By Ayotunde Makinde
The threat being posed to the old political order by the emergence of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency has now sent virtually all the traditional political players and godfathers back to the drawing board, The Difference checks have uncovered.
With the president asserting his single and uncontrolled dominance of the political space, while also dangling the anti-corruption serpent on the way, many a political gladiator has chosen to give him a berth, and observing the maxim of ‘he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.’
Critical in the ongoing jostling is the battle for the final two 2015 gubernatorial polls in Bayelsa and Kogi states as well as next year’s governorship contest in Edo.
The thinking of many is that the performance of each of the factions in these elections would be critical to determining the real balance of forces in the days ahead and even the subsequent build up to 2019′
Already, the estranged Bola Tinubu camp is rooting to get its allies in Bayelsa and Kogi to win. It is pushing candidates like Timipre Sylva and Abubakar Audu for those positions.
In Edo, the maverick Adams Oshiomhole is playing a lone ranger card seeing that his tenure as governor is coming to an end as well as the fact that he is clearly not willing to be coopted into the infamous ranks of one of the Tinubu boys going forward. This is particularly so when from the experience of Fayemi and Fashola it is clear that the Tinubu camp has space for only one unchallenged leader and that it does not bat an eyelid when it decides to save its own neck and cut loose any hangers-on in the process.
From the Northern flank, alignments and realignments are being forged. A lot of this played out in the tussle for the leadership of the House of Representatives, where former Kano Governor and Kano State senator, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, clearly with an unflinching eye on 2019, had moved his troops to team up with Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and Bola Tinubu while Dogara benefitted from the support of the former House Speaker and now Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal..
From the South East, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state is pushing strongly to cement his dream of being the unchallenged leader of the zone, preparatory to making a pitch for the power hustings himself in 2019.
Only last week he reportedly boasted that he will recover all the senatorial seats in the state on behalf of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), currently held by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A source close to the Government House, Owerri disclosed that the governor made the chest-beating while reacting to the ruling by the Appeal Court, Owerri division ordering the return of the hearing of the petition challenging the election of Senator Hope Uzodimma, representing Imo West, at the March, 2015 general election. The source disclosed that the governor told the party members who came to the Government House, Owerri on a solidarity visit after the ruling that he had concluded arrangementsto ensure that the tribunals rule in favour of the APC candidates in the ongoing trials.
The Imo state governorship and national assembly election tribunal had on August, 2015 struck out the petition by the APC candidate, Senator Osita Izunaso, on the grounds that the latter failed to pay the prescribed fees for pretrial notice within the stipulated period. In the ruling yesterday, the Court of Appeal ordered the tribunal to hear the petition again on merit.
The PDP won all the three senatorial seats in the state in the last general election. Governor Okorocha comes from the same Imo West as Senator Uzodimma and the senatorial election in that district is believed to be the most keenly contested in the state last March.
Keen watchers of Imo politics are, however, of the view that Governor Okorocha may be setting for himself a tall order because, apart from that the PDP candidates are believed to have truly won the elections, being more popular than their APC opponents, it may be difficult to meet the 180 days dead line stipulated for all election petition to be heard and concluded. Both the Electoral Act, Section 134 (2) and the 1999 Constitution, Section 285(6) provide that an election tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the day of the filing of the petition.
The Supreme Court emphasized this in ANPP vs Goni when it held that the ”Provision of Section 285(6) of the 1999 Constitution is clear and unambiguous… The period of 180 days is not limited to trials but also to de novo trials that may be ordered by an Appeal Court”.
With these provisions of the laws of the land, observers are of the view that it is almost impossible for the tribunal in Owerri to dispose of the Imo West case within the less than 40 days left of the 180 days allowed by the electoral act and 1999 Constitution.
While all of this is going on at one level, there is the continuing jostling for ministerial positions and related appointments by the respective political camps that make up the party. Along this line, it is expected that many of the blocs would in the hours after the announcement of the composition of the federal cabinet, proceed to review the appointment made and then adopt positions on how they would cooperate or not any further with the administration.
Some of such groups would be those alligned with National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Imo Governor Rochas Okorocha, former Rivers Governor, Rotimi Amaechi and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
It seems them that we are once again preparing to be ‘on the march again!’
Part of the possible complication that could emerge in the unfolding process analysts say may be in how the Presidency would respond to the different political manouvres being played out. And a likely feeling of how things would flow can be surmised in part from how President Buhari handled the National Assembly crisis.
But then that may not be given that the President may have been largely unprepared for that baptism of fire at the beginning. But currently, he has not only consolidated his grip on many of the critical levers ln the power environment, he has also been able to keep a lot of the internal opposition guessing over what his next move would be.