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NASS ELECTIONS: 3,258 CANDIDATES CHASE 469 SEATS

By NBF News
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The road map
The build up to the 2011 elections was generally characterized by morbid inconsistencies and adjustments. Twice, the electoral act and the constitution of the nation were altered to meet the challenges of organizing the elections.

Considering the importance of the 2011 elections to the consolidation of the nation's electoral democracy, and the need for a fair and inclusive process, various adoptions and strategies were evolved in the planning.

Government and other stakeholders also ensured that the process was not bogged down by funding and ancillary matters, with a mindset to overriding the chaos, indiscipline and fraud that attended the last three exercises. The National Assembly elections which kicked off last Saturday, April 2, was cancelled midway, by the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, citing logistics problems. It was re-scheduled for Monday April 4, and finally put off to this Saturday, April 9.

Men and parties
A staggering 3,258 candidates spread across 63 political parties are in a photo-finish race to grab 469 seats in the National Assembly. 879 people are slugging it out for 109 Senate seats, while 2, 373 are in battle for 360 seats in the House of Representatives. Altogether, the battle would be done across 7,118 senatorial/federal and state constituencies spread all over the federation.

Nigeria's ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leads with candidates for all the 109 seats. In the Senate, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN is fielding candidates in 95 senatorial districts, 90 candidates are from the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Of the 879 senatorial candidates, 55 are from the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, while the Labour Party, LP is testing its strength with 68 candidates.

The Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA is fighting with 15 candidates; as the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, goes to war with 92 candidates. Parties which have less than 12 candidates in the race include the African Liberation Party, ALP with 6; Accord Party, 12. The rest of the parties are running with candidates from 1 and 10.

In the race for the House of Representatives, the same order is followed.

The ACN has 312 men and women in the race. The ANPP is deploying 298, while the CPC has 231 in the race.

Bottom table
The rest of the 56 parties have candidates ranging from 1-10; and do not have any special area of domination or strength. Apart from Accord Party which may make a good run in Anambra and Oyo states, owing to the caliber of their standard bearers, who are high profile decampees from the PDP, the rest are there just to add to the numbers.

Voting factors
Since the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, the PDP has controlled the National Assembly exclusively. Between 1999 and 2003, it had 77% of the entire membership of both arms. After the elections of 2003, the figure increased, posting about 84% of the entire membership. This feat was made possible through band wagonism and incumbency edge of the PDP which triggered off a rash of decampings from the ANPP and ACN, and elections that failed to excel the basic tests of credibility.

The PDP/ANPP Alliance, loose and controversial as it was, boosted the party's domination of the National Assembly landscape. However, opposition within this period, came mainly from within, leading to general changes in the leadership corps, and a sustained bickering between the legislature and the executive branch of government.

By the turn of 2007, following a massively flawed polls, the PDP stepped up to 94% of control of seats. Notwithstanding, this supreme control of the National Assembly, it went into Alliance with the PPA. Other factors that will dictate the voting pattern in Saturday's elections include the patriarch's Geo-political zone of origin, (ethnicity), religion, money politics, and popularity of the individual candidates.

With a colossal Pan Nigerian outlook, the PDP retains the capacity and strength to overrun other candidates from other parties.

Historically, Nigerian voters have always pandered to a party in power. Despite the varnishing popularity of the party, based mainly on allegations of not meeting the aspirations and expectations of the people in the last 2 years in power, it has managed to field candidates, who are both affluent and influential, and keeping faith with the dominant religion in their areas of contest.

According to a PPP contestant for the House of Representatives for Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency in Delta State, Mr. Chikodi Patrick Azuka, there is hardly any party in the country today that has an all encompassing credential to put it's candidate in power, other than the PDP. There is internal democracy in the party, which its major challengers, the ACN, CPC, and ANPP lack in the zones in the North, CPC candidates are likely to have a free run, with puerile challenges coming from the PDP and the ANPP. Between 1999 and 2003, the ANPP provided about 25% of the lawmakers in the National Assembly. Internal crises and loss of vision in the party, which engendered defections to the PDP, paved the way for the PDP to seize control.

The situation did not change much between 2003 and 2007. By the turn of 2007, the ANPP was a shadow of itself, losing its role of minority leadership of the National Assembly to the ACN. In Saturday's elections, the ANPP candidates will ride mostly on their individual strength and popularity. For instance, in Borno North, Senator Maina M. Lawan may use this strength and popularity to overcome Rufai Monguno of APGA. Sadiq Mohammed Bulama of ANPP, Dr Bulama M. Gubio of the CPC, and Aliyu Kyari of the PDP.

The party in power in the state is ANPP, and this is an added advantage. Also in Borno central, the sitting governor Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is in the race in Benue South, Senate President, David Mark (PDP) squares up with his archrival, Gen Lawrence Onoja(rtd) of the ACN; while in Benue West, former governor of the state George Akume who defected to the ACN from PDP may bank on his individual popularity and strength to overcome Hon Terugu Tsegba of the PDP and Atigher Shagary of the CPC.

In Benue North East, the same principle may be applied as Joseph Akaagerger confronts former National Chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade.

The same goes for former Abia State governor Dr Orji Uzor Kalu who is running in Abia North against the incumbent senator, Uche Chukwumerije and Chijioke Pedro Maduekwe of APGA. Also, in Adamawa North, former governor of the state Mr Boni Haruna may deploy this capacity against other candidates, especially the PDP candidate, Alhaji Bindowo Jibrilla. A consummate and longstanding politician, Christopher Pere Ajuwa may also rely on his personal capabilities as he runs on ANPP, a party that is not very popular in Bayelsa central.

The race in Delta central is principally amongst the trio of Senator (Prof) Adego E. Eferakeya of the ACN, Ogbon-Day Elizabeth of the ANPP and Amori Ighotota. Commenting on the ascendancy of candidates from seemingly minority parties in their areas, Ogbon-day said 'the short period of campaigns and incipient political indifference by the vast majority of the electorate maybe among the forces determining the National Assembly elections. The focus during the campaigns rested more on the Presidential and governorship race. In some districts, the voters do not even know the candidates, not to talk of those they will vote for.

This lapse may obviously be exploited by any candidate to change the tide in his favour if he has the capacity' Igariwe Iduma Ruwo, ANPP, Ebonyi South agrees with Ogbon-day. 'Things are changing. The electorate is getting smarter and more conscious. These days, it is not the party that matters, but the individual. So, no matter the party you are running on, what matters is your ability to connect with the people; to get them believe in you that you can make a difference in their lives. Besides, the parties in Nigeria have no ideological base, and their manifestoe are virtually the same. Check them out'.

Senator Ayo Arise of the PDP (Ekiti North) however disagrees. He contends that what will go for the contestants are track records, and a good party.

'The ACN for instance thrives on imposition of candidates, no internal democracy. How do you begin to convince the voter that this dictatorship will not be extended after winning elections? Even in his relationship with the people what have you done to the people in the past? How far is your party at the core of development of your constituency? These are the issues. We have no independent candidate in the race.'

The candidate of the ACN in Lagos Central, Remi Tinubu canvasses, that though the party is crucial in making choices, informed decisions of the voting populace usually stem from a keen understanding of the individual, his or her visions, and capacity for transcendental change. To that extent, Patrick Azuka of PPP has offered himself to be cursed if he fails.

'I have asked all chiefs and traditional rulers in Aniocha/Oshimili to curse me, if I fail.

Similiarly, Dakuku Peterside, PDP Federal House of Representatives candidate for Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro constituency believes that the people are the only reason to be government 'when there is vision, nothing is impossible to realize.'

Zonal electoral behaviour
The six geo-political zones have replaced the four regions that existed in Nigeria's first republic, and provided, to a large extent, the basis for defining political identity. Unlike other zones such as the South-South which could mobilize citizens around a common issue such as resource control, or much of the North West, which is united by a common ethno-religious identity, the North-Central zone is made up of over 200 ethnic minorities who perceive themselves as being in competition. The fact that the zone has witnessed a high level of ethno-religious crises make them vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation and political mobilization.

The North-West zone has consistently opposed the PDP. The Muhammadu Buhari factor played a decisive role in raising the level of political opposition to the PDP, since 2003. Generally perceived to be honest, and incorruptible, the fact that he hails from that zone has helped whichever party he is in.

The zone has a long history of resistance and struggle dating back to the popular religio-political movement which transformed politics and society in the Northern part of the country in the early 19th century - The Islamic jihadist movement.

The zone equally has a long tradition of a populist ideological mobilization dating back to the First Republic when the Northern Element Progressive Union(NEPU) largely supported by the urban and rural poor won elections in key areas of the zone such as Kano and Zaria. Despite the high level of illiteracy based on western standards, citizens of the zone have a high level of political education made possible by access to over 10 foreign radio stations that broadcast in the Hausa language.

In the South East, religious organizations might wield strong influence in the zone and could be used to enforce sanctions. In the South-West, the 2003 and 2007 elections suggested that the zone has lost its predictability. Civil society has a long tradition in the zone and could be used positively to intervene in determining the outcome of the elections on Saturday. The following senatorial districts fall into considered hotspots in the elections.

Anambra North – The participation of heavyweights-Senator Joy Emordi(APGA) Hon. Jessica Balonwu(ACN) John Chukwuemeka(PDP), Odife Dennis(LP).

Anambra Central - The acclaimed violent politics of the district and the involvement of former Anambra governor, Dr. Chris Ngige(ACN), Senator Annie Okonkwo(Accord) former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili(APGA).

Anambra South- Contentious politics and the involvement of wealthy sons of the area in the area - Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah(Accord) and Dr. Andy Uba(PDP).

Benue North East- Sparks will always fly in any contest involving Joseph Akaagerger(ACN) and former National Chairman of PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade(PDP).

Borno Central - Senator Ali Modu Sheriff(incumbent governor) is running on ANPP platform in a race that PDP wants to use to prove it is relevant. Besides, the raging Boko Haram onslaught on Sheriff's government is bound to elicit interest in the race.

Edo South- Senator Ehigie Uzamere(ACN) would like to prove his mettle against Senator Daisy Danjuma(PDP).

Ekiti North - The traditional violent politics in the state between the PDP and ACN is crucial here. Senator Ayo Arise's return bid may have to be resisted by the ACN, which recently took over power in the state.

Enugu East - Senator Chimaroke Nnamani(PDC-People for Democratic Change) is fighting the political battle of his life to return to the Senate. The PDP government in the state and other forces are arrayed against him. Nnamani ruled the state for 8 years.

Taraba North: Former Governor Jolly Nyama(ACN) is in the race, the government in the state is determined to win.

Yobe East - The former Governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim(ANPP) is also running without the government's support.

Imo East- At least three political heavyweights are in the race and their clash is of deep interest. They include Senator Chris Anyanwu(APGA), Hon. Uche Onyeagocha(ACN) and Mrs Kema Chikwe(PDP).

Imo West: Former Governor and Minister Chief Achike Udenwa(ACN) and Senator Izunaso(PDP) will make a political point with their victory. Udenwa is Osita Izunaso's political godfather .

Kaduna South - Political titans - Mrs Nemadi Usman(PDP) and Senator Caleb Zagi will set the place on fire.

Kebbi Central - Senator Adamu Aliero (former Governor) CPC and Senator Abubakar Bagudu, fully backed by the state government will light up the zone.

Osun Central - The state has been in deep political struggles for some time now. Immediate past governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola is running against marverick ACN candidate, Sola Adeyeye, backed by the state government.

Osun East - Senator Iyiola Omisore, reputedly regarded as the arrowhead of opposition to the Osun State government is running against ACN candidate, Omowarare Babajide.