As the parties concluded their primaries at the weekend, there emerged telltale signs of the political parties’ standing across the country with some of the other parties ready to show strength against PDP and APC
Enyeribe Ejiogu, Desmond Mgboh (Kano), Raphael Ede (Enugu), Tony John (Port Harcourt), John Adams (Minna), Judex Okoro, (Calabar), Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Joe Effiong (Uyo), Chuks Onuoha (Umuahia) Chinelo Obogo
With the conclusion of political parties’ primaries, the 2019 general elections would move to the next stage of electioneering.
In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) displaced the Peoples Democracy Party (PDP), which held power at centre then, promising Nigerians ‘change.’
And three and half years down the line, Nigerians have tasted the APC change agenda and are better informed.
Today, both the APC and the now opposition party, PDP, are again standing before the people for evaluation and endorsement with votes in the forthcoming elections.
Also across the country, new parties are positioning and strategizing to wrest power from the two major parties, PDP and APC, at the state, senatorial, House of Representatives and assembly levels.
As the parties concluded their primaries at the weekend, there emerged telltale signs of the political parties’ standing across the country with some of the other parties ready to show strength against PDP and APC In this report, Sunday Sun presents some of them.
There are two leading political parties in Kano State, namely the All Progressives Congress, which is now in power, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Until lately, any of the two political parties had the potential of winning the forthcoming elections in 2019 in the state. In the wake of series of missteps, the PDP appears to have lost that golden opportunity. Due to power sharing disagreement, the gains of the return of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso to the party were lost to the exit of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau to the ruling party.
As the emerging picture shows, the political landscape now is largely in favour of the APC in the state. The party enjoys the power of incumbency and appears committed to cling to it. If the party’s governorship primary election result is anything to trust, then there is no way the PDP would come close to beating the party in the forthcoming polls. The state governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje secured over 2.7 million votes of his party members.
More importantly, the APC presidential candidate, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, is also well received in the state. Many believe that although Buhari has lost some grounds in the state, he is still going to influence the outcome of the governorship race in the state.
Another factor that would give the day to the APC is that it is returning almost all its key stakeholders to the race. It was gathered that the governor’s body language is to return all the members of the legislature that stood by him as he battled with his predecessor, Senator Kwankwaso. Hence, experienced candidates like Senator Kabiru Gaya, a one-time governor of the state and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, another former governor, are all in the senatorial race and could on their own win votes any day for the party.
However, it is the internal crisis within the PDP that has made worse their case. The PDP is in court at present and is divided into two parallel factions that have no meeting point. Senator Kwankwaso leads one faction while Ambassador Aminu Wali and the chairman, Senator El Jibrin Dogowa, lead the other faction.
Moreover, a crack over the choice of the gubernatorial candidate has also torn the fabric of the Kwankwasiyya faction, resulting in grave distrust.
This led to at least three of the members of the faction getting the governorship forms instead of lining up behind a single candidate.
While it is not in doubt that Kwankwaso and his faction have huge followership in the state, these ugly events have slowed down the chances of his faction and the entire PDP in the state. Only a miracle can change their fortunes.
In Enugu State, three political parties have indicated interest to vie for the governorship seat to occupy the Lion Building Government House in the 2019 general elections.
These political parties are the PDP, APC and the Fresh Democratic Party (FDP).
The three parties have concluded their primary elections with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Senator Ayogu Eze and Deaconess Nnenna Anozie emerging the standard bearers of the PDP, APC, and FDP respectively.
The FDP candidate, Deaconess Anozie, is a legal practitioner based in Enugu and a minister of God with the Redeemed Christian Church of God. She has the support of her church members.
Although, FDP popularly known as FRESH party is relatively new in Enugu state and many people may not be aware of the party’s existence, Anozie hails from Udi the hometown of the immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime, who ruled the state for eight years. However, the zoning arrangement of the governorship to Enugu North will work against her.
However, many believe that the Enugu governorship election will be a two-horse race between Ugwuanyi and Eze.
Why APC is brought into ranking is because it parades who-is-who in Enugu State as members. They include the former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani; former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo; the immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime; former governor of Gombe State, Group Captain Joe Orji (rtd); former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odoh; Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu (GNG), Chief Ifeanyi Nwoga, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Special Adviser to the on President Justice Reform, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku; Chief Bayoowd Ibe; former Secretary to the state government (SSG) Onyemauche Nnamani; popular Nollywood actor, Kenneth Okonkwo, among others.
The major factor that would mar the chances of APC in Enugu state is the protracted leadership crisis between the Dr Ben Nwoye-led faction that is loyal to the National Vice Chairman Southeast, Chief Emma Eneukwu and DG VON, Mr Okechukwu; and Deacon Okey Ogbodo-led faction loyal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama. But if this gladiators will genuinely put their acts together, APC will truly give the PDP a run for its money now that Ayogu Eze has emerged its standard bearer.
For the ruling party in the state, there are very strong indications that the 2019 governorship election will be a walkover in the state. This belief stemmed from the fact that Enugu has remained a one-party state since the return of democracy in 1999. But with the defection of these prominent politicians in the state to the APC, many are looking up to upsets. But the PDP appears unperturbed, as it believes that the achievements of the party under Ugwuanyi in the last three and half years have endeared their candidate to the electorate.
Currently the echo in the state is ‘Gburugburuism’ as virtually all the associations and organizations in the state have endorsed Governor Ugwuanyi for a second tenure. The traditional institutions have also endorsed him and every community has started to endorse him. Another advantage the PDP has is that most of the leaders of the APC in the state love Ugwuanyi and may find it difficult to work against him.
Imo State appears to be interesting to political watchers as Governor Rochas Okorocha is havin a tough time in his effort to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor. For the APC alone, there are nine governorship aspirants – including the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere. Madumere had fallen out with the governor as he indicated interest to take over his seat in 2019. The deputy governor had since joined forces with what is called the Imo Coalition of APC to resist the governor.
When the APC organised its first governorship primary in the state, the Chairman of the election committee, Ahmed Gulak, had fled Imo to declare Senator Hope Uzodinma winner of the primary while the secretary of the committee declared Uche Nwosu winner in Owerri. But the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said that the two results were fake and so ordered another primary election for yesterday, but six out of the 12 aspirants indicated that they were not participating in the exercise, saying that they are standing on the declaration of Uzodinma as winner by Gulak.
Also the APGA in the state was locked in crisis up to yesterday. As at the time of filing this report the party has not been able to select a candidate out of the 28 aspirants who filed out to fly the flag of the party. It is expected in Imo that APGA stand to reap from Okorocha’s insistence on Nwosu, as the party has narrowed its slot to the Owerri zone, which believes it is its turn to produce the next governor.
For now, it is only the PDP that was able to organize a rancor-free primary in the state, where former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, emerged victorious. But surprisingly, his closest rival at the election, Senator Samdaddy Anyanwu has rejected the result of the primary, threatening to go to court.
If APGA and PDP fail to settle their differences and create a good competitive atmosphere, Governor Okorocha, who had sworn to produce his successor, will have his way in the state.
Elections in Lagos have often been keenly contested and next year’s would not be any different. For the APC, the public spat between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the state chapter of the party over their rejection of his second term bid would no doubt change the dynamics.
Since 1999, Lagos State has been controlled by the opposition, but that changed in 2015.
First, Alliance for Democracy (AD) whose platform Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was elected in changed to the Action Congress (AC), then to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now, the APC.
In 2003, Tinubu contested again and polled 900,000 to defeat the late Funsho Williams of the PDP, who polled 700,000 votes. Williams was assassinated in 2006. In 2007, Babatunde Fashola contested also on the platform of change as more people were becoming more politically conscious, which also affected the dynamics in the state. PDP was still the ruling party at the Federal level and there was strong support among the Igbo living in Lagos for the then President Goodluck Jonathan who was contesting for re-election on the platform of the PDP.
By that time also, ACN had merged with other opposition parties to form the APC and Ambode was its governorship candidate. The campaign was intense, but he succeeded in winning with House of Representatives and eight seats at the House of Assembly.
However, seven out of the eight PDP state this year, the state chairman, Moshood Salvador, PDP state executive after months of internal crisis.
The APC in Lagos enjoys the support of the market associations, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and most local governments and this has helped it remain in power for over 16 years.
Going by this history and the fact that since severe crisis, it would be an uphill battle for the party to defeat the APC in the state. The APC has elected Babajide Sanwo-Olu as its governorship Agbaje who also has goodwill among many Lagos residents.
However, what the PDP is banking on is to take advantage of the crisis in the APC, but it would still be an uphill battle to dislodge the ruling party’s over 16 years hold on power.
The three dominant parties in Abia State are the APC, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and PDP. With some hours to the expiration of party primaries in the states, the three dominant parties have all concluded their governorship primaries and came out with their standard bearers.
However, some of the parties are having more than one flag bearer, having conducted parallel primaries.
For APC, Dr Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah was declared winner in a contest that involved a former Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Martins Azubuike, former Deputy Governor Comrade Chris Akomas, and a renowned legal luminary, Friday Nwosu. His victory was heralded all over the state to the consternation of some sections of Abia citizens, who had clamoured that the governorship be zoned to their own area. But the Chairman of the party – men in the past that what the party needed was a party gave a level playing ground for all aspirants not minding where they came from. Two other contestants for the governorship primaries, who clinched victory in the election conducted by their – mary conducted in Aba.
For many, if the APC does not urgently harmonize the tickets of these factional candidates, it would rub off negatively on the chances of the party during the 2019 polls.
In APGA, Dr Alex Otti emerged winner in a primary conducted at the party secretariat along Ikot-Ekpene Road, Umuahia. He was the desire of most of the party members. He clinched victory with 517 votes. But while the primary that produced Otti was going on, a factional leader of the APGA, Chima Udensi, was busy conducting his own primary at the Kolping Society hall, in World Bank Housing Estate. That primary also gave Udensi victory as he was declared winner.
For the PDP, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who featured as the only contestant in its primary conducted at the Umuahia Township Stadium, emerged its candidate.
It was learnt that the party members agreed in a principle on what they described as “return–return” method, which means that all former candidates were brought back to contest as no new person was allowed to come into the race despite the fact that they all purchased forms and met other conditions of the party.
Many members complained of imposition and decried the attitude of the party to members.
As it stands, the duo of APC and APGA need to put their houses in order if they are to wrest power from the PDP. In the 2015 governorship election, Otti made a very impressive showing that almost threw the PDP off balance. His second coming may spring another surprise. Also APC will go far if it quickly decides on who should fly its flag.
More than three years after the 2015 elections, the political climate in Rivers State has not settled. Schism that developed with the then governor, Rotimi Amaechi, decamping to pitch his tent with the APC has concretised into politics of bitterness with the opposition All Progressives Congress in the state and the PDP circling each other like sword-wielding gladiators in a Roman square.
Though PDP and APC are the dominant parties, the APC has not hidden its determination to sack the PDP from the Brick House. But this will be a herculean job as the numerous people-oriented developmental projects of the Governor Nyesom Wike administration are spread across the 23 local government areas of the state, which speak eloquently for him.
Another disadvantage of the APC in Rivers State is the factionalisation of the party. The former state governor and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and his old-time political associate and friend, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, are locked in fierce battle, which led to the party producing two parallel governorship candidates: Magnus Abe and Tonye Dele Cole.
With this crisis in the APC, the PDP will have an easy ride if the former fails to harmonize before the general elections.
With the emergence of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State as the APC governorship candidate and Hon. Umar Nasko as the PDP standard bearer for the 2019 general election, the stage appears set for a rematch of the 2015. The two political gladiators flew the flags of their parties in 2015, but the APC candidate, Bello carried the day against all expectations. The 2015 APC victory ended the 16 years political dominance of the state by the PDP. Bello, former Commissioner for Investment under the former governor Babangida Aliyu-led PDP administration in the state, was never given any chance of succeeding his former boss because he was testing the political water for the first time. He was dismissed as a lightweight politician, as many argued how someone who could not manage a small ministry aspire to govern the entire state. But thanks to the Buhari tsunami and the general disenchantment against PDP, Bello achieved a clean upset and emerged as the governor after defeating Nasko in a keenly contested election. Nasko, a former Chief of Staff to former governor Babangida Aliyu was highly favoured then to win the election due to incumbency power and his general popularity, but the wind of change blew him away. However, that was three years ago, and since then so much water has passed under the bridge as the state has witnessed a major political development and enlightenment among the people.
The 2019 will provide another opportunity for either Governor Bello to follow the footstep of his predecessor of ruling the state for eight years or for Nasko to rewrite the political history of the state since 1999 by stopping the governor from having his second term in office. For now, the two candidates are the major contenders for the race to Niger State government House in 2019, and if the current political development in the state in the last three years is anything to go by, the pendulum could swing to either side.
Before now, Cross River used to be known as a one-party state with the PDP dominating the political landscape. But the 2015 victory of the APC, the political permutation seems to be taking a new shape as the party has emerged as a formidable opposition, thereby attempting to rewrite history in the state.
The jostle for 2019 has created tension and acrimony within the two leading parties with the Social Democratic Party, SDP, now positioned to be a key beneficiary of the backlash and protest votes that may arise in the days ahead.
For PDP, the incumbent governor, Prof Ben Ayade emerged the governorship candidate amid protest from the two rivals, including Mr Emmanuel Ibeshi and Dr Paul Udayi. The duo of Ibeshi and Udayi were excluded from taking part in the governorship primaries held at U.J. Esuene Stadium without tangible reasons from the party secretariat. Udayi, who was the first aspirant to pick up the expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the governorship election in Cross River, said that no reason was given for his not being screened by the committee.
He has challenged the party’s decision in court. On the other hand, Ibeshi protested his sudden and arbitrary disqualification from contesting the governorship primaries. He seems likely to head for the courts too.
This development has caused some disaffection within the party leadership as the affected aspirants and their supporters are set to defect to SDP and campaign against PDP during the general election.
Checks by Sunday Sun revealed that the issue of disqualifications if not handled with utmost care, the party might witness serious implosion. But in spite of the protest, PDP still commands strong followership in the state as they have structures and the capacity to absorb and withstand any pressures from the opposition.
For APC, the party, from inception, has been at perpetual tussle with itself as the leaders have been at war over who controls the party structure from ward to state levels. The party is factionalized between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani and the National Vice Chairman, South-South zone, Mr Hilliard Eta/Sen John Owan Enoh/Chief Clement Ebri.
The divisions have led to the emergence of two state executive committees. If, therefore, the squabbles and battle for the leadership continues, APC may likely lose again as the two factions have vowed not to work together, thereby fuelling speculation that either way there would be protest votes that could give PDP victory.
Social Democratic Party, SDP, seems to be the most beautiful bride in waiting as most aggrieved members are likely to defect to the party, which they see as the hope for all. With the emergence of Eyo Ekpo as its gubernatorial candidate through direct primaries conducted in the 18 local government areas of Cross River State, the party seems set to wrest power from PDP.
As at the time of going to press, the leadership has put machinery in motion to woo some aggrieved PDP and APC stalwarts with a view to forming an alliance, and possibly offer the disqualified aspirants from PDP and APC automatic tickets on its platform. But being a new party, it might be somewhat difficult to wrest power from PDP, which has the financial muscle and structure to still continue in 2019.
Until recently, there were only two major parties in the state – the PDP and the APC. Whereas the PDP carefully organized its affairs, resulting in the emergence of the incumbent governor, Darius Ishaku as the sole aspirant in the governorship primary election, the crisis within the All Progressive Congress, arising from the primaries is threatening to consume the party in the state completely.
Meanwhile, the United Development Party, UDP, which was hitherto obscure in the state is now gaining massive popularity with the introduction of Senator Aisha Alhassan, who resigned from the APC into the picture.
The APC had over time, vowed to take over power in Taraba State from the ruling PDP. Based on the outcome of the Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections, most people were inclined to believe that APC would achieve the objective.
The crisis trailing the process of choosing the party’s standard bearer has upturned the fortunes of the party. The APC governorship primary was widely criticized for the violence and other irregularities that marred the process that produced a former acting governor of the state, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, as the APC flag bearer.
The UDP seems pretty stable for the moment, but the newness of the party and the factors that worked against Mama Taraba in the 2015 general election appear to be still there. How all these would be worked out to her favour would only be determined by time.
Right from 1999 till 2015, the PDP has had a firm control of Kwara State. But in 2015 election, Senate President Bukola Saraki, alongside some other PDP heavyweights staged a political coup that flipped the state into the hands of the APC, following their defection to the then new party, which coasted home to victory. The marriage lasted for only three years and six months and ended with Saraki returning to the PDP. While in the surface, Kwara State bore the veneer of APC, it has always been PDP at heart. This much was clearly demonstrated when Saraki returned to the PDP with his structure which is the backbone and flesh of the APC in the state.
As at today, the two dominant parties in the state are the PDP and APC with the Social Democratic Party trailing behind. The PDP is in control the state while APC is the major opposition party led by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Meanwhile several aspirants are vying for the governorship position, to take over from Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed whose tenure is elapsing in 2019. To date, only the PDP, the Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party have chosen their governorship candidates, namely Rasak Atunwa (PDP), Issa Aremu (LP) and Dr Olajide Adebola (SDP).
Akwa Ibom is a state where people have never shown interest in multi-party electioneering; they always put their votes in one and half baskets. The major party had always been the PDP and the distant opposition, APC. Other lesser political parties, which also do not win any election, usually make some cosmetic appearances in every general election cycle.
The situation was not very different at the beginning of the current electioneering process, until a political earthquake happened in the state, when the former governor and now a senator, Godswill Akpabio, defected to the APC with his formidable political structure. It was a development that prompted APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to brand Akpabio as ‘Uncommon Defector,’ a throwback to the slogan, Uncommon Transformation, which marked his two-term tenure as governor. Political watchers believe that Akpabio’s defection created a balance of power and gave strength to the APC, which had previously been limping in the state.
As earlier noted, Akpabio did not go alone, but took with him many political middleweights, who were even holding positions in the state government: two serving commissioners (Mr Victor Antai and Mr Ibanga), two House of Assembly members, two Reps members and many others who later declared to join APC; thus making the opposition party somewhat strong and no longer a pushover.
The completion of the primaries saw the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Nsima Ekere, getting the ticket to run for the governorship of the party, and effectively fenced off people like Senator John Akpanudoedeghe, Mr Bassey Dan-Abia and Dr Edet Efretuei. Clearly, APC is now a force to reckon with in Akwa Ibom State. It is going into the elections with two serving senators, at least three serving members of the House of Representatives and even more serving members of the state assembly and local government chairmen initially elected on the platform of the PDP.
So, APC winning the governorship in Akwa Ibom, which hitherto was a very distant thought, has now become a possibility.
But make no mistake about this: PDP is still considered a religion that has a huge following. In fact, Governor Udom Emmanuel, who is flying the party’s flag, is the first sitting governor to have sought re-election nomination unopposed. This means that the threat posed by Akpabio’s coup against PDP has made the party more united and strengthened than before.
Apart from the governor, the influential Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Onofiok Luke, who has also got the House of Representatives ticket and the senator representing the populous Uyo Senatorial District, Mr Bassey Albert Akpan, and most of the Reps and state assembly members are still working hard for the party, ditto those who lost the re-election nominations. PDP held relatively peaceful and democratic primaries with no official protest so far from the losers.
But the unity and mass appeal appear to be the only strength at the moment. With the calibre of people defecting to APC, PDP is at its weakest level since 1999. The former deputy governor, Obong Chris Ekpenyong, holding the ticket for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District cannot upstage Senator Godswill Akpabio, meaning that PDP is as good as losing that senatorial election already. And in Eket Senatorial District where the governor comes from, the former Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Dr Akon Eyakenyi, needs to fight the battle of her life to upstage the incumbent, Senator Nelson Effiong, who even defected more than a year before Akpabio to APC. Others that would emerge for the 10 House of Representatives slots and the 26 state assembly slots would determine whether the PDP would still win the governorship in the state or not. In all, after surviving the shock of Akpabio’s exit, PDP appears to be strong, united and very ready for the election.
Though the APC has the Akpabio, Ita Enang, Nsima Ekere, and many other federal appointees, its primaries, especially the governorship left a lot to be desired. Apart from violence resulting in at least two deaths, there were serious disagreements within, especially from the Akpanudoedeghe’s camp. He has since rejected the result of the primaries and petitioned the party’s NEC. The allegation that Ekere was anointed candidate who received the overt and covert support of the party elders in the state against other aspirants, appears to be a strong factor working against APC now. But its strength will lie in its ability to solve the internal problems which Akpabio’s defection appears to have also caused among those who had been there before him.
Nsima Ekere, the guber standard bearer of the party, who seems to have deep pocket to finance the activities of the party, Akpabio’s brinkmanship, coupled with the “federal might,” are the party’s greatest strength based on Akwa Ibom election philosophy of always toeing the line of the party in power at the centre. If election is held today, it can be anybody’s game. APGA that used to come third in the state revealed that nobody had picked any of its nomination forms. The state chairman of APGA, Mr Partick Out, lamented: “We have forms here, but nobody has picked any yet. But we are open.
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The forms are not so costly. I wouldn’t really know why people are not coming out to pick forms; maybe they are looking at the line up in the PDP and APC, that if they should line up with the opponent that is really strong they would not win. I don’t really know because we believe that 2019 would be a serious election.”
So, it is going to be a straight fight between APC and PDP. Other parties may not even bother to report for duty as there would be no crumbs to eat.