The battle for the Borno Government House come 2019 is already gathering momentum with the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheming for the success of their candidates through brandishing of billboards and posters with different enticing inscriptions.
Notwithstanding that 41 out of the over 50 registered political parties in Borno State submitted names of governorship candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the APC and the PDP remain the two major political parties that will definitely face each other squarely for the 2019 governorship contest.
Even though the other political parties are fielding governorship candidates to the election, their influence in the state is not yet popular in making a difference in the upcoming election, except probably in the near future.
While the APC has fielded Professor Babagana Umara Zulum as its candidate for the governorship election notwithstanding the intrigues that produced his candidature, the PDP is still battling in the court over the candidate for the position.
Although the INEC has recognised Muhammad Imam of the Zanna Gadama faction as PDP candidate in its published list for governorship candidates in Borno, the court case hanging on the party can make the election a smooth ride for the ruling APC, unless the dispute is settled early and before the election to enable the party prepare for the contest.
The battle for control of the soul of the PDP in Borno state has been long a recurring phenomenon. As a matter of fact, it has been the tradition for one crisis or the other to erupt in the party the moment electioneering period beckons.
In every election since the return of democracy in 1999, the chances of the PDP taking over control of government in Borno has been elusive because of self-inflicted injuries.
In deed, some analysts in the state have blamed the parties that have held power in the state, such as the defunct All People’s Party (APP), the defunct All Nigerians People’s Party (ANPP) and presently, the APC, for the woes of the major opposition party, opining that some of the opposition party members are usually bought over to destabilise the party each time election approaches.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that in the 2011 elections when the PDP would have made the difference by fielding Mohammed Goni who had mass of supporters having governed the state in the Second Republic with remarkable achievements that stood the test of time, some party stakeholders still worked against his candidature in favour of the then ruling ANPP.
Also, in the build-up to the 2015 governorship election in Borno state, two candidates, Muhammad Imam and Gambo Lawan laid claim to the ticket, which led to a legal battle, and Gambo Lawan was eventually declared the authentic candidate by the Supreme Court.
But the emergence of Gambo Lawan did not make any difference to the election as the Supreme Court’s verdict came just some weeks to the elections.
But despite the pitfalls, the PDP in the state has not been able to put its house in order to form a formidable opposition that can wrest power from the ruling APC to occupy the Government House in 2019.
Political pundits have submitted that those who think for the PDP believe that its fortunes could still be turned around because of the popularity of the two factional candidates.
For instance, in the just concluded governorship primaries, separate congresses were held by the two factions of the PDP to elect the party flagbearers.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend over the election, the eventual winner of the primary in that faction, Muhammed Wakil, a former Minister of Works in the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, said they held separate primaries because they were opposed to the conduct of the election by the Zanna Gadama-led faction.
He alleged that Gadama’s faction abused earlier court order, describing the excercise as null and void. Wakil added that the Court of Appeal had ruled in favour of Baderi as the recognised chairman of the party.
“What the other faction did is illegality of the highest order because we are the ones legally recognised by the court of law. So, we conducted the election and submitted result to the national body.
“If they see reasons to accept the result, fine and if they don’t, I am sure some of us remember the case of Rotimi Amaechi. You cannot just build something out of nothing and expect it to stand. The issue of immunity and illegality have to stop in this country,” he said.
However, speaking earlier, Bukar Kyari, who contested alongside Muhammed Wakil but later withdrew, decried that the National Working Committee of the PDP chose to recognise an illegal faction despite existing court order.
He said: “We, as law abiding citizens will not indulge in illegalities, we shall seek redress in competent court of law for our rights. Therefore, we will conduct our elections here. We will invite the INEC to monitor it and then come up with authentic candidate that has been elected,” he added.
However, while reacting, Mr.Zanna Gadama said his faction had secured a court injunction which he said ordered that the status quo be maintained. He added that the Borno State PDP from his side remains the authentic faction that can hold primary elections.
“The national PDP has recognised the PDP in Borno, the one I am currently heading as a chairman. This is why they sent the INEC officials and other observers to come and monitor the election we conducted”, he added.
Recall that Muhammad Imam whose name is recognised by the INEC emerged winner from the Zanna Gadama faction. Imam, who has a good followership in Borno politics, might give APC a run for its money, should the court decide in his favour and other aggrieved members unite to form a common front.
Imam’s pictures and billboards have already flooded the capital city and environs even as that of the APC governorship candidate, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum.
The ruling APC on the other hand can’t boast of sailing smoothly to the 2019 governorship election should the PDP manage to put its house in order, to settle their predicament earlier before the election.
This is bearing in mind the rancour that followed the APC governorship primaries where some aspirants were aggrieved over Governor Kashim Shettima’s anointing of Zulum as his preferred choice on the eve of the primaries.
It would be recalled that 10 out of the 21 aspirants after the governorship primary of the APC petitioned the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, calling for its cancellation, having alleged that the primaries fell short of the party guidelines.
In the petition copied to President Muhammadu Buhari, the aspirants complained that the primary fell short of their expectations, claiming “neither the provisions of the guideline nor the party’s constitution was observed.”
Signatories to the petition said, “We wish to bring to the attention of the party the following infractions which have compromised the integrity and the credibility of the process, and have eventually disenfranchised the majority of the aspirants.”
The petitioners alleged that the list of delegates was not given to any of the aspirants up until the time of the primaries, which they said is a fundamental requirement for the conduct of the primaries.
“The delegates were warehoused in locations that are not accessible to all aspirants except the preferred aspirant. The electoral committee that was sent to Maiduguri for the conduct of the primaries was lodged at the Government House and did not meet with the aspirants to inform them of the procedures of the election.
“The state party chairman summoned about 13 aspirants out of the 21 to announce to them that Governor Kashim Shettima has anointed one Prof . Babagana Umara Zulum as the candidate to be returned winner at the primaries.
“This is against the spirit of the party ’s responsibility to promote a level playing field for all aspirants, be fair, just and impartial. All gubernatorial aspirants were denied movement to address delegates in the night before the election day except the governor and his preferred aspirant, by imposing a curfew in spite of the police escort attached to all the aspirants to facilitate their movement.”
The petitioners, therefore, asked that the gubernatorial primary election be immediately suspended, while they also urged that a new date be fixed for the election.
They also asked for the recall of the electoral panel sent to Borno for the conduct of the gubernatorial primaries, urging its replacement with a new panel for another free, fair and credible primaries.
The aggrieved aspirants also said the party secretariat should direct that all aspirants be allowed to have access to all delegates and that the list of the delegates should be given to all aspirants to ascertain the authenticity of the delegates.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reliably gathered that one of the aspirants who polled the second highest votes in the said primaries, Idris Durkwa, has already instituted action in the Federal High Court Maiduguri seeking redress.
But in effort to heal wounds resulting from the primaries, the ruling APC in Borno has set up an 11-man reconciliation committee headed by a one-time deputy governor in the state, Alhaji Adamu Dibal, with one of the aspirants, who was even favoured before the anointing of Professor Zulum, Kaka Shehu Lawan, who is also the state’s Attorney General and commissioner of Justice, as secretary of the committee.
Also, at the national level, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC set up six-man-reconciliation committee to further heal the wounds inflicted on the party in the said primary elections.
Thus, with the healed wounds and the subsequent endorsement of Zulum by Buhari after a stakeholders meeting in Abuja, where the president intervened on the Borno APC governorship crisis, as directed by the reconciliation committee set up by the national body, the candidature of Zulum is already gaining ground in Borno ahead of the election.
His academic background as a professor is also a boost to Babagana Umara Zulum’s 2019 ambition as many in the state are akimbo waiting if destiny can usher in the first Professor to be a governor in the Northeast, if not the entire northern region.
As the political atmosphere keeps brightening everyday for the 2019 general elections in Borno, the electorate will be battling with their conscience over the candidate to trust with their votes, for a total restoration of peace and revival of the devastated economy of the once business giant of the Northeast that has been crippled by the Boko Haram insurgency.