By Omeiza Ajayi
No fewer than 29 states will on Sunday take part in the governorship primary election of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC to pick gubernatorial candidates for the next general elections.
There would be no gubernatorial elections in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Kogi, Ekiti and Osun states whose governorship election cycles are now off-season and conducted separately at the appropriate time.
The National Working Committee NWC of the party has also approved direct primaries for 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory FCT while others would go for indirect primaries. No state was given approval for the option of consensus.
Among states that would go for direct primaries are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kano, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Taraba, Zamfara and the FCT.
The 19 states where indirect primaries would hold include Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Yobe.
But how do the candidates stand?
Akwa Ibom State
There are four governorship aspirants and they are a former Deputy Governor of the state, Obong Nsima Ekere now the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC. He was at one time Senator Godswill Akpabio’s deputy before he resigned unceremoniously following an alleged plot to impeach him. With the NDDC often referred to as a cash cow, one is tempted to think that Mr Ekere would have a huge war chest. What may not work in his favour is the fact that those who started the APC in the state have never failed to remind themselves that he joined the party after the last presidential elections.
Senator John Akpanudoedehe is a former Minister of state, FCT and a former senator. He comes from the Uyo district which is regarded as the largest with over a million accredited voters. He has been very faithful to opposition politics and is generally regarded to have introduced the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria ACN and later APC to the state.
At a point, he was charged with treason under circumstances that were described as political. He is a grassroots mobilizer and his close relationship with a national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu gives him an edge, but what might work against him is the belief that he does not have a deep pocket with which to go into the main election.
Dan Abia is also seen as someone that can be trusted, but does he have the financial muscle to deal a devastating blow to an incumbent?
Dr Edet Okon Efretui has not been very much on ground in the state as he lives outside the shores of the country. His ideology of getting Akwa Ibomites to foot a large chunk of his campaign bill since he is aspiring to be governor to help them, could sound strange in a country where most people are used to helping politicians spend their resources.
Cross River State
There are five aspirants including the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, Sen. John Owan Enoh, High Chief Emem Duke, John Upan Odey and Prof. Nyong Eyo.
Usani is reportedly in control of the state party executives, an obvious advantage to his cause but the drawback is that some stakeholders led by Enoh have perfected plans to frustrate his ambition. Despite heading a strategic ministry, some stakeholders in the state see the minister as not a heavy political spender.
Enoh is not new to politics having risen in recent years from the House of Representatives to the Senate. He is a known grassroots politician but the main concern about him is that he is seen as one “too distant from the presidency”.
Even more, he is from the Central Senatorial District, where the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Liyel Imoke comes from and his aspiration is seen in some quarters as frustrating the eight year stint for the Cross River North district that presently has the office of governor.
Duke, a former minister in the last administration is seen as too removed from the grassroots and without the financial resources to prosecute a major election against an incumbent.
John Upan Odey is a highly cerebral young politician who started with the ACN in 2011 when he made an attempt to go to the House of Representatives. He has a long list of ideas on how to develop the state and he believes that money is not the problem, but it remains to be seen how he intends to battle a current minister and a serving senator.
Prof. Eyo is equally a highly cerebral politician but not much is known about him.
There are five aspirants with one, Chief Osobie Eric Okotie not cleared to participate in the exercise. The four aspirants cleared are Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr Cairo Ojougbo, Hon. Victor Ochei and Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru.
Utomi is qualified by all standards but in a state where indirect primaries, with all its corruptive tendencies would be deployed for the selection of party flag bearers, the erudite professor may not be able to buy over delegates! Ojougboh, a medical doctor turned politician was in the factional executive committee of the PDP headed by Ali Modu Sheriff.
He was the first to post his intention to serve one term as a way of comforting the Delta Central that the governorship of the state would not be denied to the region in 2023.
Ochei is a former speaker of the state assembly. Youthful and vibrant but he would need more than that to clinch the ticket.
Ogboru is by no means a veteran politician and not new to the gubernatorial contest both at the primary election level and in the actual election. With a huge war chest and the support of Sen. Ovie Omo Agege and the state executives, he might emerge as the APC candidate especially given the fact that the structure of the party is in his hands.
The aspirants are Tonye Cole, a protégé of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Sen. Magnus Ngei Abe, Dumo Lulu Briggs and Dr. Dawari George. The battle may turn into an anticlimax given Abe’s threat on Friday that he would withdraw from the contest if the direct primary method is not used.
Briggs stands a chance to also sway many of the delegates especially as he had accepted the decision of the party national leadership affirming the state chairmanship of Ojukaye Flag Amachree.
The aspirants are Dr Uche Ogah who nearly became the governor in the last elections; Prince Paul Ikonne, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, Comrade Chris Akomas, Hon. Martins Azubuike, Barr. Friday Nwosu and Amb. Okey Emuchay.
The battle would mainly be between Ogah and Ikonne. Ikonne was the ACN candidate in the 2011 governorship elections while Ogah was the candidate of the APC in 2015. Ikonne has remained consistent in the opposition and was only recently subtly endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari when a team from the state recently visited the president.
The aspirants are Senator Sunny Ogbuoji, Arc. Edward Nkweagu, Senator Emmanuel Agboti, Obasi Ogbonnaya Obasi Kelechi Chima, Paul Okorie, Comrade Christian, Austin Igwe Edeze and Prof. Bernard Odoh.
The battle would be between Ogbuoji and Agboti. What could work against Ogbuoji is the fact that he has not actually stayed long in the APC but in politics, anything can happen.
Aside Sen. Ayogu Eze, others are Barr. Ifeanyi Nwaoga, Akubue Augustine, Ben Eche, Barr. George O’Gara and Barr. Ejikeme Ugwu.
With his political antecedents, book makers are placing their best bet on Senator Eze, considered one of the major political figures in the state.
The battle here will be highly contentious among the gladiators. They are Senator Hope Uzodinma, Hon. Uche Nwosu, Prince Eze Madumere, Sir Jude Ejiogu, Barr. Chima Anozie, Dr. Chris Nlemoha and three others.
Gov. Rochas Okorocha has put forth his in-law, Nwosu and the governor currently controls the party structure in the state. Last week, the NWC asked Okorocha to cede 45 per cent of the party structure to Uzodinma. That may not happen until after the primary election
It will certainly be a hot contest between the incumbent, Akinwunmi Ambode and his two main challenges, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and Jide Sanwo-Olu. Given the endorsement of Sanwo-Olu by the political establishment in the state, and the way nearly all political actors in the state have rallied around him, a victory for the governor would be considered a major upset.
Among the eight aspirants, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu has been disqualified due to the controversy surrounding his failure to undergo the National Youth Service Corps NYSC scheme.
It will be a hot contest among Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, Otunba Also Akala, Joseph Tegbe, Dr Olusola Ayandele, Dr Owolabi Babalola, Dr Azeez Adeduntun and Adebayo Adelabu.
Here, the contest is between Jimi Lawal, Dapo Abiodun, Bimbo Abiodun, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, Abiodun Akinlade and Abayomi Koroto Hunye. Given the endorsement of Akinlade by the outgoing governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and the political establishment in the state the emergence of another person would be a shock.
The contest is between the incumbent, Gov. Abubakar Badaru and Alh. Hashim Ubale. The winner is obvious.
The incumbent, Aminu Masari would square it up with Abubakar Ismaila Isa and Garba Sani Dankani. The governor has control of the state party machinery and is in pole position to get the ticket.
Here, the only aspirant, Ibrahim Mohammed Mera who attempted to challenge the incumbent, Atiku Bagudu has been disqualified. So, it is a complete walk over for Gov. Bagudu.
The battle is among Abubakar Abdullahi Gumbi, Farouk Malami Yabo, Ahmed Aliyu and Sen. Abubakar Gada. The support of Senator Aliyu Wamakko would be crucial ahead of the election especially given the fact that Governor Aminu Tambuwal has left the party.
The nine aspirants are Dauda Lawal, Mukhtar Idris Shehu, Defence Minister, Gen. Mansur Dan Ali, Ibrahim Wakala, Sen. Kabiru Marafa, Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi, Aminu Jaji, Abubakar Magaji and Mohammed Sagir Hamidu, a former Director of Protocol in the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA.
The battle appears to be fierce among Dan Ali, Shinkafi, a former governor, Sen. Marafa and Sagir Hamidu.
Six aspirants including Hon. Emmanuel Jime, Titus Zam Akange Audu, Arc. Aema Achado, Benjamin Tilley Adanyi and Michael Iordye are in the race seen by many as time to compensate Mr Jime who was on the verge of clinching the ticket in 2014 before Samuel Ortom defected from the PDP and was handed the ticket within days of his registration with the party.
Out of the 11 aspirants, Daniel Envulu was not cleared. The ticket will be hotly contested among the deputy governor, Silas Agara, Dauda Shaibu Kigbu, Hon. Aliyu Wadada, Dr James Angbazo, Hassan Liman, SAN and the immediate past National Vice Chairman of the party for the North Central, Zakari Idde. The deputy governor would have been the easy pick, but Governor Al-Makura seems not to be disposed to that.
It is a straight run for the incumbent Alh. Sani Bello as his sole challenger, Abubakar Mamman Jiya Maaji was disqualified.
Gov. Simon Bako Lalong is unopposed for the election.
The situation here is dicey. While Gov. Jubrilla Bindow had indirect primaries approved for him, the exercise would however not be conducted by the state executives loyal to him as they have been barred from participating in the process. Other aspirants are Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Dr Mahmoud Halilu Ahmed, a brother in law to President Muhammadu Buhari and who is reported to have gotten Mr. President’s endorsement.
The contest is between Gov. Mohammed Abubakar, Dr Ali Pate, Capt. Bala Jibrin and Dr Yakubu Lame. The governor is facing a stiff challenge from his rivals especially after the party put aside his lobby to put the direct primary for the state.
There are 21 aspirants here including Kashim Imam, Gambo Lawan, Umaru Kumaila, Adamu Final, Senators Baba Kaka Garba, Abubakar Kyari and a host of others. Predicting a winner is not very easy as the people of Southern Borno are fiercely advocating for power rotation.
Out of nine aspirants, erstwhile youth leader of the APC, Ibrahim Dasuki Jalo, Sen. Idris Umar and a few others seem to have been more vocal. .
The woman who nearly became Nigeria’s first elected female governor, Aisha Alhassan, Minister of Women Affairs has been disqualified. Popularly called Mama Taraba, she is seen as a strong factor in Taraba opposition politics.
Those cleared include former Govern Sani Danladi, Sen. Joel Ikenya, Garba Umar UTC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, Aliyu Omar and Chief Ezekiel Afukunyo among others. With Taraba politics now ethnicized, predicting a clear winner could be a herculean task.
The governor has already endorsed the National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala Buni as his replacement. Buni has also gotten the approval of the presidency. While Ibrahim Bomai withdrew from the race, it would be a miracle for the three other contenders to defeat Buni.