GOVERNORSHIP POLL: WAITING FOR D-DAY
This week, precisely on April 26, candidates in the governorship race would file out to test their popularity. It would be time for them and their various political platforms, on which they are contesting, to test their strengths and weaknesses.
For followers of political events in the country, the election, which will hold on Tuesday after the Easter celebration, is sure not going to be a tea party. Nigerians expect a fierce battle among the contending political forces, considering that apart from the President, governors are next in terms of influence in the polity.
Based on the presidential and National Assembly elections held so far, many expect upsets in some states, while in others it is most unlikely that anything different would happen. So, the question is: what variables would determine the political tide in various states in this coming election?
Without doubt, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the party to beat in the agrarian state, despite the hurdles being posed by the main opposition party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Even cynics would agree that ACN has done much work to give members of the PDP a run for their money. That did not come as a surprise because its leader in the state, Senator George Akume, is an experienced politician whose unique selling point is his popularity with the grassroots.
However, looking at the voting pattern in the last two elections, it would be a miracle if the PDP, led by Governor Gabriel Suswam, fails to carry the day. Having aggressively tackled infrastructural development in the state coupled with the advantage of being the incumbent governor, all odds favour Suswam for the April 26 election.
With what transpired in the elections held so far, the questions agitating the minds of those who understand the dynamics of the state are: Who wins the coming governorship election in Kaduna State? Will the incumbent governor, Patrick Yakowa, retain his seat or yield to the overbearing influence of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)? The calculation is that the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, would fight his last battle to save PDP in the state, having lost his ward to CPC in the National Assembly election. But, one thing that would definitely work against Sambo would be the recalcitrance of Kaduna Muslims, who are not favourably disposed to the candidature of Yakowa, who is a Christian.
In the ancient state, the battle for the governorship seat is between a former governor of Kano, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Mohammed Abacha, son of Nigeria's former Head of State, Sanni Abacha.
Kwankwaso clinched the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP in what is largely seen by keen political observers as the beginning of his return journey to the seat of executive powers in the state, after eight years of relinquishing power.
But even with his popularity, the question is: does he still have the political muscle to scuttle the ambition of Mohammed Abacha whose CPC is waxing stronger by the day?
The only snag here is that CPC fell short of the people's expectation in the National Assembly election.
In the Coal City state, the battle is between the governorship candidate of PDP, Sullivan Chime, and that of Labour Party (LP), Okey Ezea. Both also contested the 2007 governorship election, but Chime eventually emerged through the Ebeano political structure then led by former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani.
The question is: Will the result of this year's governorship election be different? It is most unlikely judging by the result of the recent National Assembly election.
Many believe the odds favour Chime, who seems to be swimming ashore from the hitherto turbulent political waters in his state.
In the South East geo-political zone, the battle for the soul of the state appears to be the toughest, judging by the caliber of people in the race. The incumbent governor, Ikedi Ohakim, who is seeking re-election, will certainly not allow the seat to slip from his fingers. But he has to contend against two tough candidates. They are Chief Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), and Ifeanyi Araraume of the ACN.
At the moment, the picture of the likely candidate to emerge in Imo is still vague. Any of the three candidates could win the race.
Like in Imo, the battle in Ebonyi is between APGA, led by the former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Frank Ogbuewu, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) led by Senator Julius Ucha, and the PDP anchored by Governor Martins Elechi, who is seeking re-election.
Though, the opposition is strong in the state, but many believe the PDP has a brighter chance of surviving the battle.
The race in Abia is sure going to be between PDP and the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA). It would be recalled that the incumbent governor, T.A. Orji, won the 2007 election on the platform of the PPA but later defected to PDP. This time around, people are waiting patiently to see whether there would be an upset in the result of the governorship election. So, will Orji retain his seat or vacate for Chris Akomas, his PPA opponent. The answer is in the womb of time.
In Oyo State, the situation is a bit fluid. Those conversant with the politics of the 'Pacesetter State' would say that unless anyone is trying to embark on an adventure into the realm of clairvoyance, it is pretty hard to say who would carry the governorship trophy in Oyo.
Three gubernatorial candidates are in hot race to become the next occupant of Agodi Government House. They include the incumbent, Adebayo Alao-Akala of the PDP, Senator Abiola Ajimobi of the ACN, and former governor Rashidi Ladoja of Accord Party. Ladoja, a former governor of the state, had to pull out of PDP along with several politicians, after it became apparent that the national leadership of PDP was not willing to resolve the crisis that engulfed the party in the state.
Interestingly, Ajimobi, Ladoja as well as the candidate of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Bayo Shittu, and two others are all from Ibadan metropolis, which accounts for over 60 per cent of the entire voting population of the state.
Even within the PDP, peace is still a very scarce commodity in the party. For instance, Senate leader, Teslim Folarin, had to abandon his aspiration to return to the upper chambers after his campaign ran into a hitch with the murder of factional leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Lateef Salako alias 'Eleweomo'.
Apart from Teslim, so many other leaders of the party elected to stay in PDP and do anti-party activities to protest PDP's refusal to address their complaint. After the National Assembly election, the ACN won two Senate seats along with four House of Representatives seats, while PDP won one Senate seat and five House of Representatives seats, Accord Party also won four.
Observers of the state's politics, however, warned that unless all the Ibadan candidates abandon their aspiration and queue behind a single candidate, Alao-Akala, from Ogbomosho, would return to the Government House, while the Ibadan candidates cancel themselves out.
In Delta, the battle for the governorship would be a straight fight between incumbent office holder and candidate of the PDP, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and DPP's Great Ogboru, with some distractions from ACN's Ovie Omo-Agege. In the recent National Assembly election, Uduaghan's PDP won two Senate seats - Delta North and Delta South - while DPP won the Delta Central seat. ACN could not win anything despite its grandstanding.
Although, opinions are still divided over how and why the PDP won majority seats at the National Assembly polls, those in the know of politics of the state insist that Uduaghan would still manage to emerge governor for a second term. Although they agreed that Uduaghan has a lot of formidable opposition that could derail his ambition, they also, however, agree that the margin of PDP losing the state is very slim.
The reason, according to a pundit, is that none of the two parties - DPP and CAN - can unilaterally oust the PDP. They need themselves to be able to unhorse the PDP. Unfortunately, that is one area leaders of DPP or ACN in the state are not willing to look into. It is a common belief on the streets of Asaba or Warri that the moment ACN and DPP join forces, that day marks the end of PDP dominance in Delta; but gladiators in the two parties do not see it that way.
A source in DPP told Sunday Sun that although the two parties are in contact, especially during the recent rerun polls, he was not forthcoming on why the two parties are still operating separately.
Interestingly, DPP in Delta State belongs to the Attahiru Bafarawa faction of the party, who has since merged with ACN. Leaders of the party in Delta still don't see any reason why they should merge with the state's ACN.
Curiously, of the two, DPP seems to be more on the ground, while ACN always come third. However, opinions are still divided if Ogboru could be allowed by the powers that be to become governor of Delta state. Some people argue that security agents won't be comfortable with Ogboru because of his alleged role in the Gideon Orkar coup while as a private businessman he sponsored a coup that was successful for 24 hours.
The recent poor showing of the ANPP in the state has exposed the soft underbelly of the party there.
Until Governor Ali Modu Sheriff decides to play god over the aspiration of members of his party, many had thought Borno is a no-go area for another party. Indeed, former governor of Yobe State, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, once boasted that, 'Yobe and Borno are closed areas for PDP. The people of Borno and Yobe have always supported the party in the opposition. This stems from history. Borno and Yobe can hardly ever belong to any party the Hausa-Fulani are very strong in, this it has to do with the deep-rooted disagreement with the old Kanemi-Borno and the Hausa/Fulani.
'In the NPN days, we were in Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP); we didn't join the National Party of Nigeria. In the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) days of Tafawa Balewa, the NPC never did well in the old Borno State. The old Kanemi-Borno Empire, which now consists of Yobe, Borno, part of Jigawa and part of Gombe, part of Bauchi and part of Adamawa, some in Cameroon, Niger and Chad Republic never succumbed to Hausa-Fulani domination. They have never succumbed to the domination by the Hausa-Fulani… Any party that is strong in Hausa/Fulani area won't have support in Borno and Yobe,' Senator Ibrahim had said.
But the loss of two senate seats to the PDP, including the inability of governor Sheriff to secure a return to the senate he departed in 2003, may have placed a big question mark on Senator Ibrahim's assertion. The ANPP could only win one seat and six House of Representatives seat.
But those versed in the politics of the state lamented that the choice of candidates fielded by the governor for the 2011 contest leaves much to be desired. Against popular opinion, the governor rejected the candidature of his deputy for eight years, Alhaji Adamu Shettima Dibal, as his successor. He then went for a head-on collision with the influential former minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume, over the choice of who becomes senatorial candidate of the ANPP in Borno South.
Dubal contested the party primaries but lost to Sheriff's anointed successor and immediate past finance commissioner, Modu Fannami Gubio. However, many had thought the state ANPP would hand the ticket to Dubal after some unknown gunmen killed Gubio; but it was not so. Rather, the governor handed the ticket to another person.
Unlike Dubal, who took his defeat with philosophical calmness, Ndume left the party for PDP where he picked the senatorial ticket. He turned out to be a worthy acquisition by the PDP as he not only won the senatorial election, he also collaborated with PDP chieftains to ensure the governor too lost his senatorial aspiration. Coupled with the pedestrian performance of the ANPP government for the last eight years and the dogged determination of PDP to end what they call the Sheriff dynasty in the state, it could be safe to say that Borno State is about to fall into the hand of PDP.
Despite the political grandstanding by members of PDP in Yobe, the recent National Assembly polls have shown that it would take more than mere sloganeering to dislodge ANPP from Yobe State. Unlike happenings in Borno ANPP, where infighting is destroying the party, the ANPP in Yobe remains very cohesive.
The sterling performance of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam won so many people over, including the state's chapter of ACN that endorsed him.
The outcome of the National Assembly polls in Lagos has again confirmed it is impossible for any other party to make appreciable impact in the state. Although the PDP had never hidden its desire to win Lagos, the fact remains that 2011 is not the time this can happen, for two main reasons.
The performance of Babatunde Fashola (SAN) that many had praised to high heavens, as well as the crisis in the state's PDP has made it impossible for anyone to stick his neck out for PDP in Lagos. It can be safely said that Dr. Adegboyega Dosunmu of the PDP may be wasting his money campaigning as Fashola is likely to whip all comers.
The second reason is the infighting in Lagos PDP. This became apparent after former Deputy National chairman of PDP, Bode George, was released from prison. His alleged overbearing attitude resulted in the exit of some chieftains of the party to the rival ACN.
The three political parties jostling to replace outgoing Governor Gbenga Daniel are the ACN, the PDP and the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), an offshoot of PDP. PPN came into reckoning following the intractable crisis in the state's PDP that resulted in two factions that produced two separate lists of candidates submitted to INEC. Joju Fadairo and Dayo Soremi led the two factions.
However, the Dayo Soremi group, backed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, played a fast one on the Fadairo group when it ambushed them through a court injunction forbidding INEC from accepting the list of candidates produced by the Fadairo faction. The injunction from Justice Abdul Kafarati of an Abuja Federal High Court forced Daniel's supporters to seek refuge in PPN.
Suddenly, what many thought would be a two-horse race between ACN's Senator Ibikunle Amosun and a PDP candidate unveiled two gladiators in former Ekiti sole administrator, General Tunji Olurin, and former Managing Director of Gateway Holding, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka. How the Daniel group was able to wriggle out of the stranglehold of Kafarati was interesting. Had the PPN option not been waiting in the wings, Daniel's supporters in Ogun PDP would have been stranded, as the Obasanjo group was planning a winner-takes-all affair.
Unfortunately, the infighting is threatening to shipwreck the ruling PDP. The party in the state has been locked in a fierce battle over who controls its machinery. Unfortunately, while Olurin and Isiaka are busy trying to outwit each other, ACN and Amosun were busy spreading his message to rescue the state from what he called the misgovernance of PDP and anything that has a semblance of the ruling party. He embarked on an extensive campaign of all the 235 wards in the state, telling the people why they should not vote for the PDP again.
The stealth campaign by the ACN seems to have paid off handsomely. During the National Assembly election, ACN won the three senatorial seats on offer, along with three House of Representatives seats, leaving the precocious PPN with one seat. The PDP got nothing. Four seats at the lower chambers would be contested on the day the governorship election would also be decided.
Pundits, however, believe that should INEC and security agents repeat the feat of the April 9 election, both the PDP and PPN might kiss their influence bye, as ACN might add Ogun to the growing list of states it is controlling.
In Kwara, the battle is a straight fight between Alhaji Ahmed of PDP, Dele Belgore (SAN) of ACN and Senator Gbemi Saraki of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). The duel is a battle to dislodge the entrenched institution and introduction of a new order. It is also a battle between the son and his father.
Belgore represents the new order, while Ahmed and Gbemi Saraki are part of the old order. They are from the same camp, but they have to part ways due to a scuffle in the camp.
While the Waziri of Ilorin and the father of incumbent governor, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, wants his daughter, Gbemi, to replace outgoing Governor Bukola Saraki, the governor feels it is immoral and firmly resisted it. The governor waited till his father travelled out on medical check-up to scheme him out and entrench the political machinery that frustrated the elder Saraki out of PDP. Angered by this development, Baba Saraki and those that believe in him left for the unknown ACPN.
Going by the result of the National Assembly, the PDP seems to be on its way to keeping the state in its kitty, while the result shows that the people of Kwara are yet to appreciate the ACPN.
Kwara presents a curious political scenario. Four local governments lord it over 12 councils. A breakdown of the voting population in the state reveals that there are more voters in the four local governments that make up Kwara Central than those in other 12 local government areas that make up Kwara South and Kwara North districts.
Kwara Central, according to figures from INEC, contributes about 57 per cent of the entire voting population in the state. Not even Kwara South that prides itself of having seven local governments could stand its sister from Central in terms of voters' population. A political analyst in the state, who insists the best way to wrest political powers from the Sarakis is to win it from the Kwara Central said, the wise thing to do is to field a candidate from Kwara Central that can defeat the Sarakis and then talk of the issue of Kwara South later.
He reasoned that it would be very difficult to beat any candidate from Kwara Central because the people of Kwara North, consisting of the Nupes, the Baribas and the Barutens are always suspicious of the intentions of Kwara South and so always follow Kwara Central when it comes to voting.
According to him, 'I know this opinion won't be popular, but the truth is if you have not killed a bush meat, you can't divide it. The reality on the ground doesn't favour a governor coming from Kwara South. I am from Kwara South, but I will say the truth.
I know that the people of Kwara Central will always vote for their own people and they have the population and curiously, the people of Kwara North are always suspicious of their brothers from Kwara South, they always want to go with Kwara Central.' Both the ACN and ACPN hearkened to this advice and picked their candidates from Kwara Central, but the PDP ignored the advice and picked from Kwara South.
How results of the National Assembly election will influence the outcome of the governorship election is still to be seen, but analysts already point to the massive votes scored by the ACN in Kwara Central, which necessitated the party challenging the declaration of Governor Saraki as the senator representing the area.
They insist that the governorship election could be radically different, because the people of Kwara would definitely reject a female governor, while the Ilorins might again vote for their son at the expense of outsiders. To say who would win the governorship race in Kwara would be exercise in a risky venture.
When the gubernatorial election holds in Kogi State, a fierce firework should be expected.
At the onset of politics in 1999, ANPP won the plum seat, but Abubakar Audu was beaten in 2003 by Ibrahim Idris of PDP, who ruled for eight years. The duel in Kogi will be a two-way fight between the PDP and ANPP. Interestingly, Audu is again on the prowl for the governorship seat as he has rallied his partymen to face the PDP and is ready to give it his best go for the job.
ANPP is up against the PDP that is battling with internal dissention due to the manner its candidate, Isa Echocho, emerged. Although it is still unclear if INEC would be allowed to conduct a governorship election in the state on April 26, the PDP in Kogi is likely to have a real problem on its hands as the ANPP is poised to give the party a good run for its money.
Governor Godswill Akpabio is in a dogfight with former friends and associates who suddenly realised he was not the best man for the job. Akpabio of PDP is up against former minister of FCT, James Udoedehe, who decamped to the ACN with the intention of giving Akpabio a fight.
Udoedehe has the backing of so many PDP chieftains including former governor Victor Attah. For some strange reasons, it seems the government of Akpabio is not comfortable with the rising profile of ACN in the state. A good opportunity came when ACN took its campaign to Ikot-Ekpene, hometown of the governor. The campaign train of the ACN was attacked, leading to the death of some supporters, and the fracas spilled over to Uyo, the state capital, which resulted in deaths and destruction of properties.
The state government, in concert with the police, slammed a treason charge against Udoedehe and he spent some days in detention before the court ordered his release for want of evidence. Akpabio also rushed a law through the state's House of Assembly empowering him to detain anyone for two weeks in the first instance. He then backdated it to catch up with Udoedehe, but the ACN legal team kicked and the governor was embarrassed.
Although, PDP won the three senatorial seats in the state, it cannot be said to be Uhuru yet, as the ACN is plotting a major push that could embarrass the PDP in the election.