seeking reelection but, will have to dislodge the strategies of not one or 10 opponents, but 78 other candidates who are hoping to unseat him from the Presidential Villa.
Although, many political analysts are of the view that the election will be a two horserace between President Buhari, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former vice president and the candidate of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The permutation rages on who will likely win the election between the two of them considering the political capital of both candidates, their party’s structures, financial wherewithal, strong membership base and large followership across the length and breadth of the country.
President Buhari is from Northwest which has over 50% of the voter population and has strong followership in Southwest with the second highest voting population, will likely get the bulk of votes that will return him to power from these zones.
He may not fare well in the Northeast because of two obvious reasons: First, Atiku is from North-East and secondly, because of the deteriorating security situation in the zone under his government.
Similar fate may be his portion in North-Central, which is beset with the rampage of herdsmen and widespread insecurity.
His chances are even slimmer in the Southeast and South-South, which are the strongholds of the PDP.
On the other hand, the former Vice President, Atiku, is from the Northeast and will get sentimental votes from there simply because he is from the zone.
If he is able to get at least 40% of the votes in Northwest, he will win the election as some political watchers believe that votes in the Southwest may be divided by the two candidates. Of course, he has little or nothing to work on in the North-central, Southeast and South-South as his chances are higher in these zones.
With the 2019 presidential election billed as a straight contest between President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar , many have failed to give acclaimed Third Force candidates any hope of success at the poll.
Despite the odds stacked against them, these candidates remain undaunted and keep walking tall and selling their ideas of a better future to the Nigerian people. The like of Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress (AAC), Fela Durotoye of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Oby Ezekwesili of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and others.
There are 91 registered political parties currently in Nigeria and 89 confirmed to field candidates for the 2019 elections. The ground is fertile for any of the party or candidate to challenge the status quo.
You never can tell. It is hard not to believe in miracle in a country like Nigeria where the impossible, is possible.
Senate President Bukola Saraki had a tough 2018, from battling his false assets declaration case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), to fighting allegations of links with armed robbers that robbed banks in Offa in April last year, to standing tall against the plan by the APC lawmakers to remove him as the President of the Senate. It was a turbulent year for him but, he won.
Many political watchers still wonder how he managed to surmount all those challenges, which earned him the Best Political-Figure-of-the-Year in a poll conducted by Legit.ng, an online media platform.
Since he dumped APC for the PDP in July, there have been relentless calls for him to resign or be removed as president of the APC slim majority Senate.
He stood his ground against the onslaught led by APC chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole , the Senate President appears to have triumphed over possible removal as the lawmakers who were hitherto pushing for his removal, have agreed on ceasefire in the words of the former senate majority leader, Ali Ndume.
However, his political hegemony in Kwara State is under serious threat as the number of oppositions are rising against him.
Since the victory of APC in the last November bye-election, in Ekiti/Isin/Oko-Ero and Irepodun Federal Constituency, following the death of Funke Adedoyin of the PDP, in which Hon. Raheem Tunji Olawuyi was declared winner, the hopes of APC members and followers have been raised; that maybe the time is up for the Sarakis’ political dynasty.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, with Federal might is all out for the control of Kwara politically.
The APC slogan of Oto ge in Yoruba which means Enough is Enough is gaining momentum in the state as some Kwarans who are no longer comfortable with the Saraki hegemony, have thrown their weight behind the APC for the funeral of Saraki’s political career.
But it will surely be a tough task for the APC as Ilorin where he comes from, has over 50% of the voting population. By this, it is technically impossible for the APC to unseat him.
APC has a brighter chance of winning elections in Kwara South and Offa but, Mr. Mohammed and his canvassers may have to do more as it is not yet Uhuru for them until they get to the finish line.
Also, if the APC wins the Senate, it will be incredibly hard to see how the former Kwara State Governor will return to the seat of Number Three Citizen.
Just like in the Senate, the House of Representatives may undergo a leadership change in 2019 if the APC wins the majority in the lower legislative chamber.
The current Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who dumped the APC for the PDP and has had his leadership called into question as a result, may likely not return as the Speaker even if PDP wins majority. This is because the PDP is planning to zone the speakership to Southwest.
If the APC wins majority at the poll come February, the current House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila , will appear to be the obvious choice to benefit and be elected Speaker.
The Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) has scheduled January 19, 2019 for the presidential election debate which is expected to be a fierce battle among five candidates.
The candidates are: President Buhari of APC, Alhaji Abubakar of PDP, Dr. Ezekwesili of ACPN, Dr. Moghalu of YPP and Mr. Durotoye of ANN.
This debate offers a big opportunity for each of the candidates to tell Nigerians what their blueprint is for the economy, insecurity, unemployment, education, healthcare, power and corruption.
It will also give Nigerians the opportunity to access these candidates based on their campaign blueprint, experience, competence and expertise.
However, it’s still unclear if President Buhari will participate in the debate as the Director-General of his campaign, Rotimi Amaechi , recently disclosed that he advised him not to appear for the 2015 debate because it was deemed to be unnecessary.
If President Buhari fails to show up for the debate, it may affect his fortunes in the February election as most Nigerians would like to know what he is doing about the economy, power, education, insecurity and so on.
If he decides to tow the path he followed in 2015, he may need to understand the dynamism now. In 2015, he was the main challenger to the former president Goodluck Jonathan, he had goodwill and strong followership. But all these things are no longer at ease. He needs to talk to Nigerians. He needs to engage the people more- at least, to restore their lost confidence in him.
Let’s go to Akwa Ibom State where it seems APC is having a field day. Since the defection of the former Governor of the state and former Minority Leader in the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to the ruling APC, the political dynamism in the state has changed with constant verbal and physical attacks on each other by the APC and the PDP in the state.
Senator Akpabio who is the strong man of Akwa Ibom politics is hell bent to unseat the current governor and his political protégé, Gov. Udom Emmanuel, in March 2019.
Akwa Ibom has three major tribes. They are: Ibibio, Annang and Orun. Gov, Udom is an Ibibio with the largest population while Senator Akpabio is an Annang, with the second largest population. By this, Gov. Udom stands a good chance to retain his governorship seat having come from the majority tribe.
But with the return of Akpabio to the fold of other former PDP members, including Umana Umana, Ekere, John Udoehe, Ita Enang and others, who had earlier jumped ship to stay under the protection of Federal might, political watchers say the APC combination may be too strong for the current political order of PDP.
In Imo State, it may be the end for APC. The current governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, has vowed not to campaign or support the supposed candidate of the party in the state, Senator Hope Uzodimma in the March 2 governorship election.
He would rather support his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who defected from the ruling APC to Action Alliance (AA) after the controversial primaries that APC held in the state, even though he (Okorocha) is running for senate on the platform of APC.
Gov. Okorocha has been accused of so many sins. His running battles with the Catholics in the state, his inability to pay pensioners, nepotism, cronyism and favouritism.
All these, have watered down his political capital and made him unsellable to the electorates. Lots of Imolites are patiently waiting for the voting day to send their message to him.
The unsettled political rancor among APC stalwarts in Ogun State APC may cost them the governorship seat. Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, is not happy with the Oshiomole’s led National Working Committee (NWC) after his preferred candidate; Adekunle Akinlade was denied the ticket of the party to run for governorship.
The party rather gave the ticket to Dapo Abiodun, whom Gov. Amosun has sworn not to support and asked his loyalists to join Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
This development in the APC has given PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) ample opportunity to take up the baton of leadership in the state.
There is no doubt that 2019 will be full of political uncertainties and intrigues but, will surely be an interesting year as political actors will be battling for pride and survival at the poll.