Obasanjo/Jonathan rift, governors’ defection, National Conference, others to shape Nigeria’s politics in 2014

PREMIUM TIMES reviews issues that might shape the nation’s political scene in 2014 in preparation for 2015.

As Nigeria moves towards the 2015 general elections, several factors could influence and determine the country’s leadership, growth, and politics in 2014. Festus Owete reviews how these factors could play up.

Obasanjo/Jonathan rift

The dust generated by the exchange of letters between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck just before the close of 2014 is yet to settle. In his December 2 letter titled
“Before it is too late,” to Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Obasanjo accused the president of failure to deliver on his electoral promises, promote national unity, and tackle corruption. He also alleged that Mr. Jonathan was about to renege on his promise to spend one term of four year in office and is training a killer squad to eliminate political opponents ahead of the 2015 general elections.

The president fired back in a letter dated December 20, dismissing all the allegations; and challenged the former president, his political benefactor, to substantiate them with facts. The rift between both Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders is certain to create some upset; not just in the ruling party, but also in the country. Already party faithful and opposition elements have queued up behind the two. Therefore, how the matter is resolved might determine to a large extent who becomes the standard bearer of the ruling party in the 2015 presidential election.

Jonathan’s political future

Since 2014 is the year that precedes the general elections; Mr. Jonathan might announce his political future. He has repeatedly rebuffed pressures to publicly declare if he will contest or not. Indeed, the
president’s alleged plan to run again has been at the heart of the festering crisis within the PDP. Again, it was one issue that formed the content of Mr. Obasanjo’s letter.

Before Mr. Obasanjo’s letter, the issue of who will be the standard bearer of the ruling party in
the 2015 election had crept into the polity quite early in 2013 with the Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, alleging that Mr. Jonathan signed a pact that he would spend only one term in office. Although he wasn’t able to produce the pact, the issue just refused to leave thus inducing tension in the ruling party as well as the nation. Will Jonathan run? Will he not? Whatever he decides will determine the
political temperature of the PDP, and indeed the nation in 2014 and the coming years. This is because if he decides to contest, it will further deepen the crisis in the party. If he decides otherwise, calm
may return to the party and fresh aspirants would be thrown up. It would also be the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent president will decline to contest for a second term.

APC membership and gale of defection from PDP

While playing host to some stalwarts of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, at the Government House, Kano, late December, the Kano State Governor, Musa Kwankwaso, hinted of the planned defection of more governors elected on the platform of the PDP.

Although, he did not state when the governors would move nor the party they would decamp to, Mr. Kwankwaso, in the remarks, said his own defection alongside four other governors of the PDP last November 26, was merely “a tip of the iceberg,” compared to the impending gubernatorial defection.

According to him, the governors had planned to quit the ruling party because it had lost credibility and potency to take Nigeria to the Promised Land. Two days later, his Rivers State counterpart, Chibuike
Amaechi, re-echoed the Kano State Governor. Speaking in Port Harcourt, the state capital, Mr. Amaechi, a fresh defector to APC, who was definite on the time the unnamed governors would decamp, said the PDP, his former party, would in the coming year become the opposition party.

“Most of you may have known that I have since left the PDP to a better party called the All Progressives Congress because the PDP is a drowning party and the facts remain that PDP is a drowning party,” the
governor said.

“Watch out before March if we don’t have the numbers that we are looking for. So, you can’t call us opposition anymore because there are three arms of government and only two are electable, the executive and legislature.

“Yes, the PDP has the national executive, but we are inching close to having the legislature. Who then would be called the opposition if we have it?

Since November 26 when five PDP governors stunningly decamped to the APC, a gale of defection has hit the nation’s political scene. Apart from Messrs Amaechi and Kwankwaso, the other governors who left the PDP were Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara). Shortly after, 37 PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives followed suit with their defection to the APC amid threat by the ruling party to declare their seats vacant. It was an event that stripped the ruling party of its majority status in the House of Representatives, which it had enjoyed since the return of democracy in 1999.

The Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who has become critical of the PDP-controlled executive arm, is reportedly under pressure from the APC to also quit the PDP; just as there were reports before the close
of 2013 that about 22 senators were already planning to dump the ruling party.

Similarly, towards the end of the year, the APC leaders, in their recruitment drive, visited some senior members of the PDP during which they formally invited them to join the opposition party. Among those
visited were former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar; with only the latter not being a card-carrying member of the ruling party.

It is believed that some of lawmakers and leaders of the ruling party might eventually yield to the pressure from the opposition in the New Year. Should this happen, it will further redefine the
nation’s political landscape and ultimately determine the strength of the two parties in the 2015 electoral contest.

APC National Convention

Even as the APC remains the major beneficiary of the crisis in the PDP, not a few believe it will have its own share of implosion this year. What with the strange bedfellows moving daily into the self-styled progressive party as well as the infighting that may characterise the sharing of offices in its impending national convention? Upon its registration last July 1, merging parties named its interim officers based on a sharing agreement. The parties also agreed to hold a national convention after one year to elect its
substantive officers.

However, not a few believe that with the new entrants from the PDP, some initial calculations as regards sharing of party position might be altered. Already, the decision of the APC national leadership to
hand over the party structures to the five governors who recently decamped to it in their respective states is causing ripples. What is also certain is the outcome of the convention could throw up sectional and individual ambitions, especially who picks the presidential ticket for the 2015 general elections.

Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States

Although the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State somewhat provided the nation’s two biggest and rival parties, APC and PDP to test their might. The real test, Nigeria’s political watchers
believe, will come to play in Ekiti and Osun States where governorship polls are billed to hold in 2014. The reason is simple: Unlike in Anambra where the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, is in
power, both Ekiti and Osun states in the South West political zone are run by the APC, which will desire to keep them away from the PDP. The latter ruled both states at some point.

Even so, the internal politics that will play out in the APC in both states ahead of the elections is also something to watch. For now, the party’s body language indicates that it desires to allow the
incumbents in the states, Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola, respectively, to have another shot at the gubernatorial seats. This certainly has not gone down well with others who want to try their luck. For instance, in Ekiti, Mr. Fayemi’s fiercest challenger, Opeyemi Bamidele, has dumped the APC for the Labour Party, LP, to actualize his ambition. It is not clear who the PDP, which ruled the state between 2003 and 2009 will present as its governorship candidate. Major aspirants on the PDP platform are a former governor, Ayo Fayose, and a serving minister, Caleb Olubolade. The PDP is already having its fair share of the ambition-related crisis that is expected to worsen as the election approaches.

The situation is not radically different in Osun.

In the neighbouring Osun, the PDP will yet make another desperate effort to recapture the state. A former deputy governor, Iyiola Omisore, who is angling for the governorship seat and appears set to
pick the PDP ticket, seems to have found a ready ally in the incumbent National Secretary of the ruling party, Wale Oladipo, also an indigene of the state, to dislodge the APC from power. Clearly the battle
promises to be epic as Osun is also one of the states where APC is strongest. The party’s interim National Chairman, Bisi Akande, was governor in the state between 1999 and 2003; while the immediate past governor of the state, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, is currently struggling to retain his position as the National Secretary of the PDP, but is believed to have his heart in the APC. Mr. Oyinlola was the National Secretary of the defunct ‘New PDP’ which fused into the APC.

National Dialogue

Another issue that could shape the political scene in 2014 is the proposed national dialogue, which holds in February. The direction of the national conference might also determine the direction of the
polity. The Conference Committee headed by Femi Okunroumu, which was set up in October to work out modalities has since submitted its report to the President. However, criticisms are still trailing the
planned national talks, as the APC has rejected it completely. Mr. Jonathan’s plan to turn in the decisions of the conference to the National Assembly has also generated heat. But what is fuelling more criticisms is the suspicion that it will be used to prolong the president’s tenure. The APC is believed to have dissociated itself from the proposed dialogue for this reason. Some governors, including those of the PDP have also reportedly kicked against the event.

Ministerial appointments

The composition of the federal cabinet might play a critical role in the nation’s political event in 2014. Already, no fewer than seven ministries are without substantive ministers. Mr. Jonathan in
his first major cabinet shake-up fired nine ministers in September 2013. Those affected were Ruqayyatu Rufai (Education); Zainab Kunchi (Power, state); Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs); Ama Pepple (Lands
and Housing); Shamsudeen Usman (National Planning); Ita Okon (Science and Technology); Hadiza Mailafia (Environment); Buka Tijani (Agriculture, state) and Olusola Obada (Defence, state).

Some of those fired were believed to be the nominees of some ‘rebel’ governors whose wings the president allegedly wanted to clip and force them into submission in the battle for political supremacy. But there is the feeling that Mr. Jonathan might fire more ministers especially those who are protégés of some of the PDP big wigs who have dumped the party for the APC or who are opposed to his re-election.

Among the names being bandied in the media is Bolaji Abdullahi, the Sports Minister, who is
a nominee of Bukola Saraki, a senator and ex- leader of PDP in Kwara. Mr. Saraki and his followers, including the Kwara governor, have since joined the APC. Another name being mentioned is Akinwunmi Adeshina, the Agriculture minister, who is believed to have been nominated by Mr. Obasanjo. Both ministers are, however, two of the few who have been widely commended for Nigeria’s achievements in their sectors during their tenure; a factor that could work in their favour.

Some other ministers who could be let go so as to pursue their governorship ambitions in their states are Caleb Olukolade (Police Affairs) from Ekiti State, Labaran Maku (Information) from Nasarawa; and Bala Mohammed (FCT, Abuja) from Bauchi.

Any removal and replacement of the ministers will certainly alter the shape of politics as the nation
approaches the election year.

 

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