The outcome of the 2019 elections in many of the 36 states of the federation will be determined largely by the raging power play between state governors and senators wishing to return to the Red Chambers, according to an investigation conducted by The Nation.
Be it Akwa Ibom, Benue, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Yobe or Zamfara, the story is the same in various states with its many plots, subversions, conspiracies and disappointments.
The degree of disaffection between the gladiators may differ but no state is spared the bitter political manoeuvrings.
For the gladiators, it is all about battle for political survival.
Nobody wants to be outdone. You either throw everything and anything into the battle to remain relevant or you get swept aside.
The recently concluded primary elections merely brought to the fore what had been going on behind the curtains over the last three years or so.
In some states, the battle ground has shifted to Abuja for the intervention of the party’s national leadership, while in others, it is the courts that are being asked to adjudicate.
Take the hostility between Governor Abdulaziz Yari and the Senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabiru Garba Marafa, for example. The recently concluded All Progressives Congress (APC) primary in the state worsened what observers described as a lingering personality clash between Yari and Marafa.
Observers say Marafa’s disagreement with Yari may have been fuelled by the controversial motions he sponsored on the floor of the Senate about the handling of banditry in Zamfara State. The Zamfara Central senator has been ceaseless in his criticism of Yari’s handling of incessant attacks by bandits in the state. For him, Yari failed woefully in dealing decisively with bandits who kill, maim and terrorise the state.
Marafa also opposed a petition by governor Yari to the Senate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee for the position of Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). President Buhari reportedly nominated Ahmad Bello Mahmud, but Yari asked the Senate to turn down the nominee. Yari, in his petition, claimed that the nominee does not hail from Zamfara State.
Marafa on his part was enraged and prayed the Senate to ignore the petition and confirm the nominee, saying that Yari himself did not hail from Zamfara State. The nominee was temporarily rejected, but President Buhari later renominated Mahmud.
In June, the Senate, acting in concert with Marafa’s insistence, confirmed the nominee. The confirmation of Mahmud did not go down well with Governor Yari. No doubt, Yari was waiting patiently for an opportune time to extract a pound of flesh from Marafa.
In May this year, Governor Yari and Marafa held parallel congresses at ward, local government and state levels. The parallel congresses produced two executives in Zamfara chapter of the APC.
And the just concluded primaries did not help matters. While Marafa showed interest for APC governorship ticket, Yari endorsed his commissioner of Finance, Mukhtar Shehu Idris. It was not surprising that Marafa teamed up with eight other governorship aspirants, including Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala, a former Governor of the State, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi to battle Yari over his choice of Idris. The development forced the APC not to conduct primaries in the state.
Last week, a protest by Governor Yari’s supporters took place in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital. The protesters who came in their numbers demanded the sack of the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
But Marafa promptly dismissed the protest as the handiwork of Yari. For him, it is Yari who should be expelled from the APC and not Oshiomhole. On Monday, Marafa issued a damning statement listing 10 alleged misdeeds of Governor Yari and why the governor should be immediately sacked from the APC.
Observers are of the belief that the outcome of the 2019 elections in Zamfara State will be determined by Yari and Marafa’s face-off.
The no love lost between Governor Samuel Ortom and his estranged godfather, Senator George Akume, will surely impact on the 2019 elections in the state. The defection of Ortom from the APC to the PDP is seen by many as the defining moment of politics in the state.
Before his defection, Ortom had claimed that the APC in the state had given him a red card. While it was not clear who actually gave him the red card, observers believed that the governor was referring to Akume.
Akume, a former governor of the state and the senator representing Benue North-West, has already taken sides with Hon. Emmanuel Jime as the governorship candidate of APC in the state.
The two gladiators have been fighting dirty with their supporters applauding them. While Akume accused Ortom of misrule and squandering the resources of the state, Ortom has challenged Akume to showcase his achievements in his 11 years as a senator “instead of castigating me at every opportunity.”
Ortom said: “Akume should showcase his score card. He has been in the Senate for more than 11 years and the constituents want to hear what he has done. He appears obsessed with abusing me every minute. That is not what the people want to hear.”
The governor, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Mr Tahav Agerzua, added: “The man (Akume) keeps insulting me at every turn. But while he is raising questions about me, more questions are being raised about whether he has been an asset or a liability to the people.”
The governor also criticised a situation where politicians arrogate divine powers to themselves, saying only God has the power to decide the fate of any man.
“Nobody should boast that he can make someone governor. Only God can do that. Mr Aper Aku became the first civilian governor of Benue without anyone’s support. Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu moved from the church to Government House without a political godfather. So, it is wrong for anyone to claim that he made me governor and could unseat me,” Ortom insisted.
Akume fired back, describing Ortom as a non-performer who was allegedly parading a fake doctoral degree. He also accused the governor of running the Social Investment Programme in the state like his family entity.
For Akume, Ortom needed to be voted out of power in 2019 in the interest of the state.
“Ortom said he has PhD from the Commonwealth University of Berlin, but there is nothing like Commonwealth University. At least, I am a graduate of the University of Ibadan, where I bagged my first and second degrees. I am also a fellow of the Institute of Management and I have honorary PhD from the University of Jos.
“He said I was a protocol officer while he was a local government chairman and that I served him. I never saw Ortom in the Government House that period.
“He is saying I never won an election, but I won an election in 1999, he (Ortom) was in SDP. Also in 2003 when I moved to ACN, I also won elections, but in the last election, Ortom lost in his local government. When I was building PDP, where was Ortom?” Akume asked.
Akume also accused Ortom of always insulting President Muhammadu Buhari at the slightest opportunity. He challenged Ortom to clear the backlog of salaries owed workers and pensioners in the state, who, he said, were dying of hunger.
Former Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio’s defection from the PDP to the APC was like a bolt from the blue. The defection unsettled political calculations in the state and more or less put the PDP in the state in disarray.
While the APC has continued to celebrate the big catch, the PDP went back to the drawing board. Although Governor Emmanuel Udom has dismissed Akpabio’s defection as a non-issue, he knows that the Akwa Ibom North West senator cannot be taken for granted.
Akpabio, a two time governor of Akwa Ibom State, is regarded as a political master strategist. He has pledged to take the people of Akwa Ibom State and the South South to the centre for meaningful visibility.
Akpabio, whoe left the opposition PDP to APC at a mega rally held at the Ikot Ekpene township stadium, told the cheering crowd at the rally that he decided to join APC because he discovered that President Muhammadu Buhari “is a man of integrity and a nationalist.’’
He added that he decided to join a party that would sweep away poverty and impunity.
“The country is at war and all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation and not to aggravate it. As keepers of national emergency, everyone should put heads together. I decided to join to emancipate the people and provide succour for the people,’’ Akpabio told the huge crowd.
For him, the PDP of today has no vision and the leadership is replete with arrogance.
It not clear yet how Akpabio will achieve his promise of delivering Akwa Ibom State to the APC in 2019.
Udom and his supporters are no pushovers either. The 2019 elections will certainly be interesting in the state. Akwa Ibom State, observers say, will be one of the states to watch. Others described the state as one of the battle grounds.
The shape of the 2019 elections has been designed. The signs of mayhem are clear in some states. The race though, may not be for the swiftest.
The story of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, is not just about a leader and follower but two close associates, friends and brothers.
But that was before their relationship turned sour not long after Ganduje assumed office. Over the last few years, the situation degenerated further and further until Kwankwaso left the APC for the PDP.
Kwankwaso, who is seeking a return to the Senate from Kano Central on the platform of his new party, will be too glad to stop Ganduje from getting a second term as governor, and he is said to be ready to do everything in his power to make that happen.
Ganduje on his part is determined to demystify Kwankwaso in Kano politics and ensure that the former governor fails at the polls. He has a common ally in another former governor of the state, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who defected from the PDP to APC soon after Kwankwaso came over.
Shekarau, an immensely popular politician in his own right, will be contesting the same Kano Central Senatorial District election with Kwankwaso. Pundits believe that Kwankwaso’s chance of returning to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly looks slim, following Shekarau’s entry into the race.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is on record as saying that he was not aware that the Senator representing Ondo North, Prof Ajayi Boroffice, was a member of the APC. And that position seems to have informed his opposition to, and rejection of Boroffice’s bid for a return to the Senate.
Their quarrel is a fallout of the 2016 governorship primary of their party which favoured Governor Akeredolu among other numerous aspirants, including Senator Boroffice.
Soon after the APC primary, Chief Olusola Oke, who was one of those who contested the party’s ticket, switched to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Akeredolu’s supporters accused Boroffice of working for Oke in the election.
The accusation has refused to go away with the APC leadership in the state alienating the senator from the affairs of the party. The party soon got factionalised in the state ahead of just concluded primaries.
The faction loyal to the governor, in picking its senatorial candidates, settled for Dr. Tunji Abayomi (Ondo North), Chief Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) and Lucky Ayedatiwa (Ondo South).
The list was, however, thrown out by the National Working Committee (NWC) which then proceeded to give the three sitting senators—Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North), Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) and Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South)—the nod to re-contest.
The list from the NWC shocked the APC State EXCO, particularly the emergence of Boroffice, who they regard as a non-member of the party.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi wants to return to the Senate from Oyo Central District at the expense of the incumbent, Adesoji Akanbi. Ajimobi represented the zone between 2003 and 2007. He was elected governor in 2011 and 2015.
Akanbi defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to African Democratic Congress (ADC) last month soon after Ajimobi picked the APC ticket during the primary.
The two contenders are neighbours in Oluyole Estate, Ibadan. While Ajimobi hails from Ibadan South West Local Government, Akanbi is from Ibadan North West Local Government. The two had enjoyed a cordial relationship until the governor signified his intention to take over Akanbi’s seat last year. Akanbi had dropped his governorship ambition earlier in the year to concentrate on returning to the Senate.
The district comprises the six inner city local governments in Ibadan and the three local governments in Ibarapa.
As the electorate await February 16, 2019 to cast their votes, whoever wins between the two major candidates will celebrate an endorsement of his leadership. The result will be a judgment of Ajimobi’s eight-year administration and four years of Akanbi’s representation.
If the governor wins, based on the strength of his party, his achievements and popularity, it will amount to positive signals for the APC governorship candidate, Bayo Adelabu, in the governorship election coming afterwards. If Ajimobi loses, it will be interpreted as a rejection of his leadership and his party, APC. This may also have a negative effect on the governorship election.
Oyo South Senatorial district has the highest population among the three districts in the state. This is due to the huge voting population of the Ibadan inner city councils. For this reason, those councils will be the battleground for the two major candidates and others jostling for the seat.
Ajimobi won in most of the nine local governments in his 2015 election. Akanbi also defeated his closest contender in the election, Sen. Olufemi Lanlehin, in most of the councils in the same election. He defeated Lanlehin with over 50,000 votes to win the race. But whether the popularity is of the party or the individual contenders will be determined in the 2019 election.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Adebayo Lawal, will also have his popularity and that of his party tested in the race.
Governor Nyesom Wike is currently practically without a voice in the Senate. His party, PDP, had two senators at the outset of the 8th Senate, but one, George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East), was sacked by the court, paving way for Andrew Uchedu of the APC, while the other, Osinakachukwu Ideozu (Rivers West), defected to the APC on account of differences with the governor.
This time around, Wike will want to throw everything at his disposal into the election to sweep all the three senatorial seats.
His predecessor in office and current Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and his party, APC, are leaving nothing to chance either. They want to win all the elections in the state.
Both gladiators –Wike and Amaechi – are bitter rivals.
The APC believes Wike is using Senator Magnus Abe who wants the party’s governorship ticket to destabilise the party. Abe’s faction got the Supreme Court to invalidate the list of candidates submitted to INEC by the Amaechi faction.
The APC has said that it will conduct fresh primaries to pick its candidates, but it remains to be seen how the damage can be mended between now and the commencement of the elections next year.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of the Peoples Democratic (PDP) and Architect Lola Ashiru of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be slugging it out in Kwara South. The current occupant of the seat, Dr Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim of the PDP, whose tenure expires next year, only had a shot at the seat.
Ahmed emerged through a consensus arrangement. He was affirmed by all delegates from the seven local government areas of Kwara South Senatorial district at the zonal primaries held in Omu Aran.
Before his affirmation as the party’s candidate, others who aspired alongside the governor were the incumbent Senator Ibrahim and a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Gbenga Makanjuola.
Both Hon. Makanjuola and the governor are of Igbomina extraction of Irepodun and Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state, while Senator Ibrahim hails from Ojoku, Oyun Local Government Area.
The governor attributed his emergence to the inclusiveness championed by the Saraki political family in the state.
But the governor’s Igbomina ethnic stock are not comfortable with his emergence as the party’s candidate for Kwara South. Their grouse with him stems from alleged lackluster performance while in office.
An observer of Kwara politics who hails from Kwara South said: “We are waiting for him. This is payback time. Since he has been in office, Kwara Southerners have not felt his impact. Even the governor will be humiliated in Ifelodun Local Government Area where he hails from.
“Maybe he wants to be the senator of Share where he was born. I am confident that we will not vote for him. We will embarrass him at the polls. He has not proved to be our worthy ambassador.”
The APC candidate has been a grassroots politician. He once aspired to be governor of the state. In 2015, he was the Kwara South senatorial candidate of the PDP. He lost to the then Hon. Ibrahim.
Lola Ashiru, according to pundits, stands in good stead to cling the slot. Offa where he hails from is predominantly APC. His political clout in other local government areas of the state is legendary. Besides, given the general disenchantment of Kwara South people with Governor Ahmed’s administration, the odds seem to be in his favour.
What would have been an epic battle between Governor Rochas Okorocha and the serving Senator for Imo West Senatorial zone, Hope Uzodinma, has been averted as the Senator will be contesting the governorship seat on the platform of the APC.
He got the nod over Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, after he was dropped by the National Working Committee of the party.
Senator Uzodinma, who defected to the APC a few months ago, foreclosed his bid for a return ticket to the National Assembly after the Imo governor indicated interest to go to the Senate after serving out his tenure as governor.