After several weeks of electioneering, the main day for the off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States is here.
Eligible voters in the three states will elect new governors as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts the states’ off-cycle governorship polls.
Although there are fears of violence in the three states in some quarters, all the political actors and stakeholders have expressed their readiness for the polls.
The gubernatorial elections would be very competitive in the three states, as no one could predict the winners for now.
Except for Imo State where the situation remains uncertain for now, because of the shutting down of the Imo airport, by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), over the attack and beating of its President Joe Ajaero some days ago.
The off-cycle elections have attracted the attention of Nigerians and political enthusiasts who are eager to see a new democratic administration in these key states.
In Bayelsa, a South-South state, 16 candidates will be slugging it out to win the top seat of the oil-rich state.
The major three candidates include the incumbent Governor Douye Diri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), former governor and the immediate Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Udengmobofa Eradiri of the Labour Party (LP).
Diri, a former senator, House of Representatives member, and Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the state became governor following a court judgment that disqualified the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the state, David Lyon.
The 2019 election in Bayelsa was between Diri of the PDP and Lyon of the APC.
Lyon won with 352,552 votes, defeating Diri of the PDP with 143,172 votes.
However, a day before his swearing-in, the Supreme Court sacked him as governor-elect because his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, had issues with the certificate he submitted to INEC.
In recent days opinions are divided over his performance in the last four years in office, critics say Governor Diri had not justified the huge revenue the state gets from the federal government with what is on the ground in Bayelsa.
However, those close to Governor Diri said the administration had turned around the state and touched every sector across the eight local governments which no government had done.
They said the state had witnessed tremendous improvement in infrastructures and that based on performance in the last four years, victory was sure.
Sylva is the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum. He was also a former governor of the state. He governed the state under the PDP.
Among others, Sylva will be counting on his accomplishments when he led the state and the clout of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the national level.
After his victory at the Court of Appeal which certified his candidacy for the poll, Sylva has been going around the country to meet top leaders of the party to gain support.
Sylva is hoping that some of his achievements in office during his first tenure as governor of Bayelsa can win him the hearts of voters.
Observers have predicted that the election will be between him and the incumbent, but that Diri’s performance in the last four years may give him an edge.
He is the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the election. Eradiri is a young politician building his political structure across the state, but some people say that the youth’s support for him may swing the pendulum in his favour.
An engineer, he is a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, commissioner, and special adviser on youth matters in the NDDC.
Observers say he may be hoping to capitalise on the popularity of Peter Obi, the LP’s presidential candidate in the presidential election, to cause an upset.
The candidates’ list published by INEC, the governorship elections in Kogi State will be contested by 18 candidates.
In recent years, electoral violence has been rife in Kogi and there are fears that the situation may not be different this time around.
In the last gubernatorial, the PDP women leader in one of the local government areas was burned alive in her home by political touts. No one has been held accountable up till now for the killing.
Among the leading candidates jostling for the number one seat in the state are Murtala Yakubu Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dino Melaye of the PDP, Ododo Usman Ahmed, APC, and Leke Abejide of African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Usman Ahmed Ododo
Ahmed Usman Ododo, APC candidate for the Kogi governorship election.
Ododo is a former auditor-general for local government in the state.
He enjoys the advantage of being the only candidate from the central senatorial district of the state.
Ododo has the backing of the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello, and his party the APC, which rules at the federal level.
However, Observers say that the poor performance of Governor Bello in the last eight years may work against him and his party.
He is, however, faced with opposition from some members of his party who lost out in the primaries.
The governorship election in Kogi State is expected to be keenly contested due to the calibre of candidates in the race.
He is the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the election, a popular politician, and critic.
A former House of Representatives member and senator, Melaye contested the governorship primaries of his party in 2019 and lost.
He was the spokesperson for Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
He is famous for his flamboyance and large lifestyle.
Melaye hails from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of the state.
Melaye is among the contenders due to the strength of the PDP in the state; however, observers say the current instability in the main opposition party may work against him in the poll.
But some say that the poor performance of the APC led Yahaya Bello’s administration in the state could work in his favour, because indigenes are yearning for a chance.
Many people in the state are not happy with the APC and the governor for bringing another candidate who hails from the same constituency with him and is likely to vote against the party, which could work in Melaye’s favour.
Muritala Yakubu Ajaka
Muritala Ajaka was the former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC.
He resigned his party membership, after which he emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the SDP for the November 11 election.
Many residents see him as one of the likely winners.
He is from the eastern senatorial district, the region with the highest number of voters and population.
In recent weeks, many observers have predicted that if the election is free and fair, the pendulum may swing his favour.
But just like previous polls in the state, the Kogi State gubernatorial election may be marred by irregularities and controversy which may work against opposition parties.
For some time now, insecurity has been a major challenge in the Southeast region, and it has led to the deaths of more than 1,700 people between January 2021 and June 2023 according to a report from the United Nations (UN).
Insecurity affects all five states: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.
There are fears that the gubernatorial poll may be marred by violence in Imo State. For now, tension is high in the state, over the decision of the NLC to shut down the state airport over the brutalisation of its President Joe Ajaero some days ago.
Going into this gubernatorial election, INEC cleared 17 candidates.
The major candidates are the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodinma of the APC, Athan Nneji Aconu, LP, and Samuel Anyanwu of the PDP.
Uzodimma has been Imo State governor since 2020 after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and declared him the winner.
He is the current chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum.
He has the advantage of incumbency. He will also enjoy the support of APC, a party ruling at the national level.
In August, Uzodimma dropped his deputy and unveiled Chinyere Ekomaru as his running mate for the poll.
Opinions are divided on his performance in office so far, but it is predicted the current insecurity in the state may work against him.
Many people in the state have not accepted Uzodimma’s administration due to the controversial circumstance he got his mandate.
The brutalisation of the NLC President some days ago has not done his re-election bid any good.
In recent days, the opposition has accused INEC of working in his favour, while there are ongoing concerns that there may be high voter apathy in some parts of the state.
He is the LP’s candidate for the election.
He served briefly in the National Assembly as a senator before the courts sacked him.
Achonu has built a name for himself by embracing his disability.
If he wins the election, he will become the nation’s first amputee governor.
He will also bank on the LP’s success in the South-East during the February and March general elections.
Achonu’s reputation has grown in recent weeks since the Julius Abure faction won the battle for the soul of the party at the Supreme Court.
He is one of the contenders going into the poll; some say that he was capable of springing a surprise.
Anyanwu was the former National Secretary of the PDP before contesting the governorship election in Imo State.
He served as a senator in the 8th National Assembly.
He contested for the PDP ticket in 2019 but was defeated by Emeka Ihedioha in the party primary.
A former local government chairman and State House of Assembly member from 2007 to 2015, he is well-grounded in the state’s local politics.
Observers say the current instability in the PDP may work against him; particularly his refusal to resign from the National Secretary position of the PDP which has angered many party leaders, prompting them to refuse to support him.
Anyanwu is not seen as a serious candidate in some quarters and may not pose any challenge to the main contenders.