Gubernatorial Election: Epic battle expected in Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Benue

...As APC, PDP, LP test might

With the widespread feeling of disatisfaction by the masses over the poor conduct of the February 25th presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there are uncertainties over how the March 11, 2023, gubernatorial election will go across the country.

While many anticipate protest votes against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), others think the betrayal by the INEC may likely result in low turnout of voters on Saturday, a development the APC will ride on to capture many states.

But no matter the way the election goes this Saturday, pundits anticipate epic battle between the APC and the main challengers; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), especially in Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Abia, Enugu, and Benue states, which threw up surprises at the poll.

The battle is eminent in Lagos because of the overwhelming victory of the LP in the presidential election. Judging from the margin, with which the LP won, though many alleged that the INEC manipulated the result in order to close the gap between the winner and the loser, it gives the APC a huge concern because if things go the way of the February 25th presidential election, the party will likely lose again to the LP.

Of course, the APC is also worried because Lagos has never lost to another party from the time Bola Tinubu became governor of the state and that the party is working hard to ensure that record is not broken on March 11, 2023.

Before the Saturday, February 25th presidential election, the two prominent candidates in Lagos were the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC, and Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran (Jandor) of the PDP, but at the moment, it would appear that the hitherto unknown candidate of the LP, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour has become a force to reckon with, riding on the popularity of Peter Obi.

For Peter Oseni, a senior public servant, who voted for the LP in Lagos, the party will consolidate on its presidential election victory in Lagos with protest votes that will unseat the APC-led government in the state.

“That will not be easy, but it is very possible and I will join millions to change things in Lagos this coming Saturday,” he said.

According to him, the PDP is not big in the battle and it is late for any meaningful coalition because LP has shown strength and can stand alone.

Ademola Adigun, a serial-entrepreneur and APC card-carrying member, fears the outcome of the gubernatorial election in Lagos because of the anger being expressed by many that the party rigged the presidential election.

“I know my party will try to do everything to win, but an army of angry Nigerians, including my three boys, are ready to stop us at the poll this Saturday. They keep asking me why one party will keep ruling since they were born,” he said.

The serial-entrepreneur predicts that the LP will leverage on last election result, the APC will do anything to stop it and that the challenge may result in worst election violence in Lagos history.

However, while the PDP may not stand a chance in Lagos, it is going to be truly epic battle between the party and the opposition in the states it lost in the presidential election due the irreconcilable issues, championed by the G-5 governors.

Of course, the G-5 governors are the worst losers as three of them did not win their senatorial bids, as well as losing to other parties in the presidential election.

With the huge loss, and burden of betrayal by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State, and Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo State, who went behind to work for the APC, the other G-5 governors will likely fight to the finish at ensuring their party’s victory at the gubernatorial election.

But it is going to be a fierce contest as it would amount to one eating one’s cake and still having it.
Already, the APC and PDP are at loggerheads over which party actually worked for Tinubu’s victory in Rivers.

By the same token, the APC in Oyo State has warned Governor Makinde against dropping Tinubu’s name. The question is, will APC massively vote for the candidates of PDP in Rivers and Oyo on Saturday instead of their own candidates?

Considering that the gubernatorial election is his last resort to remaining in power, Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, a ruthless fighter, will not allow the APC to unseat PDP in his state, many assured.

According to Teseh Agbah, a Benue-born politician, Ortom was one of the governors that withstood the president and resisted the excesses of the APC, which he dumped to join the PDP.

“Despite his unholy alliance with Nyesom Wike, which backfired on him, Ortom will fight back and Benue people will support him. PDP will still win in Benue because the people prefer the party to any other,” Agbah said.

But hope seems finally lost for Okezie Ikpeazu, the governor of Abia State, who has been suffering from one loss to another. From imposing an unpopular gubernatorial candidate, who later died, to getting a replacement candidate whose loyalty is in doubt, and recently losing his senatorial ambition to the LP, Ikpeazu seems to be heading to his political doom if the PDP loses in the gubernatorial election.

Abia has since 1999 been badly governed. All those who had presided over the state did not only wrecked it, they plundered it. The sign of rejection of the ruling party in the state showed last Saturday with the defeat of big names that contested on its platform by LP candidates. If the streak of victory should repeat itself next Saturday, the umbrella association may no longer recover in the state where indigenes have longed for a deliverer.

As many in Abia said, the poor-performing governor is paying for his unholy alliance with Nyesom Wike.
With the many losses, pundits think however, that Ikpeazu will either fight to the finish or allow Abia PDP to sink, “after all, he has nothing at stake.”

Akadike Asonye, an LP chieftain in Abia, assured that it was LP’s time and that PDP cannot stop the party.

“We have not lost the mandate Nigerians gave us at the presidential election. We are in court and there will surely be victory. So, we are going ahead to win overwhelming in Abia this coming Saturday,” Asonye, a retired Nigerian Customs senior officer, assured.

But the PDP is still hopeful in Abia, banking on its popularity since the return of democracy in 1999.
But Chijioke Umelahi, a former Abia lawmaker, said that such popularity, as shown in Lagos recently, has waned.

“You will be deceiving yourself to think that PDP is still popular. What is popular now is not party but candidate and Peter Obi has proven that with Labour Party. Kwankwaso did that in Kano too. I see LP winning in Abia and Enugu states, having won senatorial and House of Representatives seats,” Umelahi said.

In the case of Rivers State, Umelahi said there is no battle because the PDP will win.

“Nyesom Wike betrayed his fellow G5 governors for a possible slot in APC government, probably Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria, but he knows that the APC can still disappoint him the way it did to Chibuike Amaechi, so he will fight to retain his PDP governorship seat.

I think there is an agreement to that effect and Rivers people will not work with him to scuttle the governorship arrangement, having supported him in all his fights with the APC,” the former lawmaker said.

Although the February’s 25 election was generally judged to have recorded low turnout against the excitement that was seen among Nigerians and eligible voters across the country before the polls, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) data show that only 24.97 million voted in the poll, which is equivalent to 29 percent.

This was against Electoral Commission (INEC) published 93. 5 million eligible voters registered for the 2023 polls, but only 87.2 million Nigerians collected their PVCs.

For some observers, the result of the presidential polls differs from expectations and many people perhaps did not expect to see the upset recorded in some states which saw many top politicians defeated.

Against all odds, the LP, a relatively unpopular political party before now, caused an upset in some states, especially in Lagos State, where the party,s presidential candidate, Peter Obi won by defeating the national leader of the APC and Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu in his base.

The LP and Obi victory in Lagos and in six other states where the incumbent governors were not members of his party and neither openly backed him may have emboldened the gubernatorial candidates of LP in those states to begin to see their possibilities of clinching victory as well.

The successful showing of opposition parties in these states, Lagos, Oyo Rivers, Abia, Enugu, and Benue in the presidential and National Assembly polls have also thrown up interesting permutations ahead of the gubernatorial poll.

Several top politicians, including sitting governors across the country also lost their elections to candidates of the LP and some other smaller parties in their

It would also be interesting to see if the LP would spring a surprise again and win those states, where the party won in the presidential poll.

The Match 11 governorship poll promises to be an epic battle between candidates of the dominate parties in these states and LP.

Lagos State

In Lagos State, the stage is set for what is expected to be a fiercely contested gubernatorial election in the state since the return to democratic rule in 1999.

After losing the presidential contest to the LP in Lagos, the leadership of the party in Lagos have gone back to its shell to restrategise on what to do to win the state.

In the last few days, the camp of the ruling APC have increased its activities, with the party making frantic efforts to meet with stakeholders and other non-Yoruba groups to garner support ahead of the polls.

Sixteen political parties are presenting candidates for the gubernatorial election in Lagos State, but most of them are not in the race, largely due to their lack of structure and finance to compete.

The contest of the gubernatorial poll in Lagos would largely be a straight battle between the APC, PDP and LP candidates.

Although in the last few days since the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, there have been reports of a possible alliance between the LP and PDP candidates.

Lagos has been a cosmopolitan state and judging from the growing popularity of LP, where non Yoruba’s residents constitute the bulk of the members of the party, it is expected that they would play a major factor in who emerges victorious.

Read also: Big four contend for Lagos: What’s at stake?

Also, the vibrant Obidient movement across Lagos, if well mobilised can swing votes.

Going into the poll, all the parties are optimistic about their chances.

Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Lagos State, Hakeem Amode said the party candidate has toured most part of the state and was ready for the poll, stressing that they had begun House to House campaign to garner support across the state.

“We are the most prepared for this election, our candidates have gone round the state to meet the people and hear from them. We are ready for the antics of the APC, we are not ruling out talks with the LP, we are ready and have started the process”, Amode said.

However, hope of an alliance with the LP have been dismissed by the Lagos State chairman of the party, Dayo Ekong who insisted that the party candidate Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour would not step down for anybody.

Speaking in a statement, the chairman said the party is positioned to win Lagos.

According to her, “The Labour Party states here unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth. The is no basis for our candidate to step as he is well positioned to win the Gubernatorial election scheduled for Saturday.

“Architect Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is the LP party candidate. He is good and ready to go to the Polls to vote and be voted for as the next governor of Lagos.

“Lagosians, please disregard this misinformation, this baseless falsehood, which we have on good authority, is emanating from Nigeria Labour Congress, in its entirety.

“Those who want to sell out are not real Obidient’, they are fake and must be disregarded mischief who mean no well for Lagosians”.

Speaking to BD Sunday, the Publicity Secretary of the party said the LP in Lagos, Bunmi Odejobi said the party was mobilising members across the state and cannot be distracted by the antics of the PDP.

“We are working hard to win Lagos, all this talk of an alliance is not true, and we are going into the poll united to win Lagos next Saturday,” she said.

The APC has advised its members and indeed, all residents, to vote its candidate, the incumbent Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to complete the good work he has begun.

Oyo State

Governorship elections in Oyo State always go down to the wire. In 2011, the late Abiola Ajimobi defeated incumbent governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. Ajimobi’s reelection in 2015 made him the only governor so far to serve a second term in the history of the state.

But by 2019, Ajimobi had fallen out with powerful elements in the state and had lost much public support. As a result, he lost his bid to move from the governorship seat to the senate and candidates of his All Progressives Congress (APC) were routed in many constituencies across the state. His anointed governorship candidate, Adebayo Adelabu, also lost the election.

Although Seyi Makinde who defeated Adelabu in 2019 is seeking reelection, political pundits are saying the governorship poll in the state this year again remains too close to call.

Fifteen political parties have candidates in the election, but it has been billed as a three-horse race, Governor Makinde’s two main challengers are the senator representing the state’s central district and candidate of the APC, Teslim Folarin, and Adelabu who is flying the flag of Accord Party.

Adelabu, a former deputy governor of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), moved to his new party after losing the APC governorship primary to Folarin by 327 to 954 votes.

Adelabu and his supporters alleged fraud in the primary and then left the party in anger.

But the decision of Makinde to support the presidential bid of the APC candidate against his party candidate Atiku Abubakar has thrown a new twist into the gubernatorial race, but many saying that the APC has decided to also back his reelection bid.

Although there are conflicting reports of some APC members pledging to work for Makinde’s re-election and others saying they would do everything for the APC candidate to defeat him.

However, the contest in Oyo promises to be an interesting one, many are waiting to see if Makinde with his acclaimed popularity can defeat the other candidates to win a second term mandate in the state.

Publicity Secretary of the Oyo APC, Olawale Sadare, speaking some days ago, queried the rationale behind the insinuations about Governor Makinde responsible for the delivery of all the three Senatorial and eight House of Representatives seats to the APC in the same election where PDP also fielded its best candidates whose electioneering the governor campaigned for and funded heavily.

Several leaders of the APC have dismissed reports that Makinde played a key role in the victory recorded by Tinubu in Oyo state where he polled a total of 449,884 votes to defeat other presidential candidates and other political parties in the state.

Rivers State

The gubernatorial election in Rivers State is expected to be an interesting contest, based on the recent comments of the major parties who have all vowed to win the state.

Observers are also keen to see if the Obidient movement in the state can also be mobilised to vote massively in the Saturday poll, to push aside the PDP candidate backed by the incumbent Governor.

In the presidential poll, the LP claimed it won Rivers State, even the report of some election observers said the election results released by INEC in Rivers were not accurate.

They also claimed that the LP presidential candidate won the state. Many would be watching to see if the LP can repeat the same magic on Saturday in the gubernatorial.

Governor Nyesom Wike is not gunning for another term, but his anointed candidate, Siminialayi Fubara is on the ballot and is perhaps, the candidate to beat.

Wike, who has had a running battle with his party leadership since losing at the presidential primsry, led five incumbent governors of the PDP to work against the party’s presidential candidate.

The Rivers Governor openly admitted working for the APC candidate, saying that he was instrumental to their victory in the state, amid reports that he manipulated the election results in Tinubu’s favour with the aid of security agencies, when it was obvious that the LP candidate was coasting home to victory.

But the Rivers governor has said he would work for the PDP candidate in next Saturday’s poll.

There is also the candidate of the APC, Tonye Cole and SDP candidate Magnus Abe, both candidates are key politicians in the state and cannot be underrated.

However, it would be interesting to see if the LP candidate, Beatrice Itubo can pull an upset, just like the party presidential candidate, Obi did in the state.

Abia State

In Abia State, the gubernatorial contest may offer some interesting new twist, especially in view of the LP great performance in the February 25 polls.

Many would be waiting to see if the LP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) can completely dislodge the PDP in the state.

There is also the APC candidate, Ikechi Emenike who after wining suit against his candidacy at the Supreme Court remains resolute about his chances of winning the state.

It was a surprise to many that the incumbent governor of the state, Okezie Ikpeazu lost his senatorial bid to the APGA candidate, Enyinnaya Abaribe.

The LP won two senatorial seats out of three in the state; observers say that perhaps, if the stake is clean, the LP could repeat the same upset in the gubernatorial poll on March 11.

Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, Abia State has been a PDP state, so it would it be a huge upset if another party wins the state on Saturday.

The PDP candidate, Ahiwe Okechukwu, who emerged after the demise of the former candidate, Uche Ikonne, speaking some days ago, said he was sure of victory and was meeting stakeholders across the state towards the election.

Ahiwe is banking on the support of Governor Ikpeazu, but it is obvious that if the will of the people is allowed to prevail, elections this time around may be different from what it used to be in the past.

Enugu State

Enugu State just like Abia has traditionally been a PDP state since 1999, however, it appears the pendulum may shift this time around judging from the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections.

Some observers have predicted that the failure of the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi of the state to win his senatorial election may just be an indication of what to expect.

Ugwanyi, a member of the G-5 governors lost his senatorial election to the LP candidate, Okechukwu Ezea.

Ahead of the gubernatorial election many pundits have said that Ezea victory may just be a sign of the growing popularity of the LP in the state and that the LP gubernatorial candidate, Chijioke Edeoga can repeat the same feat.

However, the PDP governorship candidate, Peter Ubah, millionaire and popular businessman, who is backed by Governor Ugwanyi is optimistic that what happened in the presidential poll, where LP won his state would not happen again.

There is also Uchenna Nnaji, the APC candidate who cannot be ruled out of the contest considering that the APC is the ruling party at the federal level.

The gubernatorial election would be a keenly contested election among the major parties and one to watch out for.

Benue State

Benue is among the state that may be difficult to predict the outcome of the gubernatorial race.

Before the presidential contest, it was predicted that Obi was favoured to win the state, however, the LP candidate lost.

The incumbent governor of the state, Samuel Ortom, who is among the PDP G-5 governors, lost his bid to the Senate; he was defeated by the APC candidate, Titus Zam.

Going into Saturday poll, the battle is between Herman Hembe, the LP candidate, Titus Uba of the PDP and Hyacinth Iormem of the APC.

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