January 29, 2023

2023 Polls: Inside South-South vengeful battle

Akpabio, Oshiomhole, Ayade lead APC troops

Mpigi, Nwoko, Banigo square up for PDP

Atiku/Wike saga haunts Cross-River PDP

Supreme Court determines incarcerated Nwaoboshi’s fate February 9 

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South; Festus Ahon (Asaba), Egufe Yafugborhi (Port Harcourt); Emma Una (Calabar), Chioma Onuegbu(Uyo) and Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City)

THE contest for the 18 Senate seats and 55 House of Representatives seats in the six states of the South-South region slated for February 25 is hard-hitting as it is implacable.

Over 700 candidates of different political parties are in the hot race for the coveted seats, three Senate portfolios in each of the six states, and for the House of Representatives, it is 10 in Delta; nine in Edo; five in Bayelsa; 13 in Rivers; 10 in Akwa Ibom; and eight in Cross-River.

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Despite the avalanche of parties, the main clash seems already narrowed to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which presently boasts the highest number of National Assembly members in the oil-rich region.

A former Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs and ex-governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio; ex-National Chairman of APC and former governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; and the incumbent governor of Cross-River state, Senator Ben Ayade are leading the APC flock to knock over the status quo in the region.

A serving lawmaker, Senator Barry Mpigi, from Rivers State; the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, legal consultant and philanthropist, Hon Ned Nwoko, are the spearheads of the PDP battle plan to keep hold of and go beyond its leading position. 

One policymaker that has been missing in action is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi. The Court of Appeal, on July 1, 2022, found the powerful APC tactician guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment, alongside two of his companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited and Suiming Electrical Limited.

Earlier, this month, the Supreme Court rescheduled the hearing of the appeal by Nwaoboshi, who approached it to quash his conviction, from the earlier date of November 21, 2024, to February 9, 2023.

However, if the Supreme Court grants Nwaoboshi bail at the rescheduled hearing, on February 9, he would have approximately 16 days to campaign and engage his PDP challenger for the Delta North (Anioma) Senatorial District, Ned Nwoko, who is currently having a field day, in a fight-to-the-finish. In the meantime, his Senator Peter Onyelukachukwu Nwaoboshi Campaign Organization, SPONCO, has been mobilizing for him.

Akpabio defies Etiebet, other stakeholders

 In Akwa Ibom State, Senator Akpabio, battling to reclaim his Akwa Ibom North-East (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District) seat, is the man to beat. He faces a formidable confrontation from PDP’s Emmanuel Enoidem. They were former allies in PDP.

While Akpabio hails from Ikot – Ekpene Federal Constituency made up of Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim (his own council), and Obot Akara local government areas, Enoidem, a former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, hails from Etim Ekpo local government in Abak Federal Constituency, popularly called Abak-5.

Although no citizen of Abak -5 encompassing Abak, Etim Ekpo, and Ika, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun local government areas has occupied the Senate seat since 1963, it has become more controversial ahead of the forthcoming election.

Many APC political leaders and bigwigs, especially those from the area, such as former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Don Etiebet, had thought it wise to zone the seat to Abak-5 like the PDP, but Akpabio refused to drop his ambition despite pleas from the people of the area and some stakeholders of his party.

Senator Christopher Ekpenyong of the PDP, who hails from Obot Akara local government area, the same federal constituency as Akpabio, currently occupies the Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial seat.

There are fears in the camp of the PDP since Akpabio won the Supreme Court judgment filed against him by retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, Udom Ekpoudom, over the APC Senate ticket.

However, PDP has intensified its campaign in order not to lose the district. The party’s candidates for other senatorial and House Representatives seats do not appear threatened by their challengers from the opposition parties.

Ayade stands tall in C-River

In Cross River, the turf is tough in the three senatorial districts of the state. The candidates of the two major political parties, PDP and APC, are all new, except in the North Senatorial District where Senator Ayade, who left the post to become governor, wants to take it back from incumbent Senator Jarigbe Agom of the PDP. 

The governor, who has an army of canvassers campaigning for him, stands far above all those contending with him. In the Central district, a former House of Representatives member, Hon Bassey Ewa, is carrying the flag of the PDP while his successor in the House of Assembly, Eteng Williams, is flying the APC flag.

Both are grassroots mobilizers. They are currently going from local one government area to the other, marketing their programs to the people.

Apart from the APC and PDP in the Southern Senatorial District, the Labour Party candidate, Mr. Daniel Asuquo, is the major third contender. Ayade’s former Commissioner for Finance, vibrant and personable Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong, is the APC standard-bearer. He resonates with the youths who are involved in his campaign.

The PDP flag bearer, Mr. Ekpo Okon, is an old old horse. He had been a one-time state Chairman of the party, and NDDC Representative for the state.

Atiku/Wike imbroglio trail campaign

 Both APC and PDP candidates are touring the seven local government areas of the district to woo voters to their sides. However, the campaign train of one of them, Ekpo Okon, appears lackluster because he is in a dilemma working with his political soul mates, ex-Governors Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke, who are working for the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, or the governorship candidate, Sandy Onor, who is a Wike loyalist, and against campaigning for Atiku.

Also on the Senate ballot in the district is Daniel Asuquo of the Labour Party. He was largely the factor behind the loss of Senator Gershom Bassey in the governorship primary of the PDP. His refusal to step down caused an upset and most people in the district are still scratchy about his role.

Oshiomhole meets head-on with Alimikhena, other Obaseki men

In Edo, besides PDP and APC, Labour Party has made some inroads in parts of the state, especially in the metropolitan areas.

The PDP is still torn between supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki and those of the Vice Chairman, South-South, Chief Dan Orbih, but, as of today, and going by the subsisting court decision, the candidates elected by the group loyal to the governor are the authenticate candidates of the party.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reflected the development in its portal. However, the forthcoming National Assembly polls have thrown up some big names. For instance, in Edo North, a former governor of the state and erstwhile national chair of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is slugging it out with the incumbent senator, Francis Alimikhena, who resigned from the APC a few hours before the primary, and later joined the PDP to pick the ticket on the side of Obaseki.

Despite Oshiomhole’s towering popularity and his busy schedule with the presidential campaigns, he has been moving from ward to ward, using his performance as governor as his unique selling point, while Alimikhena has Hon Pascal Ugbome, who is the candidate of the Legacy Group of the PDP, to contend.

Edo South has thrown formidable candidates: Hon Matthew Iduoriyekemwen for the PDP; oil magnate Valentine Asuen for the APC; an experienced consultant and former legislative aide to the incumbent senator, Matthew Uroghide, Neda Imasuen, as the LP senatorial candidate.

Iduoriykemwne has been campaigning vigorously, but he is not with the full complements of the PDP as the Legacy Group, led by Hon Omorege Ogbeide-Ihama, is not on his train. They are still waiting for an ‘auxiliary’ court verdict on the authentic candidates of the PDP.