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2011: FRESH OPPORTUNITY FOR OPPOSITION PARTIES

By NBF News
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For those who understand the game of politics, 2011 general election is a fresh opportunity for the emergence of a vibrant opposition in the country. Many believe that, realistically, no time is better than now for every party to assert itself on the electorate.

Since the reintroduction of democracy in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has grown in leaps and bounds and has cast a towering shadow on the polity. Before now, many had nursed fears that the nation was gradually gravitating towards a one party state.

But no time is better than now for various parties to take on the PDP acclaimed as the largest in Africa. In a true democracy, the opposition parties remain an alternative and a watchdog to the government and it is little wonder that when the immediate past National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor predicted that the party would rule for 60 uninterrupted years, the statement was greeted with anger and opprobrium by vocal members from opposition parties and the human rights community.

Analysts argue that this is no time to complain as opposition parties are wont to do but to plan for the election ahead. From one geo-political zone to the other, many are waiting to see how the game would be played and won.

North West
The North-West zone comprises Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States.

Before 2007, the Zone was the strong hold of the ANPP, as it was controlling Zamfara, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto and Jigawa States. But after 2007, it lost it to the PDP, following the defection of the then governors of Kebbi, Jigawa and deputy governor of Sokoto to the PDP, and lately, the defection of the incumbent Zamfara State governor from the ANPP to the PDP. At present, in the entire zone, only Kano is under the control of the ANPP.

The parties are yet to conduct their primaries, the outcome of which may probably determine largely the chances or otherwise of the opposition in the states. Therefore, the analyses of their chances for now, is largely based on the prevailing political permutation, which could change after the primaries.

Kaduna
Kaduna State governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa is on the driver's seat. But analysts view current happenings in the state as a clear indication that he is not in charge of the PDP structure in the state. He has men in his team who are working for another PDP gubernatorial aspirant, Alhaji Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi. And most of the men are from Yakowa's area, the Southern part of the state.

The choice of his Campaign Director and Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Honourable Hassan Jumare, a man who can hardly speak a passable English language, and who has little or no electoral value, is another minus for his camp. If he clinches the ticket, and the Hunkuyi's group decides to protest, then PDP might lose the state.

And one of the strongest opposition waiting to cash in on PDP's misfortune is the Buhari-led Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) and that is if and only if, Haruna Saheed, one of the aspirants gets the party's ticket.

Saheed, a former Accountant-General of the state, is geographically from the southern part of the state. Politically however, his Council is located within the Central Senatorial district of the state. Southern Kaduna are clamouring for power shift, while the Central zone are feeling cheated in the present political arrangement in the State. So either way, the argument favours his candidature, more so that he is a Muslim. All these are factors that would play out in the build up to the 2011 polls in the state.

Kano- PDP lost the state to the rival ANPP since 2003. Former Kano State governor, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso parades himself as the leader of the party in the state, against the PDP's established tradition that where there is no governor, the highest political office holder in the state, assumes leadership of the party. Sunday Sun recalls that Kwankwaso and his group recently raised the alarm over Lamido's growing influence in Kano PDP. And to spite Lamido too, Kwankwaso and his group, traveled to Jigawa to meet with Saminu Turaki, former Jigawa State governor, to 'strategize,' with the hope of assisting him to unseat Lamido in Jigawa State in 2011.

Although the Kano governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has anointed a successor, in person of Alhaji Sagir Salihu Takai, a decision that has not gone down well with other aspirants like former Kano State governor, Senator Kabiru Gaya, incumbent Deputy Governor of the State, Tijjani Abdullahi Gwarzo and a prominent Islamic scholar in the state, Sheikh Ibrahim Khaleel, if Takai eventually emerges as the ANPP's candidate, then the party should as well be preparing to leave the stage for either the CPC or the PDP in 2011.

Already, Mohammed Abacha, a hitherto leading light in the PDP, has since relocated to the CPC, and there are others waiting to follow suit. If PDP fails to put its house in order ahead of 2011, the party will still suffer the same defeat it suffered in 2003 and 2007. Katsina- Ibrahim Shema is the governor. He has demonstrated that he is in charge of affairs in the State, especially after the demise of his political mentor, late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. But then he has a lot of forces to contend with within the PDP. And these forces, Sunday Sun's findings reveal, will make the task of retaining his seat, a daunting one for him. For now, he is the only known aspirant on the platform of the PDP and it is as good as saying he has the ticket already.

But his greatest challenge will be how to tame the opposition within the PDP, so as to have enough energy to confront headlong the CPC challenge in the state. If one of the Yar'Aduas who is planning to run on the platform of the CPC, decides to make good his threat, Shema will have a moral challenge to contend with. But Sunday Sun's investigations reveal that prominent Business Mogul, and late Yar'Adua's 'Mr. Fix,' Dahiru Mangal, has waded in to ensure that nobody from the Yar'Adua's family challenges Shema. CPC, for now appears to be the strongest opposition in Katsina, with litany of governorship aspirants, prominent among who are: former House Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari, Senator Lado Danmarke (a decampee from PDP, and incumbent Senator) and Nura Khalil among others.

Although Masari stands a better chance of picking the ticket ahead of other aspirants, if the feelers from the state are anything to believe, the former Speaker may end up disappointed, just like it happened towards the build up to the 2007 elections, when Buhari refused to guarantee him the ANPP's ticket.

Kebbi- Alhaji Nasamu Dakingari is the governor of Kebbi State. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made by the former governor, who incidentally is the immediate past FCT minister, Senator Adamu Aliero to seize the party structure from him. Dakingari is a son in-law to late Yar'Adua. Interestingly, Sunday Sun's investigations reveal that, Aliero was instrumental to the consummation of the marriage before things fell apart between them. Although he has trounced Aliero twice, within the party in recent past when both men tested their might, the latest being the contest within the party on who to take the seat Aliero vacated in the Senate should give the governor some sleepless night. Besides, the ANPP in the state, under the leadership of the former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Suleiman Argungu, is also waiting to exploit the crisis within the PDP to its advantage.

Sokoto-Aliyu Wammako is the governor. He was very popular prior to the 2007 elections. His popularity contributed greatly to PDP's victory in Sokoto State during the 2007 polls. But for now, he and the deputy are working at cross purposes. While the deputy believes that Wammako should have just done one term and leave the stage for him, Wammako believes that there was no such arrangement between them. But the deputy certainly does not have the capacity and political sagacity to undo the governor. Although the Democratic Peoples Party, (DPP), ought to have been the strongest opposition there, the recent defection of the former Sokoto State governor and founder of the party, to the ACN, has no doubt deflated its ranks.

Unlike in other States, in Sokoto, CPC is yet to strongly register its presence and no strong opposition in the state for now. Zamfara- Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi is the governor. He appears to be in-charge. He is IBB's in-law. He needs the second term ticket like other first term governors. But he appears to be having a serious challenge, from both within the PDP and his former party, the ANPP. His challenger within the PDP is the former minister of state for Information and Communications, Alhaji Ikra Bilbis. Bilbis, Sunday Sun's findings reveal, is being backed by prominent elders in the state, from both the ANPP and the PDP, including Senator Sani Yerima, Shinkafi's predecessor in office.

And irrespective of Yerima's misgivings at the national level, he is still being loved and revered in Zamfara, as such his support for a person like Bilbis, who himself is a grassroots politician, cannot be underestimated.

As things stand today, the greatest opposition to the PDP in Zamfara is the PDP, as opposition parties for now, are in disarray.

Jigawa- Sule Lamido, the Jigawa governor has a demonstrable influence in his state and even beyond. He is the most outspoken of all the governors in the zone. His fearlessness is unequaled within the zone.

Although, the former governor, Senator Saminu Turaki, is threatening to return to the ANPP, for the purpose of unseating Lamido, for now, he appears not to have the clout and following to effect such a dramatic change. Not even the CPC, which is also trying to make an inroad into the state, has the capacity to unseat Lamido.

North East
The North-East comprises Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States. After the 1999 election, the zone was shared equally between the PDP and the ANPP, with PDP winning Adamawa, Bauchi, and Taraba States, while ANPP, won in Borno, Gombe and Yobe States.

By 2003 however, PDP added Gombe to its fold, thus leaving ANPP with only Borno and Yobe States. But by 2007, PDP too lost Bauchi to the ANPP. However, shortly after the 2007 polls, the Bauchi governor, Isa Yuguda, defected back to his original party, the PDP, thus returning Bauchi to the PDP. As at today, PDP controls Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba States, while ANPP is in firm control of Borno and Yobe States.

And like other States, the outcome of the conduct of primaries in the states, will no doubt have effect, positively or otherwise on the fortunes of the party at the polls.

Adamawa- This has been a PDP state since 1999. Although attempts were made to seize it by the ANPP in 2003 and by the AC in 2007, it were members of the PDP that moved to the two parties that made those attempts. Effectively, the opposition has always come from within. Today, the governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako (Rtd), appears not to be in charge, as the same group, led by Senator Jubril Aminu, which brought him to power in 2007, are plotting to unseat him.

Already, one of Aminu's protégés, and incumbent minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Aliyu Idi Hong, has since bought and submitted his nomination form for the number one position in the state. But PDP is its own headache in the state, therefore, even if in the end, another party unseats Nyako, it is PDP members that would have moved to that other party to effect the change. Borno is one state that has remained under ANPP since 1999. In 2003, when the incumbent was dislodged, he was dislodged by another ANPP chieftain, in person of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, even though the incumbent then had to relocate to the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) to realise his ambition of seeking a second term.

Bauchi-Governor Isa Yuguda does not appear to be in charge of affairs. And the return of the former governor, Adamu Muazu, from self- exile, is expected to compound the problem for Yuguda. He has a strong opposition within the PDP, as himself and the FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed work at cross purposes. CPC is also gaining ground in Bauchi, just as there are pockets of other opposition parties in the state.

Gombe- Governor Danjuma Goje, after dislodging Hashidu in 2003, has effectively neutralized every opposition in the state. He has the tremendous capacity to determine who succeeds him, in 2011. Already, the PDP's National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Alkali and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Usman Bayero Nafada, are the leading aspirants in the state. Goje donated Alkali to the party's National Secretariat, as such one can say they have good rapport. But the same cannot be said of his relationship with Nafada.

All things being equal, with the way Goje has carried on in Gombe, and with the way he is still carrying on, it will certainly be difficult for any opposition to dislodge the PDP. Taraba- Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai appears to be in charge, but in the real sense of it, he is not. His predecessor is already teeming up with another camp within the PDP, for the purpose of unseating the Pharmacist- turned politician. Already, one of the PDP Senators from the State, Danlami Ikenya, has defected to the ACN. He wants to be governor too. He may not have the clout to be one, but there is the possibility of his group and other smaller groups, teeming up with some renegades within the PDP to undo the governor.

Senator Abdulaziz Ibrahim, who tried his hand on the governorship in 2007, is eyeing the seat again. And this time around, he has pitched his tent with Jolly Nyame, former governor, who made it possible for him not to come near the seat in 2007. Therefore, in Taraba, analysts say, it is the PDP that will undo itself, because opposition parties in the state are usually made up of PDP members, who will leave the party at the eleventh hour to antagonise it.

Yobe- Ibrahim Gaidam of the ANPP is on the saddle. He has demonstrated that he has the capacity to contain the opposition. But the recent defection of some of its big wigs, led by Senator Usman Al-Bishir, may affect its fortunes at the polls in 2011. Sunday Sun has it on good authority that but for the die-minute decision of Al-Bishir and his supporters to support the ANPP, believing that after the election, he would get the mandate back, ANPP would have kissed the dust in Yobe in 2007.

Al-Bishir was the original candidate of the party for 2007, before he was controversially substituted by late Senator Mamman Ali, Gaidam's former boss. Like Borno, even though Yobe PDP parades some of the leading lights in Yobe politics, the party is yet to come near the seat of power. The only time it demonstrated what looked like a unity of purpose at the polls was in 2007. Although some of its members still indulged in anti-party activities against its flag bearer, Maina Adamu Waziri, the magnitude was small compared to what they did in 1999 and 2003.

Therefore, even though the ANPP may have lost some of its valued members to the PDP, how PDP manages its primaries will go a long way to determine whether or not it is ready to take over power in the state.

South West
Without sounding patronizing, this is one zone that is for grabs. In this zone alone, there are three parties with remarkable presence. The PDP has three states, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) controls two and the Labour Party (LP) in charge of one. Analysts believe that it is going to be a battlefield for the PDP and the ACN which, no doubt, has established its relevance in the geo-political zone.

Lagos
The opposition in Lagos is the PDP. However, the party in the state is not ready for any election presently. The party under the leadership of Setonji Koshoedo, is likely to be led through the election by a collegiate of leadership. How that setting can assist the PDP in Lagos is yet to be seen.

Ogun
In Ogun, the ACN is the main opposition party, but the reality is that the party is not on ground. Former governor of the state, Olusegun Osoba, who is the leader of the ACN in the state usually stays at his Ikoyi home and seldom comes to Abeokuta. Those following the politics of the Gateway state say that the ACN has failed to capitalize on the crisis going on within the PDP in Ogun.

Interestingly, feelers have it that the ACN is also having its own share of crisis as it is rumoured that some entrenched interests in the ACN are trying to prevent some politicians from joining their party so that they would continue to be relevant.

Oyo
A similar scenario is playing out in Oyo State. The ACN is supposed to be the main opposition party in Oyo but the party under the leadership of the ex-governor, Lam Adesina is all but watching idly while some chieftains of the PDP take on Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala.

Osun
Except for the gubernatorial case that Rauf Aregbesola is pursuing against Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, nothing is on ground in the mould of opposition in the state.

The ACN as the main opposition party in the state may however capitalize on the confusion that is going on in PDP as some aspirants aggrieved with the attempt to foist Sen. Iyiola Omisore as the candidate of the PDP, are already perfecting moves to join the opposition party.

Ondo and Ekiti
Although there would not be gubernatorial election in Ondo and Ekiti states, the ruling parties in those states- Labour Party and ACN might have a big say in who picks what. The trend in Ondo in all the bye-elections so far held shows that candidates of the LP are always returned as winners. However, the LP might have a big fight in its hand, as unlike in other states, frontline opposition figures are not decamping to the LP.

Analysts say the development is a direct indictment on the government as not performing enough to warrant it posing a mortal threat in 2011. In Ekiti, despite the fact that the administration of Governor Kayode Fayemi is less than a month old, two PDP members at the House of assembly have decamped to the ACN along with the deputy chairman of the state PDP. The trend is set to continue as the 2011 polls draw nearer.

South South
Ahead the 2011 elections, the Bayelsa State chapter of the ACN is set to reap from the in-fighting currently going on in the PDP over moves to wrest power from Governor Timipre Sylva. The ACN's flag bearer, Ebitimi Amgbare contested and lost the 2007 and the 2008 re-run elections with Sylva.

The ACN which has been licking its wounds since then had held series of meetings in the past few weeks so as to reposition the party before the 2011. In one of the meetings held, the party discussed moves by some big wigs in the PDP to decamp to the ACN having lost out in the struggle for the soul of the party. The party Chairman, Miriki Ebikibina had recently revealed that his party was in discussion with some top politicians in the PDP over plans to defect because of the intention of the PDP to give the party ticket to Sylva.

Sunday Sun can authoritatively report that Sylva's political opponents have made up their mind to explore all options to ensure PDP lose in Bayelsa if Sylva gets the ticket and ACN is their best alternative.

Rivers- The state also appears to be open for grabs. Though the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi is arguably one of those who have given democracy dividends to his people, there is a stiff opposition against his administration. Analysts expect that the race is going to be between the PDP led by Amaechi and the ACN which is likely to enjoy the support of the former governors of the state, Peter Odili, Celestine Omehia and, a former minister of Transport Abiye Sekibo among other power brokers.

Akwa Ibom-There is also a growing opposition to the administration of Godswill Akpabio even though he is fighting seriously to ward off his opponents. In the oil-rich state, the ACN is also a major threat to the second term ambition of the PDP governor. Cross River-The state governor, Liyel Imoke is also not sitting pretty comfortable. Though the opposition to his government appears less than his colleague in Akwa Ibom, he also has the ACN to contend with.

Delta State-In the whole of the South South zone, Delta is one state that the fate of the PDP is dicey. The situation has been compounded by the recent nullification of the 2007 election of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. There is a visible presence of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and the ACN in the state.

South East
The zone is also vulnerable to the opposition.
Ebonyi
The national chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Ogbonnaya Onu is from the state and would work round the clock to give the incumbent governor, Martin Elechi a fight of his life. Besides, there is likely going to be an exodus from the PDP as many power brokers in the party including the immediate past governor and minister of education, Dr Sam Egwu are not comfortably with Elechi's monopoly of the party structure.

Enugu-The state governor, Sullivan Chime is also having a running battle with other power brokers in the state led by the PDP national chairman, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo. The fear is that the opposition may capitalize on the internal crisis in the PDP to grab power in the state.

Imo- This is one state that is going to witness an implosion. There is an obvious discontent against the government of Ikedi Ohakim and the coming election is an opportunity to express the anger. The governor is likely to pick the PDP ticket, hence fighting him would only be on the platform of an opposition party. The battle would be between the PDP, Progressive People Alliance (PPA) and the All Progressive Alliance (APGA).

Abia
There is an open field for competition in the state. Several odds are against the incumbent governor, Theodore Orji and the 2011 election is certainly a fresh opportunity to upstage his administration. For obvious reasons, the battle for control of the state would be between the PDP and the PPA.