By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the Saturday, February 23, 2019, Presidential and National Assembly elections , there have been allignment and re-alignment of forces to prepare the ground for President Muhammadu of the rulinng All progressive Congress, APC, to win the election. Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and his National Commissioners including the Directors may have prepared the ground for the realignment of forces with the registration of between 91 to 93 political parties for the 2019 general elections.
Humphrey Nwosu, a Professor and the country’s former Chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission, NEC, in the bungled 1993 elections said there was no basis for INEC to have registered 91 or 93 political parties for the 2019 elections. Nwosu, who had kept away from public views since the 1993, Presidential election, allegedly won by late MKO. Abiola of the then Social Democratic Party, SDP, asserts that the Commission should have endorsed only the APC and PDP, the two major parties to contest the election .
The worry of the Political Science Professor was that INEC have succeeded in planting godfather type politics in Nigeria as most of the minor parties are either sponsored by Atiku, PDP, or Buhari, APC. He noted that some of the minor Parties Presidential Candidates had already withdrawn from the race to support either Atiku or Buhari, Candidate of the two major political parties because of lack of funds and structures in the 36 states of the Federation, 774 local government areas and 6,927 Wards. Political watchers averr that these minor parties may have realised that they may not be able to monitor the elections that would take place in the 120,000 polling stations throughout the country that they have no option to fuse into PDP or APC for the elections.
The former Chief Electoral officer posits that because most of the minor parties Presidential Candidate lack funds to pursue their Presidential ambition they have no option than to resort to the”. money bags who are now their godfathers”. He is right. Buhari may have perfected the plan to win the Saturday’s Presidential election by taking advantage of his role as a god father to arm-twist some of the Presidential Candidates to dump their ambition and join the APC for ministerial or other political appointments since they may not be able to win the elections on their own platform. The Candidates may have bowed to the APC Candidate pressure to throw in the towels despite their names appearing on the INEC list to contest the election.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have taken advantage of the one week postponement of the general elections by INEC to open a channel of discussions with the Candidates to support him. He was able to reach out to 12 of them who were said to have agreed to mobilise their supporters throughout the country to vote for him on the Saturday election.
Last Thursday, the twelve presidential Candidates which the APC Candidate had succeeded in winning their hearts were at the Presidential villa for a closed door meeting. Acting under the auspices of ”Forum of Presidential Candidates and Political Parties for good governance”, they were said to have endorsed the retired Army General and former Head of State and promised to mobilise their teeming supporters throughout the country to vote for him during the rescheduled election on Saturday.
Eunice Atuejide, the Presidential Candidate of National Interest Party, NIP, said she was forced to drop her ambition because it was programmed to end on February 16, 2019 and thus, has no option but to support Buhari for” continuity and good governance”. The assurance may have given Buhari, the APC, Candidate that” he is a Candidate to beat”.
The withdrwal of the twelve Presidential Candidates to support Buhari may just be the beginning of the plot to return Buhari to power. Note that Sani Inuwa Nguru, Chairman of PDP, in Yobe, who has been the major problem of APC , in the state, may have abandoned PDP to join the APC, barely24 hours to the election. Nguru, the Yobe state PDP , Chairman , was said to have met with Buhari, where they held a closed door meeting before making up his mind to the ruling APC and to work for his victory in the state. The exit of the PDP Chieftain exit from the party may be a big blow to Atiku Presidential Campaign Council in the north east because of his grassroots support. But the elder staesmen appear not to be at peace with the Buhari administration which was seen as been in favour of the Housa Fulani ethnic group.
Given the worry of the elder statesmen that the country is bleeding Yakubu Gowon , a retired Army General and former Head of State and some of the political appointees under his government were said to have met recently at Abuja to brainstorm on the state of the nation and to set an agenda for the next President.
They may have realised that the problem of the country was lack of a ”broad based government” and the need to reverse the trend Among the elders cited at the meeting were Akin Mabogunje , Ahmed Joda and Philip Asiodu and several others . They had tasked the incoming President to” stop the bleeding of the nation by setting up a” broad-based government”. The elders who are worried over the situation of things in the country which has deepened ”economic hardships and increasing desperation of the politicians” said the elders would no longer sit-by and watch the degeneration of societal values” insisting that there is need to reverse the trend to keep ”hope alive”.
Recall that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a former governor of central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Emir of Kano, had said that the Saturday Presidential election had defined itself between” a man who has the capacity to rule the country and a man who has integrity”. Sanusi believes that it is not always easy for a country to be blessed with a leader who has both integrity and capacity to rule ”.
He may have alluded to Buhari , who many believe has integrity and Atiku, who has the drive and capacity to rule the country. Without sounding immodest, he said that when a leader who has the capacity is elected to rule, it would rub off on the people but a man who has integrity is between him and his God. He may have called on Nigerians to use their wisdom to vote on the Saturday elections.
For the elections, Yakubu, the INEC boss had said 72.7 million Nigerians had collected their PVCs out of the 84 million registered voters. Investigation by the value News shows that the states that the states with the highest number of registered voterswhich had collected their PVCs were Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Rivers.
It is not surprising why Atiku , the PDP Candidate is relying on Rabiu Kwankawso, a former governor of Kano state and a Senator Federal Republic of Nigeria and Nyesom , governor of Rivers to win the states in the Presidential election. For Buhari, he may have considered Lagos, Kaduna and Katsina, his home state safe for him. He believes that he may not have any need to worry about winning Lagos or any other states in the south west because of the influence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lgos state, and Chairman, APC, Presidential Council , regarded in political circles a godfather. there are fears that he may not win Kaduna state, which could have fallen into his hand with ease but may lose it to Atiku, the PDP Cadidate, because of the polarisation of the state on religious ground by Nasiru El-rufai, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and governor of the state.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the Saturday Presidential elections may not be ”free and fair”, over allegations by the opposition PDP and coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP ,that INEC officials and the security agencies are working for Buhari, the APC Candidate.
He may have assured the nation that there was no basis for such as he would keep to his promise of ”conduction a free and fair election in a peaceful atmosphere”. For the third time, he was said to have signed peace accord alongside 72 other Candidates.
The accord may have informed the reason why he had assured ”Nigerians, the Diplomatic community and International Election Observers of their safety and freedom of movement needed to perform their important functions”.
Appealing to Nigerians to vote for the government of their choice , for the government that will lead Nigeria toward its finest destiny”, he said the franchise would be exercised in ”atmosphere of openness and peace, devoid of fear from threat or intimidation”.
In spite of the claim by the Katsina born Nigerian President to conduct a free and fair elections, the opposition PDP and Adams Oshiomhole , a former governor of Edo state and national Chairman of APC, want Yakubu, the INEC , Chairman to resign or be sacked by the government for fear that he may not be neutral in the conduct of the election. The Value News learnt the INEC boss has been under intense pressure to resign to restore confidence in the country’s electoral system.
The INEC helmsman, may have disappointed those calling for his resignation when he said ”I see no reason to even contemplate of resigning” stressing that ”he remains the Chief Electoral Officer of the nation”. He insists that he is ”proceeding on the basis of the powers which he draws from the Constitution, for the position which he is privilaged to serve for the 2019 election”. He corroborated the President’s claim that the election will be ”conducted successfully”.
He may have assured Nigerians and the foreign Observers that the Commission remain focused to the job to which it was constituted to ensure that voters come en -masse to vote during the elections.
Given the interest of the International Community on the nation’s general elections, the US government, the European Union, EU, and the United Nations , UN, were said to have dropped some numbers where officials could be reached over the elections which are still closely guided.