LEAD STORY: 2023 Governorship Polls: APC, PDP face stiff contests in six states

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  • Two-horse race in Lagos
  • Tripartite battle in Kano
  • Incumbent-Predecessor’s battle in Ogun
  • Protest vote looms in South East
  • Not yet Uhuru for PDP in Delta

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, TIMOTHY AGBOR AND MAYOWA SAMUEL

Uba Group

It will be battle royale in not less than six states of the federation when the governorship elections are held in March 2023, The Point can authoritatively report.

Investigations by our Correspondents indicate that though national attention is understandably focused on the presidential election coming up in February 2023, major parties are not leaving anything to chance concerning governorship polls.

In Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Cross River, Abia, Enugu, Kaduna and Kano, the contest would likely go right down to the wire.

Factors such as power of incumbency, capacity of the opposition, godfather syndrome and ability to stave off expansionist tendencies have all been identified as possible factors that would make the contest in these states tick.

INCUMBENT VS. PREDECESSOR’S BATTLE IN OGUN

In Ogun State, what played out during the 2019 governorship election that paved the way for the emergence of Dapo Abiodun, may repeat itself in the forthcoming 2023 governorship election.

Former Governor Ibikunle Amosun has yet to forgive and forget as the incumbent Senator representing Ogun Central at the National Assembly has declared his support for the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Biyi Otegbeye, in the forthcoming 2023 elections.

Both Abiodun and Amosun are chieftains of the All Progressives Congress. Abiodun, who took over from Amosun in 2019, is seeking a second term in 2023 on the platform of the APC.

Amosun broke his silence recently on who he would support in the coming election in the state, saying he would be backing Otegbeye in the next election against Abiodun while he pledged his support to the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.

He declared his stance during an exclusive interview with BBC Yoruba. Amosun said, “For the presidential poll, I can assure you, both right, left and centre, that we are supporting one person (Tinubu). I believe we are supporting one person. On the governorship poll, that’s a different ball game. I don’t belong there.

“For the governorship, that is different. I don’t hide behind one finger to fight. On the governorship front, my supporters and I don’t belong to that side. I do not support the APC on that side. Biyi Otegbeye is the person I am supporting and ADC is the party.”

The support for the opposition governorship candidate has, however, generated controversy and caused some panic within the APC circle even as the state governor, Dapo Abiodun, has reacted, saying he would not be deterred by the move.

The APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Tunde Oladunjoye, described Amosun’s decision as treacherous. Oladunjoye said the party in the state had better things to do.

“We have better things to do than talking about a boastful and notoriously treacherous fellow,” he said.

However, a chieftain of the ADC and popular social commentator, Olawale Adebajo, has commended Amosun for declaring his support for Otegbeye.

Speaking with journalists on Friday on the development, Adebajo described Amosun’s move as patriotic, adding that “Otegbeye is a man of high integrity.”

According to Adebajo, Otegbeye is an accomplished lawyer and a successful Chartered Insurer with a Master’s Degree in Finance Management, and has been described as an attempt to revive a culture of excellence in leadership that Ogun State is known for.

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He noted that Amosun had shown an uncommon consistency and unwavering commitment to ensuring the emergence of a governor of Yewa-Awori extraction.

“Since the creation of Ogun State in 1976, no one from Ogun West, which is populated by Yewa-Awori people, has been elected governor while the position has been rotated between the other two Senatorial Districts – Ogun East and Ogun Central.

“If discipline and dogged determination had a face, it would be Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Barrister Biyi Otegbeye. The two have shown levels of resilience, courage and persistence in their political career,” Adebajo noted.

On the other hand, the People’s Democratic Party in Ogun State has also been enmeshed in intra-party crises and series of civil litigations after the party primaries conducted for the governorship, national and state assemblies’ elections.

As of today, the PDP does not have a governorship candidate in Ogun State, going by the list released recently by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Last week, the National Working Committee of the PDP dissociated itself from a fresh primary election purportedly conducted by one of the party’s governorship aspirants in Ogun State, Jimi Lawal.

This was contained in a disclaimer sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission by the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, on October 19, and acknowledged by the electoral body on October 20, 2022.

Lawal was suspended last week alongside four others by the Ogun State chapter of the PDP for organising “illegal primary.”

A Federal High Court in Abeokuta had on September 27 nullified all the primary elections earlier held by the PDP, asking the party to organise another primary within 14 days. However, the PDP NWC had appealed the judgment.

“One thing that is peculiar to the politics of Kano is that voters consider personality more than the political platform. For instance, in APC, the personality and popularity of the incumbent Governor, Ganduje, would assist the governorship candidate of APC”

The NWC was therefore shocked that Lawal and his followers would bypass the national body of the party to write INEC and conduct such a primary.

Ayu wrote, “We write to draw the attention of the Commission to a purported primary election conducted by some persons claiming to be State Executive Members of our party, allegedly held on Monday, October 17, 2022, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

“This is coming days after the 14 days ordered by the Federal High Court for the party to conduct a fresh primary election. The 14 days ordered by the Federal High Court, Abeokuta division, within which the party was to conduct a fresh primary election lapsed on Tuesday, October 10, 2022 and no fresh primary was conducted in Ogun State, the party having resolved to go on appeal and rightly so.

“This, being our position, we were surprised to read both on print media and online media that some persons claiming to be part of a faction of the party conducted a fresh primary on behalf of the party on Monday, October 17, 2022, seven days after the 14 days ordered by the Federal High Court, Abeokuta division, which the party appealed against had lapsed.”

“We are, by this letter, notifying the commission of this illegality and to further inform the Commission that the NWC is dissociating itself from the said fresh primary election conducted by persons other than the NWC. We do not recognise these persons involved in this illegality,” Ayu said.

It is not known if the PDP will resolve its crisis early enough to contest the 2023 governorship election or if Amosun will make a meaningful come-back and stop Abiodun from getting a smooth ride back to the Governor’s Office at Oke-Mosan.

TRIPARTITE BATTLE IN KANO

Out of the 14 political parties that have presented candidates to contest the governorship election in Kano State next year, only three are in the frontline and may likely decide where the pendulum swings. The three parties are the All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and New Nigerian Peoples Party.

Their candidates as listed by INEC are Nasiru Yusuf-Gawuna for APC, Sadiq Wali for PDP and Abba Kabir-Yusuf of the NNPP.

Going by their formidable political structure and the quality of bigwigs they parade, they stand better chances of calling the shots in the March 11 governorship election in 2023.

The poll would certainly be tough because the incumbent Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, has been making plans to ensure that he doesn’t relinquish power to another party.

According to a political watcher, Usman Dikko, it would not be a walk in the park for the ruling party, judging by the popularity of the leader of the NNPP, Rabiu Kwakwanso, and the political spread of the PDP.

Diko told The Point that Kano voters always look at the personality in deciding who to vote for.

He said, “One thing that is peculiar to the politics of Kano is that voters consider personality more than the political platform. For instance, in APC, the personality and popularity of the incumbent Governor, Ganduje, would assist the governorship candidate of APC.

“For the PDP, the return of a former Kano State Governor, Malam Shekarau, from the New Nigeria Peoples Party to PDP will boost the chances of Sadiq Wali while Kabir-Yusuf of NNPP is riding on the fame of Kwankwaso, a two-time governor of the state and presidential candidate of the party.”

In nearby Kaduna State, three political parties are also in the frontline. They are APC, PDP and NNPP, with Uba Sani, Isa Ashiru, and Suleiman Hunkuyi, respectively, as their flag bearers.

The APC is the ruling party with Nasir el-Rufai as the incumbent governor of the state.

Pundits believe that the NNPP is making efforts to woo other smaller political parties to be able to defeat APC and PDP.

They also argued that the economic woes, insecurity and other challenges that had characterised the APC government at the national level might also be a factor that would determine where the people of Kaduna State would cast their ballot.

According to a chieftain of NNPP, Ibrahim Mohammed, NNPP has advantage over PDP and APC in the 2023 elections. He claimed that the two dominant political parties had derailed the economy of the country and disappointed the masses.

“The membership of both the ruling APC and PDP is getting slimmer by the day. They have derailed the economy of this country and chaos is everywhere.

“The APC under Buhari has sincerely failed in its promises. Fuel queues have refused to go away and the price hiked.

“The masses are desperately looking for a way out of the present quagmire and the NNPP under the leadership of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is out to provide this remedy. This unfortunate reality will surely be a major factor that will draw votes to NNPP in Kaduna as well as other states in Nigeria,” he stated.

A political analyst, Daniel Baba, said majority of Christians in the state might not vote for APC because of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the party, both in the state and at the national level.

Baba said, “Some politicians think that the 2023 elections will be business as usual but they are getting it wrong. I can tell you for free that the dynamics are changing and people are getting wiser. A major factor in the Kaduna governorship election will be religion and people are already saying that they won’t vote Muslim-Muslim ticket.

“I am aware that the governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, has picked Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s deputy, as his running mate. Both of them are Muslims. For them, they don’t have a problem since El-Rufai already did that and even won.

“You would recollect that in 2019, Governor El-Rufai won the election on a Muslim-Muslim ticket when he picked Dr. Balarabe as his running mate, defeating his main opponent, Hon. Ashiru of the PDP who ran with Hon. Sunday Katung from Southern Kaduna.”

“But things may change because this is even a time Christians are already disenchanted with the Tinubu-Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket, and in Kaduna, it’s repeating itself. Christian voters may not want to vote APC in Kaduna,” he argued.

PROTEST VOTE LOOMS IN SOUTH EAST

In the South East states of Enugu and Abia, pressure is mounting on the old major parties of APC and PDP. Before now, PDP used to be the dominant party in the region. That time is gone. The fear today is that there could be a protest vote against the two major political parties.

With Imo and Ebonyi in the hands of APC and Anambra being ruled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance, PDP’s sphere of influence has diminished considerably.

The failure of the PDP to respect the zoning system, which the party is known for in choosing its presidential candidate, has turned the party to an orphan in the entire region.

Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State have stood firm with their colleague governor, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. They are among the five governors that shunned the party’s campaign opener in Uyo. The same call for a South East presidential candidate was also demanded from the ruling APC by its members from the zone.

Besides, the growing influence of the APGA in the region, following the victory of Charles Soludo in Anambra, is a major factor against the PDP and APC.

Samuel Onyekeruo, a political analyst, argued that the 2023 gubernatorial elections would not be anchored on the presidential candidates of the parties. He said candidates would be judged by their personalities and achievements or failures.

“If you know how people vote in the South East, you would agree with me that the governorship candidates don’t depend on the presidential candidates of their parties to win elections. It’s true that before now, PDP was in control of Enugu and Abia States, in fact the South East states, but I can boldly tell you that the case is going to be different.

“One of the reasons is the advent of Peter Obi and his Labour Party. Forget the purported attacks on the party in the zone. On that very day, the people know who and where they will vote for,” he noted.

“If you don’t know, both APC and PDP are no more popular in the zone. I would not be surprised if top PDP and APC members would work underground for the LP and APGA to ensure that their candidates are victorious. The reason is not because of Peter Obi or making LP an Igbo party, rather the squabbles in both APC and PDP would be the reason.

“If you know how people vote in the South East, you would agree with me that the governorship candidates don’t depend on the presidential candidates of their parties to win elections. It’s true that before now, PDP was in control of Enugu and Abia States, in fact the South East states, but I can boldly tell you that the case is going to be different”

TWO-HORSE RACE IN LAGOS

In Lagos State, the two leading parties are set to throw everything at their disposal into winning the election in March.

However, analysts seem to have written the opposition PDP off. The argument being that if there was any state that the APC and its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu would do everything to secure, it is Lagos.

Former Minister of Works and Housing, Adeseye Ogunlewe, confidently believes that the other parties are non-starters.

For Lagos, Ogunlewe believes that five factors will determine the victory of any candidate.

He said, “First is the candidate, second is the manifesto of the candidate, third is the membership of the party, that is how many members do you have in your party? Four and five is money. All of them depend on how much money they have. What percentage, which arms of government do you control? Like Lagos, the party that controls all the 57 local governments’ chairmen, all the supervisory counsellors, the market women, the students, almost everybody belongs to APC. So when you are talking, tell us where you are deriving your strength from.

“Some people are saying the youths, if you noticed what happened in Lagos on Saturday, the number of youths Seyi Tinubu was able to muster is incredible. So, you have to work harder, don’t assume that I am popular, we are going to win, there’s nothing like that in an election. You have to be on your toes till the last day, working, because anything can happen.”

However, the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State, Abdul-Azeez Adediran (Jandor) has promised that residents will be happy and grateful to God if he emerges winner of 2023.

Adediran and his running mate, Funke Akindele, on Wednesday, flagged off a three -day campaign in the Alimosho Local Government area of Lagos State, touring various wards and markets.

Adediran, while addressing the party’s supporters after a rousing welcome at the PDP Secretariat in Alimosho on Friday to round off his tour of the council, said that his team had prepared to run a humane government that would prioritise masses’ interests.

NOT YET UHURU FOR PDP IN DELTA

With Friday’s verdict of the Supreme Court, it is now clear that the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, flying the PDP flag, will be going head-to-head with the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC.

That the two contestants are from Delta Central will make the rest two senatorial zones the battle grounds. And whereas Oborevwori enjoys the full support of the state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, the bitterly fought legal tussle in the party may take a long time to heal.

On Sunday, a chieftain of the party came out to vow that the Delta State PDP must be weaned of all forms of impunity.

In a press statement, Aghwarianovwe Novwe Ikie, a legal practitioner and politician, said, “I want the public to know that it is not yet uhuru for those that set out to dubiously select the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate. That David Edevbie lost his appeal at the Supreme Court does not mean that this matter is ended.

“I am now the last man standing. I am the innocuous little challenger of little consequence. No retreat, no surrender! I have, on 13/10/2022, commenced another matter at the Federal High Court, Abuja by way of Writ of Summons on the eligibility of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori to contest the Primary. Both Sheriff Oborevwori and I, as political gladiators, shall certainly have our day in court. In court, there shall be no hiding place for any. It shall be a bare knuckle fight.”

SAFEGUARDING CROSS RIVER’S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

In Cross Rivers State, it would be a battle of keeping the territory from being invaded as it were by external influence.

Governor of River State, Nyesom Wike, has been alleged to be leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Senator Sandy Onor, from the Central Senatorial District of the state emerges. And to get that done, he would have to tame Governor Ben Ayade who defected from the PDP to APC. Ayade on his part has ensured the emergence of a Southern Senatorial District candidate, Bassey Otu. In the final analysis, it would be eyeball to eyeball between the two governors.

A chieftain of the APC in the state, Utuk Esiere, put it succinctly thus: “For Governor Ayade, a lot is at stake. Will he allow the PDP to stage a comeback in the state? Will he allow an external influence to determine who emerges as his successor? Will he allow the zoning arrangement to be discarded just like that? These are the issues at stake in the coming guber contest in the state.”