HOUSE NUMBER 13.... WAZIRI ADIO - Ekiti and Osun States as Political Battlegrounds

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The governorship elections in Ekiti State this Saturday, and in Osun State on August 9, will generate interests and anxieties beyond the two states. It should be expected. These are single-state elections and as such they will give room for disproportionate attention and proxy wars, as was the case in Ondo and Anambra States recently. However, these elections will acquire extra significance on account of their closeness to the next general election and the insight they can offer us about the battle ahead. For the two leading political parties, these elections will definitely serve as dress rehearsals for 2015. And for readers of political tea leaves, these are polls to monitor closely. Ordinarily, elections with incumbents on the ballot serve as referendums on the incumbents. However, these elections will be more than about the performance, the perception and the political standings of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Mr. Rauf Aregbesola in Ekiti and Osun States respectively. To be sure, their stewardship and local issues will play some part. But much more will be the presence, influence and permutations of external combatants. In fact, it is these external factors/actors that will heighten the heat and turn these states into battlefields. To start with, these elections will enable the All Progressives Congress (APC)—alongside its ancestral parties—and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to resolve their unfinished business in the South-west. It would be recalled that the Alliance for Democracy (AD) won all the six states in the zone in 1999, despite that the PDP presidential candidate, who went on to win the election, came from the zone. There was a near reversal in 2003, with the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led PDP capturing five of the six states, occasioning a tectonic shift in the politics of the zone. However, AD’s successor party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) — which later folded into APC—forced another reversal by clawing back five of the six states. Ekiti and Osun States were retrieved through the courts by ACN (APC), an act that is still strongly contested by PDP leaders at zonal and national levels. PDP leaders tell anyone who cares to listen that those judgments were procured. The forthcoming elections in these two states thus offer an epic opportunity to settle the score on who really owns the two states. So, expect both parties, at the highest levels, to throw everything they have, fair and foul, into these polls. And this epic battle will not just be for the sake of making a point—it will be fought with an eye on next year’s presidential election, a factor we shall return to shortly. The second external factor is that these elections will also take place within the context of the continuing battle for the soul of Yorubaland. The last person to hold near-total control of what is now called the South-west zone was the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Despite what anybody may say, no one has replaced Awo as the undisputed political leader of the Yoruba. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by virtue of being in control of the political/administrative structures in five of the six states in the zone, is the leading contender. But not everyone has submitted to him. There are other power centres (including putative ones) in Yorubaland that are counter-forces to Tinubu’s dominance, ranging from former President Obasanjo, through the Afenifere elders, to Dr. Fredrick Fasehun and the newly registered Unity Party of Nigeria, and the young Turks in Afenifere Renewal Group. While no one today can match Tinubu’s political network and resources in the zone, there are more than a few in Yorubaland who either cannot stand him or are embarrassed to have him as their leader. It is suspected that the Tinubu and Obasanjo groups might join forces, and tilt the balance in Tinubu’s favour for now. But that won’t be the end of the battle for supremacy in Yorubaland. The last external factor, and perhaps the most important in heightening the significance of the Ekiti and Osun elections, is the fevered permutations towards the next presidential election. The total number of registered voters in the two states is less than 15% of the 14.3 million voters that the electoral commission registered in the zone in 2011. This however has not prevented those who think they can make a projection about the voting pattern of this zone in 2015 from that sample. There is a problem with this kind of projection, especially when Lagos (which accounts for 42% of registered voters in the zone) is not part of sample. It would be recalled that the South-west, which has the second highest number of registered voters (after North-west’s 19.8 million), gave its highest votes to President Goodluck Jonathan in the last general election, and not to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the presidential candidate of ACN, which was then the dominant party in the zone. Even when it is possible that voters in the zone, out of sophistication, chose to vote different parties at state and federal levels or simply opted for southern solidarity, the widespread belief is that Tinubu did a deal with President Jonathan. If indeed there was a deal, that didn’t provide Tinubu with much cover as his subsequent trial by the Code of Conduct showed. Well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that the South-west is home to almost 20% of the total 73.5 million voters that INEC registered in 2011. This has turned the zone into the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics. This has also raised the political profile and influence of Tinubu within APC and even nationally because he has the dominant political structure in the zone. This also poses a real threat to President Jonathan’s re-election ambitions. So in a way, these elections are going to be a keen contest between Tinubu, a regional lord bent on protecting his territory, and Jonathan, an incumbent president bent on re-election. And it is this pairing of people whose names will not be on the ballot that covers the two elections in battle fatigues. Of the two however, President Jonathan carries the lower risk. With the Labour Party-controlled Ondo State an ally of PDP, a win by his party in one of the two states will significantly brighten Jonathan’s chances in the zone and might even create a bandwagon effect in the second. Losing both states cannot necessarily be seen as the end for him, as he still has time to make inroads into the zone and there is nothing to say southern solidarity will not play a role again next year. At the end of the day, the real person on the stand is Tinubu. The battle will be in his backyard, and losing an inch of this coveted turf has serious implications for him. His stature, his bargaining power and his future standing in the zone, in his party and in the country hang on the outcome. HRM Muhammadu Sanusi II And it came to pass. Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi left no one in doubt that his utmost ambition in life was to become the Emir of Kano. The dream had a ring of obsession around it. And according to some received wisdoms, those who openly crave a position in this clime do not get it. But last Sunday, it was the dreamer, and not the doubters, that won, as the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was named the Emir of Kano. Dreams, indeed, come true. Those who know him from childhood say he has always had the halo of a future Emir around him. Even as a five-year-old, they say, he walked around with an air of destiny. My sense is that the forced abdication of his grandfather, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, played not a small part in shaping this disposition. I want to believe that Emir Sanusi was brought up to believe that he was destined to redress the injustice done to his grandfather. Little wonder then that the new Emir has chosen to be known as His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II. Now that he has achieved his life-long dream, Emir Sanusi’s life mission should be what he does with the throne. Brilliant and articulate, radical yet conservative, traditional yet cosmopolitan, and at home with Islamic and Western philosophies, he has the attributes of a modern monarch in the global age. While he needs to take necessary lessons from the fate of his grandfather and the politics of his ascension, may the Almighty give him the wisdom and the capacity to be a force for good in Kano, in the north and in the country as a whole. May his reign be long and peaceful!

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