After February 25 2023 elections upsets: It’s battle royale as governors, parties fight to retain states

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INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu

…Ganduje, Wike, Sanwo-Olu walk tight ropes

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 ‘…APC’ll may lose in Benue if PDP, LP work together’

Following the upsets recorded in most states during the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections, today’s governorship and state assembly polls may be more like ‘a fight to finish’ for some governors seeking re-election, those who are completing their tenures and have anointed successors, as well as other candidates and their political parties; ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU notes in this report.

Most states in Nigeria will today vote to elect governors and members of the House of Assembly. Permutations in different quarters indicate that it won’t be a walk in the park for most of the candidates, including incumbent governors seeking re-election, and others who have preferred candidates to succeed them.

These permutations are based on the outcomes of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections in states such as Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, Delta, Lagos, Oyo, Abia, Enugu, Kwara, Benue, Adamawa and Taraba.

The results of the first leg of the 2023 general elections in various states as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated that although the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) still enjoyed the goodwill of Nigerians, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may still be acceptable, others like the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) had gained grounds in some of the major parties’ previous strongholds.

While the LP made surprising in-roads in the Southern parts of the country, the NNPP did quite some damage in Kano state, a major stronghold of the ruling APC. This is as parties like YPD and ADC also made appreciative showings in some states.

Expectedly, today’s elections in most states would be contests among the APC, PDP, LP, and NNPP. Some schools of thought believe that the two-week gap between the first and second elections may have provided opportunities for candidates and their political parties to assess and analyse their performances and work to surmount the hurdles before them as they return for the second round of voting.

Will NNPP still down APC in Kano?

Kano state was one of the states where a major upset was witnessed during the February 25 polls; hence the governorship and state assembly elections are expected to be ‘survival of the fittest.’

Former governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who was the presidential candidate of the NNPP, had won the election in the state having polled 997,279 votes to defeat his closest rival, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the APC, who polled 517, 341.

Similarly, the two parties split the seats in the National Assembly with NNPP winning more seats.

Blueprint Weekend checks revealed that the governorship contest would likely between the candidate of the NNPP, Abba Kabir, who is the son-in-law to former governor and leader of the Kwankwasiyya movement, Senator Kwankwaso, and the incumbent deputy governor, Dr. Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, who is running on the platform of the APC and who’s believed to have been anointed by the incumbent governor.

It follows that the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduji, and the ruling APC would go all out to ensure that they don’t lose the governorship election in addition to securing the majority seats in the House of Assembly.

Little wonder that the two parties have been at daggers-drawn and pointing fingers at each other over alleged moves to rig the elections and cause violence in the state.

However, some political observers insist that the major hurdles before these candidates would be how they had mobilised their supporters and ensured that they participated in the elections peacefully.

According to them, there are over three million eligible voters that didn’t turn out for the first elections whose participation in today’s elections could sway votes in favour of either candidate.

It is also believed that an alliance with a former governor of Kano, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, could also sway votes in favour and/or against either the APC or NNPP.

For political analyst Aminu Mohammed, the NNPP will no doubt give the ruling APC a good fight.

Speaking in a phone interview with Blueprint Weekend, Mohammed said his only appeal to stakeholders in Kano and beyond is to allow the elections to be free, fair, and peaceful.

He said, “Today’s governorship poll in Kano will be a repeat of what played out in 2019. The only difference now is that the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was on the ballot then.

“The contest is between Kwankwaso’s group rooting for Kabir and Ganduje’s group rooting for Gawuna. So, the power of incumbency will be limited.

“In this case, two neutral candidates from the two major political parties in Kano are seeking fresh support in terms of votes to lead the state. So many factors will determine the winner.

“These factors include: the Tinubu factor; the rating of Ganduje and Kwankwaso among the electorate; Islamic/religious leaders and traditional institutions influence on stakeholders.”

PDP’s threat to APC in Kaduna

In Kaduna, the battle is expected to be between the major political parties, the APC and PDP. Senator Uba Sani is flying the flag of the ruling APC, while the major opposition party, PDP, has Isah Mohammad Ashiru Kudan as its governorship candidate.

Under Governor Nasir el Rufai’s watch and despite the performance of his administration in the state, APC lost the three senatorial districts to the PDP in the February 25 polls.

In the same vein, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP swept the polls in Kaduna with 554,360 votes, beating his closest rival, the candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Tinubu, who polled 399,293 votes.

Pundits believe that with the outcome of the first leg of the elections the governorship election in Kaduna could still go either the way of the PDP or APC.

For some analysts, regional and tribal sentiments worked in favour of Atiku, while others believe that insecurity in the state and el-Rufai’s unending rift with the people of Southern Kaduna, especially the Christian community, contributed greatly.

However, there appears to be a consensus that the main hurdle before the PDP candidate is to effectively rally the opposition. While the APC’s Sani/Balarabe would either work for or against the chances of the ruling party.

Speaking on the expected outcome of the election in Kaduna, Mohammed said from the results of the presidential and national assembly elections, Kaduna would likely be taken by the PDP.

He said, “The PDP candidates that won 10 out of the 16 federal constituency seats, leaving APC with four and LP with two, will no doubt work to deliver their various constituencies to the party today.

“Also, the PDP ticket will appeal to Muslims and Christians, unlike the APC ticket which is Muslim-Muslim ticket. However, the opposition party is divided, and the PDP needs to work hard to get block votes from Southern Kaduna to defeat the APC.”

It’s clash of titans in Benue, Kwara

In the North-central, the two states where the contest would be tough are Benue and Kwara which are currently under the leadership of the PDP and the APC respectively.

If one were to go by the result of the presidential election, then Benue state would be given to the APC.

This is coupled with the fact that the APC candidate, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, is well known and respected in the state; a factor believed to have accumulated in the party’s candidate, Tinubu, winning the state with 310,468 votes defeating his closest rival, the candidate of the LP, Obi, who polled 308, 372.

The Benue state governorship poll, like the presidential election, appears to be a three-horse race between Fr. Alia of the APC, Herman Hembe of the LP, and Titus Uba of the PDP.

The feeling amongst the people is whether or not the PDP and LP can work together to defeat the APC. Pundits believe that failure of both parties to work together would give victory to the APC and possibly widen the gap compared to what happened during the last election.

Saraki seeks comeback in Kwara

In Kwara state, today’s election is perceived in some quarters as an important test for the immediate past President of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s political dynasty.

Though the APC won the state with 263,572 votes against PDP which polled 136,909 votes in the last elections the internal rift within APC in Kwara may be a huge stumbling block to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq’s chances of securing a second term.

Our correspondent’s checks showed that the governor, however, is counting on a repeat of the February 25 feat, especially as beneficiaries of the national assembly elections are expected to largely influence the outcome of the governorship election.

The governor has to also deal with the alliance between the LP and PDP as announced by the LP governorship candidate, Comrade Basambo Abubakar, in Ilorin.

The LP in Kwara state has decided to align political forces with the PDP and work together in the governorship election, just as the two parties would form a unity government if they emerged victorious.

Abubakar added that the union was expected to birth a collective dream for a prosperous Kwara state.

However, a Kwara state-based political analyst, who is also the executive director of Societal Safety Network (SSN), Ambassador Abdulrahman Agboola, insists that the results of the presidential and national assembly elections project the APC to win in today’s poll.

“The bandwagon of APC’s victory in the last election, people’s rating of the governor’s performance and the power of incumbency, religious leaders, internal and external party crises can sway votes in favour or against the APC and PDP candidates,” he said.

Will coalitions sway victories in Adamawa, Taraba?

In North-east states like Adamawa and Taraba, the major political parties PDP, APC, LP, and NNPP have formed coalitions ahead of today’s elections.

In Taraba state, the major contenders for the governorship seat in the state include the candidates of the PDP, Kefas Agbu; that of the APC, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha; for NNPP, Prof Sani Yahaya; and LP, Senator Joel Ikenya.

In Adamawa state, the candidates are: Asidhatu Dahiru Binani of APC (the only female candidate); Engr. Umar Mustapha of LP, and the incumbent governor, Ahamadu Umaru Fintri, of the PDP.

Pundits, however, have noted that regardless of who won in these states during the last elections, zoning, tribe, and religion would play a major role in determining the outcome of today’s polls.

The battle for Lagos

In Lagos state, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the LP and Abdul-Azeez Adeniran of the PDP are taking on the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The contest is expected to be the most competitive election in the Centre of Excellence given that governorship elections were usually predictable. Things, however, took a different turn during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, with the LP Candidate, Obi, defeating the acclaimed architect of modern Lagos, and APC candidate, Tinubu.

Though Obi is not on the ballot this time, there is palpable tension among members of the ruling party in the state as pundits believe those who voted for him are likely to vote for LP’s candidate in today’s polls.

However, Blueprint Weekend’s investigations have indicated that other sentiments like religion and ethnicity would also go a long way in determining the outcome of the governorship poll in the state.

In the same vein, some analysts have given the governor an edge given his experience, power of incumbency, and track record in office.

Speaking on what to expect in Lagos state today, a former Commissioner for Information in Edo state, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said the experience would guide Lagosians in electing who will govern them for another four years.

According to Afegbua, who spoke while featuring on national television recently, “In terms of infrastructure development and opening of Lagos to the gap of the contemporary modern society, Sanwo-Olu’s performance will give him an easy victory.

“I am not worried by the sentiments people are carrying about the Labour Party and all of that. We need to know the antecedents of the LP candidate.

“Lagos is a serious business. It is the hub of Nigeria’s economy. And I think even in Africa, Lagos’s economy is ranked as the fourth or fifth. And so you must be able to cultivate a governor that has a serious agenda to move the state forward, not starters; those who just want to prance on the wave of the moment.”

Makinde’s troubles

In Oyo state, Governor Seyi Makinde of the PDP is in an all-out struggle to secure a second term in office, especially following the outcome of the presidential election in the state. The governorship contest is no doubt between the incumbent and Senator Teslim Folarin of the APC.

Some pundits have argued that though Makinde, who is part of the G-5 PDP governors led by the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, did not openly declare support for the APC presidential candidate against his party’s flag-bearer, Atiku, there were instances that suggested that he worked for the APC leading to the opposition party’s victory in Oyo. Tinubu won the presidential election in the state, polling 449,884 votes, while Atiku polled 182,977 votes.

Consequently, Makinde appears to be carrying the heavy burden of working against the interest of his party. So, the major hurdle before him is how to pacify the aggrieved party members and the external forces that are working against him.

In a bid to secure his mandate Makinde has met with a series of groups and individuals in the state, but political analysts are of the belief that the victory of the APC at the national level may influence the outcome of the governorship election in the state.

Epic battles in Rivers, Delta

Another epic battle in today’s elections would likely be between LP, PDP in Rivers and Delta states. The upset pulled off by the LP in Rivers and Delta states during the presidential and national assembly elections have put the PDP and APC governorship and state assembly candidates on their toes.

Although APC won the presidential election in Rivers, LP grabbed Delta from the PDP. So, it’s believed that today’s election would be tough in these states as the candidates would do everything possible to emerge victorious

In Rivers, the candidates are: Tonye Cole of APC, Siminialayi Fubara of PDP, and Beatrice Itubo of LP. For Delta, they are: Ken Pela of LP, Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege of APC, and Sheriff Oborevwori of PDP

The elections in these states would be quite interesting and the two states have quite a number of Igbo; so, a candidate with a huge support base, financial war chest, and the support of the Igbo may win in the aforementioned states.

 Ebonyi, Enugu

In Ebonyi, it’s a contest among APC, PDP, and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), just as the four political parties battle for Enugu state. Going by the presidential and national assembly elections outcomes, the governorship election in Ebonyi would not be a walk in the park for the incumbent governor and his new party, the APC.

The election would be a three-horse race among the governorship candidate of the ruling APC, Francis Nwifuru; PDP, Ifeanyi Odii, and the candidate of APGA, Prof. Ben Odoh, 

In Enugu, it would be between four political parties and candidates: Frank Nweke Jr. of APGA; Uche Nnaji of APC; Chijioke Edeoga of LP; and Peter Mbah of PDP.

In these states, today’s governorship election is expected to be shaped significantly by zoning, incumbency, party spread, and dominance.

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