By Dirisu Yakubu
As the governorship and state assembly elections hold today in 29 out of the 36 states of the federation, our correspondent x-rays the chances of Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in some flashpoint states, where battle for the Holy Grail is at an all-time high.
Although, some of these states are under the leadership of governors elected on the platform of the party in 2015; the sheer preparation, determination and readiness by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to add more states to its portfolio has made the contest a difficult one to predict.
With a President and well-oiled campaign machinery in place, APC’s threat to sweep PDP out of power even in its traditional power base is one the latter can ill afford to treat lightly. However, PDP is not without its own game plan.
Unarguably the most experienced political party in the country, having been in power for 16 years, the main opposition party is set to cause some upset in the camp of the APC, given the internal wrangling that characterised the conduct of its governorship primaries in some states across the country.
Kwara state, North-Central Nigeria would be interesting to watch considering the diverse interests and powerful political figures gunning for the sole of the state. On the one hand is outgoing Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, a chieftain of the PDP who is still smarting from his defeat in the recently concluded federal parliamentary elections.
The Senate President whose frosty relationship with the Presidency culminated in his defection to the PDP a few months ago is fighting what may pass for the fiercest political battle of his life. Last year, the PDP lost a Senatorial by-election to the APC and Saraki has just lost his bid to remain in the red chamber.
As a result, the former governor is doing everything possible to ensure that the party’s candidate, Honourable Razak Atunwa emerges winner of the polls. However, the PDP is up against a new power block led by Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Given the manner, Saraki lost his re-election bid recently; many are already entertaining the possibility of the APC candidate, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to succeed outgoing governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed
Oil-rich Akwa Ibom has been under the leadership of the PDP since the return to democracy in 1999. Until recently, the state was dubbed a 100 per cent, PDP state. But as common with political players in this part of the world, prominent indigenes of the state including Senator Godswill Akpabio, Etta Enang, Umana Umana and Nsima Ekere amongst others, dumped the PDP for the APC, with Akpabio boasting that the his former party died the day he left.
Governor Udom Emmanuel, whom Akpabio played a part to nurture, however has remained resilient in his determination to get the nod of the people for yet another fresh tenure. In the just concluded elections, Governor Emmanuel delivered the state for its candidate, Atiku Abubakar with a margin of victory, sufficient to provoke discourse amongst political pundits on the waning influence of Akpabio.
The lawmaker who represents Akwa Ibom North West at the Senate was roundly defeated by a former Deputy Governor of the state, Chris Ekpeyong. More than anything else, the recent electoral outing by the PDP has further boosted its confidence ahead of today’s exercise.
PDP, barring any dramatic twist, is fated to win here.
It is almost a no contest here given that the APC will not be fielding candidates in any of the elective positions. Governor Nyesom Wike is on his way to retain his seat but that may not come cheap following the worsening relationship between him and his ex-principal, Rotimi Amaechi.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi is rooting for the candidate of African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara in what is clearly a move to spite Wike and the PDP.
As it were, Wike is sure to retain his seat.
The circumstances surrounding the emergence of the APC flag bearer in Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Were it down to performance alone, incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode would retain his exalted office in style.
This internal rift may work in favour of PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, only to an extent as APC still appears to be the party to beat in Lagos.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s performance has elicited applause from the three senatorial districts of the state. He is up against a serial contestant, Great Ogboru of the APC.
On paper, Okowa can afford some sleep, confident his stewardship would be enough to win him a fresh mandate. Yet, Ogboru who is backing on the support of some eminent Delta APC stakeholders including immediate past governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan is not a man to ignore with a wave of the hand.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state is the flag bearer of the APC in today’s election. President Buhari won here a fortnight ago but many believe today’s election could be remarkably different.
His choice of a fellow Muslim as running mate coupled with his recent confession that even if he had taken the Pope, Christians in the state will not vote for him are likely to play a part in determining who wins the polls. But he is favored to win
There is no doubting the popularity of outgoing Governor Tanko Al-Makura but in David Ombugadu, the PDP has a candidate capable of winning massive votes to cause a change of baton in the Government House.
It is never an easy task to dislodge a party in the saddle; yet, the popularity of the PDP in the state is enough to put the APC on its toes until the results are announced.