The presidential election is coming up in 13 days time. The political atmosphere is in frenzy. The major gladiators are laying claim to strength in states and geopolitical zones as assurance of their coming out victorious in the poll. The North-West geopolitical zone is reputed to have the largest number of voters in the county. The South-South is also considered a zone that is not a pushover in determining who rules the nation. Between the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who holds the ace? Sunday Tribune reporters went to town. Here are our findings.
Atiku may turn the apple cart in Kano
ANALYSTS have been saying it would not be very possible to use the last presidential election to either judge or predict the voting pattern in forthcoming poll, “because there are many factors currently working against such a stand.”
In Kano State, it was a landslide victory for President Muhammadu Buhari, as it is on record that he garnered almost two million votes, while the then sitting president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was able to secure less than 500,000.
However, with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar now the standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the story may have changed. Besides this is the fact that a former strong chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, in person of former state governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is now representing Kano Central senatorial district, is now back in the PDP.
One thing that is clear is that the former governor played a very key role for President Buhari to secure the large number of votes he got then during the 2015 presidential election. Analysts have opined that Kwankwaso will certainly be an added value to Alhaji Abubakar.
Going by the last presidential election, most of the factors that worked against former President Jonathan as the incumbent president may resurface come February 16. According to political arena watchers, three major factors that reared their heads during the last presidential election were issues of religion, tribe and general acceptability to the powers-that-be in Kano.
Now, the two most prominent presidential candidates, Buhari and Abubakar, are both from the North. They are also of the same religion, Islam.
It is noteworthy, however, that the incumbent, President Buhari, has never lost an election in Kano State since he has been contesting. The state is regarded as one of his political strongholds. He even appears to have more appeal here than in his native state of Katsina. Therefore, it is easy for some analysts to conclude that he would maintain his lead in the state in next month election.
Be that as it may, former Vice-President Abubakar, though has never contested any election before, going by the fact that he played a major role during the last election, is seen a major factor in the next poll. Thus, it is being said in some quarters that it would be political suicide to underrate him.
Aside the above, as people say that ‘blood is thicker than water,’ findings have shown that one of Alhaji Abubakar’s wives has blood relation with a very highly-rated traditional title holder from the ancient city of Kano who is very influential in matters of politics in the state. This may work in his (Atiku’s) favour when election time comes.
Nevertheless, another factor believed to have the propensity of working in favour of President Buhari is the issue of a former governor of the state for eight years, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. He is not only card-carrying member of the APC, but also a candidate contesting for Kano Central senatorial seat, the seat currently being occupied by Senator Kwankwaso. Though Kwankwaso is no longer contesting for the seat, some people believe that it was a big mistake for the PDP to have allowed Mallam Shekarau to defect from it to the APC.
According to a prominent public affairs analyst in the state who did not want his name in print, “take it or leave it, Mallam Shekarau, being a grassroots politician who is loved by the teeming masses of the state, will equally add immense value when it comes to the presidential election. You should also not forget fact that the presidential and senatorial elections will be held the same day.”
In the same breath, some have argued, one should also not forget the highly respected politician, Ambassador Aminu Wali, who also is a founding member of the defunct Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), and his political influence. He is seen to remain a strong political strategist in the state. It is on record that he also played a major role in the emergence of both former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Jonathan at their respective times.
Besides, Wali also played a key role in the formation of the PDP in Kano and has, according to those close to him, “the record of being the one to make the way for Dr. Kwankwaso and the incumbent governor to emerge as candidates of their party in 1999.”
However, it should not be forgotten that the recent bribe-for-contract allegation leveled against the governor has not been forgotten by many electorate. Observers said the fact that the Federal Government, with its anti-corruption mantra, having failed to “properly” look into the matter, might have made some electoral foes for the ruling APC.
Besides, the role played by Senator Kwankwaso during emergence of president Buhari in the last presidential election is not lost on the people. Analysts say it is still in the mind of millions of them. It is being said that now that Senator Kwankwaso is back in the PDP fold, “he will surely play a positive role for the party during the presidential election.”
It would be recalled that times without numbers, Senator Kwankwaso has boasted that his mission in joining the PDP is to dislodge the men in Abuja and Kano from their seats. This, many have said, means that he is determined to dislodge both President Buhari and Dr Ganduje from office.
So, going by the worth of the two major personalities contesting for the presidency, the outcome of forthcoming presidential election could invariably be the same as the last one; it is a battle between an incumbent president and a former vice-president.
Beside the fact that it is interesting that both major contestants are from North, both are Fulani, the current economic situation facing the majority of the people in the country might also play a significant role. Kano State is not an exception. Many people have expressed disappointment that the Buhari-led administration has failed to solve the economic predicaments they have been facing since he came on board about four years ago, a development that seems to have made them to make up their minds to look for an alternative. Many others are of the opinion that health wise, Mr. President is not good enough to go for the rigours of office again, though his die-hard supporters are saying he should be given another four years to complete his fight against corruption.
It will be clash of titans in Kaduna
In Kaduna State, the presidential race promises be interesting because both Buhari and Abubakar are ‘citizens’ of the state. They both enjoy tremendous support from their followers. However, analysts have predicted that Buhari would still win by simple majority.
The president still has his followers who strongly believe in him. Since 2003, when he joined the presidential race, Buhari has never lost any election in Kaduna State. According to a resident public affairs analyst, Samuel Aruwan, the president could retain his perennial lead in the state. He had won the state in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Findings have shown that Buhari’s major strength lies in the large followership he enjoys in the state, especially from those in the rural area. Another political analyst, who pleaded for anonymity, contended that the people would always vote for Buhari because of the natural love they had for the president.
By the same token, another factor that will work for the APC candidate is the incumbency factor. It should be noted that apart from Buhari being the candidate of the ruling party, the state is under the leadership of one of his most consistent admirers who is also the governor of the state, Nasir el-Rufai. The Kaduna State governor, many believe, would do everything humanly possible to ensure that the president gets the required votes in the state.
However, the only challenge for the president, it has been contended, would be in the Southern part of the state, as investigations have shown that the area has now shifted its support base to the PDP and its candidate, Atiku. It is believed that the current scenario will affect the number of votes the president might have in the area.
However, the recent endorsement of Atiku by some stakeholders in the Southern part of the state, many believe, will give the PDP presidential candidate an upper hand in the zone. It is the belief of many Nigerians that the current administration, headed by the APC candidate, has been handling the killings in Southern Kaduna with kid gloves. Even as strong as el-Rufai seems in the political equation of the APC and the nation by extension, the ‘predicament’ of the masses of Southern Kaduna people under his administration is seen as a factor that can portend bad news for the APC in the presidential election. The Muslim Christian dichotomy of the populous state is believed to have been handled in such a way that has denied the Christian South a sense of belonging.
By history, Zamfara is for APC
In the history of Zamfara State’s politics, the PDP has never won an election in the state. With the oft-touted Yariman Bakura factor, as the first elected civilian governor of the state, now an APC senator, former governor Sani Yarima, has an enormous sympathy from the electorate in the state. Many have said that this is due to his ‘welfarist’ posture and his system of administration through which he reintroduced the Sharia legal system in the state. He still commands an army of foot-soldiers in the state as a result of this.
This is why many analysts have postulated that the chances of the PDP and its presidential candidate are bleak. Part of what the APC has going for it is that the Buhari-led administration is believed to be sincerely fighting corruption and has sited some developmental projects in the state. The electorate claim that the administration in the state has embarked on construction and rehabilitation of some federal roads, established military secondary schools, military barrack, Air Force quick response base and done empowerment programmes.
However, the Zamfara State chapter of the PDP believes it is set to regain its lost glory in the state.
Watchers of political events, nonetheless, believe that either of Buhari or Atiku could spring surprises during the election in the state.
It’s head-to-head in Akwa Ibom
At stake here is the 2.1 million votes the state INEC REC, Mike Igini, said was the strength of the oil-rich state of about six million people. The battle line has been drawn between the two major gladiators. It is noteworthy that the lesser political parties have since disappeared from the fray of campaigns, consultations and other forms of political horse-trading to woo the electorate.
Abubakar and Buhari had since visited the state and flaunted their credentials and manifestoes. Opinions are for and against each of the two major political parties going into the big contest.
While Buhari said he would consolidate on his three-point agenda of fighting corruption, insecurity and fixing the economy, Atiku came with a message of restructuring, arguing that “if Nigeria is restructured, the economic hardship currently being experienced by Nigerians will give way to prosperity.”
With these gambits by the two leaders on either side of their political divide, the 31-year-old state has become heavily polarized, leaving no room for a guess as to where the pendulum would swing. There is also the question of the capacity of crowd pulled by either of the two parties at every event. It had always been almost the same.
For Atiku, large swathe of the voting population, according to bookmakers, are rooting for a change of guard at the centre, going by what they described as “unfulfilled promises and failure to curb corruption, subdue the insurgents and fix the economy.”
Among Atiku notable backers are former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in the state, Emmanuel Ibiok; Senators Anietie Okon, Emmanuel Ibokessien, Effiong Bob and others working in collaboration with Governor Udom Emmanuel’s campaign team. They have resolved to deliver the state to the PDP in all the contests.
According to the Director-General (DG) of Emmanuel’s campaign team, Divine Mandate, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, “the PDP has been like a religion in Akwa Ibom since the return of democracy in 1999.” He vowed that no stone would be left unturned in the task of ensuring that the status was maintained after the polls.
The PDP is also hinging its resolve to win the state on the position of its national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, when he declared at the presidential rally in Uyo, that “all the achievements in the areas of infrastructural development, power, industrialisation, human capital development and social empowerment were done by the PDP.”
For the APC, one thing that seems to be its main advantage is the fact that many political bigwigs defected into it. The party has been waxing stronger since the epic migration of the former governor, Godswill Akpabio, who dumped the former ruling party in August 2018.
The opposition APC, according to former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator John Udoedehe; former Governor Akpabio and other APC chieftains, would deploy federal might as added advantage for it to overrun Akwa Ibom.
Akpabio had hinted this plan few weeks to his defection. He had lamented that Emmanuel, who he single-handedly “bended the rules” and installed as his successor in 2015, was deviating from “the political Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)” they had pre-2015 era.
There is also the issue of zonal interests as a factor in the election. For instance, Akpabio was forced to openly accuse his estranged godson and successor of abandoning his star projects in his zone of Ikot Ekpene, including the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road, the Five Points by Sheraton Hotel and others, saying “these are some of the things I will use to campaign for you in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.”
Many of his associates, friends and strong supporters, APC including some members of the State Executive Council (SEC), state and federal lawmakers and the Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Godwin Affangideh, are part of the strength the APC inherited from that defection saga.
While the gladiators have been tugging at one another’s jugular over the so-called federal might claim, with Governor Emmanuel raising the alarm and Udoedehe accusing him of having benefitted from the same rigging process in the past, the resultant side-taking by various interests has further shown how the votes might go.
For instance, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state has taken the decision to back Governor Emmanuel’s re-election. Observers say they have formed a political group named Fathers of Faith (FoF) for Udom Emmanuel’s re-election and are being led by a former CAN chairman in the state, Archbishop Cletus Bassey.
The major point that this Christian leaders are holding unto is also capable of deciding where the majority of the people will queue in February and March. This is the fact that since the return of democracy in 1999, the state had been ruled on the basis of rotation, with each governor running for eight years.
It is said that they are now wondering why Emmanuel’s case should be different from what had obtained from the era of Obong Victor Attah of Uyo senatorial district, who ruled for eight years and left for Akpabio of Ikot Ekpene district.
The bone of contention, obviously, is why Emmanuel’s tenure meant for for Eket senatorial district’s shot should be truncated after four years.
With the current scenario, political bookmakers think the election would be too close to call, especially if a level playing field would be allowed for all contenders.
APC’s loss, PDP’s gain in Rivers
Judging from the situation in Rivers State, the PDP and Atiku seem to have the edge and are looking good to coast home to victory, come February 16.
One of the major reasons the PDP is looking the party to beat in the state is that currently in the campaigns, it seems like the lone voice in the wilderness. It has been having a field day with its campaign across the various parts of the state, selling itself to the electorates without let or hindrance.
The intra-party crisis rocking the APC in the state, which has resulted in its non-participation in the elections is also giving the PDP additional edge.
Though the order of the court barring the APC is restricted to other elections apart from the presidential, it clearly rubs off on that too, because the disqualified candidates are the foot-soldiers expected to take the presidential campaign, alongside theirs, to their people at the grassroots just as the PDP has been doing.
Another factor working for the Atiku presidential campaign in Rivers State is the power, vigour, political astuteness and performance of the state governor, Nyesom Wike. Since the commencement of the campaigns, the governor has sustained the campaign visit to every part of the state.
To some analysts, “the widely-acclaimed above average performance” of Wike is of great advantage to the chances of the PDP presidential standard-bearer in the election.
Wike has a formidable camp of political followership with supporters across the three senatorial districts and the 23 local government areas of the state who are with him in his support for Atiku.
It has, however, been said that the PDP in Rivers State is not without its share of weak points. Watchers of events said voters were critically looking at the reference being to the 16-year era of the PDP at the federal level said to have been marred by widespread nonperformance and corruption.
Besides, it has been argued that Buhari, who some analysts generally regard as “an abysmal failure” around the state, also has some strong factors in his favour in Rivers State. One of that is the power of incumbency. Being in control of power and having unfettered access to the national till, they opined, could swing some major followership towards him, “considering the penchant of the political class and the electorate in Rivers State to be easily swayed by patronage.”
Part of this ‘fear’ allegedly spreading widely is that having expressed a strong desire for reelection, President Buhari would, most likely, manipulate the system in his favour using the INEC and security agencies.
Also, on the ground, swelling his support base in the state are many political powerbrokers like the Minister of Transport, who is the Director-General of Buhari’s campaign organization, Rotimi Amaechi; the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, and many others who had benefited one form of political patronage or the other from his administration. These are expected to convince thousands of voters to queue behind Buhari on the February 16. With the duo are other prominent APC bigwigs across the state including Tonye Cole, Magnus Abe, Prince Tonye Princewill, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, Ojukaye Flag-Amachere and many others.
It is interesting to note that despite the internal crisis in the APC in the state most, if not all the factional leaders in the crisis, including those who took their ambition to other parties, still express their loyalty to and support for Buhari.
Delta, PDP stronghold, may slip to APC
Oil-rich, but perpetually impoverished Delta State, prides itself as a stronghold of the PDP. This stands rightly so as the party has been in power since 1999 when the Third Republic started.
Based on presidential elections of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, the PDP has always comes tops. In the 2015 two-horse race between the Jonathan and Buhari, for instance, the PDP polled 1, 211, 405 votes to trash the APC, its major challenger, which scored a paltry 48, 910 votes. Analysts have said that the acceptance of the PDP in the state is substantially responsible for its superlative outings over the years. Similar primordial pattern may play out this time, all things being equal.
But this is the first time the ruling party in the state is in opposition at the centre. With the power in the hands of the APC at the centre, pundits are of the opinion that PDP’s tea party might be eclipsing. It’s, therefore, safe to conclude that PDP, in the coming polls, represents the underdog. Repeated calls on party agents and faithful at ongoing PDP campaign rallies by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and other and chieftains, that vigilance should be kept on the voting exercises from polling units to the point of declaration attest to this proposition.
In Delta South senatorial district, the APC has made some significant inroads to the hearts of voters. A big political fish, in person of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, defected to the APC last year. The Itsekiri-born medical doctor, it will be recalled, spent 16 years in the PDP as a commissioner, secretary to state government, governor and chieftain before jumping ship with a retinue of supporters to clinch the party’s senatorial candidate seat for Delta South.
Incumbent senator and candidate for Delta Central senatorial district, Ovie Omo-Agege, is another harvest the APC got after the 2015 elections. The maverick politician has in his bag the tricks of all-powerful and all-tricky PDP, having been part of them, to spring a surprise for Buhari.
Besides, perennial governorship contestant and current governorship candidate of the APC, Chief Great Ogboru, is no pushover. He is banking on his usual popularity and sympathy votes.
Amid the subsisting, but subtle intraparty skirmishes rocking the APC in the state, leader of the party in the state, Chief O’tega Emerhor, appears to have no axe to grind with President Buhari, but Adams Oshiomhole and therefore would mobilise his foot soldiers to curry votes in favour of the APC presidential candidate. His disdain treatment by Omo-Agege, Ogboru, Prophet Jones Erue and the rest remains a painful sore that may portend some doom for the APC in the coming polls.
In Delta North, the APC presidential candidate is unlikely to have a smooth ride. Beside the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, other notable and influential juggernauts of the party are yet to be pacified over the shenanigans that characterised its governorship primaries in May 2018. Aggrieved Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Professor Patrick Utomi and Mr Victor Ochei who were also disdained and disgraced by power-wielding elements of Adams Oshiomhole may still constitute a cog in the wheel of the party in the state. Some of them are currently seeking redress from the courts.
Some factors that may prove positive for Buhari in the poll, however, include the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, the yet-to-be-completed Itakpe – Warri railway, the amplified dredging of the Escravos bar and Warri river as well as the amnesty programme.
But the questions many have been asking are; will an average Delta person, nay Ijaw, vote for an incumbent president who is believed to have ousted their own, Jonathan, from office? Who persecuted and silenced their symbol of freedom, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo? Who mobilised soldiers to invade, ravage and desecrate their sacred communities with military misdemeanor in the wake of a renewed militancy in 2016 and many more?
On the other hand, Atiku’s popularity in Delta State is in no doubt. Besides his string of businesses in the state and the Niger Delta region, the former vice-president has been commanding a lot of grassroots mobilisations since his days under Olusegun Obasanjo. One of his grassroots mobilisera is Chief Sunny Onuesoke, a vibrant and youthful PDP chieftain who correctly predicted the victory of Atiku in the PDP primaries.
Meanwhile, Delta Central senatorial district, with eight local government areas, usually records the highest number of voters. It’s a largely PDP domain with former Governor James Ibori as head of the PDP dynasty.
Political players, such as incumbent House of Representatives member and PDP senatorial candidate, Evelyn Oboro; ousted Senator Ighoyota Amori and former Minister of Education and Obasanjo’s political son, Chief Kenneth Gbagi, could harness enough resources for Atiku’s electoral victory.
In Delta North, Okowa’s domain, it could be Atiku all the way. Analysts said it is not certain Kachikwu, “with his repressed reservations for the APC government at the centre,” will be able to muscle much votes for a Buhari largely seen as perpetrating nepotism and ethnic bigotry. The massive votes that is expected to go to Senator Okowa to balance the theory of equity in the governorship in the state may, as well as, sway the way of Atiku. He is expected to enjoy block votes from foot-soldiers of the likes of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
Votes from Delta South senatorial district, an area noted and often hailed for its ability to produce ‘miracle votes’ from the creeks and mangrove forests, may be split between the two major presidential candidates. But will the likes of James Manager, incumbent senator presenting the district, lie low in the face of the so-called federal might? Will aggrieved Tompolo, who has been largely demystified, not fight back? Won’t the Ijaw/Itsekiri rivalry be renewed over Uduaghan and Manager with the duo symbolising Buhari and Atiku respectively?
Atiku’s oft-mentioned restructuring, true federalism, power devolution and resource control remain time-honoured agitation of the Niger Delta people. It is largely believed to have capacity to sway votes his way.