Ideally in elections, voters make statements with their exercise to take stand on group interests or grievances. Almost for the first time, that was the picture which emerged in the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. Such statement reflected in the success or defeat of various candidates, including President Muhammadu Buhari, outgoing Senate President Bukunola Saraki and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
While some of the grievances were direct as in Benue and Plateau states to protest the murderous activities of (Nigerian or foreign?) herdsmen, others were transferred in nature. Not left out was Kwara State, which experienced such electoral hurricane, completely shattering the political career of Senate President Saraki. In other cases, voters’ grievances against governors were transferred to lose President Buhari vital states like Edo, Oyo and Ondo in the presidential election in protest against the arrogance of the state governors concerned. After that first round in which voters asserted themselves, it is another opportunity, in the final round of the 2019 elections, for voters to make their protests beyond reasonable doubt.
Is it true? That was the question all over the place when news came of the defeat of out-going Senate President Saraki on PDP platform, more or less icing the cake for APC whose candidate Buhari won the state. When the state fell for Buhari in 2015, widespread impression was that it was all due to the influence of Saraki who had defected from PDP to solidify the newly-formed APC. Then came Saraki’s clandestine capture of the Senate presidency much to the embarrassment of President Buhari who had summoned a meeting for later that day to finalise Ahmed Lawan as APC’s choice for the post. A stranded Buhari, whatever his irritation, had to concede publicly that he was prepared to work with anybody as Senate President.
Before he knew it, Buhari and the nation were treated to gradual manipulation of legislations in the National Assembly, all aimed at dislodging him from Aso Rock. As it became known that Buhari was to contest the 2019 elections on the platform of APC, Saraki and his group intimidated and threatened to impeach Buhari on almost any issue, even as fellow members of the ruling APC. Under the illusion of exaggerated political influence and popularity, Saraki and his group quit the APC and returned to their PDP. Indeed, Saraki soon flamboyantly announced his candidacy for the presidency in the 2019 elections.
Then commenced the decline. A gathering of youths at whose ceremony Saraki announced his candidacy for the 2019 presidential elections publicly protested and withheld their support. Saraki probably underestimated the political standing of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and completely disregarded the rivalry of Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal for the 2019 elections, all of them on the platform of PDP. When the showdown came at the primaries of PDP for the party’s presidential ticket, Saraki found himself in distant third not just in position but also in votes. Meanwhile, back in Kwara State, people’s revolt started building up. Initially, it seemed to be stage-managed or sponsored, only to discover that it was highly inflammable and by the time the political fire engulfed entire Kwara State, it was fatal.
It will, therefore, be a remarkable electoral resurrection for Saraki and PDP to win the governorship race in Kwara State. All the more because the APC candidate Abdulrahman Abdulrazak is blessed with a formidable political legacy. His father Alhaji Abdul Razak was the first lawyer from the defunct Northern Region and represented his constituency in the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos throughout the First Republic. He never lost an election.
Aminu Tambuwal is seeking re-election. He attained the height of political success in 2011 when he emerged as Speaker of House of Representatives on the platform of PDP although in conspiracy with ACN members of the house, to negate PDP’s choice for the post. He was to test his luck for the presidency on the platform of APC in 2015 when he would have had to lock horns with Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso but, obviously assessing his chances to be so poor against such heavyweights, he withdrew and opted for Sokoto governorship. By the way, Tambuwal was one of the high-ranking northern politicians who quit PDP in protest against ex-President Jonathan’s failure to honour agreement for one term plus his completion of late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure. The latter died in office after two years.
Much as Tambuwal also helped in founding the APC, he too, like Saraki, lost control of his political aspiration as he also joined the group which quit the APC to rejoin the PDP with the sole aim of contesting the 2019 presidential election. Tambuwal lost the primaries for PDP ticket to Atiku Abubakar. Unfortunately for Tambuwal, he lost his state and senatorial seats to President Buhari and APC in the first round of the 2019 elections. Could that have been some sort of electoral mirage? Tambuwal’s predecessor would not take kindly to that implied rubbishing of his (Wamako’s) supremacy in Sokoto over Tambuwal. Tambuwal, therefore, has a big task in his bid for re-election.
Ordinarily, governor Simon Lalong would appear most secure in his bid for re-election in Plateau State. That was before the presidential election in which Buhari lost Plateau State in every aspect to Atiku Abubakar. Indigenes of Plateau State had grievances against Buhari over the killings of Plateau indigenes by herdsmen. Yet, the large crowd at his campaign in Jos turned out to rebuff him at the elections, which made him (Buhari) to lose Plateau State to Atiku Abubakar. Will voters in Plateau State similarly judge Lalong in the governorship election or their grievances were only against APC/Buhari? The picture will emerge in 48 hours after the election.
Can it be time for Emeka Ihedioha in Imo State even as an underdog on PDP platform? For the governorship of the state? This is the poser of the bitter dispute in APC where outgoing APC governor Rochas Okorocha is backing his son-in-law Uche Nwosu on the platform of another party for the governorship against APC’s official candidate Senator Hope Uzodinma. PDP’s united front will guarantee all their votes for their candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, while APC’s votes will split between Hope Uzodinma and Uche Nwosu. The bitterness in APC is so total and has resulted in mysterious murders of party faithful.
Again, until a fortnight ago, Oyo State seemed a done deal for Adebayo Adelabu as the next governor on the platform of APC. He is another candidate with rich political ancestry. Adebayo Adelabu is the grandson of the stormy petrel of Western Nigeria politics of the First Republic, Adegoke Adelabu, who was virtually the de facto government in his own right. Adegoke Adelabu’s movements, campaigns and pronouncements in those days often created panic and problem for his opponents in the ruling political party. In Ibadan city in particular, on any day Adelabu was to campaign, it was total lockdown. Does his grandson Adebayo Adelabu have such a charming personality? Very doubtful even with the backing of out-going governor Abiola Ajimobi, which today should be an advantage. But not in today’s Oyo State after the defeat of Ajimobi in his bid to return to the Senate in 2019 elections and the defeat of Buhari in Oyo State for the presidential election.
So disastrous was APC’s performance in Oyo during the presidential and National Assembly elections that Adebayo Adelabu’s handlers embarked on profuse apology to Oyo State electorate and completely disowned any link to Ajimobi’s performance of the past eight years. In short, that is Adebayo Adelabu contesting on APC platform in Oyo State, all on his own. Whether his grandfather’s political aura rubs on him or not, Adelabu’s victory in such difficult circumstances will be remarkable. As Ibadan people would put it, “Adebayo, o le se bi baba re tin se.” it is a challenge the Adelabu descendant cannot afford to lose.
Up in Kaduna State, there is Nasir El-Rufai always succeeding with or without his benefactors – Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and now Muhammadu Buhari. After a politically flourishing tenure with Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, the second term-seeking Kaduna State governor disagree with Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, leaving him (now) with Buhari as his benefactor. Still, the irrepressible El-Rufai has been no less controversial. But unlike the state governors of those states where Buhari unexpectedly lost in the presidential election, El-Rufai gave a good account of himself by winning the state for both Buhari and APC. Or was that due to the preference of Kaduna State electorate for APC and Buhari? Nigerians await that electoral ruling.
In this season of campaigns for state and national elections, one state where the challenger is more intimidating than the incumbent governor is Delta State, as APC candidate Great Ogboru takes on governor Ifeanyi Okowa. So intimidating has Ogboru been that APC leader, President Buhari (through Vice-President Osinbajo) confidently assured that APC would complete the take-over of Delta State in the governorship and state assembly elections. The ball is back in Ogboru’s court to prove how Great he is while it must not be lost on him that ex-governor Uduaghan failed in his senatorial bid.
Kano State governor Ganduje is another man facing a tough reelection. He not only won the state for Buhari in the presidential election but also in the process completed beyond any doubt the diminished status of his predecessor, Kwankwaso, who during the campaigns drew for PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as large a crowd as Ganduje drew for Buhari, who consequently won the state. Can Ganduje repeat the same feat for himself or Kwankwaso has merely been lying low for this return contest to surprise Ganduje?
Don’t bet your kobo either way on the Kano duel.
Sam Ortom of Benue State has regained his voice and now taunts his APC opponents, especially the state’s erstwhile political kingmaker, Senator and ex-Governor George Akume. Three weeks earlier, Ortom’s political fate seemed doomed. No less sensational was Akume’s defeat in the senatorial election, who paid the price for the people’s anger against Federal Government’s handling of the cattle rearer’s killing(s) of Benue indigenes.
President Buhari could only score not less than the mandatory 25 per cent of total votes in each of the South-South states, especially Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa. When, therefore, the APC resumed their campaigns in these states for the governorship elections, the party’s hierarchy must be unduly ambitious in an exercise which is nothing more than the shoring up of the morale of the likes of Senator and former governor Godswill Akpabio who, all along, boasted that Akwa Ibom State was already won for APC in the entire 2019 elections.
Can the APC or specifically Akpabio reverse the situation if only for his own political rehabilitation from the oblivion fast approaching him?