• Monday, July 15, 2024
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2015 polls: Why Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna,Oyo are states to watch

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Five days to the general election, Nigerians appear to speak in tandem that Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna and Oyo may top the list of states where temper will run high during the exercise, particularly, the presidential election. The reasons, they say, are obvious.

Those who spoke with BD SUNDAY said that many factors were responsible for the level of attention being paid to the states by various contenders.

According to them, while economic and political considerations may be blamed for the desperation over which party wins Lagos, sheer ego and self-preservation would be the driving force in Rivers.

For Kaduna State, religion holds the ace. The Southern Kaduna, which is predominantly Christians, which always hold the winning card at elections, this time around appears to have some axes to grind with some politicians in the state. The desperation of PDP and APC to win the state to prove a point is also a strong factor.

In Oyo State where the incumbent governor is desperate to break a certain jinx of serving two terms which none of his predecessors was able to achieve, two former governors who are angling to return to Agodi Gate Government House, are giving him a run for his money. Recall that Oyo is the headquarters of thugs who operate under the umbrella of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) that has always been a dangerous instrument in the hands of desperate politicians.

LAGOS

Since 1999, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been trying to take over Lagos State from the opposition. Tried as Olusegun Obasanjo did when he was president between 1999 and 2003, there was no success in that regard. Since 2011 when Goodluck Jonathan mounted the saddle as president, the PDP has also been making efforts to win the former capital of Nigeria. Lagos is heavily endowed with men and resources. It is a rallying point for all other states in the south west geo-political zone. Its internally generated revenue (IGR) put at about N20 billion a month, its rating within and outside the country in terms of strategic importance to social, religious and economic life of Nigeria, no doubts, have all combined to make Lagos a sought-after state.

In its determination to win Lagos, the PDP is said to have staked so much in terms of financial resources. Its presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, appears to have literally relocated to the state from where he reaches out to important individuals and groups with his message of re-election. In the last few weeks, groups sympathetic to the PDP have held rallies urging voters to sack the All Progressives Congress (APC) via the ballot on April 11, 2015 gubernatorial election. The calculation in the PDP family is that with Lagos in its kitty, there would be more money for its numerous projects both at the state and federal level.

With the “resurrection” of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) which staged a dangerous and scary protest march last week in popular areas of the state in the full glare of policemen, observers say it was a foretaste of what would come on the election days.     

RIVERS

In Rivers State, it is a battle of wits. It would be fought between Jonathan and his wife, Patience, in one camp against Governor Rotimi Amaechi on the other hand. The opposing camps are flexing muscles over who really controls the state. 

The PDP seems to count on the kinsman-ship the president ought to enjoy in the Niger Delta (coming from the Ijaw ethnic group and of the stock of South-South, his kinsmen would not forsake him); that the first lady is a Rivers’ daughter, that federal might is still crucial, that the security agencies have no option than to take orders from above, and that the force of money and men would break any resolve.

The APC seems to count on massive grassroots following managed by the local council caretaker bosses, the charisma and activist flavour of Governor Amaechi, the huge projects of the state government, the whipped up anger of the indigenes against the centre, especially over scarce federal projects and ceding away of oil wells to President’s state of Bayelsa, allegedly belonging to Rivers, etc.

Amaechi, who lost his chairmanship position of a united Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) as a result of soured relationship with Jonathan and had to flee the party for APC, is fighting the battle of his life.

Analysts say that the elections- presidential and gubernatorial- are crucial to him as they will determine what happens to him thereafter.

“Rivers’ is hot and expected to be hotter during the elections. If APC loses at the gubernatorial election and PDP wins, the state could be hot for Amaechi thereafter. If President Jonathan wins against General Buhari, Amaechi will also be in trouble. He may face the same treatment that was meted out to Timipre Sylva, former governor of Bayelsa State. The only respite he will have is if Buhari wins and Dakuku Peterside clinches the gubernatorial election,” Daniel Ami, a legal practitioner, said. 

The APC and the governor have accused all the umpires, police, DSS, INEC, etc, even raising alarm that the newly posted resident electoral commissioner is the president’s kinswoman sent on a mission.

But Dan Bature, commissioner of police and Felix Obuah, the PDP state chairman, have in separate statements waved off Amaechi’s allegations, saying he was frustrated by the inability of the police to release hardened criminals.

Meanwhile, the level of apprehension ahead of the election is palpable. An elderly woman at a bank the other day told a guard she was there to collect money to stock foodstuff ahead of the voting day because her household would not dare step out.

This seems to be the general mood. It would require new efforts to change this impression in the minds of most voters.

Each community in the oil-rich state seems to be under the control of rival cult gangs who now appear desperate to topple the other and be the vote decider in one community or the other. Money dropped by each political camp for “elections” seems to tear the armed gangs apart who quarrel and settle the dispute with gun duels. In one community in Port Harcourt, the elders had to summon all gangs to a meeting after daily shooting led to at least two deaths every evening in the Elelenwo area.

In the highly polarised state, it is sure to be winner-takes all as in the medieval wars. It is believed that the loser may face ugly reprisals for years to come because there may be no forgiveness or magnanimity in victory.

KADUNA

In Kaduna State, both the gubernatorial and presidential polls would be keenly contested. Using parameters like history of violence, communal or religious conflict, terrorist or militant activities, bid for second term by the governor and zoning arrangement by political parties to designate violence-prone states, CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, had in 2011 identified Kaduna amongst 12 states that should be placed under close security watch for possible outbreak of violence before, during and after the elections.

The North Central state is one of the flashpoints in the forthcoming general elections.

Despite being the home state of Namadi Sambo, vice president, Kaduna is still seen as stronghold of the opposition, as the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – now All Progressives Congress (APC) – polled 51.92 percent in the 2011 presidential election in the state, as against PDP’s 46.31 percent.

The battle for the soul of Kaduna will be between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate and present governor of the state, Mukhtar Ramallan Yero, and his main challenger, Nasir el-Rufai of APC.

Observers say that although both PDP and APC standard bearers are Muslims, “people of the Southern Kaduna will decide where their bread will be better buttered.”

Observers say the choice of el-Rufai as APC gubernatorial candidate will also pose a great challenge to PDP, as the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister is loved by many in the state. Already, violence have erupted in the camps of both political parties in the build-up to the polls, the peak of which was a bomb attack targeted at APC presidential standard bearer, Muhammadu Buhari in July last year where over 82 persons were killed.

OYO

The major contenders in the gubernatorial race appear desperate to win. As Abiola Ajimobi, incumbent governor and APC candidate is bent on coming back for a second term which has not happened before in the state, Rashidi Ladoja, the standard bearer of Accord Party, and Adebayo Alao-Akala of the Labour Party (LP), both former governors, are striving to dislodge Ajimobi.

Due to the desperation of the candidates, their supporters may employ untoward means to ensure victory for their principals.

The state is notorious for electoral violence.

This date back to the First, Second Republics, and between 1999 and 2011 there were cases of ballot snatching; elections disrupted by hoodlums, there were killings and maiming of innocent people.

Members of NURTW were routinely engaged by politicians to commit all manner of heinous crimes in the name of seeking electoral victory.

Thuggery was legalised in the days of Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, who was nicknamed the strongman of Ibadan.

But on assumption of office on May 29, 2011, the Ajimobi administration moved against members of the NURTW, with the aim to rid the state of such ill. The state government set up a security outfit code-named “Operation Burst.”

Many of the thugs and some of the NURTW members were arrested and prosecuted for their various offences in the state, particularly thuggery. Mukaila Lamidi, a.k.a Auxiliary, a chieftain of the union in the state, was arrested for alleged murder during the last election. Mukaila is still being held at Agodi.

Flash points in Ibadan are Bere, Iwo Road, Ojoo, Molete, Boode, Gate, Ojee, Omi Adio, Olomi where NURTW secretariat is located and Odinjo.

ZEBULON AGOMUO, Ignatius Chukwu, ODINAKA ANUDU, REMI FEYISIPO, OWEDE AGBAJILEKE