Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

March 18 guber polls: HOT BATTLE IN 28 STATES

•11 Govs race for second term, 17 seek to install successors •11 Govs race for second term, 17 seek to install successors •Lagos and other contentious zones •All eyes on Labour Party 

Akani Alaka writes on the gubernatorial contests that will take place across the 28 states of Nigeria this weekend.

As it is, the postponement of the governorship and State Assembly elections for one week was a boon of sorts for state governors seeking reelection or outgoing ones desperate to install their preferred successors.

As such, the candidates in the governorship election now scheduled for Saturday, March 18 have intensified their campaigns with sweet promises to entice voters while also reaching out to different groups-religious and ethnic-for endorsement.

For the candidates of some of the 18 parties that will be on the ballot, but have no hope of making any impact in the election, it was also boon times as they go about endorsing flag bearers of the major candidates either for immediate gains or expectations of future rewards.

APC In Epic Battle To Retain Lagos

To be conducted against the background of the upsets witnessed across Nigeria in the February 25 elections, the battle for the governorship and state house assembly was already assuming the shape of an epic battle in which everything – including ethnicity and religion were considered fair weapons as at the time of writing this story last week.

This was the case in Lagos where the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC was deploying all the tools in its arsenal to avoid the defeat it suffered at the hands of the Labour Party in the presidential election.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will be up against Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran (Jandor) of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  and  Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of LP in Saturday’s election. While Jandor was perceived as a feeble opponent of Sanwo-Olu, the feat of LP in the presidential election has pushed its candidate, Rhodes Vivour to the forefront ahead of the governorship election.

Backed by the ‘obidients’ who made the victory of LP possible in Lagos in the presidential election, Rhodes-Vivour has suddenly become the man Sanwo-Olu must overcome if the stranglehold of APC and its predecessors on Lagos since 1999 is not to end on March 18.

In their desperation for victory, both sides have been busy seeking support from different segments of the Igbo population in the state who voted overwhelmingly for Obi in the presidential election. The LP candidate whose mother and wife are Igbo have especially come under attack by APC members and some indigenes who considered him an outsider despite coming from one of the illustrious families in the state.

Thus, the governorship election has been framed as the battle to prevent the ‘takeover of Lagos.’ But the ‘obidients’ are not relenting and have vowed to put the disappointment of the presidential election aside to ensure the victory of Rhodes-Vivour in the election.

To stop this from happening, The Nigerian Xpress findings revealed that members of APC have returned to the grassroots for massive mobilization for the election. The President-elect, Bola Tinubu has also returned to Lagos to take charge of the battle to ensure Lagos will not slip away from the firm grip of the APC.

Already, there are fears that the election may witness a lot of violence and disruption. However, sources close to the APC told this newspaper that the party has nothing to fear since it still won the three Senate seats and most of the House of Representatives seats despite its defeat by LP in the national elections.

“What we need to do is to ensure that we mobilise people to come out to vote. We won more local governments in the presidential election. If we can mobilise people out we will be victorious in the election,” he said.

APC, PDP Battle For South-west

In nearby Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun will be going to the election on Saturday with the assurance of victory given the overwhelming success of the APC in the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.

Nevertheless, he will have to contend with strong opposition from Tunji Otegbeye, candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC and Ladi Adebutu of the PDP. Adebutu had chosen Adekunle Akinlade who contested against Abiodun with the backing of former governor Ibikunle Amosun on the platform of APM in 2019 as his deputy.

Akinlade then lost the election to Abiodun by less than 20,000 votes. Thus, the challenge of the PDP to Abiodun is also formidable. But Amosun is now backing Tunji Otegbeye of ADC. The battle in Ogun is expected to be between the APC, PDP and ADC.

In Oyo, Governor Seyi Makinde is going to the contest for reelection against the woeful performance of his party, the PDP in the presidential and National Assembly elections.

The APC won the presidential election and most of the National Assembly seats. Some analysts have said the feat by APC was possible because Makinde decided to support Tinubu against Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of his party in the election.

The APC victory has now brightened the chances of Teslim Folarin, the candidate of the party in Saturday’s election.

Yet, another formidable opponent in the Oyo gubernatorial poll is Adelabu, the flag bearer of the Accord Party who was defeated as an APC candidate by Makinde in 2019.

Tough Labour Party Challenge For PDP, APC In Southeast 

The governorship and state houses of assembly battle in the three states of the South-east – Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia will be a straight battle between the PDP, APC and the rampaging LP.
Indeed, LP candidates are going into the gubernatorial and assembly elections with confidence that they can displace the entrenched PDP representatives given the overwhelming victory of their party across all the states of the region in the February 25 elections.

Thus, they have been quick to dismiss claims of alliance with the PDP and APC candidates. In Abia, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who failed in his bid to retire to the Senate after his eight-year tenure will especially be desperate to install a successor to avoid his political doom if the PDP loses in the gubernatorial election.

Thus, Ikpeazu and the PDP candidate, Ahiwe Okechukwu and other stakeholders have returned to the drawing board to fashion out how to stop the wave-making, very formidable ex-banker and technocrat, Alex Otti who is the flag bearer of the LP on Saturday.

In Enugu, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi also lost his bid to go to the Senate to Okechukwu Ezea of the LP. His challenge next Saturday will, therefore, be how to prevent the billionaire businessman candidate of his party, Peter Ubah from losing the bid to succeed him to the very popular LP gubernatorial candidate, Chijioke Edeoga.

Also making waves in Enugu is Frank Nweke, a former minister of information who is the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. The ‘obidients’ are divided in their support for Nweke and Edeoga and analysts said this may be to the advantage of Ubah in the election next Saturday.

Though LP won the presidential election in Ebonyi, the ruling APC swept the senatorial seats. One of the seats was won by Governor Dave Umahi who is expected to lead the battle of Francis Nwifuru, the candidate of APC in the governorship election.

Nwifuru will be up against Edward Nkwegu of the LP and Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii of the PDP.

Rivers Leads South-south’s Gubernatorial Battles

In the South-south, Rivers and Delta States are expected to be the hottest battle zones in the governorship election. Members of the ‘obedient’ movement in Rivers are still seething with rage over what they believed was the Governor Nyesom Wike-led efforts to manipulate the February 25 presidential election in favour of the APC.

They have thus vowed to mobilise and vote massively against the PDP candidate who is also a former Chief of Staff to Wike, Siminialayi Fubara. The APC flag bearer in the state is Tonye Cole.  But the Labour Party had descended into crisis ahead of the governorship election. The Rivers State executive of the party had last week endorsed the governorship candidate of the PDP. But in a swift reaction, the national leadership of the party sacked the exco and appointed a three-man steering committee to manage the affairs of the party in the state. But can Labour Party recover from the crisis and ensure that its candidate, Beatrice Utubo wins the election?   Rivers will be one of the interesting states to watch in the election.

In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the running mate to the PDP presidential candidate seemed to have put the shock of the loss of the state to LP in the presidential election behind him. He had since last weekend been meeting groups to canvass support for the candidate of the PDP in the state, Sheriff Oborevwori.

Oborevwori is up against Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC in the March 18 gubernatorial election. The LP won in Delta State in the presidential election and has turned a beautiful bride, with the PDP and APC seeking an alliance with it ahead of the governorship poll.

But the party last Monday said it had no dealing or agreement with either the PDP or the APC as far as the March 18 governorship election was concerned. “Let me state it categorically clear that the Labour Party in Delta is going into the March 18 governorship election with a mandate to win with our candidate. We remained in total support and solidarity with our governorship candidate, Ken Pela, and we are confident of victory with our teeming supporters”,  the party said in a statement.

In Akwa Ibom, the PDP candidate Umo Eno with the backing of Governor Emmanuel Udom is up against Akanimo Udofia of the APC who is still battling with some other aspirants over who is the right candidate for his party in court. Udofia is said to have the backing of the former governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio.

The state was won by the PDP in the presidential election with the APC coming second. Analysts believe that the party is in a position to repeat the feat in the governorship election.

The Labour Party won the presidential election in Cross River. But the gubernatorial battle is expected to be between Sandy Onor of the PDP and Senator Bassey Otu of the APC. Governor Ben Ayade was one of the governors whose bid to retire to the Senate was frustrated at the poll.

Analysts said the defeat of the governor in the senatorial contest indicates that the battle will be a tough one for his party, the APC, on Saturday.

In Kaduna, the battle for the March 18 governorship election is expected to be a straight one between Senator Uba Sani of APC and Ashiru Isa of PDP, Jonathan Asake of LP and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). However, analysts said the APC and the PDP candidates stand out as possible governor-elect of Kaduna State among the four. PDP members in Kaduna now believe that the governorship election is for them to win or lose, given their comprehensive defeat of APC in the presidential and national assembly elections.

To further solidify his chances, the candidate of the PDP had ahead of the gubernatorial election gone into an alliance with other parties. But it was gathered that the APC is banking on the possibility of the PDP and the two other parties splitting their votes to win the election.

Kano Leads Battle For North-west

In Kano, it will be a return to familiar turf for a former governor of the state, and the NNPP presidential candidate Rabiu Kwankwaso and his former deputy and incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje. As a member of the PDP in 2019, Kwankwaso had backed his in-law, Abba Kabir-Yusuf to stop the second term bid of Ganduje. The governor who ran on the platform of the APC narrowly won the electoral battle to edge out Kabir-Yusuf, though Kwankwaso had since then insisted that the election was rigged.

In the March 18 election, Ganduje is backing his deputy, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as his successor while Kwakwaso is for Kabir-Yusuf who is now running on the platform of the NNPP.

The confidence of the NNPP candidate has been boosted by the performance of his party in the presidential election where it defeated the APC by 997,279 to 517,341 votes. NNPP will be hoping to put up a similar performance on March 18, but APC appeared not ready to let that happen.

The battle between mostly youthful fanatical supporters of the two parties has resulted in violent outbreaks in parts of Kano, with analysts warning that the state may be turned into a war zone during the election.

Jigawa State is one of the two states in the North-west won by the APC in the presidential election. The outgoing APC governor of the state,

Abubakar Badaru is backing Umar Namadi, as his successor. However, the gubernatorial battle in the state is expected to be a straight fight between Namadi and Mustapha Sule Lamido of the PDP, who is counting on the support of his father and former governor, Sule Lamido to tilt the balance positively in his favour.

In Katsina, APC’s Dikko Radda, the immediate past executive director of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, SMEDAN, is up against Yakubu Lado, a former senator, who is the candidate for the PDP. The PDP defeated APC narrowly in the presidential election and analysts said if care is not taken, President Buhari may also lose his home state to the opposition in the governorship election.

Perhaps, this was why the President had relocated home since last week for the election. It was learnt that to stop the PDP from taking over the state, the APC has embarked on wooing members of other political parties, including the NNPP whose deputy governor declared support for Radda last Thursday. The ruling party is also wooing associates of former Governor Ibrahim Shemma who had refused to join the campaign for the PDP candidate.

In Zamfara, the PDP candidate, Dauda Lawal faced an uphill task in stopping the re-election of Governor Bello Matawalle. The victory of the APC in the presidential election signalled victory for the APC.
However, in neighbouring Sokoto ex-governor Aliyu Wamakko and incumbent Governor Aminu Tambuwal will continue their ongoing battle to dominate the state politically with an attempt to install their preferred candidate as the governor.

The PDP is fielding former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Sokoto State, Sa’idu Umar while a former deputy governor of the state, Ahmed Aliyu is the APC flag bearer. The PDP won the state narrowly in the presidential election and all indications are that Wammako is determined not to allow this to happen.
Kebbi Governor, Atiku Bagudu is one of the state chief executives who lost their bid for senatorial seats in the February 25 election. In the March 18 election, he will be up against the former governor of the state, Adamu Aliero who is backing the PDP candidate, Aminu Bande.

Aliero who defected to the PDP from APC as a result of disagreement with Bagudu during the primary along with other chieftains of the party has vowed to stop Bagudu from installing the gubernatorial candidate of his party, Dr Nasir Idris.
With the victory of the PDP in Kebbi in the presidential election, it may be difficult to stop Bagudu.

North-east – PDP versus APC 

In the North-east, the PDP won the presidential election in all the states, except Borno. Thus, analysts believe that the chances of Borno Governor Babagana Zulum being re-elected for the second term are very high in the contest in which the only viable candidate is Mohammed Jajari of the PDP.
However, in Yobe, the PDP won the presidential election, the first time the party would win in the state since Nigeria’s return to democracy.

But Yobe Governor, Mai Mala Buni and members of the APC in the state said the performance of the PDP was a fluke. They pointed out that despite the PDP’s presidential election victory, APC still won most of the National Assembly seats.

Governor Buni will be counting on such sentiments as he goes head to head in his re-election bid against PDP’s Sharif Abdu on March 18.

Shortly after the presidential election in which his party, the APC lost to PDP with a fairly wide margin, Gombe Governor, Muhammadu Yahaya summoned a meeting with Christians in the state in which he apologized to them for ‘errors that he might have committed in the past.’

The governor did not announce what he was apologizing for at the meeting with leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Gombe State chapter, held at the Government House. But in 2021, he refused Musa Maiyamba, a Christian who was the new Mai (king) of the Tangale kingdom, despite being chosen by the kingmakers.

He had also refused to nominate a Christian judge who was the most senior on the bench for appointment as the state’s Chief Justice. Indeed, CAN in the state called for a three-day fast and prayers. It also called on him to respect the wishes of the people over an alleged plot to impose a Muslim as king in the mostly Christian-dominated kingdom.

The governor certainly believed that Christians voted against the APC in the presidential poll to give victory to the PDP.  The PDP candidate in the governorship election is Alhaji Jibrin Barde. If the March 18 election goes the way of the February 25 poll, then, Yahaya may just be a one-term governor.

In Bauchi, Governor Bala Mohammed of the PDP is up against Sadique Abubakar, a former air chief, who is the flag bearer of APC in the battle to earn another four-year stay in office.  Mohammed delivered Bauchi to his party, the PDP in the presidential election. But Abubakar who has the support of former Speaker Yakubu Dogara is a formidable opponent. Hence, most analysts believe the battle can go either way when the ballots are tallied after Saturday’s election.

In Taraba, the road to the 2023 election was characterized by crisis for most of the political parties. Some members of APC and PDP are still in court contesting the primaries of their political parties. Nevertheless, analysts said the battle for the governorship will be a straight one between Emmanuel  Bwacha of the APC, Kefas Agbu of the PDP and Danladi Baido of the SDP and Professor Sani Yahaya of the NNPP.

It is, however, believed that the APC and the PDP candidates would have the upper hand if the results of the February 25 elections are considered. The PDP has produced governors for Taraba since 1999. But analysts said the poor performance of outgoing Governor Darius Ishaku may pave the way for the takeover of the state by the opposition for the first time.

All Eyes On Nasarawa, Benue

In Nasarawa State, Labour Party won the presidential election. However, the Labour Party governorship candidate in the state, Joseph Ewuga, has shelved his ambition and declared support for the candidate of the PDP, David Ombugadu, ahead of Saturday’s election.

Thus, the battle in the governorship election will be between Ombugadu and Governor Abdullahi Sule who is seeking a second term of office.  Analysts said the battle to get a second term will especially be a tough one for Sule, given the fact that Eggon people, the largest single ethnic bloc in the state are now united with Ombagudu and are determined to produce the governor of the state for the first time.

In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom lost his bid to go to the Senate in the February 25 poll. Worse still, APC also won the presidential poll in Benue, with Labour Party coming second and the PDP in third place. But it was gathered that Ortom is determined to ensure that his successor is Titus Uba, the candidate of his party.

Uba, who is the Speaker of Benue State of Assembly, will be up against Fr. Hyacinth Alia, the candidate of APC whose popularity was believed to have earned his party the unexpected victory in the presidential election.

Plateau is one of the states in the North where the Labour Party can produce a governor.
This was based on the immense popularity of the party in the state and its performance in the presidential election. Hence, the battle for who succeeds Governor Simon Lalong is expected to be a straight one between Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP, Dr Nentawe Yilwada of the APC and Dr Patrick Dakum of the LP.
The APC has been strategizing to ensure that the outcome of the governorship and national assembly election is different from the February 25 poll. But the PDP which lost power to the APC in 2015 is doing all it can to return to power.

Analysts said the chances of the Labour Party displacing APC from Government House in Little Rayfield, Jos, are very bright.

In Niger State, Governor Sanni Bello will also be pushing for the victory of APC candidate, Umar Bago against Labour Party’s Joshua Bawa Isah Liman Kantigi of the PDP. APC was victorious in the state in the February 25 election and Governor Bello will be hoping for an encore to enable the continuity of his party in office in Niger.

In Kwara, the APC cleared all the six House of Representatives seats and the three senatorial seats in the February 25 poll.

The outcome of the election was no doubt a setback for former Senate President Bukola Saraki who was one of those leading the PDP presidential campaign.

But sources said members of the PDP have gone back to the drawing board to ensure victory for the party’s candidate, Shuaib Yaman Abdullahi on March 18.

But that will be an uphill task for PDP as the incumbent Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq seemed determined to continue on the trajectory of victory with determination to send the Saraki political family into permanent oblivion.

The battle in Kwara will surely be an interesting one to watch.