A tough contest is expected among political parties as Nigerian voters elect new governors in 29 states of the federation on April 11 although the All Progressives Congress appears to have an upper hand against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party because of its victory at the presidential poll on March 28
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 20, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT promises to be another epic battle. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, along with other lesser popular political parties are again going to slug it out as voters go to the poll, on Saturday, April 11, to elect 29 state governors and members of assemblies for all the 36 states of the federation. Governorship election is not due in other seven states.
This has given rise to political activities across the country even as the euphoria of the victory of the APC in the March 28 presidential and National Assembly elections continues to hang in the air. The APC recorded a landslide victory in 21 states, while the PDP won in 15 states including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. It was no doubt a remarkable victory for the APC, which won in the states such as Benue, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Kogi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe, Ondo and Borno, considered hitherto as the stronghold of the PDP. This, perhaps, has given some of the governorship candidates of the APC confidence that could benefits from the spoils of the presidential and the National Assembly elections in which the party triumphed. This seems to have sent jitters to a number of governorship candidates of the PDP, especially in the state where the party is in control, that there might be a bandwagon effect of the presidential election won by General Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the APC against President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling PDP, echoing in their states.
Perhaps, to lessen the anxiety among their supporters, the PDP governors under aegis of the PDP Governors’ Forum, PDPGF, have assured that the party would not concede any of its states to the APC in the April 11 gubernatorial election. Godswill Akpabio, chairman of the PDPGF, who made the statement while speaking with the State House correspondents on Wednesday, April 1, maintained that the party would not lose any of its states during April 11 governorship elections. Will the ruling party succeed this time?
The Nigerian electorate will be in the best position to answer that question on April 11, with their votes on Saturday. Experts say if the result of the presidential election is anything to go by, then the ruling PDP may as well kiss a number of states goodbye as it will definitely lose some of its states to the opposition APC, which forms central government on May 29. From permutations, the presidential election results may cause the PDP to lose states such as Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Jigawa and Sokoto to the APC.
But in some states the presidential election results in some states were too close to call and might not necessarily dictate the way voters would cast their ballots on Saturday, April 11. These states include Lagos, Benue, Oyo, and Ogun.
Although Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, is the leader of the APC, the triumph of the party in the state cannot be said to be a fait accompli. The recent event in which Rilwan Akiolu, Oba of Lagos, threatened members of the Igbo community in Lagos, that anyone of them who voted against Akinwunmi Ambode, governorship candidate of the APC, would be thrown into the lagoon can make some people to shun the APC candidate. The leadership of the APC, including Buhari and Tinubu as well as Ambode himself have dissociated themselves from the Oba’s statement and appealed to the non-Yoruba persons living in the state that their interests would be taken care of. It is very difficult to know how these appeals would have assuaged the damage it must have done to the APC candidate. In any case, both the APC and the opposition PDP have been engaged in popularity contest since campaign for the election began. The results of the last elections, however, indicated that the APC, which has been in control in the past 16 years, is not about to let go soon.
In the National Assembly election, the APC won all the three senatorial seats and retained 18 out of 24 House of Representatives seats in the state losing five to PDP and one to Accord Party unlike before when it usually clears all. That notwithstanding, there is a strong belief that Jimi Agbaje, governorship candidate of the PDP could shock his opponent because of what a lot of people see as Tinubu’s overbearing grip on the state. Besides, the PDP in the state is more united than in previous elections. So, can Agbaje overturn more than 160,000 votes by which its presidential candidate lost in Lagos? It is matter of conjecture.
Another leader of the APC who may not have it easy is Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State. Although the party is still contesting the presidential and National Assembly results in the state, Nyesom Wike, former minister of state for education and governorship candidate of the PDP, has proven to be a formidable force in the state. Hence, it would be difficult for the APC’s candidate to make it. Asking his supporters not to lose sleep over the governorship election, Wike said: “Let them (APC) be in charge of the Army, Navy or anything, they cannot win this election. If (Governor) Amaechi likes, let him bring Secretary General of the United Nations (Ban Ki moon) or (Attahiru Jega,) the chairman of INEC to conduct the election, the APC will fail again on Saturday.”
In Ogun State, the contest is similarly going to be between the APC and the PDP. Governor Ibikunle Amosun is going to slug it out with Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka of the PDP. The prognosis favours Amosun, despite his recent face-off with former Governor Olusegun Osoba, who defected to the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the process. This is because Buhari won 55 percent of the vote cast in the state as against 37 percent scored by President Jonathan. Akin Odunsi, candidate of the SDP appears to be of no threat either.
Ahead of the presidential and the National Assembly elections, it was obvious that all was not well with the PDP in Niger State. Governor Babangida Aliyu and Ahmed Musa Ibeto, his deputy, were publicly at loggerheads because the latter defected to the APC. As if that was not bad enough, Aliyu’s senatorial ambition like some other governors was truncated as he suffered electoral defeat to the APC candidate. And unlike previous elections, the PDP lost the presidential election in the state to the APC by more than 500,000 votes. If the same pattern of voting should be repeated at the next elections, then the APC would have cemented its hold on the state with Abubakar Bello, its gubernatorial candidate being at the helm of affairs.
Another state where the APC is expected to gain is Benue State. The state has been under control of the PDP since the advent of the present democratic dispensation 16 years ago. But the perceived maladministration of the state by the current government seems to have negatively affected the popularity of the PDP. The state is owing teachers three months salaries. This, perhaps, was said to have been responsible for protest votes for the APC candidate who scored 373,961 as against 303,737 for the PDP. To crown it all, Governor Gabriel Suswam, lost his bid to go to the Senate as he lost to Barnabas Gemade, former chairman of the PDP, who defected to the APC, when the governor used his position to snatch the senatorial ticket of the party from him. With the situation on ground, Samuel Ortom, governorship candidate of the APC, seems to be on his way to the state house.
The governorship battle in Nasarawa State is expected to be a very tough one. Governor Tanko Almakura has long been at loggerheads with members of the PDP who control the state Assembly for a long time. He was actually saved from impeachment sometime last year by President Jonathan who appealed to his party legislators not to heat the polity for the sake of peace. If the outcome of the last elections is repeated, Almakura may as well kiss goodbye to the state house.
Like Almakura, Governor Muktar Yero of Kaduna State, may not return to the state house. The PDP candidate is going to slug it out with Nasir El-Ruafi, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, who is contesting on the platform of the APC. Although Kaduna State is the home state of the outgoing Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the state voted massively for the APC in the presidential and National Assembly elections giving confidence to El-Rufai that he will win the race.
On the flip side to that of Kaduna State is Adamawa State. Although the APC won in the state where former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and a leader of the APC holds fort there is a chance for the PDP candidate to win the gubernatorial election here. This is mainly because the PDP candidate happens to be Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Even the rumours making rounds claimed that Abubakar has been campaigning for Ribadu, who once contested as presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigerian, ACN, which eventually dissolved into what is now the APC. Nevertheless, Ribadu is expected to beat Muhammadu Umar Jibrilla, senator and candidate of the APC.
In Kebbi State, like other states in the North-West the APC is not expecting an upset. In fact, for Bello Sarkin Yaki, candidate of the PDP, it would be an uphill task to dislodge the APC. Besides, the state chapter of the PDP has been grappling with an intractable, internecine crisis that said to have sired its soul and weakened its structures.
The PDP is not the problem of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State. The major foe of the APC flag bearer is former Governor Rasheed Ladoja of the Accord Party. But there are also bigwigs such as former Governor Alao Akala of the Labour Party; Seyi Makinde of the SDP and Teslim Folarin, a senator and candidate of the PDP in the race. If the overall vote cast secured by the APC in the last election is anything to go by, re-election of Ajimobi should be a fait accompli. Besides, the APC won 12 of the 14 federal constituencies in the state as well as all the three senatorial slots, while the Labour Party and the PDP had one seat each in the House of Representatives.
With such a resounding victory, one may expect Ajimobi to have an easy ride back to the state house for a second term. But it will not easy, as Ladoja remains a force to reckon with. And if he succeeds, Ajimobi would make history as the first governor in the state to have been elected twice consecutively.
Perhaps, the most interesting state in this election will be that of Imo State. The PDP had been in saddle in the state until 2011, when Rochas Okorocha, on the platform of the All progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, upset the apple cart, and was elected as state governor. Okorocha defected to the APC more than a year ago. Since the defection, some analysts say his electoral chances have been greatly reduced. He contested the APC ticket and came fourth in a contest of five aspirants. Even at the presidential and National Assembly elections his candidates lost to the PDP. The state voted for Jonathan with 559,185 votes as against 133,253 for Buhari. In this election, he has a formidable person in Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, to contest against. There is also Emmanuel Iheanacho of the APGA in the race, which makes it tough for Okorocha to be confident of returning to his post.
There is not going to be gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Kogi states. But the state assembly elections in those states are going to somewhat determine the popularity of their state executives.
If, indeed, the results of the presidential and national Assembly elections held on March 28, were true reflections of the kind of change Nigerians have been clamouring for, then, they will not be much difference in voting pattern of the electorate on Saturday April 11. And if there is going to be some upset it will not be widespread.