Political titans battle in Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, others

Gov aspirantsThe governorship and State House of Assembly elections are scheduled to hold today, April 11, 2015 across Nigeria.

But the governorship elections will only hold in 29 states in the country excluding Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kogi, Anambra, Bayelsa and the Federal Capital Territory. The elections will be a follow-up to the presidential and National Assembly elections which held two weeks ago and threw up a few surprises.

The biggest surprise was the unprecedented defeat of the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) of the All Progressives Congress, the first time in the history of the country’s young democracy that a sitting president would lose in an election.

Of the 29 states where governorship elections are expected to hold today, 17 are in the hands of PDP while the remaining 12 are under APC governments.

PDP used to be the dominant party in the country until a merger between the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, the Congress for Progressive Change and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance brought up APC.

The last presidential and National Assembly elections showed the increasing popularity of APC in the country. Therefore, there are indications that the governorship elections will throw up stiff competitions across the country, with some states having stiffer battles than others based on the strengths of candidates and the dynamics of the states.

Lagos

Lagos State is Nigeria’s economic capital and is expected to have one of the most keenly contested polls. The state has never been won by the PDP.

It is home to a national leader of the APC, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu, and therefore seen as a stronghold of the party.

The two main candidates in the contest are APC’s Akinwunmi Ambode and PDP’s Jimi Agbaje. There were originally 15 governorship candidates in the state but only five are left after 10 others stepped down for Ambode.

Although, in the 2011 governorship election in the state, Agbaje lost out to the incumbent governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who will be rounding off his second term in office by May 2015. However, his chances look brighter this time around against a fellow rookie.

Meanwhile, the contest is unpredictable as reactions from a cross section of residents in the state show that voters are almost evenly split between the two main candidates.

Adamawa

In Adamawa State, the incumbent governor, Bala Ngilari will not be participating in the election, leaving room for Senator Jibrilla Bindo of the APC and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the PDP, who are seen as the main contenders.

Incidentally, Ribadu was the presidential candidate of the defunct ACN in the 2011 elections after becoming famous as the pioneer Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, an anti-graft agency.

In August 2014, Ribadu defected to the PDP from APC with the intention to run for the governorship of Adamawa State. Ironically, his foremost contender, Bindo, was formally a member of the PDP who went the other way.

Ribadu may be more popular than his foremost contender but Bindo is not without political clout having won the senatorial seat for Adamawa North district under the PDP platform in 2011. Bindo is currently the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Army.

The battle between these two politicians is also expected to be a close one.

Rivers

Rivers State has probably been in the news for political reasons more than any other state in the last two years and its governor, Rotimi Amaechi and the presidency are often at the centre of such reports.

Following a dispute between Amaechi and the presidency, particularly President Jonathan and his wife, Patience, there has been political tension in the state.

Although Amaechi, who has since defected from the PDP to APC, is not contesting in the governorship election, he is rooting for his party’s candidate, Dakuku Peterside. The PDP candidate, Nyesom Wike, was Amaechi’s Chief of Staff before the two fell out.

APC is the ruling party in the state but Wike, who is also a former Minister of State for Education, is expected to pose a strong challenge to Amaechi’s candidate, having had the backing of Mrs. Jonathan, who announced him as the next Rivers State Governor several times.

Mrs. Jonathan, who is also from Rivers State, has been involved in partisan politics in the state.

On the other hand, Peterside, a native of Biriye, Opobo Kingdom, is a member of House of Representatives and also the Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream).

In spite of APC being the ruling party in the state, the last Presidential and National Assembly elections showed that the PDP still has overwhelming popularity in the state.

However, like Amaechi and the governor before him, Dr. Peter Odili, Wike is also of Ikwerre ethnic nationality and this may count against him in some quarters. Some people in the state have been calling for rotational governorship as only Ikwerre persons have governed the state since this democratic dispensation commenced in 1999.

Oyo

The contest in Oyo State will also be tough with two former governors of the state, Senator Rashidi Ladoja (Accord Party) and Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala (Labour Party), vying to return to the position by scuttling APC’s Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s second term bid.

A two-time senator, who rose to become Senate leader between 2007 and 2011, Teslim Folarin of the PDP and Seyi Makinde of the Social Democratic Party are also in the race, but residents of the state are generally of the opinion that the election will be won by one of the other three candidates mentioned.

Kaduna

Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, who used to be the deputy Governor of Kaduna State, was sworn in as governor in December 2012 after the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa in an air crash.

Today, he will be contesting under the platform of the PDP against Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and staunch member of the APC.

El-Rufai and his party are becoming increasingly popular in Kaduna but running against a sitting governor in Nigeria is always a tough task. Therefore, the contest in Kaduna State is expected to be close even though Buhari won with a wide margin in the Presidential election in the state.

Sokoto

The governorship election in Sokoto State is expected to be intriguing with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal (APC) battling it out with his brother-in-law, who is also a former senator and senate leader, Ambassador Abdallah Wali (PDP).

Wali reportedly introduced Tambuwal to national politics when he appointed him as senior legislative assistant in 1999.

The two candidates are the strongest contestants in the election and it is expected that one of them becomes the state’s next governor. Although, Tambuwal enjoys the support of Governor Aliyu Wamakko, who is also an APC member, Wali has been in politics longer than Tambuwal.

The contest is also expected to be stiff.

Imo

In Imo State, the popularity of Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha (APC) has had some question marks lately, but residents still expect a keen governorship contest in the state. Okorocha’s biggest contender is Hon. Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, who is currently the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.

Ihedioha contested and won as a member representing Aboh-Mbasie-Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency of Imo State in 2003.

Between 2003 and 2007, he served as Chairman, House committee on Marine Transport. The two contestants stand tall above the rest but there appears to be no clear gap between them, making it another close one.

Abia

Abia State has three main candidates: Okezie Ikpeazu (PDP); Alex Otti (APGA) and Anyim Nyerere (APC).

With PDPs stronghold in Abia, Ikpeazu is seen by residents as probably the strongest of the three.

Otti, an economist, banker, investor and the immediate past Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc, is however expected to give the PDP candidate a run for his money in spite of a recent setback he suffered in his party.

Earlier in the week, a faction of APGA in the state dumped Otti and instead adopted Ikpeazu, citing some internal crises in the state chapter of the party. Some political analysts say this may affect Otti’s chances but no one knows if it will be enough to cost him the governorship seat.

Nyerere, a former PDP chieftain in the state before his defection to the APC, is also expected to make the contest stiffer.

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