Red Flags In Saturday’s Governorship Poll, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

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The dusts generated by the conduct and outcomes of the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly have yet to settle. The reason is that the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had indicated his intention to challenge the outcome of the poll at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

To be sure, Atiku is not the only aggrieved candidate who is heading to the Tribunal. Many National Assembly candidates who reportedly lost the election had indicated the same intention. Therefore, the nation should brace up for legal fireworks within the six months that the Tribunals will sit.

This path is consistent with the dictates of constitutional democracy that accommodates ventilation of electoral dissonances at the court of law and not at the court of the people. In a partisan rage, the people’s court is always susceptible to extreme reactions. It is largely characterised by ideals on retreat into the Hobbesian state of nature where jungle justice was an article of faith and directive principle of survivalist policy.

In angst, people often resort to self-help. Government cannot escape blame for the unruly actions of the people. Therefore, government must be proactive in dealing with situations of social insurrection and political resistance. Otherwise, government would have failed in its constitutional responsibility of maintaining peace, law and order in the society. This is why the courts are there to mediate between and among the governments at the federal and the state levels and the governed in the context of fidelity to the political and social contract.

The decision by Atiku to seek redress in court is thus commendable. After all, President Muhammadu Buhari went to court in 2003, 2007 and 2011 to challenge the outcomes of the presidential elections in which he was defeated. He did not encourage mass protest in order to make the country ungovernable. As long as he does not incite social unrest and political upheaval, Atiku is only following in the footsteps of Buhari.

The Atiku option should be embraced by candidates who are “defeated” in Saturday’s governorship poll. Once they have their minds and eyes fixed on legal redress, the propensity for do-or-die approach to the election will recede and the prospects of forestalling Armageddon in some red flag states become high. States of concern in the governorship election are Imo, Ogun, Benue, Rivers, Zamfara, Lagos, Oyo, Delta and Plateau.

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President Buhari has responsibility to ensure that life and property are not lost during the election. Fatalities in the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly polls were too much. The death of any Nigerian during an election, not a war, is a sore point and an albatross the government must bear. Therefore, this government has enough blood stains on its profile and cannot afford more.

Having secured his re-election, the president should no longer be bound by considerations other than national interest. If any personal political interest must be promoted, the president must do so, stricto sensu, within the context of overarching national interest. In essence, I expect the president to ensure maximum security in the red flag states to avert theft of people’s mandates and the loss of lives.

By now, I expect the president would have been on top of security arrangements in the states of security concern. He should be ready to address the nation on the eve of the governorship poll to assure anxious Nigerians on measures deployed in ensuring peaceful election. 

Besides tasking the nation’s security apparatchiks to tweak their architecture in order to effectively cover the entire field, the president should have reduced the list of flashpoints by taking steps to deal with peculiar situations in the states and marking them off as resolved. For instance, the tension in Imo and Ogun states is traceable to the supremacy battle within the APC. The president should be able to rein in the combatants.

Before the poll, the president should have sent a clear message to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo to ensure he does not work against the interest of the APC in the state and similarly for Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, not to work against the interest of the APC. Significantly, both Okorocha and Amosun are APC senators-elect. Failing to rein them in, one can be sure there will be wars in both states by power mongers who boast of special relationship with the president. The prospects of APC’s Hope Uzodinma and Dapo Abiodun’s victories in Imo and Osun states respectively are expected to douse crises in both states.

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Once the knotty situations in Imo and Ogun are resolved, there is certainty that other identified red flag states of Lagos, Benue, Kaduna, Rivers, Delta, Zamfara and Oyo States will be easily brought under control. In Lagos, what is expected to foreclose crisis is allowing the Igbo residents in the state to vote without hindrance.

In Benue, any plot by untoward forces to manipulate the election against the incumbent, Samuel Ortom, is bound to precipitate crisis. But there are indications that the APC, under Senator George Akume, will push for the victory of the party’s governorship candidate, Hon. Emmanuel Jime.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s Kaduna State must be watched. Formidable forces have massed against his re-election. In Rivers, where Governor Nyesom Wike, practically has no opposition, there are enemies within that have determined to cause bedlam in the state. It is seemingly in the character of political leadership in the state to be violent.

In Delta, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s re-election bid will experience considerable opposition from APC’s Great Ogboru who is targeting votes haul in Delta South and Central. But the entrenched influence of former Governor James Ibori is expected to neutralise the Ogboru challenge and swing victory in favour of Okowa’s Delta North. Ibori has predicated his support for Okowa’s re-election on the bases of justice and equity. Delta Central and South, having both enjoyed the governorship position for sixteen years (two terms apiece), it would only be fair for Delta North to occupy the position for eight years before it rotates to any of the other zones. That is the beauty of the Ibori political intervention.

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In Oyo, the battle line is drawn between the PDP and the APC. With about 1000-votes difference between them in the presidential election, the APC is challenged, especially with the defeat of the sitting governor, Abiola Ajimobi, in the senatorial election. While Senator Ahmed Tinubu has deployed his political sagacity and financial muscle to get former APC leader and governorship candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Alao Akala, to endorse APC’s candidate, Adebayo Adelabu; former Governor Rasheed Ladoja has led a coalition to endorse the PDP candidate, Seyi Makinde. So, it is going to be a grueling two-horse race in Oyo. There are fears the battle may become intense and degenerate. Security alert is imperative.

Zamfara State must also be watched. What will play out is local politics between the APC and the PDP. But there is internal crisis in the APC that could abort reasonable expectations and precipitate a conflagration in the state. 

Therefore, the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, should ensure utilitarian deployment in the red flag states that will cage any potential crisis. The states of security concern should benefit from deployment of more police officers and other supporting forces. Peace is a necessity. It is needed more than ever before in the overall effort to ensure civilian-to-civilian transfer of power.

•Ojeifo contributed this piece via [email protected]

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