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CAMPAIGN TRAIL: THE GAME CHANGERS

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What Obasanjo, Tinubu, Magu, Aisha Buhari, others have in common

By Charles Kumolu,



Deputy Features Editor

If you think you could make accurate predictions about 2019 electioneering activities, 12 personalities identified by Sunday Vanguard may prove you wrong.   Make no mistake about it, most of them are capable of turning the process upside down. Others wield powers that could make the exercise credible, while voters can be swayed by the disposition of a few them.

Erstwhile Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and Former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari

Atiku and Buhari

Of the one dozen, only four are contestants, while others are just influential personalities.

In a country of over 180 million with about 84 million registered voters, it sounds amazing that a negligible number of persons could influence the direction of the pendulum.

Pedestrain, parochial conversations

But for these figures the buildup to 2019 would have so far been dominated by pedestrian and parochial conversations only.   By default or design, they have brought drama, ignited controversy and provoked debates in an election cycle, being defined by sycophancy and hero-worshiping.   Sunday Vanguard observed that their attitudes are helping Nigerians appreciate the depth of some critical issues in the race and others that should have been key themes.

Just like some past election cycles when   candidates and party officials had more influence, this period comprises people of fame and force. Opinions, however, differ on what Sunday Vanguard considers as their influence in the electioneering discourse.

But Nigerians can all agree that the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu; First Lady, Aisha Buhari; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu; All Progressives Congress, APC, Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Abubakar; Vice presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Peter Obi; Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu; President Muhammadu Buhari; and Alhaji, Atiku, Abubakar, are shaping the course of this less eventful electioneering season.

Ibrahim Idris, IGP

IGP’s regime

protection

From Tinubu’s Southwest,   to IGP’s regime protection, and First Lady’s frustration about the electoral process, among others, the polity is being impacted upon.

Whether such influences are of positive or negative effects, is an issue Sunday Vanguard regards as debatable, especially along partisan lines. In identifying the cruciality of these figures to the elections, Sunday Vanguard considered how their actions, even before INEC officially lifted ban on campaigns, gingered   the scene, though in debatable manners.   To understand how they are determining the 2019 discourse, the urge to peruse their actions so far, can’t be ignored.

Obasanjo

The interesting aspect of Obasanjo’s presence in the 2019 permutations, is that those who claim he is insignificant, also realise how detrimental ignoring him could be. Love him or hate him, the former President, who the APC had described as the “Navigator” when they sought his support in 2014, is a determinant force. Just the way his endorsement of then candidate Muhammadu Buhari added traction to the prospects of the latter, the symbolism of Obasanjo’s   support for Atiku is not lost.

But why does Obasanjo matter so much, despite being loathed by not just a few?

The answer is unambiguous! And Sunday Vanguard observed that the reason has nothing to do with his status as the longest serving Nigerian leader, but his leadership style.

Such an approach to governance which not only made his presence significant in the successes and failures of his presidency,   qualifies Obasanjo as a mentor to many politicians.

On the international scene, he is one of the few ex-African leaders, with influential a stature. With such a scorecard, it is easy to describe him as the most relevant among Nigeria’s former leaders.

Apart from his emblematic contributions to critical national conversations, Obasanjo, in no small ways, is shaping the slant of electoral conversations. For instance, his formation of the third force, brought vigour to the scene that had earlier been characterised by fears of a one-horse race in all the major elections.

Simply put, Obasanjo has brought to the table engaging and explosive contributions.

For him, Buhari is confused and incompetent to deal with national issues. Hence his decision to support any legitimate process that would ensure the President is not re-elected.

Tinubu

APC Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

Tinubu

Even if Tinubu remained silent on electoral narratives, such disposition could as well be influential in the general election. That is just how important the former Lagos State governor has been   to the dynamics that drive polls in Nigeria since 2011.

Without belabouring how he emerged a leading power bloc, Tinubu would be central to the success or failure of his party at the polls. Apart from the Southwest states, especially in Lagos and Osun, where he is an undisputed force, the Tinubu factor is real in other parts of Nigeria.

A political strategist of note, his grip on the Southwest political machinery is needed for the geopolitical coalition that produces victory in Nigeria’s presidential elections. Such a status makes him a game changer any day, though a few think he is overhyped and needlessly domineering. Notwithstanding, history recognises him as the biggest influence that made Buhari’s victory possible in 2015. Whether history would repeat itself in 2019, may be determined by how far the PDP would go.

Saraki

Saraki

The history of this political   dispensation, would be faulted if it fails to accord a prominent place to Saraki. Apart from being the Senate President, Saraki has, through battles with his party, emerged a very formidable force in the present power configuration in the country.

With so many power struggles that could have made him a tragic hero, Saraki emerged from each stronger and even with more sympathisers.

Buhari’s election as president in 2015 “a huge mistake” – APC defectors

He had been at the receiving end of executive/legislature brinkmanship of this era. At the centre of the dispute that characterises his relationship with the executive include separation of powers, inclusiveness, intra-party crisis, and need for constant engagement of all stakeholders. Just the way his defection from the PDP alongside other leading chieftains in 2014, launched the party on the path of defeat, Saraki’s exit from the APC came with ominous signs for the fold.

His quality of being deft politically is an asset to the PDP. And if President Buhari ends up a one term President, Saraki’s role in such a scenario can’t be underestimated.

Already, he is a leading voice in the outrage against   APC’s distribution of money to traders under the TraderMoni scheme, which he termed vote buying. He specifically accused the Buhari administration of using the Trader Moni programme as   plot to influence voters.

Oshiomhole

APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole

Oshiomhole

As the National Chairman of APC, Oshiomhole is naturally positioned to take credit and knocks if the APC fails or succeeds in 2019. And how well the party would perform, depends mainly on how he is able to reconcile the grievances arising from the party’s primary elections.

Having survived the internal uprising that had threatened his position over the matter, only but a few doubt his ability to ensure lasting peace in APC.

Malami, Magu, Falana others decry impact of cross-border corruption

The degree to which threats coming prominently from the aggrieved in Zamfara, Imo, Ogun, Rivers, C-River, and Delta are handled would determine the party’s likely outing in such places.

This is an urgent task for Oshiomhole because the effect of going into the polls as a divided fold, are better imagined.

Mrs Aisha Buhari, Wife of the President delivering her vote of thanks after being conferred with Doctor of Philosophy at Sun Moon University, South Korea.

Through courageous observations on crucial national issues, the President’s wife has emerged from   behind the scene to become a moral voice in the polity. Interestingly, her actions usually begeth bipartisan reactions, considering that they highlight issues with direct connections with the masses. For always speaking truth to power, the President’s wife has endeared herself to even those, who disagree with the kind of leadership her husband is offering.

From her complaint about the plight of Nigerians, jackals in government, conduct of APC primaries and activities of two men in the administration, she exemplifies valour.

Sunday Vanguard believes the actions now place Aisha Buhari in a position where history would be kind to her when the books are written.

Recently,   she lamented that two men in the Buhari administration were obstructing the country’s progress. That was on the heels of her condemnation of the APC for what she described as unfair treatment to aspiriants during nationwide primaries.

“All Progressives Congress being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under his watch.

“Given this development one will not hesitate than dissociate from such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless. It is important for the populace to rise against impunity and for voters to demand from aspirants to be committed to the provision of basic amenities, “ she said.

With this penchant for defending the truth , any notion, suggesting that her messages are not emblematic in the polity is just a fallacy.

Peter Obi

Peter Gregory Obi

Irrespective of earlier objections among Igbo political leaders, the choice of Obi as Atiku’s running mate remains a masterstroke. It comes with sweeping impacts on the likely direction votes from the Southeast would take.

Besides the geopolitics that also contributed to the former Anambra State governor’s emergence, his pedigree had long endeared him to Nigerians.

It is of note that under his watch, development partners like United Nations Development Programme,   UNDP, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, the World Baynk, DFD, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and European Union among others identified with the state. Since his emergence as vice presidential candidate, Obi has been constructive in his debates on why the PDP should be voted for.

INEC boss, Mahmood Yakubu

Mahmood Yakubu

He may not be like his predecessor, Prof Atahiru Jega, whose name personified the commission, but Mahmood is the man to supervise the polls across the country. The degree to which the commission under him is independent, would determine the credibility of the 2019 election.

Given the conduct the gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Osun, Ekiti states and other places there are fears that the commission may not be truly independent in its operations.

The trepidation is giving credence to the notion that free, fair and credible elections may have gone for good in Mahmood’s INEC. Notwithstanding, Nigerians look up to the Professor of Political Science for an INEC that is neutral,   fair to all political parties and ultimately be a disinterested party.

IGP

Long before the current IGP became the head of Nigeria Police, his office had been accused of aiding and abetting the   rigging of elections, especially in favour of incumbents and their associates.

But the allegations of partisanship against the Police leadership are much this time, given what observers considered as the biased posture of the police against opposition elements.

Findings by Sunday Vanguard showed that only a few Nigerians do not nurse fears that the Police would be used in rigging the elections in   favour of the APC.   Even diplomats continue to harp on the need for the neutrality of the security agencies, an indirect reference to the roles of the Police in recent elections. Therefore, it is incumbent on the police, as critical stakeholders during elections,   to ensure neutrality in their operations, especially by being fair to all parties.

The Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu

Magu

One of the interesting angles of this electioneering period, is that history chose to repeat itself on many issues. From the high profile defections from the ruling party, and similar post-election controversies among others, some post 2007 and 2015 events are replaying with precision. A replay of Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission, EFCC, activities   during the 2007 electioneering campaign, is being experienced in different   ways. The commission’s activities in Akwa Ibom, Benue and Rivers, are quick reference points in this regard.

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