The ruling Peoples Democratic Party is confronted with a strong challenge from the opposition parties that are cashing in on the popular thirst for change, schism within the party and emerging political awareness
For two years, Gbenga Daniel, the outgoing governor of Ogun State tried to persuade him. At different fora, the governor tried to make Adetunji Olurin, a retired general realise how important it was for him to be the one to succeed him in office. At first the general was reluctant. But by the time Olurin formally flagged off his campaign as governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abeokuta, Daniel and all his supporters in Ogun State had defected to the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN.
So what went wrong? Although Olurin is of the Ogun West Senatorial District, the region favoured to produce the next governor of the state, he is not exactly Daniel’s choice. The governor would have preferred Gboyega Isiaka, a much younger, less experienced candidate compared to Olurin and someone he believes that he could easily influence while out of office. So while he prodded Olurin on, he actually expected him to turn down the offer.
This, perhaps, explains why as soon as Olurin declared his intention to run for governor, Daniel immediately set about actively opposing the candidature of the same man he spent considerable time persuading to run for office. After a bitter struggle for power in which Daniel lost out, Isiaka and the other PDP members in the Daniel faction defected to the PPN from where they are now set to contest the election on Tuesday, next week.
With this move, the stage is set for the outgoing governor to actively undermine the chances of Olurin and by extension, the PDP. Curiously, neither the governor’s faction nor the remnants of the PDP is winning at the polls. This much was evident in the result of the April 9 National Assembly, NASS, elections. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, swept the polls in Ogun State. The outcome may have been different if the votes of PDP and PPN were summed. Daniel is, therefore, the first major challenge Olurin may have on his way to the Government House, Oke Ilewo, Abeokuta.
If the PDP in Ogun State fails to mend fences before April 26, one man who will benefit immensely from the political infighting is Ibikunle Amosun, the governorship candidate of the ACN. Amosun is not new to the contest. He contested against Daniel in 2007 and was widely believed to have won that election. Though he appears to be coasting home to victory, Amosun has also had to battle the enemy within. The chartered accountant turned politician initially had it rough with the likes of Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State and a chieftain of the ACN. He is said to be unhappy with what he perceived to be imposition of candidates by the party chieftains. At a point, he even threatened to leave the party.
The situation is not particularly different in Nasarawa State. Here, Aliyu Doma, the state governor has the power of incumbency working for him. He also has the machinery of the PDP at his disposal. But that is as far as he could have things rosy. On the flipside, Doma has to contend with the perception that he has performed poorly as governor in the last four years. Musa Danjuma, a businessman and Lafia resident told the magazine that “the problem with Doma is that you can hardly point at anything he did in the office in the last four years.”
Beyond this, Doma’s biggest threat appears to be coming from his former allies in the PDP. To start with, he is no longer in good terms with Abdullahi Adamu, his political godfather and former governor of the state. Adamu is believed to have single-handedly made Doma governor of the state in 2007. But they soon parted ways and Doma is alleged to have conspired with others to instigate the trial of Adamu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Come April 26, Doma will practically be contesting against Adamu who is believed to have encouraged all his supporters to defect to the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Adamu stayed back in the PDP because of the senatorial ticket he got from the party. He won his senatorial election on April 9. But while he stayed back, the likes of Hassan Lawal, former minister of labour and productivity, Solomon Ewuga, former minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and Halilu Bala-Usman, former deputy governor of the old Plateau State as well as several other politicians formerly of the same PDP stock with Doma have all defected to the CPC. Ewuga won the senatorial election to represent Nasarawa North Senatorial District on the platform of the CPC. As at press time last week, CPC had won more seats in the House of Representatives from Nasarawa State than the PDP.
Invariably, these former PDP men are now the greatest threat to Doma’s ambition to return to the Government House. And the beneficiary of this development may be Tanko Almakura, the CPC governorship candidate. Although the CPC is relatively young, the number of PDP members who have so far defected makes the party’s chances brighter to the party. The magazine learnt that even some commissioners currently serving in Doma’s government are secretly working for the CPC. So in the long run, the PDP’s loss may be CPC’s gain in Nasarawa State.
This is equally the scenario in Akwa Ibom State. Ordinarily, Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom State governor need not fret about his return to the Government House in Uyo. Although critics of his administration accuse him of under-performing as governor, Akpabio’s chances of returning to the Government House are now largely threatened by old friends, former political allies and estranged political godfather, John Akpanudoedehe who had left the PDP for the ACN. Akpanudoedehe is a former senator and former minister of state for FCT. Akpanudoedehe practically facilitated Akpabio’s emergence as governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2007 even against the wish of Victor Attah, the then outgoing governor of the state in whose cabinet Akpabio had served as a commissioner. But he has since fallen out with Akpabio leading to his eventual exit from the PDP. Right now, in the battle for the Government House, Uyo, Akpanudoedehe also has the support of Attah, who has not been in the good book of Akpabio.
There is also the ethnic factor. Akpabio is Annang, a minority tribe in the state but emerged the governor in 2007 based on the support of notable Ibibio like Akpanudoedehe and the consensus to support a minority to become governor. The Ibibio are the majority ethnic group and could perpetually produce the state governor. Four years down the line, his critics claim he had embarked on a mission to cripple the Ibibio, thus the stand against him.
Indeed, from all indications, Akpabio has a herculean task ahead of him if he is ever going to defeat Akpanudoedehe, the ACN candidate, who the odds seem to favour.
In Oyo State, a similar task lies ahead for Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of the PDP, who is seeking a second term in office. The race here is largely between Alao-Akala, Rashidi Ladoja, former governor and candidate of Accord Party, AP, and Abiola Ajimobi of the ACN. And from all indications, it will take an extra hard work for Alao-Akala to emerge the winner. The incumbent governor is up against a combination of time-tested and old political warhorses. To start with, Alao-Akala rode to power on the political structure of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Lamidi Adedibu. But soon after Adedibu’s death, the governor ran into trouble when he took steps to create his own political structure.
The process caused a bloody split in the rank of the Oyo State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, a union believed to have been used as a tool for political intimidation in the state. It also further divided the state chapter of the PDP down the line. As if that was not enough trouble, Alao-Akala decided to lock horns with Odulana Odugade, the Olubadan of Ibadan and Lamidi Adeyemi, the Alaafin of Oyo. Now these are two equally powerful political forces in the state. When the PDP could not win majority votes in Ibadan area, the late Adedibu credited Alaafin for delivering the three local governments in his domain. The votes of Oyo are believed to have helped Adedibu in the near unpopular task of installing Alao-Akala in 2007.
But when the same Alaafin raised the alarm that some persons acting on the instructions of the governor were planning to kill him, the governor responded that he did not have to kill the Alaafin when he could very well depose him. Perhaps as a reaction to that, the Alaafin also tactically refused to receive Alao-Akala at his palace on a recent campaign trail. The Alaafin was said to have earlier agreed to host Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the PDP, but when the former president appeared at the palace with Alao-Akala, the monarch became unavailable for the visit.
In the case of the Olubadan who is said to be largely apolitical, Alao-Akala’s seeming disrespect for the traditional ruler is something that has attracted negative reactions from Ibadan indigenes. Many of them have, therefore, decided to throw their weights behind Ajimobi. In fact, in settling for Ajimobi, the ACN actually pandered to the wishes of the Ibadan elite. But this was not without its own consequences. Going by the way Ajimobi emerged the party’s standard-bearer; there are still pockets of people within the ACN who are disenchanted and threatening protest votes. That is being addressed by leaders of the party.
Should they fail to reunite the different interests, one man who may be the beneficiary is Ladoja. Disillusioned with what he saw as the failure of the national secretariat of the PDP to address the grievances of aggrieved members, he decided to pitch his tent with the AP where he automatically became the governorship candidate. His entrance into the party appears to have boosted its chances and it is now seen as the credible alternative to the ruling PDP. Whichever way the pendulum swings Alao-Akala appears to be at the receiving end.
As it is for Alao-Akala so it is for Ikedi Ohakim, his Imo State counterpart. Although the PDP had quite a good showing at the NASS polls in Imo State, Ohakim may still be faced with challenges occasioned by allegations of intolerance to opposition as well as threats from old foes, allies and political godfather who had defected to the ACN and All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. The contest in the state is between Ohakim and Ifeanyi Araraume of the ACN. Ohakim is not new to Araraume. They both had a keen contest in 2007. Ohakim won. But that was then, things are now different. The governor is now trailed by allegations of high-handedness, poor performance in office and above all, has lost the support of Achike Udenwa, the former governor who was his political godfather. This time around, Araraume and Udenwa have closed ranks and formed a political group called Alliance for Good Governance. This is the platform with which they plan to unseat Ohakim who was elected on the platform of the Progress Peoples Alliance, PPA, in 2007 but defected to the PDP in 2009.
Ohakim is not alone. He shares this kind of burden with Sullivan Chime, his Enugu State counterpart. Just like in Imo, PDP also recorded a good result at the NASS polls in Enugu State. But analysts insist this may not be the same for the governorship. From all indications, the contest appears to be largely between Chime, the PDP candidate, Dan Shere of the People for Democratic Change, PDC, and Okey Ezea of the Labour Party, LP. And, troubles for Chime begin at home. Chime is not new to Ezea. They both had a close contest in 2007. At that time, Ezea was the LP candidate and Chime had the support of the Ebeano political family headed by Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of the state.
But not anymore. Chime has since fallen out with Nnamani and the Ebeano family. This soon led to a rift within the state chapter of the PDP and a bitter struggle for the control of its executive. Having lost out in the battle for the control of the PDP in Enugu, the Ebeano group has moved to the PDC and it is throwing its weight behind Shere, a former secretary to the state government in Enugu. In addition to that, the PDC also picked its governorship candidate from the populous Enugu North Senatorial zone, which controls more than 40 per cent of the state’s eligible voters while his running mate, Kanayo Oguakwa who is also a grassroots politician in his own rights was picked from the same Enugu West Senatorial District with Chime. So it is expected that Oguakwa will split the votes from the Enugu West Senatorial District with Chime while Shere will largely coast home to victory in the populous Enugu North where he came from. So as things stand, Shere and his PDC appear set to be the beneficiary of the internal crisis in Enugu PDP.
In Plateau State, Pauline Tallen of the LP is also waiting to benefit from the crisis in the ruling party. There, she is squaring up with Governor Jonah Jang, her boss. Until very recently, LP was a docile party within the state and devoid of any major political gladiators. But thanks to the crisis within the PDP in Plateau, many politicians who failed to get the nod of the Presidency and the PDP national secretariat for fresh primaries after a disputed one, moved to the LP. Now the party can boast of the likes of Joshua Dariye, former governor of the state, Fidelis Tapgun and even Solomon Lar, first national chairman of the PDP. They have all thrown their weight behind Tallen. Although the PDP did well in the House of Representatives elections on April 9, many argue that the odds still favour Tallen.
Joel Ikenya, the ACN candidate in Taraba State may share similar luck with Tallen. Although the PDP secured an impressive result in the National Assembly election in the state, many believe that the governorship election in Taraba State is simply between Danbaba Suntai, the incumbent governor, who is of the PDP and Ikenya, a senator who currently represents Taraba South at the upper legislative chambers. Ikenya went to the Senate on the platform of the PDP. But today, he stands as the greatest challenge to Suntai.
Ordinarily, Suntai is not supposed to lose sleep over the elections. He has the state machinery of the PDP in his pockets and those who are opposed to him have all had to leave the party. But that exactly is the source of his problems. A number of strong politicians who have left the PDP in protest now provide a strong support for Ikenya. Above all, the governor is also having a running battle with Jolly Nyame, his predecessor and former political godfather. Nyame has, therefore, anointed Ikenya to replace Suntai at the Government House come May 29.
Equally hoping to benefit from the rift in PDP is Steve Ugbah, governorship candidate of the ACN in Benue State. Ugbah, who is a professor, has lived in the United States, US, for the past 37 years. He is, therefore, considered a political neophyte compared to Gabriel Suswam, the incumbent governor who is seeking a second term in office on the platform of the PDP. Suswam was a two-time member of the House of Representatives before emerging as governor in 2007.
Besides that, he and Ugbah are both from Logo area of Benue North-east Senatorial District and would at the very worst split the votes in that area. In addition, Suswam is popular among the Idoma in Benue South Senatorial District because he had promised to support one of their own to succeed him at the end of his second term. But there is yet a snag. Suswam no longer enjoys the support of his predecessor and estranged godfather, George Akume. The former governor who is believed to have been instrumental to Suswam’s emergence as governor in 2007 has now decamped to the ACN.
Also hoping to benefit from internal wrangling and haemorrhage within the PDP is Abubakar Mallam, the CPC candidate in Kebbi State. The contest is between the duo of Saidu Dakingari, the incumbent governor who defected from ANPP to PDP and Mallam. Dakingari has the incumbency advantage. But despite that, he could no longer sleep easy. Adamu Aliero, his predecessor on whose back he rode to office in 2007, has abandoned him.
Aliero who defected to the CPC is instrumental to the choice of Mallam who was governorship candidate on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, in 2007. So far those who have defected to the CPC include Abdullahi Argungu, former deputy governor, Habiba Ibrahim, former commissioner for women affairs, Farouk Muslim and Abubakar Bagudo, both members of the House of Representatives as well as some special assistants of Dakingari. The support of all these people and the love for Muhammadu Buhari, founder and presidential candidate of the CPC may swing the vote for Mallam.
Bauchi State may also have a similar scenario playing out. Here, like in other states, the PDP’s loss may be ACN’s gain. There are nine contenders for the office of the governor. But of the lot, Baba Tella of the ACN stands out. Believed to be very popular with the people, although his party’s name is not known in most part of the state, Tella was until recently a member of the PDP. In fact he defected to the ACN, following displeasure over the way the party’s primaries were conducted. The candidature of Tella caused panic in the camp of Isa Yuguda, the state governor who is contesting on the platform of the PDP. This is because Tella is believed to have the support of Abuja-based prominent PDP members from the state, such as Yayale Ahmed, secretary to the government of the federation, Bala Mohammed, the FCT minister and Adamu Muazu, former governor. In the perception of observers in Bauchi, Yuguda’s offence is two-fold. His decision to leave the platform of the ANPP, on which he won the election and defect back to the ruling PDP, as well as the perception that he has not met the record of Muazu, his predecessor.
In Kano, the contest is keen. In the race for the Kano Government House is Abdullahi Gwarzo, the deputy governor who recently defected from the ANPP to the ACN. Of course in the state of Ibrahim Shekarau, the ANPP presidential candidate who is the incumbent governor, that is a sacrilege. Shekarau, therefore, endorsed Salihu Takai, his commissioner for local government and former chairman of Takai Local Government. But there is also Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of the state who is contesting on the platform of the PDP. He lost to Shekarau in 2003, with the support of Buhari. That is why bookmakers say the fellow who is waiting to reap from the fallout of the battle of supremacy between the three major political forces is Mohammed Abacha, son of the late dictator, Sani Abacha and candidate of the CPC. But if the outcome of the April 9 NASS polls in Kano is anything to go by, Kwankwaso may just be on his way back to the Government House.
Surprises are also expected in Gombe State where there are no less than four major parties contesting the governorship slot to be left open by Danjuma Goje who has completed his second term of office. The fact that Goje is not contesting makes the situation particularly dicey. In the race are at least two candidates believed to be close to the outgoing governor. One is Abubakar Aliyu, the CPC candidate. Aliyu, a rich and influential retired civil servant, is so close to Goje that he is even believed to have been planted in the CPC by the outgoing governor. Although he has debunked such rumours, there is yet another person in the race who the outgoing governor cannot deny. He is Ibrahim Dankwambo, immediate past accountant-general of the federation, AGF, who is running on the platform of the ruling PDP. Just like Aliyu, Dankwambo is also regarded as a grassroots politician with a strong political structure he had built over the last seven years of working as the AGF. It is not particularly clear who will take the lead between these two men who want Goje’s job.
The situation in Kwara State is also given to surprises. Bukola Saraki, the outgoing governor is at loggerheads with Olusola Saraki, his father who also doubles as his political godfather. The older Saraki is rooting for Gbemisola, his daughter, to replace Bukola while the outgoing governor is backing Abdulfatah Ahmed. Gbemisola is contesting on the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, and the political party her father floated in response to the disagreement within the political family. Ahmed is the PDP candidate. Besides these two gladiators, there is also Mohammed Belgore, a lawyer and candidate of ACN and Gbenga Olawepo of the DPP. Both of them also stand good chances of springing surprises, especially as the Sarakis go for broke against each other. But if the result of NASS election is anything to go by, the PDP may just retain its hold on Kwara State.
In Kogi, Sokoto, Adamawa, Cross River and Bayelsa states it is yet not clear if elections will hold on April 26. A federal high court in Abuja extended their tenure because they had gone to court insisting that elections could not hold in their states in April 2011 since they won re-run elections ordered by election tribunals and have been sworn in again. They argued that going by the constitution, their tenures should be counted from the date they were sworn in afresh and that the amendments to the 1999 Constitution, which seems to have taken care of this cannot be said to have affected them since they started the fresh mandate before the amendment was signed into law by the President. Independent National Electoral Commission has appealed against the ruling. But the court of appeal has reserved ruling on the matter indefinitely.
While uncertainty rules the air in some states, there are those for whom victory at the April 26 polls is almost as sure as the morning. A good example is Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State. Based on his performance in office and the popularity of his party in the state, the ACN governor of Lagos State is certain of returning to the Alausa Government House. A similar scenario may play out in Rivers State where based on his performance in office, Chibuike Amaechi, the incumbent is likely to have a free ride back to the Brick House. Opponents like Abiye Sekibo of the ACN and Goodluck Diigbo of Hope Democratic Party, HDP, are not seen as strong contenders to Amaechi. Same may be the lot of Ibrahim Geidam, the incumbent governor of Yobe State who is standing re-election on the platform of the ANPP. Geidam has the advantage of incumbency; his party has been in power since 1999 in the state and has little or no opposition coming from Usman Albishir of the PDP. Albishir in fact defected from the ANPP in 2007 after failing to win the ANPP governorship ticket at that time. His chances this time are further hampered by the fact that there are even disagreements within the PDP in Yobe.
Such certainty may be playing out in Katsina State but not in favour of the incumbent, Ibrahim Shema of the PDP. Shema has a major foe in Aminu Bello-Masari; former Speaker of the House of Representatives and member of PDP, who is now running on the platform of the CPC. Masari, who was edged out of the race in 2007 by Umaru Yar’Adua, the late President, will also lean on the mass appeal of Buhari, who is also from the state and the fact that Shema has since fallen out of favour with the Yar’Adua political family.