As Nigerians again head to the polls on Saturday, tough battles are expected among the contenders for governorship positions and assembly seats in Lagos, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi and Rivers states.
In all, 18 political parties are fielding candidates for the governorship elections slated to hold in 28 out of the 36 states of the federation.
In Sokoto, the governorship polls will be a straight fight between the All Progressives Congress candidate, Ahmad Aliyu, and his Peoples Democratic Party counterpart, Saidu Umar.
Aliyu was the deputy to Governor Aminu Tambuwal for three years before resigning to pick the APC’s ticket to contest against his former boss in 2019, but he narrowly lost with 342 votes after two rounds of election.
The loyalists of the APC and PDP in the 23 local government areas of the state would expectedly come out en masse to vote for their candidates.
Sokoto would be banking on APC bigwigs such as Senator Aliyu Wamakko, a former two-term governor, to dislodge Tambuwal’s loyalists in the state.
Wamakko from the populous Wamakko LGA, emerged as the party leader after Tambuwal left the party in 2018.
Another APC chieftain, Alhaji Umaru Kwabo, popularly known as Jarman Sokoto, is also expected to leverage his political capital and support for the APC candidate.
Other party leaders that could propel the APC to victory in the election include the Senate Majority leader, Senator Ibrahim Gobir; the APC deputy governorship candidate, Idris Gobir; the state party chairman Alhaji Isa Sadiq Acida; the party senatorial candidate, Ibrahim Isah and retired Col Garba Moyi, a former commissioner for security and career studies.
For the PDP, heavyweights like former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, his son, Sagir, the state chairman, Aliyu Bello Goronyo, Shuaibu Gobir, Yusuf Suleiman, former minister of transport, Abdullahi Salame and others would utilise their influence for the benefit if their party.
In Lagos, the battle for Alausa, the governor’s office is expected to be tough and possibly, a re-enactment of the presidential election in which the godfather of Lagos politics, now president-elect, Bola Tinubu, was handed his first electoral defeat.
The election would be a three-horse race between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC, Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and his PDP counterpart, Abdul-Azeez Adediran.
Sanwo-Olu, who is seeking a second term in office will contend with youth disenchantment and their desire to break the stranglehold of his political benefactor, Tinubu on the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria.
Buoyed by the party’s success in the last election, Rhodes-Vivour is banking on the young voters to re-enact the magic that gave the LP presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi, a win in the state.
Though analysts believe Sanwo-Olu may win on account of his performance in terms of infrastructure development, the governor appears to be discomfited by the loud social media noise in support of Gbadebo who is riding high on Obi’s victory in Lagos.
He recently received the endorsement of prominent Lagos leaders, including the Committee of Indigenous Lagosians and ironically, from Chief Bode George, a South-West leader of the PDP, who has refused to support his party’s governorship candidate.
In Kano, the race to succeed Governor Umar Ganduje is between the APC candidate, Dr Nasiru Gawuna and that of the opposition New Nigeria People’s Party, Abba Yusuf.
Going by the outcome of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections, the NNPP may have the upper hand in the governorship election.
The election result confirmed the dominance of the NNPP in Kano politics as it trounced the ruling party scoring 997, 279 votes to APC’s 517, 341 votes.
NNPP’s ascendancy could be attributed to the exodus of some APC bigwigs to NNPP following complaints of marginalization by some prominent and influential members of the APC.
The 4.3 million registered voters in Kaduna have to choose between APC’s Uba Sani or Isah Ashiru of the PDP on Saturday.
Other strong contenders include Alhaji Sani Sha’aban, the Action Democratic Party candidate, who is also an in-law to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and a former commissioner for finance and NNPP candidate, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi.
Pundits believe Sani would ride on the achievement of Governor Sani El-Rufai because of the various infrastructural projects implemented by his administration.
But critics argued that the APC candidate may contend with the opposition to the governor by a section of the state.
However, what may count for the APC candidate is his vast political experience dating to 1999.
According to the spokesman for the Kaduna State APC Campaign Council, Ibraheem Musa, Sani is the candidate to beat in the 2023 election.
Many believe Ashiru, a grassroots politician, would give the APC candidate a run for his money. He almost gave el-Rufai a scare in the 2019 governorship election in the state in which he polled 814,168 while El-Rufai garnered 1,045,427 to defeat him in the keenly contested polls.
The PDP is said to be in good form to win the election. The unity among the party stalwarts including former Vice President Namadi Sambo, and ex-governors Ahmed Makarfi and Ramalan Yero is seen as a positive indicator of victory for the PDP on Saturday. Ashiru’s campaign pledge to review the governor’s policies if elected has also endeared him to many voters.
Sha’aban, who had contested for the governorship on several occasions, may be lucky this time around. But whether the gods would smile on him remains to be seen.
On the other hand, Hunkuyi of the NNPP appears to be banking on going to court after the polls. He cited a pre-election matter pending in court that could nullify the PDP’s participation in the election.
The LP governorship candidate, Jonathan Asake, a former National President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, is popular among his southern Kaduna folks. But there is pessimism about his chances of getting to Sir Kashim House. Though his party surprised pundits in the February 25 election, analysts believe that the governorship poll is a different ball game which Asake may not have the clout to win.
The governorship polls in Rivers State will be a titanic battle between Siminialayi Fubara of the PDP, Senator Magnus Abe of the Social Democratic Party, Tonye Cole of the APC and Mrs Beatrice Itubo of the Labour Party.
The rotation of power between the riverine and upland areas has been a major consideration in the political equation of the state for a long time, although it is not cast in stone.
But Governor Nyesom Wike’s emergence in 2015 somewhat altered the rotation arrangement. Reason: Both Wike and his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi not only hailed from the upland area, but they were also both of the Ikwerre ethnic nationality.
Again, both Fubara and Abe hail from Rivers South-East, an area that has never produced the governor of the state. While the riverine arrangement favours Fubara who is from Opobo and Cole, who hails from the Kalabari extraction, the senatorial district factor favours Abe.
But Fubara also has another advantage since he is from the same Rivers South-East District as Abe, an Ogoni, whose area is about the most marginalized sector. However, Fubara enjoys the support of Governor Wike who many believe has performed well in the state.
Itubo, the immediate past chairperson of the Nigerian Labour Congress may count on the support of workers, having fought the state government vigorously for a better deal for workers and pensioners in the state.
Believed to be a political greenhorn, she could ride on the popularity of the LP presidential candidate, Obi who came second in the state in the February 25 polls.
However, the clamour for power to return to the riverine axis of the state does not favour her as she hails from Abua/Odual, an upland region.
Speaking on his party’s chances, the Director, Media and Publicity, Rivers PDP Campaign Council, Ogbonma Nwuke, said the party had a solid candidate.
In Bauchi State, the governorship race was initially between 15 candidates of different political parties however, some of them withdrew while some stepped down for others leaving only nine.
Of the nine, many believe that the race would be keenly contested between the three leading candidates namely: serving Governor Bala Mohammed, of the ruling People’s Democratic Party; Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd.) of the main opposition All Progressives Congress and Senator Haliru Jika of the New Nigeria People’s Party. However, Jika is not seen as so much of a threat.