Timothy Agbor writes that with the presidential tribunal judgement out of the way, the National Campaign Councils constituted by the major political parties for the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states are expected to channel their entire political arsenals to prosecute the coming electoral battles.
After Wednesday’s judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, attention has shifted to the November 11 governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, 18 political parties are fielding candidates in Kogi, 17 in Imo, and 16 in Bayelsa.
Though, about 18 political parties have fielded candidates to jostle for the governorship seats in these states, political pundits argued that the contests might be dominated by about two prominent political parties in the country.
According to them, these parties are the All Progressives Congress and the People’s Democratic Party. However, they said the Labour Party would give its best in Imo State while the Social Democratic Party could only pull some weight in Kogi East.
All the participating parties have boasted of victory, while the quality of the political juggernauts and election planning veterans that populate the campaign committees of the leading platforms show that they mean business and that the polls will be keenly contested in each of these states.
LITMUS TEST FOR APC
For many watchers, the forthcoming elections will be a litmus test for the APC, especially as the PEPT hasaffirmed the victory of its candidate at the last February presidential election, President Bola Tinubu. The leadership of the APC is new and the party is ruling in two out of the three states.
The ruling party and the new Federal Government are desperately interested in using the victory in the states to boost their ratings and shore up their legitimacy and acceptability among Nigerians.
It is clear that President Tinubu would want to use the elections to make a bold statement and prove a point, especially to doubters, that his electoral victory on February 25 this year was not a fluke.
Similarly, on the side of the APC, victory in the polls will not only go a long way to justify the choice of Abdullahi Ganduje as the National Chairman but also confirm that the success of the party during the 2023 general elections in the presidential, legislative, and governorship polls actually reflected the people’s mandate.
For many watchers, the forthcoming elections will be a litmus test for the APC, especially as the PEPT hasaffirmed the victory of its candidate at the last February presidential election, President Bola Tinubu. The leadership of the APC is new and the party is ruling in two out of the three states
Ganduje doesn’t want to take chances in securing victory in the three states.
And to match words with actions in underscoring his determination for a fierce battle ahead, the party’s leaders have brought together serving government officials, comprising the governors, lawmakers, ministers, even opposition party chieftains and captains of industries that are friends of the party to be members of the campaign councils.
The crack team of close to 500-member national campaign council for the three elections comprises tested and trusted election veterans and experienced party chieftains who will articulate a winning formula and assiduously work towards ensuring victory for the party.
Both Tinubu and Ganduje are not novices in election matters. Judging by their body language and the composition of the campaign teams, they are battle-ready to retain Imo and Kogi and also dislodge the ruling PDP in Bayelsa.
Ganduje has charged members of the party in the three states to close ranks for the polls and has assuredthat all energies and machinery will be channeled into the three elections.
Even as the party seems to enjoy some advantages in Imo and Kogi states, owing to the power of incumbency, the hurdles against the APC in the three states are enormous and multifaceted.
Political pundits have said that the current biting economic hardship occasioned by fuel subsidy removal, foreign currency unification policy, the unending crises rocking the state chapters, and the complaints over bias in the distribution of appointive positions may clearly constitute some threats.
Other factors that might count against the APC include expected sabotage from many disgruntled elementswith the structures like the party chieftains, leaders and members in all the three states.
In Imo State for example, the dust raised by the replacement of the deputy governor, the escalating insecurity in the state and the irreconcilable differences among the chieftains of the party are some of the teething tasks the party must battle. Bayelsa State is not left out here.
Some chieftains of the APC have called the attention of the leadership of the party to some issues that must be resolved before the polls if the party must win the off-cycle elections.
One of them, the Minister of Agriculture and Food security, Abubakar Kyari, said APC had chances to win in the three states if the challenges confronting the party were tackled before the polls.
“Like any organisation of our size, composition, dynamics, and success, the APC has its own fair share of problems and challenges,” he said.
Notwithstanding the fears of some stakeholders concerning the chances of the party, the APC leadership has expressed optimism that it will carry the day in the three states.
In his remarks during the inauguration of the Kogi State National Governorship Campaign Council, recently, Ganduje called on all party members and stakeholders to rally round the party’s candidate.
“By so doing, all the legacy projects will be sustained and there will be a continuation in governance. As a party, we are committed to working hard individually and collectively to realise these goals and objectives,” he noted.
PDP GEARS UP
Like APC, the PDP is greatly optimistic of victory in the three states.
Yet to recover from the loss it suffered at the presidential election, coupled with the dismissal of its petition by the presidential election tribunal, the PDP would not want to leave anything to chance as regards the off-season governorship elections.
In Bayelsa State, the PDP is seeking to retain the state and further consolidate its place in the politics of the Niger Delta state, which it has governed since the inception of the present democratic dispensation. In Kogi and Imo States, however, the party is seeking to displace the APC, having been in and out of power in the two states in the last 24 years.
Incidentally, the PDP had given the APC a strong fight in the three states during the 2023 general elections.
While the opposition party roundly defeated the ruling party in Bayelsa, it made very strong showing in Imo and Kogi States. Therefore, the forthcoming poll is another opportunity for the parties to test their might.
The National Campaign Councils constituted by the PDP for the three states parade experienced politicians who are worth their salt in election management. While the campaign council for Bayelsa has 72 members, led by Taraba State Governor, Kefas Agbu; Imo State has 173 members, chaired by Zamfara State governor, Lawal Dauda. The Kogi State campaign council, comprising 150 members, is chaired by Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke.
The party leadership has charged the teams to clinch the governorship seats in the threestates.
Imploring the campaign council members to deploy their political experiences to woo the electorate in the three elections for the party, the PDP acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, while inaugurating the National Campaign Councils, charged them to “go and conquer”, saying the PDP expects nothing short of victory in the states.
“We will have Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi. These are PDP states. Somehow, they slipped away but Bayelsa has always had a PDP governor,” he stated.
For the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, the PDP’s victory in the forthcoming governorship poll in his state is sure.
“PDP is very sure of victory in Bayelsa State. We don’t have any internal crisis in the PDP in Bayelsa State. We are well organised and, as a matter of fact, we have more members of the opposition coming into PDP in Bayelsa State.
“Bayelsa PDP is very strong, vibrant and poised to win the election. If I should give you on a scale, it would be like 80-20 per cent. Bayelsans have resolved, unanimously, that PDP as exemplified by me, doesn’t need to change players in a winning team,” he stated.
Diri’s optimism is understandable. The PDP had won all the eight National Assembly seats in the state in the last general elections to consolidate its hold in the politics of the Niger Delta state. The party also walloped the APC in the state House of Assembly polls to maintain its place as the dominant party in the state.
Therefore, pundits say the November 11 gubernatorial contest is more or less a done deal for the PDP in Bayelsa State, owing to its formidable structure in the state and what party supporters describe as the impressive performance of the present governor.
Like Diri, the PDP National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu, who is also the Imo State governorship candidate, and the opposition party’s candidate, in Kogi State, Dino Melaye, are optimistic that the party will win the governorship contests in their respective states.
“Imo is traditionally a PDP state. What you have there now is a product of the court. I am back to reclaim the mandate of the PDP,” Anyanwu said.
On his part, Melaye said the APC would be sent packing from Kogi State on November 11, noting that the PDP was the party to beat in the contest.
“I just want to announce that as far as this election is concerned in Kogi State, APC is history. APC has gone to oblivion. PDP is the party to beat in Kogi State and I assure the people of Kogi State that my name is Daniel and Daniel is used to taming lions. I befriend lions, I kiss lions and subdue lions,” he boasted.
As expected, pundits say the stakes are understandably high, especially as it is going to be a battle of familiar foes. And for the PDP, which is contesting the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, the three governorship seats at stake cannot be toiled with.
CHANCES OF OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES
Aside from the PDP and APC, other opposition political parties participating in the polls don’t have strong formidable national campaign councils.
While the SDP managed to set up a largely weak campaign council in Kogi State with a retired colonel, Suleiman Babanawa, as its Director General, others did not announce the constitution of their campaign councils.
The Kogi governorship candidate of the SDP, Murtala Yakub Ajaka, pledged to transform the economic fortune of the state and also canvassed for the support of traditional rulers towards the poll in the state.
While giving assurance that Labour Party would be victorious in Imo State, Peter Obi, the party’s presidential candidate in the February 25 presidential election, said the party had overwhelming support base in the state coupled with its performance and excellence.
Obi, who made this known in Owerri, the Imo State capital, alongside the factional National Chairman of LP, Julius Abure, at the inauguration of the governorship campaign of the LP candidate, Athan Achonu, described Achonu as the only governorship candidate of the party in Imo State.
Obi urged the people of Imo State to come out en masse and vote Achonu as the next governor of the state on November 11. He said that the process that produced Achonu as the party’s governorship candidate in the state was credible.
“Distinguished Senator Athan Achonu is the only governorship candidate of the party. I was the chairman of the panel that conducted the primary election which produced him as the winner of the election. I am here to bear testimony that he is our candidate for the November 11 governorship election in Imo State.
“We have not even started in Abia but the noise is everywhere. We are less than 100 days in office in Abia. Labour party is known for governance. Vote for the Labour Party,” he urged the electorate.
But, pundits have noted that LP might not defeat APC and PDP, owing to its lean membership in the state and the internal crisis plaguing the party.
Recall that some members of the Labour Party are still in court contesting the outcome of the process that brought in Achonu during the party’s primary.
A political analyst, Kehinde Ayantunji, described the off-season polls in the three states as two-horse racesbetween the APC and PDP, noting that the minor political parties, including the SDP and LP, lacked the financial war chest, structure and political experience to win off cycle elections.
He said, “Off-cycle elections are not like the general elections. Peter Obi is not contesting this time around and as you can see, the noise has rescinded ever since the tribunal dismissed the petitions of Obi and Atiku.
“LP, SDP and other political parties are minor. They don’t have the needed structure to withstand the PDP and APC who have been into electioneering issues for long. These minor parties have not attained that level yet.”
As the elections in the three states draw closer, panic has been heightened as stakeholders have been urged to play by the rules.
Political analysts harped on the need for President Tinubu to be lenient and shun temptation for a do-or-die approach in a bid to secure victory for his party.
Being the first major election under his watch as President, they asked Tinubu to have a re-think on the election mantra that “power should not be served a la carte but must be snatched, grabbed, and run away with.”
NEED FOR INEC, SECURITY AGENCIES TO REBUILD IMAGES
Meanwhile, ahead of the November governorship elections, researchers with Nextier SPD, have warned that violence may mar the off season polls as a result of the outcome of the recently held elections.
To that end, Nextier has canvassed for the extension of security deployments and monitoring in hotspot communities beyond election days to ensure sustained peace, law, and order.
It has also admonished the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Police to rebuild their images during the off-cycle elections by curtailing actions that question their integrities.
These, among others, were contained in the Nextier SPD Policy report, titled, “Nigeria’s off-cycle elections and the impending violence,” authored by Charles Asiegbu, Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Bridge Fellow, Nigeria Economic Summit Group; and Ndu Nwokolo, Managing Partner, Nextier, and Honorary Fellow at the School of Government, University of Birmingham, UK.
Nextier argued that, given the controversies that surrounded the general elections on February 25, there was no doubt that the outcome of the upcoming off-cycle elections would further define INEC’s reputation and legitimacy, adding that how violence would play out in the three states was an issue of great concern.
Raising a similar appeal, Imo Youths for a New Nigeria urged INEC to correct the mistakes of the 2023 general elections with the upcoming polls.
The convener of the sociopolitical pressure group, Chidiebube Okeoma, said, “INEC has no reason to fail Nigerians in November because, unlike the February 25 and March 18 elections, the November 11 elections are just taking place in three states. They have ample time to prepare and enough workforces to prosecute the elections in line with international best practices.”
In Bayelsa State, the PDP is seeking to retain the state and further consolidate its place in the politics of the Niger Delta state, which it has governed since the inception of the present democratic dispensation. In Kogi and Imo states, however, the party is seeking to displace the APC, having been in and out of power in the two states in the last 24 years
MEET SOME LEADING CANDIDATES
Hope Uzodimma (Imo, APC)
Uzodimma has been the Governor of Imo State since 2020 after the Supreme Court, on January 14, 2020, declared him winner of the 2019 governorship poll in the state. The court had nullified the election of the then incumbent Governor, Emeka Ihedioha.
Governor Uzodimma served as Senator for Imo West between 2011 and 2019. The governor and candidate of APC for the November 11 governorship candidate caused bad blood within the party, recently, when he dropped the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Placid Njoku, as his running mate ahead of the forthcoming poll in the state. Uzodimma picked a female lawyer, Nnedinma Ekomaru, as a replacement for Njoku.
Anyanwu Samuel Nnaemeka (Imo, PDP)
Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu represented the Imo East constituency in the 8th National Assembly. He declared to run for governor in the 2019 elections but lost to Chukwuemeka Ihedioha in the party primaries.
He is the governorship candidate of the PDP in the off-season poll.
Ahmed Usman Ododo (Kogi, APC)
Ododo is the candidate of the APC in Kogi State and has the full support of the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello, as well as the support of the leadership of the APC at the national level.
He has held a number of positions in the political sphere, including that of Chairman of the Kogi State Youth Council, Special Assistant to the Governor and a member of the Nigerian Youth Parliament.
Trained as a democrat, conflict intervention and resolutionist at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the urbane and avid believer in the integrity of hard work and merit in public service, has lived a life of selflessness and sacrifice for the good of the greater society.
He resigned from his position as the Auditor General for Local Governments in the state to contest for the governorship seat.
Ododo has attended several specialist courses, which have helped shape and prepare him for the rigours and expectations of the top public office. He is a Member, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria; Member, Institute of Internal Auditors, and Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Dino Melaye (Kogi, PDP)
Melaye is a former senator and was a member of the 8th Nigerian National Assembly, representing Kogi West Senatorial district between 2015 and 2019. He was the Chairman Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Briefly, be was the Senate Committee Chairman on Aviation in Nigeria. He was aspokesperson for the 2023 presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar. He had contested the governorship position in Kogi but lost.
Timipre Marlin Sylva (Bayelsa, APC)
Sylva is the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Bayelsa State. He served as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources of Nigeria from 2019 to 2023.
He previously served as Governor of Bayelsa State from 2007 to 2012.
Douye Diri (Bayelsa, PDP)
Douye Diri has been the Governor of Bayelsa State since 2020. He was the senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District from 2019 to 2020 in the 9th National Assembly. He is seeking a second term.