By Magnus Eze and Sunday Ani
On Saturday, March 11, Nigerians of voting age would once again file out to vote for governors and members, House of assemblies of various states in the country. For those who understand the dynamics of political power, the election especially that of the governors may be tougher than the presidential poll of February 25 because as they say, every politics is local.
The February 25th election was not only marred by gross irregularities on the part of INEC and its officials, but was also tainted by widespread voter suppression, intimidation and violence. Even by its own admission, INEC did not run a free and fair election for the highest office in the land despite numerous assurances that it will do so.
The expectation is that on Saturday, the country will be literally shut down as politicians of various parties take on one another in what promises to be a Mother of all Battles. Many believe that Saturday’s poll would be different because unlike in the past where the contest was usually a two horse race, the battle on March 11 would be among three dominant parties. They include the All Progressives Congress(APC), Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and the Labour Party(LP). There is also the fourth force which is the New Nigeria Peoples Party(NNPP) that is likely to do well in its traditional state of Kano where its presidential candidate, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso remains a dominant politician. Some optimists also believe that the Social Democratic Party(SDP) could improve on its last outing during the presidential and National Assembly polls.
So, expectedly, on Saturday, new governors will be elected for 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states and new lawmakers will also be elected for the Houses of Assembly in the 36 states.
Governorship elections are not holding this time in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Osun and Ondo, as polls to the offices of governors of the states are held off-cycle and not part of the general election.texter
With the number of positions up for contest on Saturday, it is little wonder the fresh anxiety considering that the dust trailing the outcome is yet to settle. In the views of many, the election is about the worst in the history of Nigeria as it fell short of the measurable standard of free, fair and credible election. Those who hold this view anchored it on the widespread manipulation of results, disruption of the election in many polling units across the country by political thugs, inducement of electoral officers and security agents, late arrival of electoral materials in many polling units, which saw some states voting till the early hours of Sunday. Part of the issues raised was that there was allegedly a deliberate attempt or outright refusal to upload and transmit the election results to the INEC server after declaration at the polling units as stipulated by the 2022 Electoral Act among numerous other electoral malfeasances.
But this is even as some people, especially those who the candidates they are supporting won the election, believe the result was a true reflection of the people’s wish, considering the victory of some new political parties in the strongholds of the ruling party across the country. To this group of people, the fact that political parties like the LP, NNPP, ADP and SDP among others were able to upstage major parties like the APC and PDP in their strongholds was enough indication that the election was credible. Their contention is that the only alternative left for those opposed to the outcome of the election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was to approach the court for redress.
So, as Nigerians prepare to go to the polls again on Saturday, there is so much anxiety in the air even as there are expectations of upsets in the outcome.
A civil society organisation, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and SBM Intelligence recently released its election forecast for the March 11, governorship and state houses of assembly polls in 28 states, lamenting that the disconnect of electorates from the lower levels of governance is very unhealthy for democracy in Nigeria.
The group in a survey released on Thursday February 3, 2023 said that the undue focus on the presidency cannot possibly lead to a good outcome for the country as there are layers of governance between three tiers of government – federal, state and local government to facilitate substantive change.
According to the report, citizens have been conditioned to believe that those in-charge of the local government are stooges for the governors, but insisted that “if citizens knew what demands they could place on the local government chairpersons, councillors and ward members, they could press them and spark a chain reaction that would force local governments to operate more autonomously.texter
EiE-SBM Intelligence said its projection was based on the results of the presidential election and other non-quantitative factors such as governance incumbency – basically which party currently runs the state, established voting patterns, party dominance over the three election cycles and the party composition of the state’s representation in the incoming 10th National Assembly.
A total of 8921 people were interviewed in the field regarding the presidential, governorship and legislative elections, EiE stated, adding “We also interviewed 2,613 people on phone. All interviews took place in all 36 states and Abuja.
“For our governorship calls, we have opted to use only responses from the field interviews. Given the fact that there are no governorship races in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun, we expected that there would be a drop-off in the number of respondents for the gubernatorial questions, but we did not expect the drop off to be so great.
“In the 29 states that we asked governorship questions, we had answers in all, but at differing rates. It is only in 11 states, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara, that we had more than 50% of the respondents showing an interest in responding to the governorship elections. While in Taraba, nearly every respondent answered, in Nasarawa, of 216 people polled, only three could be bothered.”
Some of the flash point states include:
All eyes are on Lagos and for obvious reasons. Apart from size in terms of population, the state being the former capital of Nigeria is very strategic in the country because of its huge potential in terms of resources.
On February 25, the former governor of Lagos and now the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, lost his stronghold state for the first time in more than 20 years to Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
It is not surprising that ahead of the March 11 governorship election, many expect upsets to take place.
In Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC is seeking reelection. His main contenders are Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, governorship candidate of the Labour Party; and Abdul-Azeez Adediran, alias Jandor, of PDP.
Rhodes-Vivour, a 40-year-old politician, is an architect, a social and human rights crusader, and a successful businessman. He goes by the nickname “the hopeful Nigerian” or simply by his initials “GRV”.
His journey into the murky waters of politics became pronounced when he contested for the Ikeja Local Government Chairmanship position under the umbrella of the KOWA party in 2007.texter
In 2019, he lost the Lagos West senatorial ticket under the PDP to Senator Adeola Olalekan (Yayi).
Rhodes-Vivour emerged as the Labour Party’s governorship candidate in August 2022 after defecting from the PDP.
Before establishing his own firm in Nigeria, he worked for some of the country’s top architecture firms, including Patrick Waheed Consultants and Consultants Collaborative Partnership.
He aggressively campaigned for Obi, selling the manifesto of “consumption to production,” and free education at the primary and secondary levels, including subsidising it at the tertiary level for Lagos State.
Rhodes-Vivour’s chances of winning the governorship race were brightened after Obi surprised many political pundits by taking the most votes cast at the presidential election in Lagos, defeating Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu’s political mentor and former boss.
Daily Sun gathered that voter intimidation and other electoral malpractices in parts of the state reduced the gap many believe would have increased the votes cast for the three major political parties.texter
The calculation in many quarters is that with Tinubu’s victory at the presidential poll, losing Lagos was just a sacrifice to enable him to get the presidency and later concentrate on getting the states back through the governorship election.
Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran would be banking on the huge youth population, which voted overwhelmingly for Obi but many expect them to drive this same population to come out and cause an upset.
Rivers is another state in the eye of the storm due to the role Governor Nyesom Wike is widely believed to have played during the presidential election that saw Tinubu winning the most votes.
In the calculation of many, the governorship election is between Wike and the growing demand for change from the Labour Party and the APC.
The battle in the estimation of many is between the APC, whose presidential candidate got 231,591 votes, the Labour Party, which got 175,071 votes, the PDP, which got 88,468 votes, and the SDP.texter
Daily Sun findings also show that the SDP candidate, Magnus Abe, as a big force in Rivers has the potential to cause an upset.
However, if all is allowed to function without interference, political power in the state could shift from the ruling party, the PDP, to the Labour Party because of Obi’s influence.
Beatrice Itubo, the candidate of Labour Party, could benefit from the Obi-Datti movement, which is very strong in the state.
Delta is another battleground state considering that the incumbent governor and vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Ifeanyi Okowa would fight for his political survival to produce his successor. The major political actors in the upcoming March 11 governorship election are Pela Kawhariebie Kennedy of the Labour Party, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC, and Sheriff Oborevwori of the ruling PDP.
Kennedy would also be banking on the enthusiasm of the youths who voted massively for the Labour Party in the presidential election. Obi won in the state with 341,866 votes. This is more than the votes garnered by Tinubu and Atiku put together.texter
But there are those who think the governorship election would be different because this time, the election is local and nearer to the grassroots.
Even though Delta is a traditional PDP state but many believe that Omo-Agege, the deputy Senate president of APC, and Kennedy of the LP have the potential to cause an upset because of the general dissatisfaction of Deltans with the performance of Okowa.
With the state having more than 1 million unemployed people, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the calculation is that the Labour Party and APC would be working hard to turn this number in their favour.
Before the February 25, Presidential and National Assembly Elections, the PDP was invincible in Enugu State. The party has controlled the levers of power in the Coal City State for about 24 years.
However, the whole thing changed as the Peter Obi bandwagon coupled with the impunity within the PDP ranks, led to the trouncing of the party. So, one could boldly state even before the March 11 election, that Enugu is no longer a one-party state.texter
Out of the 11 National Assembly seats, Labour Party (LP) cleared seven House of Representatives slots, the PDP managed to win one, while the two senatorial seats already decided were shared apiece by the two political parties. The remaining senatorial seat of Enugu East, would be decided on March 11, the election having been postponed following the brutal murder of the LP candidate, Oyibo Chukwu, barely 48 hours to the election.
It would be a fight to finish as the PDP candidate for Enugu East, former governor Chimaroke Nnamani, had openly campaigned for Bola Ahmed Tinubu Presidency which culminated in his expulsion by his party.
The LP has replaced its slain candidate with his younger brother, Kelvin Chukwu, thereby setting the stage for a titanic battle. Daily Sun reliably gathered that the gruesome killing of Oyibo Chukwu has become a major campaign issue in the state ahead of the governorship poll. Not a few say that it signals the return of bloody politics characterised by killings in the state.
Regardless, the three candidates to watch in the election are: Chijioke Edeoga (LP), Peter Mbah (PDP) and Frank Nweke Jr. (APGA). The candidate of APC, Chief Uchenna Nnaji (Nwakaibie) has continued to struggle with his party’s intractable crises and baggage in Enugu State. In fact, it is only a miracle that would make him come third in the election especially as Enugu people have not hidden their disdain for APC since 2015.
Chijioke Edeoga (LP)
A former Chairman of Isi-Uzo local government council, Edeoga hails from Eha-Amufu. The vastly experienced journalist cum legal practitioner, was once a member of the House of Representatives for Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Federal Constituency (1999-2003) and also a special assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on National Assembly.texter
When Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi became Enugu Governor in 2015, he appointed Edeoga Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; a position he held for long before he was redeployed to the Ministry of Environment.
Edeoga resigned the position to contest for the governorship ticket of the PDP having been widely touted as the governor’s preferred successor. For whatever reasons, he did not get Ugwuanyi’s support to succeed him, hence, he switched over to the Labour Party.
Widely seen as unassuming, the mood of the state today favours Edeoga and his party, LP, to win the governorship and several House of Assembly seats on March 11.
Peter Mbah (PDP)
Mbah was already seen as ‘governor-in-the-waiting’ before the February 25 political tsunami that swept away the ruling PDP in the state.
A known acolyte of a former governor of the state and founder of Ebeano political group, Chimaroke Nnamani, Mbah has been seemingly trying to extricate himself from the political entanglement of Nnamani.texter
But, being a key member of the Nnamani administration, not a few see Mbah as mirror of the former governor; they have continued to tar him with same brush as his mentor.
However, those who are looking at the candidates from the position of merit insist that of the pack, Mbah remains the best candidate based on capacity and exposure. In the estimation of critical observers, he is the ideal candidate that Enugu State requires at this time. The projection is that Enugu needs to upscale in terms of industrialisation and human capital development which only the PDP candidate, an accomplished entrepreneur can bring to bear in the state. Having excelled in the oil industry, analysts believe that he would reposition the state. If he wins the next election, he will be the first private sector operator that will pilot the affairs of the state since 1999.
This is even as many have brought Pinnacle Oil and Gas, the multi-billion Naira project of the business mogul and boardroom titan to serious scrutiny. Just lately too, questions were being raised over his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate.
Notwithstanding, the prospects are still there for the United Kingdom-trained lawyer, Mbah and the PDP, to overcome the hangover of the resounding defeat suffered by the party on February 25, and possibly clinch victory during this weekend’s election.
Frank Nweke Jr. (APGA)
He became Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Special Duties and Youth Development in April 2004. In July 2005, he was appointed Minister of Information and National Orientation and then, Minister of Information and Communication in January 2007, an office he occupied until May 2007, when the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration came to an end.texter
Endowed with robust intellect and creative ideas, Nweke is also a onetime Director General of Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).
The Ozalla-born technocrat in Nkanu West local government council has age and experience on his side. He has promised to industrialise the state; plug loopholes for corruption; prioritise human capital development and make Enugu a smart economy.
He hails from the same local government area as former governor Chimaroke Nnamani. He too is also seen as an Ebeano disciple since his emergence and ascendency in politics; all had the imprimatur of Chimaroke.
Frank Nweke Jr. is alleged to have fallen out with his political mentor for reportedly not giving nod to his governorship aspiration. Having run a very robust governorship campaign, what is not known is whether the Enugu electorate will give this APGA candidate a chance on March 11.
The governorship election in Ebonyi State promises to be an interesting fight between the APC, PDP, and All Progressives Grand Alliance.texter
Here are the main candidates to watch in the election:
Francis Nwifuru (APC)
Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru who is now popularly known as FON is the candidate of the APC. He is the Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly. He was first elected as Speaker in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. He is the first lawmaker to be elected Speaker twice in the state. He represents Izzi West State Constituency.
Before his election into the state legislature in 2011, Nwifuru previously served as a member of Ebonyi State Working Committee of the PDP under the Chairmanship of Chief David Umahi, now Governor of the state.
Born February 25, 1975, Nwifuru holds a Law degree from Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.
He hails from Oferekpe Agbaja in Izzi local government area of Ebonyi State.texter
Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii (PDP)
Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, widely known as Anyichuks, is the candidate of the PDP in the state. He hails from Isu-Echara, Isu autonomous community of Onicha local government area of Ebonyi State.
A billionaire business magnet, Odii is famous for his philanthropic activities across the state. He singlehandedly built over 130 bungalows for widows and less privileged persons across communities in Ebonyi State.
He is also a major financier of the PDP in the state.
He is the Chairman of Orient Global, a business conglomerate with interests in real estate, entertainment, manufacturing etc. He comes from the Southern Senatorial District, the same with the outgoing Governor David Umahi.
Those who do not support the Odii governorship ambition tout the charter of equity argument, a position many had described as puerile and baseless as such document was never signed by the founding fathers of Ebonyi State.texter
Bernard Odoh (APGA)
Professor Benard Ifeanyichukwu Odoh, is the Governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). A former Secretary to Ebonyi State Government and Professor of Applied Geophysics, Odoh hails from Ezza North in Ebonyi Central Senatorial District.
He first became a factor in Ebonyi politics in 2015 when he contested for the senate on the platform of APGA. Although, he lost the election but his performance and alliance earned him the position of Secretary to the State Government under Umahi’s first tenure.
Odoh was to resign his appointment as SSG after about two years and in a widely circulated letter exposed infractions including alleged corrupt activities in the Umahi-led administration. He personally penned a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Having carried out grassroots-based campaign across the communities and villages, many believe that Odoh with his running mate, Dr. Nkata Chuku, a London-trained health economist, is the best for Ndi Ebonyi.
In Abia State, the Peter Obi factor coupled with the people’s anger with the PDP might give an easy win for the candidate of the Labour Party in the state, Alex Otti.
Other men to watch in Abia include Okey Ahiwe (PDP), Enyinnaya Chima Nwafor (YPP) and Mascot Uzor Kalu (APP). The candidacy of Ikechi Emenike (APC) and Prof. Greg Ibeh (APGA) had been mired in controversy that they seem hamstrung to pose serious threat to the rest candidates in the election.
Alex Otti (LP)
Many believe that the March 11 governorship election is a golden opportunity for Alex Otti to actualise his political aspiration in Abia State.
Otti had contested the two previous gubernatorial elections in the state under the platform of APGA.
Otti, a first-class Economics graduate of University of Port Harcourt commands large following in the state, even after narrowly missing the governorship seat in 2015, in a tension-soaked governorship election which several of his supporters still believe he won landslide.texter
On December 31, 2015, the Court of Appeal which sat in Owerri, Imo State, removed Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of the PDP as governor of Abia State and declared Otti, the winner of the April 11 and April 25 Governorship elections in the state.
On February 3, 2016, the Supreme Court of Nigeria reversed the verdict of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the election of Ikpeazu as governor.
But, today, he is of the LP and also, the candidate to beat in Abia State.
Born 18 February, 1965, the economist, banker, investor, philanthropist and politician, is the former Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, then, a retail financial institution in Nigeria. He hails from Isiala Ngwa South local government council of Abia State.
Enyinnaya Chima Nwafor (YPP)
Said to be a very close associate of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu until recently, Enyinanya Nwafor who hails from Mbutu Umuojima Ogbu Village in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia State, is the governorship candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).texter
His father, the late Dr. Chima Nwafor, former Deputy Governor of Abia State (1992 and 2003) lived out his life as an accomplished Surgeon who gave his all in the service of humanity. His mother, Dame Gladys Nne Nwafor, retired at the topmost level of her distinguishing career as a public servant.
Nana as he is fondly called has neither been appointed nor elected into any political position. However, he was a committed member of the PDP.
He is expected to benefit from his late father’s deep well of goodwill in the state, coupled with his large followership amongst the youths.
The engineering graduate of electrical and electronics from the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) was seen as the joker for the Ngwa Clan intending to retain the governorship of the state before the demise of Prof. Uchenna Ikonne as the PDP candidate.
Mascot Uzor Kalu (APP)
Mascot Uzor Kalu had been seemingly under the cloak of his elder brother and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.texter
Born in Aba, the commercial city of Abia State, Mascot is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where he studied Economics and Finance. He also has an Associate Degree in Business Administration from the Spartanburg Methodist College.
A Certified Financial Planner, a former registered Life & Health Insurance License Agent, he is a business mogul of great repute who founded and built EUZOR Investment Company, a private conglomerate that owned a Jazz Café, Red Lion Tavern Restaurants, ZeyMotors Company, Zey Trucking, and Charlotte First Properties. He is a 2006 and 2007 Republican and Democrat caucus Businessman awardee.
With interests in oil and gas investments, properties, agro-allied as well as technology, he is a onetime Chief of Staff to the former Abia State Governor, T.A. Orji between 2007 and 2010.
The position gave him a full grasp of running a government, while at the same time actively participating in an advisory capacity to the governor of the state.
Mascot’s office oversaw the laudable processes of enacting the Abia State security fund law, Abia State joint project law, and the Abia State Oil Producing Developmental Community (ASOPADEC) bill.
He has run for the Aba North/South Federal Constituency for up to three times under the banner of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and the APC.texter
At least about 25,000 indigenes of Abia State have benefited directly from the activities of the Mascot Uzor Kalu Foundation, clearly sponsored by the Action Peoples Party governorship candidate and his wife, Adaeze.
Power sharing equation in the state favours him as he hails from the northern part of Abia.
Okey Ahiwe (PDP)
Okey Ahiwe was the Chief of Staff to Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu until few weeks ago, when the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Prof. Uchenna Ikonne passed on and there was urgent need for a replacement.
The entrepreneur, businessman and politician, was appointed the Chief of Staff to the governor in April 2022.
Prior to his appointment, Ahiwe had served in the campaign council for governorship elections in Abia State; he had also been part of the National Sub-committees of PDP for the conduct of party primaries in Cross River and Oyo states.texter
Ahiwe was born on December 26, 1966 and he hails from Umuire Village, Eziama Ntigha Autonomous community of Isiala-Ngwa North LGA, Abia State.
He graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in Political Science and also got his Master’s degree in Political Science from the Abia State University, Uturu.
It is still not clear whether the PDP would bounce back in Abia State after its devastating outing of February 25.
In Nasarawa, the contest is expected to be one of the toughest in the North Central zone. This is because the Labour Party governorship candidate, Joseph Ewuga, inspired by the victory of Peter Obi, has positioned himself to unseat the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Sule.
Obi, who had 191,361 votes, narrowly defeated his closest contenders, Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who had 172, 922, and 147,093 votes, respectively.texter
The state is also one of those to watch out for as the protracted political rivalry between the incumbent governor, Ibrahim Ganduje and the NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will be reignited again. So, the battle is going to be between Ganduje’s APC and Kwankwaso’s NNPP.
In the last presidential poll, the NNPP clearly had an upper hand in terms of votes and many are watching to know whether it would repeat its feat in the last outing.
Already, opposition parties in Kano have accused the state government of importing armed thugs from neighbouring countries to disrupt the governorship election in the state.
The police in the state have said they were aware of plans by some politicians to import thugs into the state to disrupt the election.
This is coming as the Kano State government through its spokesperson, Muhammad Garba revealed that they were privy to security reports which allegedly indicated that the NNPP was planning to do “as they did during the just concluded presidential election.”texter
He accused the NNPP of making efforts to use all means possible to compromise the election.
Also, according to Daily Sun investigation, other states to watch out for include, in Saturday’s election include Sokoto, Kaduna, and Katsina.