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Olusegun Adeniyi: 2015 Elections, A Time to Choose…2

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In the 2011 presidential election, the current presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), who at that time ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), defeated President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 12 of the 19 Northern States. Buhari won massively in all the seven North-West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara and four of the six North-East states of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Yobe, losing only in Adamawa and Taraba states. However, in the six North Central states, Buhari was defeated by Jonathan in five (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau and Nasarawa) winning only in Niger.

With such a result pattern, one would expect Buhari’s CPC to do well in the gubernatorial election in the 12 states where he won decisively in the presidential election but that was not what happened. In fact, Buhari’s CPC lost all the 12 states where he enjoyed overwhelming support and only won the gubernatorial election in Nasarawa where he had earlier been defeated by Jonathan and that happened essentially because of some internal contradictions within the PDP. So in 2011, of the 19 Northern states, PDP won the gubernatorial elections in 15, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that has merged to form the APC won in three (Borno, Yobe and Zamfara) and CPC won only in Nasarawa–and even that, as I earlier explained, was by default.

While I have not conducted any research to ascertain why CPC lost those 12 Northern states in the gubernatorial election, it stands to reason that the result of the presidential election conducted a week earlier might have impacted on the outcomes. For that reason, one important variable that I deliberately left out in my analysis of last week is the “bandwagon effect” usually created by the outcome of the first election in Nigeria. What that means is that what happens on February 14 this year will have significant bearing on what would happen on February 28.

To be certain, the violence that followed the 2011 presidential election, the absence of a viable political structure by Buhari’s CPC and several other local factors might have been responsible for the results in some states but it is difficult to ignore the fickle-mindedness of the average Nigerian voter. After the first electoral loss, many become disillusioned while those on the “winning side” become energised. In the case of Buhari and 2011, there were reports that many of his supporters in the North were actually tearing up and burning their voters cards the moment their man lost the presidency. If we extrapolate from that, what it means is that in some states, not all (who wins the presidency may matter little in states like Lagos), the outcome of this year’s Valentine election (it’s February 14!) may have domino effects for the gubernatorial polls.

Another important factor that will most certainly affect the gubernatorial election is the role of “spoilers”—defeated but aggrieved gubernatorial aspirants who left their parties to pick the tickets of other parties that may not likely guarantee them victory but could affect the results. It is in this light that the PDP National Vice Chairman (North Central), Alhaji Yussuf Ayitogu, sees the former Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku.

By abandoning his PDP umbrella for the cock of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after being defeated at the PDP primaries, Maku, Ayitogu believes, can only divide the party’s votes haul in Nasarawa State to the advantage of the incumbent Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who is of the APC. “Maku is a destroyer who wants to reduce the votes of the PDP in Nasarawa State. He is biting the finger that fed him. PDP made him what he is today, rising from commissioner to deputy governor and lately a minister. It is unfortunate that he (Maku) has defected to APGA which is nowhere in Nasarawa State. People who served under President Goodluck Jonathan are the ones betraying him. Labaran Maku cannot win any election in Nasarawa State,” said Ayitogu.

However, Maku is not alone in this game of changing camps as there are many defeated PDP gubernatorial aspirants who are today running on fringe platforms and while they are not likely to win, most of the votes they will garner are those that ordinarily would have gone for their party’s candidates. It is within that context that I want to begin the second part of this series on the gubernatorial election which I started last week. But before I continue, I want to correct some errors from last week. I mistakenly suggested that Funtua is in Kaduna when it is in fact in Katsina. I have also been reminded that there will be no gubernatorial election in Kogi State in February, making it seven states where such elections will not take place.

In the first part of this series last week, I stated that a disproportionate attention is being paid to the presidential election at the expense of the gubernatorial contests, where the stakes are equally high. That much has been proven with the saga involving Hon Ndudi Elumelu of the House of Representatives who is battling some top officials of the PDP over an alleged bribe of N750 million that could not get him (Elumelu) the Delta State PDP gubernatorial ticket.

When I first read the report, it sounded strange to me that a lawmaker would incriminate himself by admitting to such a dirty deal gone sour but I have indeed confirmed from impeccable sources at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that Elumelu actually wrote a petition to the effect that the party officials so named collected N750 million from him to deliver the PDP ticket and failed! The intermediary in the deal is the son-in-law to a prominent woman within the party.

It is, however, understandable. Delta State, from the information contained in the paper presented last year by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, (with which I started my analysis last week), is one of the high rollers, with the accruals of N209b or $1.3billion in 2013 from the Federation Account–a sum far bigger than the combined national budgets of Liberia ($433 million) and Gambia ($210 million) and only slightly lower than that of Benin Republic ($1.47 billion). It is therefore appropriate that I begin my take on the governorship contest from the state where an aspirant would pay as much as N750 million (about $4 million) just to grease the palms of some party officials, in the bid to get a ticket to run for an election where he intends to “serve” his people!

DELTA: From the middle of last year until December, anybody who drove through T.Y. Danjuma Street in Asokoro, Abuja could not but notice how the entire premises of the Delta State liaison office was draped in the posters of Sir Tony Obuh. It was perhaps Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s way of projecting the man he had anointed to take over from him. But at the end of the day, the former permanent secretary had to withdraw from the PDP primaries that became almost a straight fight between Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa and Olorogun David Edevbie. It is, however, to the credit of Uduaghan that unlike some of his colleagues, he allowed a credible process and did not tamper with the outcome.

The sub-text in the race was whether the party would maintain its unwritten agreement to zone the ticket to Delta North from where Okowa hailed or whether the majority ethnic group in the state, the Urhobos who occupy the Delta Central Senatorial district and whose interest Edevbie was projecting, would carry the day. The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) had made it obvious that their kinsman should be the next governor but it was Okowa who won the PDP ticket by a combination of several forces and some element of good fortune.

A former Local Government chairman and later commissioner in Delta State under Governor James Ibori, Okowa will meet his match at the polls in Olorogun O’tega Emerhor of the APC and Chief Great Ogboru of the Labour Party. While the latter has become a common feature in Delta gubernatorial polls, the former, a respected banker, is a new entrant into politics.

The duo appear to be carrying the hope of the Urhobos, who seem determined to have their son back in Dennis Osadebe House, Asaba, eight years after Ibori left for his maternal cousin and Itsekiri man, Uduaghan. While both Emerhor and Ogboru are prominent Urhobo sons, to the extent that neither would step down for the other, then that helps Okowa. The issue now is the choice by Okowa of Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, a commissioner at the state Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) and a nominee of former militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, a.k.a. Tompolo, as his running mate.

Available reports indicate that it was the support from Tompolo that tipped the scale in favour of Okowa at the PDP primaries and perhaps the promise extracted for that was to be given the number two slot which has now gone to Otuaro, an Ijaw man. But that choice has altered the strategic ethnic calculations in Delta South where Senator James Manager, an Ijaw man, will be going to the upper chambers for a record fourth time, leaving the Isoko people who had anticipated that one of their kinsmen would be number two to Okowa politically stranded.

Strategically, Emerhor has chosen the Executive Director (News & Current Affairs) of Africa Independent Television (AIT), Mr. Felix Emamode Akugha, an Isoko man as his running mate in a race in which the APC candidate believes he can win. How that works out on February 28 remains to be seen but because several dynamics will come to play in the coming weeks, the outcome of the presidential election could impact on the governorship election in a state like Delta. Even at that, the odds still seem to be in favour of Okowa.

SOKOTO: The contest in Sokoto will be interesting but the House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who is carrying the banner of the APC, is expected to win. After initially setting his sight on the presidency, Tambuwal was prevailed upon by leaders within his party to withdraw from the race and support the aspiration of Buhari, a call which he heeded. But even at that, Sokoto is not going to be a walk-over for Tambuwal because his main opponent in the election happens to be his much-respected brother-in-law and former boss, Senator Abdallah Wali, who will fly the PDP flag.

However, all factors considered, Tambuwal is seen by most people in Sokoto State as the governor-in-waiting. Aside the fact that he enjoys the support of the outgoing Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko whose party now controls the state, what compounds the problem for the PDP is that despite the efforts of Vice-President Namadi Sambo to reconcile leading members of the party in the state, Sokoto PDP will most likely go into the election divided.

Those now opposing the emergence of Wali (who was backed by former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa) are Deputy Governor Mukhtar Shagari, former Minister Yusuf Sulaiman and Senator Bello Gada, and all efforts at mediation have so far failed. On the contrary, Tambuwal’s profile and that of his party (APC) have been rising in Sokoto since the Police withdrew the Speaker’s security details following his defection from the PDP last October and the subsequent plot to deny him entry into the National Assembly last November.

The Speaker is also believed to be the preferred choice of the religious and traditional authorities in a state where the two institutions wield much power. With Buhari and his APC expected to sweep the polls in Sokoto on February 14 as he did in 2011 with his CPC, the PDP tickets do not hold much prospects for candidates in the state and that puts the APC’s gubernatorial flag-bearer at a serious advantage. Meanwhile, Tambuwal, who clocked 49 last week, is a politician with an eye for the future; so if he wins the gubernatorial election on February 28, as he most likely will, Sokoto could just be a stepping stone for something bigger.

ABIA: The Ukwa/Ngwa people believe it is their turn to produce the next governor based on a “charter of equity” that had been agreed to at the beginning of the current democratic dispensation in 1999. And perhaps with that in mind, the outgoing Governor Theodore Orji is clever enough to have anointed an Ngwa man, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as the PDP candidate. Other contenders in the race include Chief Chinenye Nyerere Anyim of the APC, Chief Chikwe Udensi of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and of course Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).

As things stand, the only formidable challenge that the ruling PDP would face in Abia is from APGA. The party has found strength in Otti, the immediate past Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, who brings to the race his wealth of experience in the private sector. Otti has been running a robust campaign but he is facing an uphill task owing to the political sentiments in the state about power shift which Governor Orji and the PDP leadership have tapped into.

However, Otti who has his roots in Arochukwu in Abia North zone has found a way around that by adopting Nvosi in Isiala Ngwa South local government where he was born and raised. What is going for Otti is that many of the prominent Abia people, who feel sad about political developments in their state (where there is a clear absence of quality governance) see him as the surest bet to turn around the fortunes of the state.

Therefore, what Otti lacks in political structure, he has in abundant goodwill across the state but whether that is enough to guarantee him victory at the polls in a state where the entire infrastructure is now put behind Ikpeazu of the PDP remains to be seen. Yet if there is anything that depicts the sordid state of affairs in Abia State today, it is the deplorable condition of the legendary Aba, a city which in every way symbolizes the enterprising spirit not only of the people of Abia State but indeed of all Ndigbo.

Whatever may be Otti’s qualifications, however, the PDP machine is formidable in Abia State where President Jonathan is expected to sweep the polls on February 14. That would also be an advantage for Ikpeazu who is carrying the PDP banner. However, given the experience of Governor Orji before he broke away from the shackles of godfatherism (plus godmotherism!), what most people count against Ikpeazu is the charge of not being his own man. That is why so much hope is being put on the aspiration of Otti who, as the APGA gubernatorial candidate, remains the most credible contender for the Abia Government House.

OGUN: Ordinarily, the contest in Ogun State would not have been as competitive as it is turning out to be but for the parting of ways between former Governor Olusegun Osoba, who has pitched tent with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the APC. Waiting on the wings to capitalize on this is the formidable and financially well-oiled political machine of controversial politician, Buruji Kashamu who controls the PDP structure in Ogun and whose candidates won the primaries at virtually all levels in the state. While Kashamu is now a senatorial candidate in the state, Mr Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, a former Managing Director of Gateway Investments Limited under Governor Gbenga Daniel is the PDP candidate.

However, while the election will be fiercely contested, the odds still remain in favour of Amosun not only because his performance in office is quite commendable but also because of the strategic calculations in the state. Ogun is divided into three zones which make up the senatorial districts. In the East are nine of the 20 local government areas and it is peopled by the Ijebus and the Remos. The West, peopled by the Yewas or Egbados as they used to be called, and Aworis, has five local government areas; the Central district is peopled by the Egbas and while it has just six of the 20 local governments, it is where the largest concentration of the population is and accounts for about 40 percent of the votes. Amosun happens to be the only Egba man in a race in which he is also the incumbent!

Although his former deputy, Prince Segun Adesegun happens to belong to the Osoba camp, he lost the SDP ticket to Senator Akin Odunsi, the advertising guru who, I learnt was practically begged to run for Senate in 2011 on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). While Odunsi commands enormous respect in the state and has the backing of Osoba who equally remains very popular with the people, his party (SDP) is coming into the equation rather late.

However, Ogun is one state where the result of the presidential election could make significant impact. How the people vote on February 14 (not necessarily who wins the presidential election) could be very decisive. The way things are, Buruji’s PDP and Osoba’s SDP may likely work together on the side of Jonathan while Amosun and former President Olusegun Obasanjo would be leading the Buhari charge. Whichever of these two forces prevails on February 14 may likely also prevail on February 28 because by then, there could be alliances between and among stakeholders in the state.

Meanwhile, Amosun is widely believed to have performed well in the area of education, security, infrastructural development, housing and urban renewal and he has raised the state’s internally revenue profile. Even though some members of the Ogun elite do not feel too comfortable with him, he is a grassroots man who ensures constant presence in the various towns and villages even when there was no electioneering. Also, the fact that his two main opponents are from Ogun West presents him an opportunity to fight for division of the votes in that district while he holds on strongly to the votes in the Central District which has four of the seven mega LGAs ( Ifo, Obafemi Owode, Abeokuta South, and Abeokuta North) that a governorship candidate must win. For sure, next month election will definitely be interesting in Ogun State as the results will have implications for the political career of many of the players.

BORNO: On Monday, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Hugo Swire appeared before the British Parliament to account for what his government has been doing to help Nigeria in the fight against insurgency and “the feasibility of running a nationwide election when an area the size of Belgium is now under Boko Haram”. He was subjected to serious questions by the lawmakers who were evidently concerned about the violence in our country and what it portends both for our people and the West African sub-region. President Jonathan should be worried at how his government was characterized at the session.

However, it says so much about our country that British officials would show such concerns about the plights of our people, when most of our own nationals, including prominent people from the affected areas, seem more preoccupied throwing themselves around for political gains. Top on the list of those people is the former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sherrif, who seems desperate to oust the governor he helped to install and would do anything, including worsening the security situation in the state, just to have his way. Now, Sheriff goes around in the state with a retinue of soldiers just because he has become a PDP member even though ever since the party was practically handed over to him, it has been in turmoil.

It all started with the subversion of the primaries in Abuja which produced Alhaji Gambo Lawal as the gubernatorial candidate. Following a meeting at the Villa between the president and some PDP stakeholders in the state led by Sheriff, the name of Gambo Lawal cynically “disappeared” as that of Alhaji Mohammed Imam, former chairman of the defunct ANPP in Borno State who also was a commissioner under Sheriff, was announced as the gubernatorial candidate for the 2015 polls. What is often ignored in all the cold calculations is that while Sheriff remains a strong factor in Borno politics and commands enormous resources, the Borno of 2015 is a different landscape from the one he governed for eight years.

From 2011 to date, no fewer than a thousand schools have been destroyed and about 200 teachers killed in the state that is now the epicenter of Boko Haram atrocities. But for some inexplicable reasons, Governor Kashim Shettima who ordinarily should be supported by the federal authorities has been practically alienated for no other reason than politics. Incidentally, that has only helped to shore up the support base of the governor with prominent people from Borno and since he now is in a keen battle for supremacy with his erstwhile godfather who has become the Aso Rock pointsman, the governor is fighting from a position of strength.

Given the sheer number of internally displaced people, the number of towns under the control of Boko Haram and the distress to which many of the people are being subjected as a result of the insurgency, conducting elections in Borno will be very tasking. But to the extent that the people feel alienated from the Federal Government (especially since the unfortunate Chibok drama at the Villa), Buhari is likely to do even better than he did in 2011 when he virtually steamrolled Jonathan at the polls in Borno. That can only be to the advantage of Shettima who in 2011 garnered 531,547 votes to defeat Alhaji Mohammed Goni, the Second Republic Governor of the old Borno State (now Borno and Yobe States) who was then PDP gubernatorialcandidate.

Reports from Maiduguri in the last few days indicate that thousands of internally displaced persons in the state capital have put aside their misery and have been scrambling to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs). And they do not seem happy with the embrace between the presidency and Sheriff. Most of them have lost everything—their loved ones, their homes, their businesses and the future of their children for a generation. Yet I have been made to understand that the Kanuris have a saying, “Shimma sukkata, kela’a reata”, which when roughly translated means that he who is already down needs fear no further fall. On February 14, the president will get the message from Borno voters while Sheriff, (whose name was sensationally replaced yesterday as a PDP senatorial candidate) as well as the gubernatorial candidate he imposed on the party may also witness the other side of the political midnight come February 28.

NIGER: The contest in this state pitches sons of two retired military officers against each other. The PDP is fielding Umar Nasko, the first son of Lieutenant General Muhammad Gado Nasko (rtd) who was military governor of the old Sokoto State (now Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi) between 1978 and 1979 and a former Federal Capital Territory Minister. The APC candidate is Abubakar Sani Bello, son of Col. Sani Bello (rtd) who was ADC to Nigeria’s first military head of state, the late Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and is now in the business big league. Incidentally, both the young Bello and Nasco have at different times served as commissioners in the Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu’s administration but what gives latter an edge over the former is that he seems to be more on ground having served first as a commissioner and later as Chief of Staff to the Governor.

In Niger, like in most states, there seems to be an understanding on power rotation and that is already playing out in the sentiments being expressed in favour of the PDP candidate, Nasko who happens to be Kambari from Magama local government area while Bello is Hausa from Kontagora. And having now been anointed by his boss, Nasko is in a poll position to win the election though there are other variables that could make that difficult and the biggest of them may be the Buhari factor.

Like he did in 2011, Buhari will likely sweep the polls in Niger State on February 14 and that will definitely help the aspiration of Bello, who comes from a very wealthy family. But the fact that he hails from the same senatorial zone as the PDP candidate where the votes would be shared may be an albatross for Bello because with the weight of the outgoing governor behind him, Nasko will do better in other zones and that puts him at a big advantage. So, while two plus two may not always be equal to four in politics, Nasko stands a better chance than his APC rival.

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