Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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This weekend’s governorship and State House of Assembly elections is being awaited with bated breath especially, by governors in southern Nigeria and north central states . Understandably, because results of last election on February 25, demystified the political might of governors. Until now governors were the alpha and omega in their respective states, determining the political direction of their states, where the pendulum should swing to. On that fateful day of February 25 when the presidential/national assembly polls took place many of them were swept off their feet, flung from their high horses down to mother earth. They were dealt a fatal blow by a ‘third force’ they never reckoned with. Those of them vying to go to the national assembly as senators(hitherto seen as a retirement place for governors that are no longer eligible for another re-election after staying in the saddle for two terms) lost woefully save for one or two instances. Sitting governors whose names are actually on the ballot for Saturday’s poll, seeking re-election, now have to fight the biggest battle of their political lives, to save themselves from being buried politically.
A third set of governors— those that are not up for election yet— are no less jittery. Notwithstanding that they are not contesting as such, they are nonetheless fighting tooth and nail to ensure that their party wins majority seats in the State House of Assembly election. They fear that they may be impeached if another party has the upper hand in this regard. Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki is in this category. In the presidential election, Obi’s Labour party (LP) won in Edo with 331,163 votes followed by the APC which garnered 144,471 votes while the governor’s PDP trailed a distant third with 89,585 votes. PDP won two of the state’s senate seats while APC clinched the remaining one. For the State House of Assembly poll, all three parties are expected to win seats. The question is: which of them would have the highest number of seats?
In Nasarawa state the re-election bid of Governor Abdullahi Sule appears to be in the balance going by penultimate Saturday’s results. Peter Obi got 191,361 to beat APC’s Tinubu who had 172,922; PDP’s Atiku placed third with147, 093. Nasarawa state had always been an APC state especially since it has some powerful politicians, among them, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (its first democratically elected governor) now APC national chairman and Senator Tanko Almakura(a former governor too ). So, it came as a surprise to some people that APC lost to LP in the presidential election. The reason for the presidential loss is majorly religious sentiment. Embarrassingly, APC also lost all three senatorial seats, including Almakura’s and Adamu’s zones. However, the voting pattern was different. Indeed except for the south east zone, LP did not have a good showing generally, in the national assembly election in states where it won the presidential poll. SDP clinched two of the senatorial seats in Nasarawa and PDP one. Internal wrangling arising from alleged imposition of candidates during the primaries that saw some erstwhile APC politicians defecting to other parties, a tinge of ethnic sentiments and sabotage were contributory factors.
The candidacy of APC’s flagbearer for the western senatorial district became a matter of litigation for months. Amidst this distraction, the SDP candidate for that zone, Ahmed Wadada, himself a grassroot mobilizer and core politician was forging ahead and strategising. It was no surprise therefore that he won hands down —96,488 votes to APC’s and PDP’s 47,717 and 46820 votes respectively. In the northern zone, Godiya Akwashiki (SDP) a onetime deputy speaker of the House of Assembly defeated retired executive secretary of the National Judicial Commission, Danladi Envulanza (APC) who was contesting for the first time—44,471 to 32,058. Former governor and incumbent senator, Almakura was defeated in the southern district by one-time Speaker of the State House of Assembly and current member House of Representatives, Ogoshi Onawo who had remained in the PDP all through. He scored 93,064 while the senator scored 76,813 votes. Here, it was a case of the Alagos (the largest ethnic group in that zone, siding with their son rather than the former governor. But how come they did not side with their son when Almakura contested and won in 2019? There are speculations that sabotage may also be involved here.
All of Nasarawa’s APC leaders from the national chairman down the ladder are expected to buckle up and unite for ‘operation return Sule’, lest they further damage their political standing with loss of the governorship contest. A technocrat from the corporate world, Governor Sule has performed creditable well in management of the state’s meagre resources. His co-contesters are relatively inexperienced. So, notwithstanding his party’s rather embarrassing loss on February 25, I expect him to triumph on Saturday.
On the Plateau, LP expectedly won the presidential election in the state with 466,272, followed by the APC candidate with 307,195 while the PDP candidate was third, scoring 243,808 votes. However in the national assembly election PDP had the upper hand, winning five of the eight House of Representatives seat and two of the three senate seats that had been officially announced as at time of writing this column, Notably, Governor Simon Lalong who is director general of APC’s Presidential Campaign Council lost his bid to be a senator. Would the PDP bounce back to occupy the Rayfield Government House come this Saturday? It looks likely.
The story is different in Benue state where the APC’s Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia is poised to succeed PDP’s Samuel Ortom as governor. The APC won overwhelmingly here, winning all three elections — presidential, senate and House of Representatives. It won all three senate seats and lost only one House of Representatives seat. Ortom is likely heading to political oblivion, having also lost his bid to become a senator and also failed to deliver for Obi. He supported Obi to win the presidential election.
Nevertheless, the Labour party is most probably going to have its very first set of governors in the south east. LP’s Obi had the highest percentage of votes in this zone. In his home state of Anambra in particular he had 95 percent of the total votes cast there and its senate candidates dismantled two powerful incumbent senators. If the governorship election for Anambra and Imo state were to be held on Saturday the incumbents would likely be dethroned by LP candidates. Fortunately or unfortunately, both Governors Charles Soludo and Hope Uzodinma are not due for re-election this year. The ruling PDP gubernatorial candidates in both Abia and Enugu states may lose out on Saturday.
Ebonyi state’s Governor Dave Umahi is expected to put up a stiff fight in an attempt to install his anointed APC candidate to succeed him, having won his own senate seat and helped his party to win the two other seats, although LP won the presidential election by 75 percent. Whether Umahi’s APC’s governorship candidate would succeed remains to be seen on Saturday. Also, Delta state governor’s preferred candidate (Sheriff) to take over from him is not assured of victory. It looks dicey. All eyes are on the PDP candidate, Sheriff, to see whether he can make it. Notwithstanding protestations by his opponents for influencing the presidential victory of the APC candidate in Rivers, Governor Nyesom Wike is likely to get Fubara his anointed one, over the line to victory this Saturday.
A great shout out was made when Tinubu lost his home state to Obi in the presidential election. As a result some people are looking forward to the LP dislodging the APC from its long held governorship seat at Alausa. The fact that Tinubu is now president elect would have an effect on this election. And aware of how strategic Lagos state is nationally, I believe Lagos APC is re-strategising to ensure that the governorship post does not fall into the hands of any opposition party. I expect Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu/APC to win at end of the day. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s NNPP may have a lone governor-elect in Kano state. Overall APC is expected to have more elected governors than any of the other parties.