The approach of the federal and state level elections in February and March 2019 is going to be preceded by a lot of political bustle in 2018 that would shape the pattern of political thought leading into the following year.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Rivers State: Rivers of blood
The sign of the distress to come in Rivers State in 2018 was underlined by the violence that shadowed the break of the New Year in the state. At least 14 persons were said to have been killed on the spot when gunmen attacked worshipers during a New Year cross over service in Omoku, in the state.Amaechi
As with almost everything in the state in the last six years, the death was immediately given political colouration with the APC, and the PDP trading blames over the killings.
Indeed, all major elections in the state since the past six years have been shadowed with violence and the 2019 election is not expected to be different.
However, even before the election, the state is expected to be a centre of attraction as the two extreme political forces in the state battle each other for supremacy.
The shape of Rivers politics is bound to draw more interest as the internal crisis within the APC further crystallises as the Magnus Abe tendency in the state contends with the Rotimi Amaechi led group in the APC.
The appointment of Amaechi as the national campaign director for the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation is expected to bounce off in two ways in the politics of the state.
On one leg it is expected that the appointment would consolidate Amaechi’s grip and influence in the party and drive those if any, having neutral positions towards his group given his increased influence in Abuja.
On the other hand, his appointment to coordinate the Buhari campaign could also cause a type of distraction that could imperil his total devotion to recovering the state from his one time protégée turned antagonist, Governor Nyesom Wike.
Bauchi: Battle between Abuja and the home front
Speaker Yakubu Dogara started the New Year with the inauguration of a football team he envisages would forge unity among the people of his senatorial district. However, the prospect of unity remains in the opinion of some of the state’s leading political stakeholders, an illusion. Governor Mohammed Abubakar is confronted with a coalition of different political stakeholders who have taken position against him.
The governor is at the head of a group of APC partisans in the state comprising mostly his associates who are confronting the coalition of mostly Abuja based Bauchi indigenes fighting what they claim as their exclusion and in some cases what they have termed as irregularities in his operation of government.
Speaker Dogara is at the head of the Abuja group comprising senators, members of the House of Representatives, the minister from the state, Adamu Adamu among other prominent Abuja based Bauchi indigenes.
Though the antagonists have in recent times sought to lie low and in some cases even pretended to be forging towards reconciliation, the view is that extreme positions have been taken and many bridges burnt for there to be a total reconciliation.
The state is bound to draw attention towards the commencement of the primary election as the two sides in the APC battle for dominance of the structure and fight to exclude one another from the list of candidates going for the 2019 APC list.
Kano: Will it kill the presidential aspiration of a famous son?
The state with the highest voting population in the North entered into a major crisis following disagreements between the former governor of the state, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso and his successor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje.
Kwankwanso has visited Kano only once since he left the state in 2015 even though he represents the Kano Central Senatorial District. His only visit to the state in 2016 to commiserate with Ganduje on the death of his mother was trailed with violence as supporters of the former governor, and his successor fought off one another. Since that incident, Kwankwanso has not visited Kano though he continues to maintain a robust machine in the state and across the country.
Kwankwanso’s much-alleged bid for the 2019 presidency is reported in some circles as the cause of the division. Ganduje has rebuffed the bid insisting that the state and the party would queue behind Buhari who continues to get fanatical support in the state.
Part of the PDP’s game plan to recover the presidency is to get a candidate who can break Buhari’s hold on Kano. Kwankwanso is said to be under consideration but given perceptions among some PDP leaders that the former Kano governor is dogmatic and prejudiced on North/South issues, picking him as a candidate is bound to unnerve some especially in the south.
Kwankwanso according to sources has appointed state coordinators for the 36 states for a possible bid and is said to be very strong in the North.
The potential clash between the ardent fans of Kwankwanso and Buhari is bound to draw attention to Kano throughout the year, 2018.
The Southwest: The bridal dance
The leaders of the politically enlightened Southwest are determined to enter the 2019 elections with a different mindset from that with which they did the 2015 election. Those who supported the PDP were said to have been motivated by dollars while those who supported the APC were inspired by Buhari’s perceived integrity.
An indication of the different approach of the Southwest towards 2019 was conveyed by the rapprochement between Southwest political leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the apex socio-cultural group, Afenifere. Tinubu and the group had been at odds since about 2003 when they parted ways. A lot of focus is going to be drawn to whatever moves the Southwest takes given its position as the beautiful bride in the 2019 game plan.
The significance of the Southwest would come into play with the apparent decision of the PDP to pick its running mate from the Southeast. Having lost to the South-South’s Uche Secondus in the PDP national chairmanship contest, the Southwest is bound to question its commitment to the PDP in 2019.
However, that interrogation would not mean that the Southwest political leadership would take the APC or Buhari hook, line and sinker.
The two states hold governorship elections in 2018 and will as such draw attention to themselves as the two leading parties, APC and PDP aim to outsmart each other in the battle of wits to position themselves well ahead in the more valuable 2019 contest.
The Senate: Stalking Saraki
The president of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki raised a stir last month when he said that he would make known his 2019 plans in February 2018. Many are anxiously looking up to that. The apprehension about Saraki is especially serious given the fact that he has consciously distanced himself from the choristers advocating a second term for Buhari.
While some associates say that he has no intention of leaving the APC, the prospect of Saraki fervently canvassing for Buhari and organising for him as he did before the 2015 election is very remote.
Given his prominent position in the National Assembly and influence, Saraki’s political inclinations are bound to rebound on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government.
Nominations and executive actions could be further interrogated in ways that could upend the peace of the Buhari administration. Imagine Saraki initiating an investigation of the relationship between the bickering agencies of the Federal Government such as the Department of State Services and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC or in other discomforting areas.