INAUGURATION: APC faces fresh litmus test in Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa guber

From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The composition and inauguration of the National Campaign Councils for the crucial governorship elections in the three states of Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi has officially signposted the onerous task before the new leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Government. The fact that the ruling party is comfortably on the driving seats in two out of the three states would have been enough reason to concede and conclude that victory is certain for the party but in reality, the hurdles before the ruling party are definitely colossal….CONTINUE READING

Ordinarily, the polls would have come and gone just like any other governorship elections the ruling party previously participated in but both the Federal Government and leadership of the party will approach the staggered governorship poll with different mentality and styles which may entirely be different from the style adopted by former president Muhammadu Buhari.

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The fact that it is a government under a new President and party leadership, with entirely different approaches to conducting and participating in elections and desperately interested in using the victory in the states to boost their ratings, shore up its legitimacy and acceptability have even heightened the apprehension ahead of the election.

Apparently, inasmuch as President Bola Tinubu, may want to use the elections to make a bold statement and prove a point, especially to doubters that his electoral victory on February 25 this year was not a fluke, he may also be cautious of what history of the conduct of elections will hold for him.

It will be an election that will define the Tinubu presidency. Will he be brutal, will he be lenient, or adopt a combination of the two? In the history of conducting elections in Nigeria, one president was known for adopting a do-or-die approach and another with the position that no election is worth the blood of any Nigerian; another also for admitting a flawed poll that produced him, and another with the comment of monkey and baboon will be soaked in blood.

However, as the first major election under his watch as President, will Tinubu continue with the election mantra that power should not be served a la Carte but must be snatched, grabbed, and ran away with?

On the side of the party, victory in the polls will not only go a long way to justify the choice of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the National Chairman but also confirm that the success of the party during 2023 general election in the presidential, legislative, and governorship polls were actually a divine mandate.

And to match words with actions in underscoring their determination for a fierce battle ahead, the party’s leaders may have resolved not to leave anything to chance in securing electoral victory in the states.

In composing the campaign council, the party’s leadership as usual drafted servicing government officials, comprising the governors, lawmakers, ministers, even opposition party members and captains of industries that are friends of the party.

Already, the leadership of the party has assembled a crack team of close to 500-member national campaign council for the three elections. They comprised tested and trusted election veterans and experienced party chieftains who will articulate a winning formula and assiduously work towards ensuring victory for the party.

Judging by the utterances and body language of the battle-ready party’s major stakeholders, winning and retaining the two seats in Imo and Kogi states might be the worst-case acceptable results for the party after the November 11 poll.

Fortunately, those at the helm of affairs at both government and party levels are not novices in conducting elections. Both Asiwaju and the party’s national chairman, Ganduje, could be described as experienced poll troupers who know where the nitty-gritty and bones of conducting and winning elections are buried having participated in several of them for many years now.

And to prove that they are battle-ready for victory and nothing but victory, they may have declared the exercise a must-win, even as they have continually urged the stakeholders to close ranks and approach the poll as one indivisible united family.

Little wonder in his acceptance speech, Ganduje emphatically stated: “Let me also use this opportunity to call on members of our party and all the people of Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states to close ranks and ensure that APC wins the forthcoming governorship elections.”

The party’s boss did not stop at the appeals to stakeholders but equally went a step further to roll out part of the diversified and innovative package that will guarantee victory for the party.

Speaking after the turbulence that characterised the inauguration of the newly appointed members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Ganduje assured that all energies and machinery will be channeled into the three elections as a confirmation that the storm is over.

“We will launch the National Campaign Councils for our three states – Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi- going into governorship elections this year. Instead of inaugurating the councils here in Abuja, we have decided to do so at various state capitals so that we can connect with the various stakeholders,” he announced as one of the innovations pencilled down by the party’s leadership.

Of course, the ruling party seems to be comfortably in the driving seat in Imo and Kogi, because of the power of incumbency factor but it will definitely face daunting challenges and an entirely different rhythm of music and dance steps in Bayelsa where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is totally in charge.

What it means, according to political watchers, is that if it will be a smooth ride for the APC in Imo and Kogi states due to the power of incumbency, it will certainly not be a stroll in the park for the party in Bayelsa where multiplicity of obstacles would combine to form a stumbling block.

And to underscore the desperation of the two major political gladiators in a hurry to draft certain persons controversially into the campaign councils for mostly Bayelsa and Imo states, they had included former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and other political heavyweights that have generated confusion.

Remarkably, stakeholders relentlessly lobbied to play one active role or the other during the elections, and intensified their network last week, just as speculations over possible victories and planned sabotage equally got to a crescendo.

Even as the party seems to enjoy some advantages in Imo and Kogi states, the hurdles against the APC in the three states are enormous and multifaceted. Current biting economic hardship occasioned by fuel subsidy removal, foreign currency unification policy, the unending crises rocking the state chapters, and the complaints over bias in the distribution of appointive positions may clearly constitute some threats.

Other factors that might count against the APC include the expected sabotage from many disgruntled elements like the party chieftains, leaders, and members in all the three states.

In Imo for example, the dust raised by the replacement of the deputy governor and the escalating insecurity in the state, the insincerity in the conduct of the party primary in Kogi that resulted in many of the political forces leaving the party, and the irreconcilable differences among the chieftains of the party in Bayelsa, are some of the teething tasks the party must battle.

There is also a conspiracy theory in Kogi that several APC governors may sabotage the party’s candidate in favour of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Yakubu Ajaka, who is a political ally and confidant to the governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, after allegedly securing his promise to join APC if he wins the governorship election.

Assessing the chances of APC in Bayelsa State, the party’s former Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, told Daily Sun that it would be a bleak one unless some measures are urgently put in place.

Hear him; “I won’t deceive anybody to pretend that APC Bayelsa is united. We have our internal problems. Yes, we don’t take anybody for granted, we need everybody because the voting system has changed and every vote matters, but the situation where very few persons like the David Lyon camp felt that they are in charge is not fair.

“It used to be three factions but now the Heineken Lokpobiri faction has been taken care of with his appointment as minister. Abuja people are the ones always causing the problem. Somebody like David Lyon forgot that we won the election for him despite the opposition from Abuja-based politicians like the Heineken faction.”

On his fears concerning the election, Nabena said: “If we must tell ourselves the truth, leaders of the party abandoning the members will certainly witch-hunt APC during the election. There has been a serious gap between the people at the centre and those at home since after the misfortune of the 2019 governorship election.

“There was no conscious effort to bridge the communication gap between the leaders of the party in the state at the national level and party members in the state. The party members felt so used and abandoned after the 2019 election. The wide gap is a very big problem for the party because party members never enjoyed any benefit which is the essence of democracy.

“Party leaders never touched the people. They were marginalised by the PDP government to the point of running them out of town but we were not there for them,” he enumerated the hurdles against APC in Bayelsa.

Corroborating Nabena’s position on the chances of the party in the states, former acting national chairman, Abubakar Kyari, also said: “Like any human organisation of our size, composition, dynamics, and success, the APC has its own fair share of problems and challenges.

“There are issues pertaining to the unity and cohesion of the party, issues concerning the need to strengthen the institutional and financial capacity of the party, even the issue of the soon-to-be-conducted off-season governorship elections in a number of states, among others. It is essential that we address these challenges head-on and work together to steer our party and our country towards a brighter future,” he advised.

The uncertainty is not only coming from the APC chieftains alone as the acting national chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum, has assured of victory for the elections during the inauguration of the party’s national campaign council in Abuja.

While charging members of the council to work within the law to win the states, which he described as PDP strongholds, Damagum said: “We don’t expect less from you because before you were selected, you were found very capable and we expect nothing other than victory.

“You are going in at a time when everybody is feeling the burden of the mistakes that have happened in this country. What is expected of you is to go there and remind them that this is not what we bargained for and that there is a time God, in his infinite mercy, always gives us to change the course of history, and this is the time.

“We will have Bayelsa, we will have Imo and we will have Kogi. These are PDP states. Somehow, they slipped away but Bayelsa has always had a PDP governor. I want to challenge everyone in this country to look at the states governed by PDP governors viz-a-viz the other parties. We have always excelled,” he wooed voters in the three states.

However, allaying their fears and rallying the women, the wife of the President, Oluremi Tinubu, claimed that victory is sure for the ruling party in Imo state, stressing: “As we navigate the part towards the governorship election in Imo State, let us not lose sight of the transformative power that women hold.

“I call on all of you great women of Imo, to come out en masse and vote overwhelmingly for Governor Hope Uzodinma for a well-deserved second term and to complete the good work he has started. I believe you know that he has the backing of this present administration,” she deployed emotional blackmail.

Equally talking tough ahead of the poll, Ganduje, also assured indigenes that the ruling party will retain Kogi seat after the November 11 governorship poll.

Speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the leadership and members of the Kogi State National Governorship Campaign Council, he said: “I will like to therefore call on all our party members and stakeholders to rally round our candidate so that our party will succeed.

“By so doing, all the legacy projects would be sustained and there would be a continuation in governance. As a party, we are committed to working hard individually and collectively to realise these goals and objectives.

“It is also my belief that the innovations the campaign council will initiate during the campaign period will convince the electorate that APC remains the only option for development, the only alternative for good governance, and the only political vehicle to convey the people of Kogi State, and indeed, Nigeria, to the place of our collective aspiration of prosperity and development,” he charged.

In his words of assurances, Governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello, said: “If you see these creme-de-la-cream that have come to support us in this coming election, I assure you that victory is ours. There is nobody contesting against us.

“We have Hon Usman Ododo who is coming to consolidate on our achievements. This election is going to be a landslide victory. Nobody tries GYB with violence and goes scot-free. Go out and cast your vote. This election shall be a landslide victory for our party,” he assured.

However, beyond the apprehensions of where the pendulum will finally swing to, a chieftain of the party argued in a chat with Daily Sun that the approach adopted will define how the President Tinubu-led Federal Government will handle future elections.

“I don’t envy President Tinubu and our party chairman, Ganduje, for the forthcoming governorship elections. As much as they desperately desire victory for our party to make can-do-it bold statements, they also know that they are still struggling for acceptability.

“They need to adopt a liberal approach to the election to convince Nigerians of the credibility of future elections in the country. They are really in a serious dilemma over the election and the worst-case scenario would be to sacrifice the Bayelsa election and concentrate on winning Imo and Kogi.

“If they insist on a clean sweep of the three states, Nigerians will accuse them of dictatorial tendencies and if they adopt the liberal approach and lose them, party members will cry foul of sabotage,” the chieftain told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity.

The appeals from a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to make good use of technology introduced into the electoral process to curb thuggery, ballot box snatching, and other electoral violence, has put the commission and the APC government under pressure.

Very particular about the seamless functionality of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), the coalition noted: “We use this opportunity to challenge the government of President Tinubu to demonstrate his commitment to leaving behind a legacy of credible election in Nigeria in line with the 2022 Electoral Act which is meant to bring sanity to our electioneering process.”

Declaring readiness for the poll, INEC has equally assured that it will leverage on the lessons from the 2023 general election to ensure that the governorship elections are conducted in full compliance with the Electoral Legal Framework.

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Chairman, Board of the Electoral Institute (BEI) and a National Commissioner, Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, gave the assurance.

He said: “Despite all the effort made by the commission to conduct a credible 2023 general election, it has its challenges, aside from successes. Consequently, the Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo state governorship elections are yet another opportunity for the commission to fine-tune its policies, processes, and procedures toward achieving a more credible, transparent, and acceptable electoral outcome, aimed at strengthening and deepening our democratic culture,” he promised….CONTINUE READING