March 25, 2023

How Oborevwori, Fubara, Eno, Otu became governors-elect


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

COUNTLESS dynamics, including  performance of the sitting governors, acceptability of the governors–elect, popularity, dominance of their political parties, and miscalculation by the opposition parties contributed to their conquests in the March 18 governorship elections.

They are Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborewori (Delta), Sim Fubara (Rivers), Pastor Umo Eno (Akwa Ibom), and Senator Bassey Otu (Cross River) States.

Pastor Eno’s silky-smooth ride to Govt House, Uyo

In Akwa Ibom, the crushing votes Pastor Eno garnered across the three senatorial districts, namely Akwa Ibom Northeast (Uyo), Akwa Ibom NorthWest (Ikot Ekpene), and Akwa Ibom South (Eket) demonstrated the aforementioned.

In addition, massive grassroots-oriented campaigns and confidence in the capacity of Pastor Eno to sustain the existing peace enjoyed in the state, given his peaceful disposition, also gave him an edge over other contenders, especially Obong Akanimo Udofia of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Senator Bassey Akpan of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).

According to the results of the 2023 governorship poll announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Pastor Eno polled 354, 348 votes to defeat Senator Akpan of the YPP, and Obong Udofia of the APC, who came a distant second and third with 136,262 votes and 129, 602 votes respectively.

Similarly, the PDP won 29 out of 31 local government areas of the state, overpowering former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and Senator-elect of APC, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in his Essien Udim local government area, and Ikot Ekpene federal constituency.

 Some analysts had concluded ahead of the gubernatorial poll that the PDP would definitely lose out in the strongholds of Senator Akpabio (Essien Udim, and Ikot Ekpene local government areas) and that of YPP’s gubernatorial candidate, Ibiono Ibom, and neighboring Ikono local government area.

Their supposition followed the February 25 Presidential/ National. Assembly polls in which the PDP lost Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district seat, as well as Ikot Ekpene and federal constituency seat to Akpabio and the APC. In addition, on February 25, the PDP lost Ibiono Ibom, Bassey Akpan’s local government area to Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

However, the gubernatorial result in Essien Udim local government area showed that the PDP polled 13, 754 votes, while the APC keep count of 11, 833, YPP – 7,601 votes, and NNPP – 916 votes. In Ikot Ekpene local government area, the PDP also won by polling 14,495 votes, the APC 6,848 votes, YPP-5,873 votes and NNPP, 437 votes.

In addition, lack of confidence in APC over the severe hardship faced in the eight years of its leadership as the ruling party, unresolved supremacy battle, and late campaigns occasioned by litigation over his candidature, seriously contributed to the poor outing of its gubernatorial candidate, Udofia. He lost his own Nsit Ibom local government harvesting seven, 921 votes next to Eno of PDP’s 11, 560 votes. 

The YPP candidate, Akpan could win big in his home country, Ibiono Ibom and neighboring Ikono local government where he polled 21, 992 votes and 13,909 votes respectively to defeat other major contenders, given his popularity and massive support he enjoys from the people of the areas

Similarly, the poor outing of a former chieftain of the APC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, who moved to the New Nigeria Progressive Party, NNPP, to pursue his governorship ambition was not surprising, as many Akwa Ibom people attributed his loss to abandonment by most of his loyalists and supporters when the leadership crisis and division in his former party, APC, worsened.

Sir Fubara’s trouble-free flight to Brick House

Judging by the campaigns, strength of funding and party structures, the widespread permutations on the 2023 governorship election in Rivers state was that it would be a two- horse race between Sir Siminialayi Fubara of the PDP,  and Tonye Cole of the APC.

Fubara, the eventual winner, had full backing of the incumbent governor, Nyesom Wike, just as Cole had the support of Wike’s predecessor and former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. 

However, the results that came out gave a one -way victory to the governor-elect, Fubara, who secured a landslide victory with a yawning margin over his flanking rivals, winning in all 23 local government areas of Rivers.

In the overall standing on the results, as announced by Prof Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, State Collation Officer for the Rivers governorship election, Fubara (PDP) polled 302,614 votes, far above bordering contender, Cole, APC, who scored 95,274 votes.

‘I never dreamt of becoming gov’

Clearly, for Fubara, who in post victory remarks, reiterated that he never saw being governor coming, not being a core politician, his victory came rather too uncomplicated, solely on the strength of Governor Wike against the waning force of his arch political rival, Rotimi Amaechi.

Going into the gubernatorial election in Rivers, internal turmoil, chiefly induced by imposition of the candidates with impunity by both parties’ leaders, Wike for PDP, and Amaechi for APC, shook both dominant political parties.

However, Wike, employing iron fist, satisfactorily tamed the voices of dissent in the PDP. Amaechi, whose unforgiving posture fragmented Rivers APC into multiple interest groups could not manage the turmoil in his party with two aggrieved parties, Sen. Magnus Abe, grabbing a ticket to run on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and Dawari George, running as candidate of the Action Alliance. 

Even days to the election, another faction of the APC led by the Chief of Staff in Amaechi’s administration, Tony Okocha, publicly declaring to vote for PDP in gratitude to Wike for leading Rivers victory for the President- Elect, Bola Tinubu, in the February 25 polls.

With the PDP candidate enjoying comfortable funding, a firm party structure, and further support across party lines against a weakened Amaechi, and his party, Fubara, fondly called Sim had an easy ride to the Brick House, also known as Government House, Rivers state.

Oborevwori defied APC’s attacks to land in Govt House, Asaba

The gubernatorial election in Delta was fierce, following the strapping fight put up by the opposition APC, and its governorship candidate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege. 

Unlike past elections, there was so much mudslinging and character assassination. However, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori won awesomely because of the outstanding performance of his party in the state. 

Another reason, he also won is that the PDP, having been in power since 1999 until date, in the state, has become part of the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of the people.

Third, the street credibility of the governor- elect, Oborevwori, which his opponents underrated, worked positively for him. One thing you cannot take from the Okpe-born politician is that if you assemble 1,000 full of zip politicians from the three senatorial districts of the state, irrespective of their parties, Oborevwori could identify 70 per cent by their names and faces.

Oborevwori is a homeboy, who has lived all his life at Effurun, Osubi, and Asaba. He has never stayed out of Delta state for three months. His wife and children went around with him wherever he went, during the campaigns.

As the longest serving Speaker of the state House of Assembly, his legacies abound, and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who backed him from the beginning of the race to the end, also worked completely for him.

How Uduaghan, Manager, Otuaro, others held their grounds for Oborevwori  

While Okowa, Senator-elect, Ned Nwoko, and others held the Delta North senatorial district for Oborevwori, where he won all the nine local government areas, former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who also lent his support to the governorship aspiration of Oborevwori, with the shore up of Senator James Manager, the deputy governor, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, and others, also gave a boost to the race.

He reconciled majority of the angry persons in the state within the PDP family. This considerably helped in the victory of the PDP in the Delta South senatorial district, where it lost only Warri South local government area to the opposition.

Senator Ighoyota Amori, Olorogun John Oguma, Hon Austin Ayemidejor, and Chief John Nani, also maintained their grounds in the Delta Central senatorial district, which curtailed the incursion of Omo-Agege, who won Ughelli North, Ethiope East, Uvwie and Udu local government areas.

Of course, Oborevowri won his home Okpe local government area, and 20 other council areas in the state. PDP leaders, notably, Chief Ross Uredi, Chief Onoriode Sunday, Olorogun Jaro Egbo, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, Chief Sam Mariere, and a host of others held their areas tight for the party. 

Where Omo-Agege lost it

Correspondingly, the sharp division in the APC counted against the candidate, Senator Omo-Agege, as party leaders were not in one accord with him. A former governorship aspirant, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, never hid his scorn for Omo-Agege.

People also saw Omo-Agege as no respecter of the unwritten zoning arrangement of the governorship in the state, having projected Chief Great Ogboru against the former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, Ojougboh, and other Anioma APC front runners, who pleaded with the party in vain to allow them battle Okowa in the 2019 election.

Senator Otu’s giant stride to Govt House, Calabar

Two former political soul mates, Senator Bassey Otu and Senator Sandy Onor keenly contested the Cross River governorship position, but the governor, Senator Ben Ayade’s indefatigable support worked in favor of Otu.

Senators Otu and Onor had been together in the PDP, and later moved to Labour Party, LP, in 2015, contested the Senate seats for the Central, and Southern senatorial districts, and lost to PDP candidates

In the 2023 gubernatorial race, Senator Otu emerged the APC, flag bearer, while Senator Onor picked the PDP governorship ticket.

The race was ferocious and fanatical, as the two candidates, superintended by their parties, stormed every nook and cranny of the state, canvassing for votes.

The PDP, however, shot itself on the foot when crisis fragmented into the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, group, and Abubakar Atiku group. Sandy Onor had the backing of Wike, which alienated political avatars like Senator Liyel Imoke and Senator Gershom Bassey from working for him.

The governorship campaign of the PDP in the state was with the conspicuous absence of Imoke and Bassey, and this created a deep dent in the support base for PDP. Also, the candidate of the PDP swam against the tide as he came from the Central zone of the state, which was not the zone preferred to occupy the governorship slot, since Senator Imoke just left the post, not too long.

On the APC standard- bearer side, it was apparent to most close political observers in the state that he would win the election. Many indices helped him: zoning; his populist; humane nature; and unity in the campaign train.

Otu won 16 of the 18 local government areas of the state, and at the end of counting; he had 278,000 votes, while Sandy polled 15,000 votes. Sandy lost even his polling unit alongside a former governor of the state, and PDP Campaign chair, Mr. Donald Duke, who did not flow with Senators Imoke and Bassey.

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