March 9: It’s Down To The Wire In Rivers, Ogun, Imo, Benue, Others
The Presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone with as many controversies trailing the outcome as the several crises that characterized the conduct of the exercise in various parts of the country.
Although 73 presidential candidates were fielded by political parties in the election, the exercise was a two horse race, between the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and his opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar.
Many analysts had predicted a win for the incumbent, President Buhari, given the popular support he enjoyed especially in the North from where most of the votes were expected to come. However, others saw his main challenger, Atiku, giving him a good fight in the North had come from the same region as Buhari.
The announcement of Buhari by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the presidential poll, defeating Atiku with about four million votes, put paid to the debate over who between the gladiators was more popular.
The governorship election scheduled for this Saturday, March 9, promises to be even more dramatic, with many unable to predict which direction the pendulum will swing in some states.
While the governorship election will not hold in seven states – Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Bayelsa, Edo, Kogi, and Anambra — the election in Rivers, Ogun, Imo, Kwara and, to a large extent, Benue, will be interesting to watch on Saturday.
Up until his disqualification from the governorship election in Rivers State by the Supreme Court, the APC candidate, Tonye Cole, was poised to present the biggest challenge to the incumbent, Nyesom Wike, of the PDP.
But with the Supreme Court’s decision, the coast appeared clear for the PDP candidate to emerge victorious. However, the emerging scenario in the oil-rich state seems to validate the popular saying that, in politics, it is never over until it is actually over.
If anyone expected the APC in Rivers State to take its disqualification from the race lying low, that was taking a joke too far. The party has thrown its weight behind the African Action Congress (AAC) governorship candidate, Biokpomabo Awara.
According to the APC leader in the state and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, the AAC fits the bill in APC’s quest for a change in the leadership of the state.
On Wednesday, the former Rivers State governor addressed supporters of his party in Eleme asking them to back the AAC governorship candidate.
“This morning, the leadership of the party met and agreed that we would work with a party called the African Action Congress, while we are still in court to reclaim our mandate.
“So, on Saturday, we will vote for the AAC. You must go home and vote for the AAC. There should be no excuse not to vote because there will be security for everybody. You must prepare and make sure you win the governorship election.”
So, in Rivers State, the die is cast and Governor Wike may have to forget the fact that the APC would not be on the ballot and ensure that he does not let his guard down as the electorate head to the poll on Saturday if he wants to avoid the shock of his life.
The Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, may have emerged victorious in his bid to represent Ogun Central in the Senate, beating his closest rival, Solomon Sanyaolu of the PDP with 54,834 votes, his support for the governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Adekunle Akinlade, against the candidate of his own party, Dapo Abiodun, is likely to attract a backlash from APC supporters in the state.
Many voters in the state may be torn between casting their ballot for the APM candidate who is riding on the back of Mr. Amosun, considered by many in the state to have performed well as the governor, and Mr. Abiodun of the APC, which is the party seen to be dominant in Ogun.
Besides, coming from the Ijebu stock which constitutes the majority sub-ethnic group in the state, Mr. Abiodun may win the support of more voters based on this ethnic affiliation, especially given that many Ijebus may not be swayed by the rotational system being championed by Governor Amosun.
However, another dynamics has just evolved in the struggle for who takes over power in the state. The Ladi Adebutu faction of the PDP in the state on Thursday announced its support for the APM candidate, having lost the legal battle with Buruji Kashamu, the PDP candidate recognized by INEC in Ogun State.
How all this will pan out may be difficult to determine until after the election on Saturday.
The scenario in Imo State, South East Nigeria, is similar to what is playing out in Ogun State. Just like the Ogun State governor, Governor Rochas Okorocha insists he remains in APC despite his suspension by the party.
He is also headed for the Senate to represent Imo West Senatorial District having defeated his closest rival, Jones Onyereri, of the PDP.
But he has also thrown his full weight behind his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who is vying to replace him as the state governor, under the platform of the Action Alliance (AA), against the APC candidate, Hope Uzodinma, who has the backing of the APC leadership at the national level.
Some say the division in the APC in Imo State presents the opposition PDP a chance to re-launch itself to reckoning in the state, as many APC supporters would also be turn between voting for Uzodinma of the APC and Nwosu of the AA party. How far the power of incumbency will go in advancing the cause of the AA in the state, remains to be seen.
The North Central State of Kwara also presents an interesting picture. With the uprooting, or so it seems, of the once “undefeatable” Saraki political structure in Kwara State, voters in the state appear prepared to ride on the wave of the “O To Ge” revolution sweeping across the state to dismantle the vestiges of PDP’s hold on power in the state.
Depending on what card the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, may decide to play before Saturday, APC seems set to take over the seat of power in Kwara. But whether this will indeed mark the end of Saraki’s influence in the state’s politics will be determined by what APC does with power if it wins eventually.
In Benue State, an intriguing race is set to come to a head. It is a race that revives old rivalry, one that has pitted friends against each other and forced rivals to close ranks to defeat common foes.
Incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party and Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress are leading candidates in the race.
Their rivalry is not a new one. It started in 2014 when Ortom dumped the PDP for the APC after being defeated in the party’s primary.
Jime who was the leading candidate for the APC primary for the 2015 governorship race suddenly lost his “star” status as APC leaders welcomed Ortom to the party, handed him the ticket and he emerged as governor. Although Ortom’s victory in the primary was challenged legally by Jime and others, he ultimately retained the number one seat in the state.
In the four years since he emerged as governor, however, a lot has changed for Ortom. His relationship with President Buhari deteriorated and collapsed in 2018 on the back of the murderous attacks by suspected herdsmen in the state.
Claiming he had been frozen out of the APC, Ortom returned to the PDP in the same year and fell out with Senator George Akume, who many believe facilitated his rise to power.
Although many have rallied behind the governor for his actions during the killings in the state and for standing up to the Federal Government to the detriment of his relationship with the President, there are many others who are unsatisfied with his performance as governor. The latter group comprises pensioners and others who are being owed salaries.
With the slim victory recorded by PDP in the state during the Presidential poll, Saturday’s election is too close to call and Jime, who many believe was handed a raw deal in 2015, remains in the race with a shout.
Although the APC has control of the reins of power in Lagos, Kaduna, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Oyo, the party is not in a position to take anything for granted if it must retain power in those states. The same is applicable to Delta, Akwa Ibom, Abia and perhaps Cross River States where the PDP is in control.
A lot is at stake in Saturday’s governorship election, especially in the states highlighted here, a situation that has triggered some form of desperation on the part of candidates and their supporters ahead of the polls.
As the countdown to the crucial moment reaches a crescendo, the authorities in charge of security must be on top of their game to ensure Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday without fear.