As Nigeria inches closer to February 16 general election, the shape of
the two-horse race between the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate,
Muhammadu Buhari, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rival, Atiku
Abubakar, is becoming clearer. The two parties look set to do well in
their traditional strongholds.
However, intriguing contests are shaping up in a little over a dozen states and this could swing the outcome one way or another.
In this report, The Nation’s Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern
Operation, Sam Egburonu, Associate Editor and Dare Odufowokan, Assistant
Editor, shed light on the dynamics of the race in what can now be
referred to as the swing or battleground states for the forthcoming
In the Southeast geo-political zone, Imo State, which is currently
administered by an All Progressives Congress-led government, promises to
be the hottest state to watch in the coming elections.
This is because the implosion of the political family of the out-going
governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, had created so much bad blood that the
ruling party in the state, the APC, can no longer take it for granted
that it would win the race in the state.
Nyesom Wike’s emergence as the state governor, on the ticket of PDP
against Rotimi Amaechi’s support, not only returned the state to PDP but
marked the beginning of a gripping political rivalry that has held the
breathe of Nigerians.
Because Amaechi, the current Minister of Transportation is also both the
Director-General of Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Re-election
Campaign and also the leader of ruling APC in the state and the whole of
the South-south zone, the expectation is high that he ought to ensure
APC’s victory in his state in all the elections. Both because of the
high offices he currently occupies and the fact that it has become a
personal battle between him and his former ally, the permutation has
been that Amaechi will put in all he has both to deliver Rivers to
Buhari and to reclaim his position as the political leader of Rivers.
Paradoxically, the same pressure is on Governor Nyesom Wike to deliver
Rivers to PDP. Those who followed the political battle from the onset
can recall that Wike enjoyed unalloyed support of the former First
Family, the Jonathans, when he contested for the office of the governor
of the state against the endorsement of Amaechi.
Since then, the two rivals have further tightened their belts, thus
making the struggle for the soul of Rivers even more arduous.
The matter was further complicated the upper weekend when the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) omitted APC candidates
as it released the final list of Presidential and National Assembly
Observers said the implication of non-inclusion of the APC candidates on
the list is that the party would not partake in the elections in the
state. If this is true, it would mean that APC and Amaechi had been
The general elections in Delta, which has remained a PDP state since
1999, will also be interesting. Given that the party has continued to
grow under the leadership of Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa of PDP, there
is the tendency to speculate that PDP would still win this year’s
It would be recalled that out of the 1,267,773 valid votes cast in the
state during the 2015 presidential election, PDP got 1,211,405 votes,
while APC got 48,910 votes.
That year also, the party won the governorship election with a great margin.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Bio Nyananyo, had
announced in Asaba that Okowa won the election as he polled 724,680
votes to beat his closest rival, Chief Great Ogboru of the Labour Party
then, who got 130,028 votes, while Chief O’tega Emerhor of APC then made
the third position with 67,825 votes.
Looking at these figures, one would ordinarily write off any party contesting with the ruling party, PDP, in Delta.
But today, so much has happened in the politics of the state, especially
within the opposition APC. For example, the defection of the former
governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to APC last year is
considered a major plus for APC.
But informed observers wonder if such gains are enough to defeat PDP leadership in the state and win votes for Buhari?
Also, Great Ogboru, who came second in 2015, with Labour Party, then a
less popular party, is now flying the APC flag. This will be a big boost
for APC both for the governorship and the presidential election.
If one adds Ogboru’s factor and Uduaghan’s influence, it seems certain
that APC is poised to do better than it did in 2015 in Delta, when it
Beyond ongoing rhetorics between the two leading political parties in
the state, the 2019 General Election in Akwa Ibom State will be nothing
short of a political battle for the very soul of the state, pundits have
predicted. For the very first time since the nation’s return to
democracy in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in
charge of the governance of the oil- rich state, is seriously being
challenged by an opposition party in the race for the political
leadership of the state.
Going by recent political events in the state, it is very convenient to
say both the PDP and the APC are well rooted in the nooks and crannies
of the state, no thanks to the political division between former
Governor Godswill Akpabio and his erstwhile political godson, current
Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. Following the unexpected decision by the
former, who was also the Minority Leader of the Senate at the time, to
dump the PDP and pitch his tent with the All Progressives Congress
(APC), the political permutations in the state have changed drastically.
Before Akpabio’s political disengagement with the PDP, the state was a
PDP stronghold in every sense of the word. Apart from the fact that the
party has been in charge of the state since 1999, no opposition party
had recorded any meaningful performance against the PDP in any major
election before now. Across the state, the people have over the years,
largely associated with the PDP save for pockets of opposition figures
here and there.
But with the defection of Akpabio and his political family into the APC,
reliable sources across the state say the politics of the state is now
symbolized by a sharp division of the people into PDP supporters and APC
“Something unprecedented is happening in Akwa Ibom. Everywhere you turn
to, you now find supporters of both the PDP and the APC slugging it out,
unlike in the past when the PDP was the family party of the people of
the state,” a journalist working in the state said.
Developments suggest that the forthcoming general elections in Ogun State will feature unusual contests.
On the candidates’ list released by the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), oil magnate, Dapo Abiodun from Iperu in the Remo axis
of Ogun East, is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
while Senator Buruji Kashamu, representing Ogun East Senatorial District
in the National Assembly, is the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic
Also on the list of candidates released by INEC are, Egba-born former
Speaker of House of Reps, Dimeji Bankole as flag bearer of the Action
Democratic Party (ADP) and a two-time governorship candidate, Gboyega
Nasiru Isiaka, who now flies the ticket of the African Democratic
Congress (ADC). Isiaka, who is from Yewa in Ogun West, was the candidate
of the PDP in 2015. Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement
(APM) is also in the race from Yewaland.
In addition to this, the internal crisis that is troubling the ruling
APC, following Governor Amosun’s controversial decision to oppose the
ambition of Dapo Abiodun, the party’s gubernatorial candidate and
support his preferred successor, Adekunle Akinlade of the little known
APM, has also heightened the political situation in the state while
weakening the support bases of the APC across the state in the guber
Also, the emergence of Hon. Ladi Adebutu as factional candidate of the
opposition PDP amidst endless litigations and violent clashes between
the two factions of the party in the state, has added to the
uncertainties surrounding the governorship race in Ogun State. While
INEC, as electoral umpire, says Kashamu remains on its list of
candidates, the PDP national leadership recognizes Adebutu as its
INEC said it is obeying a valid court judgement by recognising the list
submitted to it by Kashamu’s faction of the opposition party in the
state. But Adebutu, who had earlier been named as the candidate by the
national leadership of the party, while relying on an Ibadan Appeal
Court judgement, is insisting that he is the rightful flag-bearer of the
opposition party. In a bizarre twist of the crisis in the party, the
two ‘candidates’ have been going about campaigning, with their
supporters clashing regularly.
With the above scenario, the 2019 governorship in Ogun State is playing
out as a war of zones, as all the four zones in the state are now having
at least one major candidate in the race. This is contrary to the
desire of Governor Amosun and other notable political leaders in the
state, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to restrict the
race to a contest between candidates from the Yewa axis of the state.
The Ogun West Senatorial District is yet to produce a governor since
1976 when the state was created, and Amosun was determined to break the
jinx. He campaigned vigorously for the ticket of the APC to be zoned to
the area and he almost achieved that before the party’s NWC overruled
his consensus arrangement and ordered a direct primary election which
Dapo Abiodun, from Remoland, a zone in Ogun East Senatorial District,
The PDP from day one never zoned the governorship ticket to Ogun West.
Both factions of the party in the state seem to have their eyes on
producing a candidate from Ogun East too, as no serious contender
emerged from Ogun West and Central all through the process leading to
the primary elections of the Adebutu and Kashamu factions of the PDP.
Like Abiodun, Kashamu is from Ogun East and currently represents the
district at the National Assembly. But he is from Ijebuland, another
zone in the area which has also been clamoring to be given a chance to
produce the governor of the state, 36 years after the late Bisi
Onabanjo, its only son to have been governor of the state, left office.
His supporters say Abiodun from Remo cannot be governor just eight years
after Gbenga Daniel, another Remo man, left office.
From Ogun Central, made up of the Egbas, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole
is in the race. He is unperturbed by the fact that outgoing governor
Amosun is from the same zone as himself. He says zoning should not rob
the state of the best hands for the job. The congress that produced him
took place in all the 20 Local Government Areas and 236 wards in the
state, according to the Returning Officer for the primary election, Mr.
Not to be left out, the Yewas of Ogun West, preferred by Amosun and
other opinion leaders to have the seat, have Isiaka in the race, but on
the platform of little known ADC, having failed to bag the ticket of any
of the two leading political parties. Akinlade, the preferred candidate
of Governor Amosun, had defected from the ruling APC to the APM, to
keep the Yewa agenda alive.
The state is a major focus point because the threat to the status quo as
symbolized by Saraki Dynasty is real. Although the scion of the
dynasty, Senate President Bukola Saraki, may be travelling about with
the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, there is fire on the
mountain at home.
The spate of violence in the past two weeks underscored the prevalent
do-or-die politics in the state. While the ruling PDP does not want to
relinquish its grip on power, the wind of change blowing from the
direction of the APC has been like a Tsunami.
Analysts see the electoral map here as fluid with the three senatorial districts left open to be won either by PDP or APC.
None of the two leading parties can boast of an outright win in any
district. Saraki, who represents Kwara Central Senatorial District, has a
date with his closest rival, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who was a former
member of the State House of Assembly. The contest is reminiscent of the
duel between David and Goliath. For Oloriegbe, who was once a product
of the dynasty, his record of selfless service as a medic and as well as
coming from a respected family, will make the contest tough. His
greatest advantage is the mass discontent against the Sarakis.
Despite the power of incumbency, it won’t be an easy ride for Saraki in
Kwara Central District. In the last one month, the Senate President has
retreated to fault lines for political survival and to retool his
campaign machinery, but the people of Ilorin Emirate who dominate the
district, are now sharply divided for and against him.
How the APC will wriggle out of its political quagmire in Kogi State is a
development political scientists are watching with keen interest. The
party will have to contest with others in February for the Presidential,
National and State Assembly polls and in November for the governorship
The ghost of the late Governor Abubakar Audu is still haunting APC and
Governor Yahaya Bello, who has tried to re-write history after
benefitting from Audu’s mandate.
Out of the three senatorial districts, APC remains solid in Kogi Central
which is largely populated by the governor’s Ebira kinsmen. There had
been a few protests against Bello in the Central district but the
governor has engaged in arm-twisting and outright political
witch-hunting to retain his grip.
But the party needs extra salesmen to regain the confidence of Kogi East
(Audu’s fortress) in the next strands of election. The management of
the aftermath of Audu’s death – including the hounding of his son –
looks set to hurt the ruling party.
Within two weeks, the political calculations in Bauchi State have
changed with PDP losing most of its heavyweights to APC. Although
Governor Mohammed Abubakar was initially opposed by the elites in the
state, the intervention of President Buhari and members of the ruling
mafia in the North have altered the dynamics significantly.
Many PDP bigwigs in the last 15 days have defected to APC, among them a
former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed; a
former National Chairman of PDP, Adamu Mu’azu; ex-Governor Isa Yuguda;
ex-Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Senator Babayo Garba Gamawa; a
former Deputy Governor, Abdulmalik Mahmood; Kaulaha Aliyu; a former
National Organizing Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo; Senator Abubakar
Maikafi and Ambassador Adamu Jumba.
The PDP has the Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara, as the
arrowhead of its campaign in the state. Being a minority Christian, his
comments and conspiracy in the National Assembly against the president
have diminished the chances of the main opposition party because the
Hausa-Fulani oligarchy cannot understand why the Speaker would join
forces against Buhari.
Despite the fact that the PDP governorship candidate, ex-FCT Minister
Bala Mohammed, has done so much to gain mileage for the party, the state
may witness a relapse to old Hausa-Fulani/Muslim versus
minority/Christian voting pattern.
The ex-minister has empowered many, offered scholarship, renovated
mosques and won the hearts of many. But Dogara and his colleagues in the
National Assembly from Bauchi State have proved to be more of
liabilities than assets to PDP.
Yet Bauchi State is under watch in order to see the magic wand the new
generation of leaders led by Dogara, will deploy to upstage these APC
bigwigs. A source said: “PDP is banking on poor performance of the
governor as a major campaign issue.”
All the parties have a huge task at hand to take their campaign to the
nooks and crannies of 23 local government areas in the state. The
politics has largely been personality-based, but has also been coloured
by economics, ethnicity and religion in the light of the herdsmen
killings witnessed in the last two to three years.
With over 70 per cent of the people dependent on agriculture, the
farmers-herders crises had affected and displaced thousands of peasants
in the rural areas from the dominant ethnic groups especially the Tiv,
the Idoma and the Igede.
Governor Samuel Ortom has capitalized on the farmers-herders crises as a
weapon to secure his second term ticket. The anti-Fulani sentiments in
the state have grown to the extent that President Buhari and APC are
Ortom went a step further in the week to apologize to the people of the
state for leading them to APC in 2015. The joining of forces by Ortom
and ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam, who has an axe to grind for being put on
trial for alleged corruption by the APC administration, has made the
PDP more formidable.
The battle in Kaduna State is purely of an ethno- religious dimension
and it is already taking this shape. In fact, the Governor of Kaduna
State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, alluded to it in a television interview
when he said the people of Kaduna South District, comprising eight local
government areas will not vote for him because they see APC as an
Intriguingly, the party is offering a Muslim-Muslim governorship ticket in a state notorious for sectarian conflict.
A source in the state said: “The Muslim-Muslim ticket might look
insensitive, it appears politically expedient now for APC to win huge
votes in view of how a Bishop from Kaduna South teamed up to reconcile
ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku
Abubakar. The reconciliation paved the way for the emergence of Atiku.”
With available votes of 5.4 million, Kano State attracts special
attention because any party which secures a huge chunk of its votes can
coast home to victory at the presidential poll. In 2015, the APC
presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari won 1,903,999 votes
in Kano compared with PDP’s 215, 799 votes garnered by ex-President
The exit of ex-Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso from APC to PDP is expected to
improve the fortunes of the opposition party. But Kwankwaso’s defection
has left PDP more divided due to the imposition of his son-in-law, Abba
Kabiru Yusuf, as the party’s governorship candidate.
In February, the onus will be on Kwankwaso to prove that he controls the
politics of Kano by installing a new governor and prove to the world
that he can still deliver more than 1,903,999 votes to PDP.
How the opposition presidential candidate will defeat Buhari in Kano is a big hurdle and litmus test.
The people of the state are caught between two choices of producing a
home-bred president or voting for their son-in-law Buhari to remain in
office. This is a testy moment for Atiku more than Buhari because he has
a lot at stake. If he defeats Buhari in Adamawa, he would boost his
political profile as primus inter pares in the state. But if Atiku
suffers any setback, he would join the league of the likes of
ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who lost in his home state.
The performance of Governor Jibrilla Bindow (from a minority tribe) has
added value to Buhari’s campaign. Also, the nomination of game changers
like Senator Binta Mashi and Hajiya Aishatu Ahmed Binani and other
mobilizers at the grassroots have made winning the state an uphill task
Our findings show that the governorship candidate of PDP, Umaru Fintiri,
popularly called “The ATM” by civil servants due to prompt payment of
salaries when he was Acting Governor of the state, has made the turf
tougher. Fintiri is giving Bindow an electioneering headache because of
‘the ATM perception’.
Ordinarily, Governor Darius Ishaku and the PDP is not expected to sweat
for victory in February because power rotation in the state favours
Southern Zone where Ishaku hails from. Since 1999, Taraba North and
Central districts had held powers and in compliance with the unwritten
pact among stakeholders in the state, the governor ought to spend two
terms in office to complete the slot of the Southern zone.
But the emergence of a former Minister of Women Affairs and Social
Development, Aisha Alhassan and former Acting Governor of the state,
Sani Danladi, as the candidates of United Democratic Party (UDP) and the
All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively, are threatening the power
sharing formula in the state. Both Alhassan and Danladi are from Taraba
North which produced the state governor (jailed Jolly Nyame) from 1999
to 2007. Nyame’s successor, the late Danbaba Suntai, was from Taraba
The development has ignited ethnic and religious politics in the
heterogeneous state. The major tribes in Taraba are Jenjo, Jibana,
Kuteb, Chamba, Yandang, Mumuye, Mambila, Wurkum, Fulani, Jukun, Ichen,
Tiv, Kaka, Panso, Kambu, Wawa, Vute, Tikari, Hausa and Ndola.
Taraba is in focus because this year’s election outcome will be
determined by the spate of insecurity occasioned by farmers-herders
clashes, the inter-tribal conflicts like Tiv-Jukun crisis, the
Hausa-Fulani factor, religious sentiments and performance of the current
The PDP may also have a working alliance with UDP during the
presidential poll because Alhassan is a die-hard loyalist of Atiku