After months of internal party primaries and intense campaign across the nooks and crannies of various states by political parties, the stage is set as Nigeria’s governorship election holds today (Saturday).
The governorship election, which takes place simultaneously with the state House of Assembly elections, holds a week after its initial scheduled date of March 2, following the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The commission had cited logistical issues as being responsible for the shift of the polls by one week.
The governorship election will be conducted in 29 states of the federation. They are Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Adamawa states.
Other states are Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Taraba, Gombe, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Benue, Kwara, Niger, Nassarawa, Plateau, Oyo, Ogun, and Lagos states.
Seven states, namely: Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Bayelsa, Kogi, Ekiti, and Osun, are off the governorship election cycle as the governors were sworn-in at later dates following the litigation process at the courts.
There is a multitude of candidates across all the 29 states where new governors will be elected, with the average number of contenders between 35-40 candidates.
Despite the large numbers, the election in majority of the states is expected to be a straight, fierce contest between the two dominant parties: the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For instance, in Lagos State, the contest is a straight fight between Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the ruling APC and Jimi Agbaje of the opposition PDP, who would be contesting for the Lagos House for the third time after two failed attempts in 2007 and 2015.
It is a big battle in Kwara State as the governing APC at the centre hope to regain control of the state, following the defection of Abdulfatah Ahmed, the incumbent governor, to the PDP. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the APC candidate, will hope that the “O to ge” campaign would dislodge the political dynasty of Senator Bukola Saraki, which Rasak Atunwa, the PDP candidate, belongs to.
In Akwa Ibom State, it is expected to be a keen contest between the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel of the PDP and Nsima Ekere of the APC. The latter, who was the immediate past Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is banking on the political influence of Senator Godswill Akpabio, who had endorsed Governor Emmanuel’s first term bid.
Kaduna State is also expected to produce another intriguing battle between the incumbent governor, Nasir El-Rufai of the APC, and Isah Asiru, another political heavyweight of the PDP.
The contest in Sokoto State will see Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who defected to the PDP, come face-to-face against Ahmad Aliyu, his former deputy, who remained in the APC. The underlying contest, however, is the battle for influence between Governor Tambuwal and Aliyu Wammako, a former governor of the state.
With the failure of the APC to produce a candidate due to its internal squabble, as well as a court order, Governor Nyesom Wike of the PDP may likely have an easy ride back to the Government House in Rivers State.
The PDP’s Bello Matawalle might also be a beneficiary of another in-house fighting in the ruling APC in Zamfara State. Despite the Court of Appeal clearing the pathway for the ruling party’s candidate to contest, Senator Kabir Marafa, is still challenging INEC for listing the APC on the ballot.
Another titanic contest awaits in Delta State as the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, is being challenged by Great Ogboru, a serial contender for the Government House office in Asaba, the state capital.
Adamawa State will also be the cynosure of eyes of political watchers as Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP and ex-speaker of the state House of Assembly, will hope to clinch the state following the loss of their son, Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate, in the presidential election. In Fintiri’s way, however, is Governor Jibrilla Bindo of the APC, who faced a lot of opposition and resistance from within his own party, including from Aisha Buhari, the wife of the president.
The battle in Benue State is a straight one between the incumbent, Samuel Ortom of the PDP and Emmanuel Jime of the APC. Some of the underlying issues in the state, especially the farmers-herders crisis and the struggle for political control by Senator George Akume, a former state governor, may likely reflect the voting pattern during the election.
The election in Kano State is a two-horse race between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC and Abba Yusuf of the PDP. Although the APC has traditionally been an APC state, the recent bribery scandal involving the incumbent governor may likely have a minimal influence in the minds of voters.
However, it is a three-way battle in Ogun State as the PDP’s Buruji Kashamu, APC’s Dapo Abiodun, and Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) will all slug it out. The primaries in the two major parties – APC and PDP- were not rancour-free as the candidates that emerged from the process were not the choice of the political heavyweights in the state.
Following his defeat in the APC primaries, Akinlade, backed by Governor Ibikunkle Amosun of the APC, moved to the APM, where he would fly the party’s flag, while in the PDP, Ladi Adebutu is still challenging the emergence of Kashamu as the party’s candidate.
Just a few days to the election, Akinlade and Adebutu signed a pact to work together and defeat the APC’s Abiodun. However, how such an agreement would have a significant effect on the election would only be known when the results begin to trickle in.
It is also a similar situation in Imo State as three political parties: the APC, PDP, and Action Alliance are going head-to-head.
The PDP primaries was largely rancour-free as Emeka Ihedioha, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, emerged as the party’s standard-bearer.
It was, however, in the APC where the battle raged. Uche Nwosu was initially declared as the governorship candidate of the APC. However, following the decision by the party to re-organise the primaries, Senator Hope Uzodinma was subsequently declared as the APC’s governorship candidate.
Disappointed with the decision of the APC National Working Committee, Governor Rochas Okorocha, who is also of the APC, backed Nwosu, who is also his son-in-law to move to the Action Alliance, where he picked up the party’s ticket.
Also being conducted today is the election into the state House of Assembly. Unlike the governorship election, the state legislature polls will be held in all states of the federation.
In the Federal Capital Territory, the municipal area council (local government) elections will be conducted in the six area councils of the territory.
A total number of 72,775,502 million voters who have collected their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) are expected to vote in 119,973 polling units in all 1,082 constituencies across the federation.
Voting will start by 8am and is expected to end by 2pm.