Politics – Political Battles That Will Define 2021

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As political actors conclude stock-taking after an eventful 2020, they would expectedly brace for tougher times in 2021.

And with the politics of 2023 dictating their actions, especially against the backdrop of incumbency not being much of a factor in the presidential race and in most state polls, it’s almost certain that the political space in 2021 will be intense.

Already, indications of how intricate the politics of 2021 will be comes on account of some political battles that had defied series of reconciliatory moves.

Although some of these tussles manifested last year while others have lasted longer, the face-offs have remained unresolved. This is more so that most of the frictions are not just rooted in a contest for office but are driven by an egotistical show of political dominance, which, according to pundits, has made resolving them difficult.

Indeed, while these battles rage in virtually all the states or regions as the case maybe, some have been tougher than others.

In this report, LEADERSHIP takes a look at some of the prominent battles that are poised to shape the political space in 2021.

The battle between these two PDP heavyweights in the South West has not just dragged for some time. It has heightened uncertainties about the party’s posture in the region.

For a party that has been struggling to have a firmer foothold in the South West, the raging battle between the Oyo governor and former Ekiti governor is chipping away at what’s left of the party’s grip in the region.

The tussle began shortly after Makinde, perhaps, in keeping with a  tradition in the party, began to assert himself as PDP leader in the geo-political zone being the only PDP governor in the South West.

However, Makinde’s move to intervene in the friction between Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi, a former Senate minority leader,was fiercely resisted by the former Ekiti state governor.

Before long, the rivalry between Makinde and Fayose assumed a broader perspective, resulting in the emergence of factions in the region and state party levels.

With no solution in sight at the moment as both party chieftains refuse to back down, it is almost a given that this tussle which will define the fate of PDP in the region, will spark lots of political fireworks this year.

This battle started almost as soon as Governor Dave Umahi defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) after pleas by PDP nationalleadership for him not to go. The governor maintained that he was leaving PDP because the party is not being fair to the South East as it seemed like it won’t zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the region.

Umahi’s defection saw the dissolution of state and zonal PDP structures which his siblings were integral members of. But contrary to speculations, most PDP stalwarts in the state refused to defect alongside the governor.

As such, a media war ensued between the governor and the PDP leaders including the former secretary to the federation, Senator Pius Ayim; former governor, Senator Sam Egwu; and other members of the National Assembly from the state.

The battle sooner than expected snowballed into an intense media slugfest last year. While Umahi accused the PDP leaders of plotting to unleash violence in the state, Anyim revealed that he petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged plot to take his life because he refused to defect to the APC along side the governor.

In the statement, Anyim who recalled that Umahi came to his house on November 20 and advised him to defect from the PDP to the APC, noted that no amount of blackmail or intimidation will compel him or any of the PDP leaders in the state to follow the governor.

In a show of solidarity, while some appointees loyal to Ayim and other PDP chieftains resigned their appointments with the state government, the 13 Local Government Council chairmen of the stateunder the umbrella of ALGON lambasted Anyim over his allegation against the governor.

In a statement titled, “Respect Yourself or face public opprobrium” and signed by the council chairmen, they said the content of the letter was unacceptable just as they warned the former SGF from a further attacks on the governor.

Although the governor has cautioned his loyalists not to launch further verbal attacks against his opponents, pundits aver that the battle is far from over as both camps continue strategic moves to have the upper hand in the state ahead of 2023.

The scenario in Imo State is somewhat convoluted as the key actors have at different times aligned for a common interest of sorts. Nevertheless, what has remained constant is their individual struggle for control of the soul of APC in the state.

This tussle began shortly after the incumbent governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma joined the ruling APC. As a senator, Uzodimma’s aspiration to contest the governorship seat under the APC was not hidden even though it was resisted by Senator Rochas Okorocha who was incumbent at the time. The former governor had perfected plansto install his son in-law as his successor. And so, the tussle between Uzodinma and Okorocha for APC control began.

On the other end, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume was also desirous of emerging governor under the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Although Uzodimma outsmarted Okorocha to clinch the APC ticket, PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha won the governorship seat. But in a twist of events, Okorocha, Uzodimma and Ararume (who defected to APC shortly after the election), forged a united front of sorts in the push to reclaim the state from PDP.

No sooner than the Supreme Court removed Ihedioha from office and enthroned Uzodimma as governor, the alliance amongst the three APCchieftains began to collapse. Signs that the alliance has failed manifested with the recent Imo North Senatorial by-election as Okorocha and Ararume teamed up against Uzodimma.

Uzodimma backed Frank Ibezim, Okorocha took sides with Ararume. The legal battle which eventually ensued over the party’s candidacy for the election resulted in the neither the non- recognition of Ararume nor Ibezim by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the election which APC won.

As the candidacy battle rage, the exchange of barbs between  Uzodimma and Okorocha which intensified into the new year, gives a clear indication that the months ahead will be intriguing in the state in spite of who wins the senatorial seat.

The drama in Cross River State is not so different from what is playing out in Imo State. The unfolding political fisticuffs surrounding the by-election in Cross River North Senatorial, according to watchers of political events in the state, reflects the intense grappling for the soul of PDP in the state.

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The seat became vacant after Senator Rose Okoji Oko who represented the senatorial district died in March, last year.

But the jostle for the seat has since resulted in a tough legal battlebetween Dr Stephen Odey and Hon Jarigbe Agom over who the rightful candidate of PDP is. While Odey enjoys the backing of the state governor, Prof Ben Ayade, Agom is said to enjoy the backing of some PDP leaders in the state.

Odey, got his court order from a Calabar High Court, asking INEC to consider him as the validly nominated candidate of the PDP. Agom also got a court order from an Abuja High Court declaring him the rightful candidate.

INEC, just like the case in Imo, was silent on who the PDP candidate is even though the party remained on the ballot. PDP won the election. Odey who interestingly was recognised as party candidate was issued certificate of return by INEC and was subsequently sworn into office by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan.

A week later, INEC issued a fresh certificate of return to Agom as  winner and duly elected PDP candidate to represent the district in the Senate. INEC’s decision followed a judgment of the Court of Appeal which declared Agom as the substantive candidate of PDP.

The appellate court had affirmed the judgment of the FCT High Court which had earlier declared Agom as duly elected PDP candidate for the election.

Although the matter has since gone to a court of higher jurisdiction, pundits aver that the battle is just an offshoot of a bigger battle within the PDP which pits the state governor against some PDP leaders in the state. As such, the coming months will unravel the intricate tussle within the party.

The political slugfest between the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and his predecessor and minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is perhaps one of the longest political battles in today’s political dispensation.

The rivalry between the estranged political allies began before the 2015 general elections. And by the turn of each electoral cycle since then, the power play between the two political leaders has intensified rather than abate. It was learnt that series of attempts to reconcile the two leaders have failed to yield any result as they have both continued to dig in their heels in hopes that the other person would tire out.

At the close of last year however, Amaechi declared that he is set to resume political activities in the state, a situation which saw a shakeup not just in the APC but in the state. Like previous years, it is expected that the exchange of brickbats between the two political juggernauts would intensify this year.

Just like in Rivers State, the face-off between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor and hitherto political ally, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has defied solutions and interventions.

The friction which manifested shortly after the 2015 general elections, culminated in Kwankwaso’s defection from the APC to PDP in 2018.

Kwankwaso had served as governor on the platform  of PDP with Ganduje as his deputy for the most part of two terms in office until they both dumped PDP for APC in 2014.

Kwankwaso’s return to PDP in 2018 sparked crisis within the opposition party as former ambassador, Aminu Wali rejected his posturing as leader of the party in the state. The situation came to a head during the 2019 governorship election as Ganduje won a hard-fought re-election which was possible because of the division within the PDP.

The convoluted rivalry among the political actors was however rekindled late last year, following the announcement of a date for the local government elections in the state. While Kwankwaso’s camp distanced itself from the poll, Wali’s camp said it would participate. Clearly, the seeming three-way  battle will grab major headlines this year as the tussle for 2023 pans into view.

The battle between Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and his predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko will also be an interesting spectacle to watch this year. The rivalry between the estranged allies  came to the fore shorty after Tambuwal dumped APC for the PDP in 2018.

Although their face-off has not been as rancorous as some other scenarios, it’s nonetheless as intense as the race for 2023 intensifies.

While defecting from PDP to APC last year, Senator Elisha Abbo who represents Adamawa North, declared political war against the Adamawa State governor, Ahmad Fintir whom he blamed for his defection.  Just like Abbo, Senator Abdulaaziz Nyako, also defected from the Action Democratic Congress (ADC) to the APC, in what seem like a gang up against the incumbent.

With these defections in the state, pundits aver that a tough battle is in the offing this year preparatory to the 2023 governorship poll in the state.

Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle of Zamfara State has been locked in a tussle with his immediate-past predecessor Abdulaziz Yari for political dominance in the state.

Matawalle emerged governor of the state on the platform of the PDP in 2019 largely on account of the fight  between Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa for control of APC.

Following Yari’s failed moves to reclaim control of the state under the platform of APC, Matawalle and the former governor has been battling ever since. This year won’t  be different even as Yari is rumored to be interested in emerging the national chairmanship of APC.

Last year’s defection of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara from PDP to APC came as a shock to many. His reason for defecting, according to him, was because of a sour relationship with the Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, whom he had collaborated with to oust the APC from power in 2019.

While the governor debunked Dogara’s claim of being sidelined in the affairs of the party in Bauchi State, the first test of their power tussle manifested during the by-election in Dass state constituency last year which was won by APC under Dogara’s leadership.

While the governor told party members to accept the outcome of the election, the contest for dominance between him and Dogara in the state is expected to get tougher this year.

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