Buhari Vs Atiku: 13 Hot States To Watch

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by Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Sam Egburonu, Associate Editor and Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor
As the nation inches closer to February 16 general election, the shape of the two-horse race between the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rival, Atiku Abubakar, is becoming clearer. The two parties look set to do well in their traditional strongholds. However, intriguing contests are shaping up in a little over a dozen states and this could swing the outcome one way or another. In this report, Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Sam Egburonu, Associate Editor and Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, shed light on the dynamics of the race in what can now be referred to as the swing or battleground states for the forthcoming polls.
IMO STATE
In the Southeast geo-political zone, Imo State, which is currently administered by an All Progressives Congress-led government, promises to be the hottest state to watch in the coming elections.
This is because the implosion of the political family of the out-going governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, had created so much bad blood that the ruling party in the state, the APC, can no longer take it for granted that it would win the race in the state.
The high level criticism against the leadership style of Okorocha almost all through his second term in office was worsened by the open disagreement of top members of his political family and other stakeholders within the political party over the result of the governorship primaries. The bone of contention was the choice of the governorship candidate, a disagreement that led to a major division between Okorocha and his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, who is today backed by the leadership of APC. While Okorocha had pushed for Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law, who also served as his Chief of Staff, as the party’s candidate, APC finally chose Senator Hope Uzodinma with the Deputy Governor, Madumere, as his running mate.
Not only had Okorocha condemned the decision of his party’s leadership on the matter, he had continued to back Nwosu, who had since defected to another party where he hopes to actualise his ambition
The disagreement first became concrete last December when President Muhammadu Buhari openly declared support for the APC governorship candidate, Hope Uzodinma, notwithstanding Okorocha’s disapproval.
APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who have a running battle with Okorocha over the matter, made the President’s and the party’s position known at a rally to flag-off Uzodimma’s campaign in Owerri. Aware that the APC leadership would likely make public its position at that December flag-off rally, Okorocha, who was supposed to be the chief host of the event, decided to boycott it. It was the first concrete confirmation that the party and Okorocha may not succeed in reconciling their differences.
Since then, it seems certain that the matter had degenerated further. For example, during the last women rally in Owerri, Buhari’s wife, Aisha Buhari, openly disagreed with Okorocha on the governorship candidate that would win the election in Imo.
Aisha Buhari, at the event disagreed with Okorocha’s open boast that it was his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, of Action Alliance (AA) and not Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC that will win in Imo State’s governorship election, even as the governor then said he would however support Buhari during the presidential election.
Represented by the wife of the Vice President, Oludolapo Osinbajo, Aisha, in her response to Okorocha, called on the supporters of APC to vote for the candidates of the party at all levels, emphasizing that APC will win both the governorship and the presidency.
As a result of the in-fighting in Imo APC, the state has become a major battleground in this year’s elections.
Confirming the fear that Governor Okorocha may work against the party since he was not allowed to have his way, Senator Uzodinma, who spoke to journalists after the women rally, said, “The world has seen how the governor is working against APC in the state. I want to appeal to the leadership of our great party to look into the matter and take appropriate action. I cannot tell you whether his action is anti-party or not but you could see the response of our members when he made his comments. You people will judge. But I will only tell him that only God, and not him, can make me governor. And I will become governor because Imo people have spoken and God heard their cries. Rochas has only few months to leave Government House and whether he likes it or not, he will leave on May 29, 2019,” he said.
Ironically, the uncertainty is not limited to APC. The other leading parties have issues that have made the likely outcome of the elections rather difficult to predict. It would be recalled, for example, that the governorship candidates that would contest with APC’s Uzodinma, include the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha (PDP), Senator Ifeanyi Ararume (APGA), Honorable Tony Nwulu (UPP), Linus Okorie (YPP) and of course, Uche Nwosu of AA. Backed by Okorocha, there is no doubt that Nwosu will be one of the major frontrunners in the governorship contest. This is primarily because he has enormous financial backing to embark on grassroots campaigns but the long drawn campaign against Okorocha’s plan to impose his son-in-law, Uche, on Imo people may be the major challenge for the youthful politician. The fear is that most of the people, who would have voted for him ordinarily, may deny him of their votes as protest against the outgoing governor’s brand of politics. Whatever is the case, the fortune of Uche and his party, AA, in the governorship election is of special interest to all informed observers of Imo State politics today. During the National Assembly and Presidential elections however, AA in Imo is practically nonexistent.
Unlike Nwosu’s AA, which is a child of recent circumstances, the other major parties have strong roots in Imo. It would be recalled governed it for eight years. However, Amaechi’s erstwhile political son, Nyesom Wike’s emergence as the state governor, on the ticket of PDP against Amaechi’s support, not only returned the state to PDP but marked the beginning of a gripping political rivalry that has held the breathe of Nigerians.
Because Amaechi, the current Minister of Transportation is also both the Director-General of Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Re-election Campaign and also the leader of ruling APC in the state and the whole of the South-south zone, the expectation is high that he ought to ensure APC’s victory in his state in all the elections. Both because of the high offices he currently occupies and the fact that it has become a personal battle between him and his former ally, the permutation has been that Amaechi will put in all he has both to deliver Rivers to Buhari and to reclaim his position as the political leader of Rivers.
Paradoxically, the same pressure is on Governor Nyesom Wike to deliver Rivers to PDP. Those who followed the political battle from the onset can recall that Wike enjoyed unalloyed support of the former First Family, the Jonathans, when he contested for the office of the governor of the state against the endorsement of Amaechi.
Since then, the two rivals have further tightened their belts, thus making the struggle for the soul of Rivers even more arduous.
The matter was further complicated the upper weekend when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) omitted APC candidates as it released the final list of Presidential and National Assembly Elections candidates.
Observers said the implication of non-inclusion of the APC candidates on the list is that the party would not partake in the elections in the state. If this is true, it would mean that APC and Amaechi had been defeated technically.
INEC had explained that the decision was hinged on the fact that the APC failed to conduct primaries for the National Assembly, governorship and State Assembly elections, adding that the October 7, 2018 deadline had lapsed.
The State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Obo Effanga, said the decision to exclude the APC candidates was in line with a court order that directed the electoral umpire to do so.
But APC has not given up, especially because the two factions of the Rivers State APC reportedly assured their members that their candidates will contest the 2019 general elections.
Mr. Chris Finebone, the Publicity Secretary of the Rivers State APC loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and Peter Odike, the factional Chairman of the Magnus Abe-led APC, were quoted in separate interviews as urging their members “to be calm,” promising that “the party at the state level would contest the forthcoming elections.”
Odike said, “We are winning our appeal and after the appeal, INEC will come out with another list and publish it. Time is not against it because 30th (of January) is the last day.”
Finebone said “I am not worried about time; the court is aware of the need for time. So, they will be expeditious with it. We are hopeful that they (court) will do the needful within the time. We are hopeful that at the end, INEC will publish a list with our candidates,” he said.
When and if the current problem is resolved, the elections would remain a two-horse race between Wike-led PDP, which enjoys incumbency factor and Amaechi-led APC, which is the ruling party at the centre. These two political leaders and other top politicians, like Tonye Cole, Senator Magnus Abe, both of APC, and the Rivers State Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Felix Obuah, are expected to play major roles in influencing the result of all the forthcoming elections in the state this year.
If APC succeeds in resolving the legal issues that caused INEC to omit its candidates in its current lists, both the governorship race in the state and the other elections would be hotly contested.
While Wike-led PDP will base its campaign on its performance in the last four years, the need to allow Wike to consolidate them and the need to enthrone a PDP-led Federal Government, Amaechi-led APC, which has consistently harped on the need to respect zoning equity, will still call on the electorates to vote for what it describes as ‘fairness’ and ‘equity, not only in the state but also at the presidential election.’ The contest would be hot as the two parties and their captains are formidable and well financed.
It would be recalled that in 2015 the race was also a two horse race between PDP and APC. In spite of the hot exchanges of words and field rivalries, Wike-led PDP won the governorship with high margin.
Wike was declared winner after polling a total of 1,029,102 votes amounting to 87.77 percent to beat Dr. Dakuku Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, APC who got 124,896 votes or 10.65 percent to come a distant second. The Returning Officer, Prof Faraday Oruwense, who announced the results said that Prince Tonye Princewill of the Labour Party (LP) then, came third as he polled 10,142 (0.86 per cent).
It remains to be seen if the scenario will be repeated as the same politicians are still at in today’s contests.
However, the window for a judicial reprieve for APC and its candidates has become very narrow. All the rulings so far have gone against it. Were the status quo to remain, it would be advantage PDP as APC supporters would be disillusioned have little motivation to come out and vote. This could negatively impact Buhari’s performance in the state.
Verdict: PDP to win.
DELTA STATE
The general elections in Delta, which has remained a PDP state since 1999, will also be interesting. Given that the party has continued to grow under the leadership of Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa of PDP, there is the tendency to speculate that PDP would still win this year’s elections there.
It would be recalled that out of the 1,267,773 valid votes cast in the state during the 2015 presidential election, PDP got 1,211,405 votes, while APC got 48,910 votes.
That year also, the party won the governorship election with a great margin.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Bio Nyananyo, had announced in Asaba that Okowa won the election as he polled 724,680 votes to beat his closest rival, Chief Great Ogboru of the Labour Party then, who got 130,028 votes, while Chief O’tega Emerhor of APC then made the third position with 67,825 votes.
Looking at these figures, one would ordinarily write off any party contesting with the ruling party, PDP, in Delta.
But today, so much has happened in the politics of the state, especially within the opposition APC. For example, the defection of the former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to APC last year is considered a major plus for APC.
But informed observers wonder if such gains are enough to defeat PDP leadership in the state and win votes for Buhari?
Also, Great Ogboru, who came second in 2015, with Labour Party, then a less popular party, is now flying the APC flag. This will be a big boost for APC both for the governorship and the presidential election.
If one adds Ogboru’s factor and Uduaghan’s influence, it seems certain that APC is poised to do better than it did in 2015 in Delta, when it came third.
However, the disagreement in the APC during the run-up to the primaries may still affect the performance of the party in the forthcoming elections. It would be recalled that the faction led by Prophet Jones Erue and loyal to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Chief Great Ogboru had openly opposed direct primaries while the other APC faction in the state loyal to Olorogun Otega Emerhor and Chief Hyacinth Enuha threw its weight behind the state and presidential direct primaries in the state.
The final resolution of this disagreement will remain a vital key to the performance of the party as no one can doubt the fact that the unity of influential politicians like Great Ogboru, Uduaghan, Omo-Agege and Otega Emerhor, if sustained, will give Okowa-led ruling PDP a major challenge.
However, some sources said PDP still stands a great chance of retaining the state and giving Atiku majority votes, especially because of perceived reconciliation of Okowa and PDP strongman in the state, former Governor James Ibori. The sources said Ibori’s supporters still cut across the entire South-south state and are ever ready to be influenced by the former governor.
It still remains to be seen how true this claim is and to what extent it would single handedly determine the outcome of this year’s presidential and governorship elections.
Verdict: PDP to win
AKWA IBOM
Beyond ongoing rhetorics between the two leading political parties in the state, the 2019 General Election in Akwa Ibom State will be nothing short of a political battle for the very soul of the state, pundits have predicted. For the very first time since the nation’s return to democracy in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in charge of the governance of the oil- rich state, is seriously being challenged by an opposition party in the race for the political leadership of the state.
Going by recent political events in the state, it is very convenient to say both the PDP and the APC are well rooted in the nooks and crannies of the state, no thanks to the political division between former Governor Godswill Akpabio and his erstwhile political godson, current Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. Following the unexpected decision by the former, who was also the Minority Leader of the Senate at the time, to dump the PDP and pitch his tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), the political permutations in the state have changed drastically.
Before Akpabio’s political disengagement with the PDP, the state was a PDP stronghold in every sense of the word. Apart from the fact that the party has been in charge of the state since 1999, no opposition party had recorded any meaningful performance against the PDP in any major election before now. Across the state, the people have over the years, largely associated with the PDP save for pockets of opposition figures here and there.
But with the defection of Akpabio and his political family into the APC, reliable sources across the state say the politics of the state is now symbolized by a sharp division of the people into PDP supporters and APC supporters. “Something unprecedented is happening in Akwa Ibom. Everywhere you turn to, you now find supporters of both the PDP and the APC slugging it out, unlike in the past when the PDP was the family party of the people of the state,” a journalist working in the state said.
The competition between the two political parties is further heightened by the fact that both Akpabio and his former godson, Emmanuel, will be on the ballot paper as candidates in this year’s general elections but on the platform of different political parties. While Emmanuel is seeking to be re-elected as the governor of the state, Akpabio wants to remain in the senate as the representative of the people of Akwa-Ibom northwest.
In 2015, the duo worked together as PDP candidates and won in convincing manners. This time around, their camp is divided and they are at loggerheads politically. Thus, Akpabio and the APC will be relying on the former governor’s political machinery across the state, aided by the political influence of other APC chieftains like Umanah Umanah, Nsima Ekere (a former deputy governor), John Akpan Udoedehe, Don Etiebet, Ime Umana, Group Capt. Sam Ewang (Retd), among others, to carry the day.
For Emmanuel and the ruling PDP who will be entering the ring with the statewide support they enjoyed from Akpabio’s camp in 2015, their major strength will lie in the power of incumbency and the ability to showcase the achievements of the current administration to the people of the state. “Emmanuel has tried in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. These are the things the PDP will have to hammer on as they confront Akpabio’s popularity,” our source added.
But the APC in the state insists that with N6.85 billion annual Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and N143. 6 billion from the Federation Account, not forgetting extra-statutory intervention funds like Ecological funds, Paris Club Loan refunds, etc., the current administration in the state has not done much to better the lot of the people. “Without Akpabio helping them to explain away their non-performance, Emmanuel and the PDP have nothing to tell the people of Akwa Ibom State,” another source quipped.
Across the three senatorial districts of Uyo (Akwa-Ibom northeast), Ikot Ekpene (Akwa-Ibom northwest) and Eket (Akwa-Ibom south), political analysts, candidates, party chieftains and the voters are daily coming up with permutations on how the governorship elections would be won and lost by the two leading political parties, PDP and APC, and their governorship candidates, Emmanuel and Ekere respectively.
Akwa Ibom has 31 local government areas. While Eket, where both Emmanuel and Ekere hail from has 12 local government areas, Akpabio’s Ikot Ekpene boasts of 10 council areas. The remaining nine are found in Uyo District where former Governor Victor Attah and Umanah hail from. At the last count, there are 1,837, 767 registered voters in the three senatorial districts of the state.
According to very reliable political permutations, the PDP and APC will keenly contest for the votes of the people of Akwa-Ibom South Senatorial District. It is unclear who is likely to win the zone between the two leading parties given the parity in popularity of both in the area. “It is too close to call for APC and PDP in Akwa Ibom South because both Governor Udom Emmanuel and Nsima Ekere the APC candidate hail from there. The people will obviously be divided in their choice,” an analyst said.
But it was also gathered that the desire of the people to take advantage of an opportunity for their zone to enjoy the governorship slot much longer, provided by the candidacy of Ekere, may somehow work in favour of the APC. “There are talks that voting Ekere may give Eket the chance to spend 12 years instead of eight years in office as governor. If this informs the people’s voting behavior on Election Day, PDP may be in trouble in Governor Emmanuel’s own backyard,” an analyst said.
The APC is most likely to sweep the votes in Akwa Ibom Northwest Senatorial District where Senator Akpabio is the undisputed leader. The APC chieftain, who is the current senator representing the area, enjoys the support of the people and has a well- equipped, structured and effective political machinery across the zone that is now working hard to deliver the votes to Ekere and the APC. The PDP, since Akpabio’s exit, has no serious presence in the zone.
The Northeastern Senatorial District is another battleground where both APC and PDP will slug it out evenly. However, pundits say with Umanah supporting Ekere, the APC may slightly outperform PDP in the zone, “slightly because Uyo is also the seat of government and Emmanuel has many of his people resident there. While Umanah’s popularity in Uyo will aid APC, PDP should benefit from the votes of government functionaries and their people,” a source explained.
Given these clear cut divisions, it seems certain that the National Assembly elections may also follow the pattern. Also, PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and APC’s candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, will share the votes in the presidential election. Excluding the few votes less popular candidates may get in that election; the major votes would be shared by the two, almost equally. If PDP’s Atiku manages to get more votes, the margin may not be much. The actual score will however be determined by developments within the remaining days before the Election Day. What has become certain is that all the elections would be hot unlike what it used to be in the state.
Verdict: Battleground.
OGUN STATE
Developments suggest that the forthcoming general elections in Ogun State will feature unusual contests.
Notwithstanding the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, investigations show that the APC candidate, President Buhari, stands the chance of winning the presidential election in the state with convincing margin. This is because in spite of the unusual political ripples, APC’s candidate evidently enjoys massive support from the state.
But when it comes to the governorship election, it will certainly not be as straight forward as this. Unlike in the past when the state’s unwritten political zoning agreement played a role in determining the emergence of the candidates of the leading parties, powerful political gladiators from all the four zones of the state are now locking horns in the contest that will determine who succeeds outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
On the candidates’ list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), oil magnate, Dapo Abiodun from Iperu in the Remo axis of Ogun East, is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) while Senator Buruji Kashamu, representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, is the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Also on the list of candidates released by INEC are, Egba-born former Speaker of House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole as flag bearer of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and a two-time governorship candidate, Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, who now flies the ticket of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Isiaka, who is from Yewa in Ogun West, was the candidate of the PDP in 2015. Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) is also in the race from Yewaland.
In addition to this, the internal crisis that is troubling the ruling APC, following Governor Amosun’s controversial decision to oppose the ambition of Dapo Abiodun, the party’s gubernatorial candidate and support his preferred successor, Adekunle Akinlade of the little known APM, has also heightened the political situation in the state while weakening the support bases of the APC across the state in the guber contest.
Also, the emergence of Hon. Ladi Adebutu as factional candidate of the opposition PDP amidst endless litigations and violent clashes between the two factions of the party in the state, has added to the uncertainties surrounding the governorship race in Ogun State. While INEC, as electoral umpire, says Kashamu remains on its list of candidates, the PDP national leadership recognizes Adebutu as its candidate.
INEC said it is obeying a valid court judgement by recognising the list submitted to it by Kashamu’s faction of the opposition party in the state. But Adebutu, who had earlier been named as the candidate by the national leadership of the party, while relying on an Ibadan Appeal Court judgement, is insisting that he is the rightful flag-bearer of the opposition party. In a bizarre twist of the crisis in the party, the two ‘candidates’ have been going about campaigning, with their supporters clashing regularly.
With the above scenario, the 2019 governorship in Ogun State is playing out as a war of zones, as all the four zones in the state are now having at least one major candidate in the race. This is contrary to the desire of Governor Amosun and other notable political leaders in the state, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to restrict the race to a contest between candidates from the Yewa axis of the state.
The Ogun West Senatorial District is yet to produce a governor since 1976 when the state was created, and Amosun was determined to break the jinx. He campaigned vigorously for the ticket of the APC to be zoned to the area and he almost achieved that before the party’s NWC overruled his consensus arrangement and ordered a direct primary election which Dapo Abiodun, from Remoland, a zone in Ogun East Senatorial District, won.
The PDP from day one never zoned the governorship ticket to Ogun West. Both factions of the party in the state seem to have their eyes on producing a candidate from Ogun East too, as no serious contender emerged from Ogun West and Central all through the process leading to the primary elections of the Adebutu and Kashamu factions of the PDP.
Like Abiodun, Kashamu is from Ogun East and currently represents the district at the National Assembly. But he is from Ijebuland, another zone in the area which has also been clamoring to be given a chance to produce the governor of the state, 36 years after the late Bisi Onabanjo, its only son to have been governor of the state, left office. His supporters say Abiodun from Remo cannot be governor just eight years after Gbenga Daniel, another Remo man, left office.
From Ogun Central, made up of the Egbas, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole is in the race. He is unperturbed by the fact that outgoing governor Amosun is from the same zone as himself. He says zoning should not rob the state of the best hands for the job. The congress that produced him took place in all the 20 Local Government Areas and 236 wards in the state, according to the Returning Officer for the primary election, Mr. Chamberlain Amadu.
Not to be left out, the Yewas of Ogun West, preferred by Amosun and other opinion leaders to have the seat, have Isiaka in the race, but on the platform of little known ADC, having failed to bag the ticket of any of the two leading political parties. Akinlade, the preferred candidate of Governor Amosun, had defected from the ruling APC to the APM, to keep the Yewa agenda alive.
Examining the voting populations of the various zones, analysts say if the people of the four autonomous clans decide to vote along tribal lines, the contest may not be decided on the first ballot. “And it is most likely the electorates will put tribal consideration on the front burner on Election Day, given the acrimonious and sectional campaign currently going on,” Joju Daini of Voters Right Agenda (VRA), told The Nation.
“Ogun East with nine local government areas lost the chance of having an edge over the other two zones following the emergence of candidates from the two zones in the area. So, its majority population will be shared by its two sons, Abiodun and Kashamu of APC and PDP respectively. They are however helped by the fact that they are candidates of the two leading political parties.
“Ogun Central with five local government have only Dimeji Bankole in the race. But he will be contending with the popularity of both APC and PDP in his zone. While he is expected to enjoy the solidarity of his people, the unpopular nature of his party, the ADP in the state, will rob him of a landslide win the Egbaland. No doubt, he will share the lot with the candidates of widely known APC and PDP.
“The same will be the fate of Isiaka in Ogun West. He will benefit immensely from the clamor of his people for the governorship but ADC as a party is the major challenge to his victory in the race. Chieftains of the ruling APC, which is quite strong in the area, has refused to endorse his candidacy contrary to expectations in the zone. Instead, Akinlade, Amosun’s preferred candidate, has joined the APM as its governorship candidate,” Daini analyzed.
But some pundits say this is convenient to say though the contest will be keen, the APC will win the election at the end of the day. They based their position on the weakened position of the PDP, the main opposition party and the inability of Governor Amosun and his political camp to openly canvass votes for Akinlade of the APM. “To add to this is the Osinbajo factor. Although based in Lagos, the Vice President hails from Ikenne-Remo in the Eastern Senatorial District of the state. It is expected that his kinsmen from Remoland and other parts of the state will because of him, support and vote for the APC candidates in the general election.
Verdict: APC to win presidential poll. Governorship election is too close call and could even go to a run-off if none of the leading candidates meet the requirements for outright victory.
KWARA STATE
The state is a major focus point because the threat to the status quo as symbolized by Saraki Dynasty is real. Although the scion of the dynasty, Senate President Bukola Saraki, may be travelling about with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, there is fire on the mountain at home.
The spate of violence in the past two weeks underscored the prevalent do-or-die politics in the state. While the ruling PDP does not want to relinquish its grip on power, the wind of change blowing from the direction of the APC has been like a Tsunami.
Analysts see the electoral map here as fluid with the three senatorial districts left open to be won either by PDP or APC.
None of the two leading parties can boast of an outright win in any district. Saraki, who represents Kwara Central Senatorial District, has a date with his closest rival, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who was a former member of the State House of Assembly. The contest is reminiscent of the duel between David and Goliath. For Oloriegbe, who was once a product of the dynasty, his record of selfless service as a medic and as well as coming from a respected family, will make the contest tough. His greatest advantage is the mass discontent against the Sarakis.
Despite the power of incumbency and over reliance on money politics, it won’t be an easy ride for Saraki in Kwara Central District. In the last one month, the Senate President has retreated to fault lines for political survival and to retool his campaign machinery, but the people of Ilorin Emirate who dominate the district, are now sharply divided for and against him.
What will count against Saraki include the collapse of governance in the state in the last four years; poor state of infrastructure; non-payment of local government workers’ salaries; the conspiracy of the elites; sheer flaunting of affluence by political leaders in the state; the exodus of his loyalists and strategists to APC; the “O To Ge” (Enough is Enough) revolution; and the imposition of PDP governorship candidate, Razak Atunwa, on the party.
In Kwara North, it is a battle royale between the PDP candidate, Hon. Zakari Mohammed (the incumbent member of the House of Representatives for Baruten/Kaiama Constituency) and the APC candidate, a pharmacist and erstwhile expert in DFID, Sadiq Umar. The two candidates are credible and tested professionals. But what will determine the direction of the district is the politics of power shift. The people of the district are unhappy with Saraki for denying them governorship slot in the past 20 years. The last time the district tasted gubernatorial power was between 1991 and 1993 when Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi was elected into office. Despite plans by Saraki dynasty to enter into a gentleman agreement with the district on power shift in 2023, they are unprepared to trust him.
Were it not for the last minute retrieval of the senatorial ticket from Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed for Sen. Rafiu Ibrahim by Saraki, Kwara South District would have been a walkover for APC. Even at that, Ibrahim faces likely electoral defeat because of the influence of his opponent, Lola Ashiru – an architect.
Factors that may swing electoral behavior this time include the looming protest votes from Offa and its environs over the recent bank robbery which claimed many lives; the spiral effect of losing Irepodun/ Ekiti/ Isin, Oke-Ero Federal Constituency to APC; and the neglect of the district in the scheme of things. The Ibolo, the Igbomina and the Ekiti in this district naturally detest the politics of the Sarakis.
All these factors in each district will be at play as voters choose between Atunwa and the APC governorship candidate, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who is an oil magnate.
Verdict: Too close to call.
KOGI STATE
How the APC will wriggle out of its political quagmire in Kogi State is a development political scientists are watching with keen interest. The party will have to contest with others in February for the Presidential, National and State Assembly polls and in November for the governorship seat.
The ghost of the late Governor Abubakar Audu is still haunting APC and Governor Yahaya Bello, who has tried to re-write history after benefitting from Audu’s mandate.
Out of the three senatorial districts, APC remains solid in Kogi Central which is largely populated by the governor’s Ebira kinsmen. There had been a few protests against Bello in the Central district but the governor has engaged in arm-twisting and outright political witch-hunting to retain his grip.
But the party needs extra salesmen to regain the confidence of Kogi East (Audu’s fortress) in the next strands of election. The management of the aftermath of Audu’s death – including the hounding of his son – looks set to hurt the ruling party.
Most retired civil servants/ teachers (pensioners) are from Kogi West and in the last three and a half years, they have gone through hell trying to collect their gratuities and pensions. The same Kogi West secured the deputy governorship slot but its candidate, Hon. James Faleke was uncomfortable with the power equation. Faleke’s loyalty to Audu appeared to be a “wise” decision because he would have ended being a glorified deputy in a despotic Bello government.
The tactical senatorial nominations of Jibrin Echocho (APC candidate for Kogi East) and Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) have succeeded in bridging the gaps between the ruling party and the people of the state. Also, the travails of Senator Dino Melaye have left the Kogi West with no alternative than to shop for an amenable candidate in Adeyemi in order to get value for their votes.
Melaye’s confrontational politics with the centre has largely denied Kogi West of any meaningful dividends of democracy. His running battle with the Nigeria Police Force over attempted murder will no doubt distract his campaign and reduce the visibility of PDP in the district.
Ruling Kogi with an iron fist is perhaps Bello’s greatest undoing. The governor also adopted a cabal system of administration which has virtually ceded executive powers to his Chief of Staff, Mr. Edward Onoja, who appears to be the defacto governor/ deputy governor. If attitude counts in politics, Bello won’t be able to secure more than 30% of the votes for APC.
Kogi is a state to watch because its people want to ‘change the change.’ It is also a hot spot as it is evident that violence may likely take the center stage.
Verdict: Battleground
BAUCHI STATE
Within two weeks, the political calculations in Bauchi State have changed with PDP losing most of its heavyweights to APC. Although Governor Mohammed Abubakar was initially opposed by the elites in the state, the intervention of President Buhari and members of the ruling mafia in the North have altered the dynamics significantly.
Many PDP bigwigs in the last 15 days have defected to APC, among them a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed; a former National Chairman of PDP, Adamu Mu’azu; ex-Governor Isa Yuguda; ex-Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Senator Babayo Garba Gamawa; a former Deputy Governor, Abdulmalik Mahmood; Kaulaha Aliyu; a former National Organizing Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo; Senator Abubakar Maikafi and Ambassador Adamu Jumba.
The PDP has the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as the arrowhead of its campaign in the state. Being a minority Christian, his comments and conspiracy in the National Assembly against the president have diminished the chances of the main opposition party because the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy cannot understand why the Speaker would join forces against Buhari.
Despite the fact that the PDP governorship candidate, ex-FCT Minister Bala Mohammed, has done so much to gain mileage for the party, the state may witness a relapse to old Hausa-Fulani/Muslim versus minority/Christian voting pattern.
The ex-minister has empowered many, offered scholarship, renovated mosques and won the hearts of many. But Dogara and his colleagues in the National Assembly from Bauchi State have proved to be more of liabilities than assets to PDP.
Yet Bauchi State is under watch in order to see the magic wand the new generation of leaders led by Dogara, will deploy to upstage these APC bigwigs. A source said: “PDP is banking on poor performance of the governor as a major campaign issue.”
Verdict: Leaning APC
BENUE STATE
All the parties have a huge task at hand to take their campaign to the nooks and crannies of 23 local government areas in the state. The politics has largely been personality-based, but has also been coloured by economics, ethnicity and religion in the light of the herdsmen killings witnessed in the last two to three years.
With over 70 per cent of the people dependent on agriculture, the farmers-herders crises had affected and displaced thousands of peasants in the rural areas from the dominant ethnic groups especially the Tiv, the Idoma and the Igede.
Governor Samuel Ortom has capitalized on the farmers-herders crises as a weapon to secure his second term ticket. The anti-Fulani sentiments in the state have grown to the extent that President Buhari and APC are despised.
Ortom went a step further in the week to apologize to the people of the state for leading them to APC in 2015. The joining of forces by Ortom and ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam, who has an axe to grind for being put on trial for alleged corruption by the APC administration, has made the PDP more formidable.
The scenario in the state is being monitored because the three senators from the state, who are leaders with massive support in the grassroots, are treading different political paths. They are Senator David Mark (Benue South); Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-East) and Senator George Akume (Benue North-West).
While Akume is sticking to APC, Mark remains in PDP with his ally ex-Minister Abba Moro now taking his slot, and Gemade is trying his luck in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) after defecting first from APC and then PDP in quick order.
Of the three senators, only Akume has a herculean task at hand to sell APC to the people of the state who are angry over the consequences of farmers-herders crises. He needs to work harder to retain his senatorial seat for the fourth term since 2007 and to install his political associate, Emmanuel Jime, as the governor of the state.
He has a tall order to assert himself as the “political godfather” of the state. As a leader with tremendous goodwill, if Akume succeeds he will book a place in the Guinness Book of Records as a great politician. Any loss might be the beginning of his political retirement.
Verdict: Battleground leaning towards PDP.
KADUNA STATE
The battle in Kaduna State is purely of an ethno- religious dimension and it is already taking this shape. In fact, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, alluded to it in a television interview when he said the people of Kaduna South District, comprising eight local government areas will not vote for him because they see APC as an Islamic party.
The local governments in Kaduna South are Jema’a, Jaba, Kaura, Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Kachia, Kagarko, and Sanga. The APC is banking on highly Muslim populated Kaduna North and Central districts for votes. Kaduna Central includes Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Igabi, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun and Kajuru. Kaduna North comprises Kubau, Ikara, Makarfi, Soba, Sabon Gari, Zaria, Lere and Kudan.
Intriguingly, the party is offering a Muslim-Muslim governorship ticket in a state notorious for sectarian conflict. In defence of this seemingly politically incorrect move, El-Rufai said: “What if I tell you that no matter who I choose as my running mate, even if I choose the Pope, 67 per cent of the Christians in Southern Kaduna have made up their minds that they will never vote for me. This is what the polls show.
“So for me, that is not the issue. The issue is this: Kaduna State is divided; it needs to be united. The way to begin to unite it is to take religion or ethnicity off the table. Since 1992, every deputy governor of Kaduna has been a Christian. What has it done for the state? Has it united the state? Has it assuaged the feelings of the Christian minority that they are part of the government?
“My current deputy governor is a Christian and I didn’t pick him because he is Christian, I picked him because we were colleagues from university and I know him to be a brilliant, focused and just man; but did that change anything? In fact, what it did was to bring disrespect to him. No one respected him in Southern Kaduna because he is in what they call an Islamic party. So, there are complicated issues in Kaduna which people sitting from a distance will not understand.”
A source in the state said: “The Muslim-Muslim ticket might look insensitive, it appears politically expedient now for APC to win huge votes in view of how a Bishop from Kaduna South teamed up to reconcile ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. The reconciliation paved the way for the emergence of Atiku.”
Verdict: APC to win .
KANO STATE
With available votes of 5.4 million, Kano State attracts special attention because any party which secures a huge chunk of its votes can coast home to victory at the presidential poll. In 2015, the APC presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari won 1,903,999 votes in Kano compared with PDP’s 215, 799 votes garnered by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The exit of ex-Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso from APC to PDP is expected to improve the fortunes of the opposition party. But Kwankwaso’s defection has left PDP more divided due to the imposition of his son-in-law, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, as the party’s governorship candidate.
Also, many foot soldiers of Kwankwaso, who made the huge vote haul possible in 2015 have refused to leave APC. A few others who followed him to PDP have retraced their steps back to APC. They include Professor Hafiz Abubakar, a former deputy governor to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Aminu Dabo; the immediate past National Treasurer of PDP, Bala Mohammed Gwagwarwa; Security Adviser to Kwankwaso, General Danjuma Dambazzau (rtd); Sen. Isa Zarewa; and Mu’azu Magaji Dan Sarauniya, who was a former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on SURE-P.
In February, the onus will be on Kwankwaso to prove that he controls the politics of Kano by installing a new governor and prove to the world that he can still deliver more than 1,903,999 votes to PDP.
How the opposition presidential candidate will defeat Buhari in Kano is a big hurdle and litmus test. Without Kwankwaso’s support, Buhari has always earned appreciable votes in Kano. For Governor Ganduje, who has an outstanding corruption allegation against him, he is savouring the moment because Kwankwaso’s travails work in his favour.
Verdict: APC to win.
ADAMAWA STATE
The people of the state are caught between two choices of producing a home-bred president or voting for their son-in-law Buhari to remain in office. This is a testy moment for Atiku more than Buhari because he has a lot at stake. If he defeats Buhari in Adamawa, he would boost his political profile as primus inter pares in the state. But if Atiku suffers any setback, he would join the league of the likes of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who lost in his home state.
The performance of Governor Jibrilla Bindow (from a minority tribe) has added value to Buhari’s campaign. Also, the nomination of game changers like Senator Binta Mashi and Hajiya Aishatu Ahmed Binani and other mobilizers at the grassroots have made winning the state an uphill task for Atiku.
Our findings show that the governorship candidate of PDP, Umaru Fintiri, popularly called “The ATM” by civil servants due to prompt payment of salaries when he was Acting Governor of the state, has made the turf tougher. Fintiri is giving Bindow an electioneering headache because of ‘the ATM perception’. The governor, for his part, has been prudent and he has performed creditably than most of his successors.
Verdict: APC to win.
TARABA STATE
Ordinarily, Governor Darius Ishaku and the PDP are not expected to sweat for victory in February because power rotation in the state favours Southern Zone where Ishaku hails from. Since 1999, Taraba North and Central districts had held powers and in compliance with the unwritten pact among stakeholders in the state, the governor ought to spend two terms in office to complete the slot of the Southern zone.
But the emergence of a former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan and former Acting Governor of the state, Sani Danladi, as the candidates of United Democratic Party (UDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively, are threatening the power sharing formula in the state. Both Alhassan and Danladi are from Taraba North which produced the state governor (jailed Jolly Nyame) from 1999 to 2007. Nyame’s successor, the late Danbaba Suntai, was from Taraba Central.
The development has ignited ethnic and religious politics in the heterogeneous state. The major tribes in Taraba are Jenjo, Jibana, Kuteb, Chamba, Yandang, Mumuye, Mambila, Wurkum, Fulani, Jukun, Ichen, Tiv, Kaka, Panso, Kambu, Wawa, Vute, Tikari, Hausa and Ndola.
Taraba is in focus because this year’s election outcome will be determined by the spate of insecurity occasioned by farmers-herders clashes, the inter-tribal conflicts like Tiv-Jukun crisis, the Hausa-Fulani factor, religious sentiments and performance of the current governor.
The PDP may also have a working alliance with UDP during the presidential poll because Alhassan is a die-hard loyalist of Atiku Abubakar.
The recourse to political violence in the last few days has baffled many prompting fears that the state is a battleground to watch.
Verdict: PDP to win.
Culled from TheNationNews