Nigerians go to the polls today to elect governors in 28 states of the federation. The eight states not conducting governorship elections, however, will join the other states in electing brand new state legislative houses.
Given the constitutional powers of the state legislative houses in determining the fate of governors, it is as such not surprising that the battle for the legislative houses is also a keen battle. No where is that battle keener today than in Edo State where Governor Godwin Obaseki is fighting for his life having sowed discord in the two mainstream parties, PDP and APC.
Since the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 25 when the Dan Orbih led mainstream of the PDP worked against the governor’s faction of the party and ensured that none of the candidates endorsed by Obaseki won a seat, reality has dawned on the governor that today’s House of Assembly elections could lead to his end.
Should Orbih and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole sustain their collaboration in Edo North and Central, and the Obidients repeat their February 25 feat in Edo South, Obaseki may not have a single PDP man in the House of Assembly and thus the fear of his political demise.
Outside Edo State, eyes will be focussed today on governorship battles in Plateau, Lagos, Delta, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano and Enugu among others.
Plateau State, a traditional PDP state was won by the APC in 2015 after the immediate past governor, Senator Jonah Jang pushed his near kinsman, Senator Gyang Pwajok as his successor.
Even though Pwajok was seen as a very brilliant and humble man with a passion for service, the majority of the electorate, however, revolted against the emergence of a near kinsman of the outgoing governor leading to the emergence of Mr Simon Lalong.
However, having tested Lalong and his creed of submissiveness to the Fulani, it is no brainer that the APC will have an uphill task in today’s poll. The PDP is also united around Barrister Caleb Mutfwang, a former award winning local government chairman who appears to have galvanised the plateau with a good spirit that has united most of the PDP tendencies in the state.
The prospects of the PDP candidate are being helped by the reality that the two main challengers, Goshwe Nentanwe of the APC and Patrick Dakum of Labour Party are seen as acolytes of Governor Lalong, a link that significantly reduces their credibility in the eyes of the voters.
After the unthinkable defeat of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Lagos on February 25, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu appears to have realised that the once unthinkable thought of the APC losing the state could begin under his watch. It is no surprise then that the governor has since that day been practically on the move begging for votes in a way that none of his predecessors ever did.
The main challenger had until the February 25 presidential election been seen as the former APC tough guy, Jide Adediran aka Jandor who is flying the ticket of the PDP.
His stock has considerably fallen with the exposure given the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour who has now become the main threat to Tinubu’s fiefdom over Lagos.
GRV as he is popularly known, traces his paternal roots from the heart of Lagos Island but is married to an Igbo and is born of an Igbo mother. The marital and maternal links have inspired not a small dose of ethnic politics in the state from some alleging that he is not a full bloodied Lagosian.
Even worse, some allege that his aspiration on the platform of Labour Party as an affront.
The issue has brought out the worst in many otherwise once respected political gladiators including Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who has warned that Lagos should not be ceded to non-Lagosians.
That is Fani-Kayode whose only male children were begotten from an Igbo woman. Some are alleging that if Fani-Kayode knew where to go when matters of male lineage came how would he worsen the situation in Lagos with an ethnic slur.
Lagos indeed would be a tough one to call.
The Obi surge is also at play in Delta where Senator Ovie Omo-Agege’s bid on the APC’s platform to overthrow the PDP hegemony has now been overshadowed by the Labour Party candidate, Deacon Ken Pela.
Pela was not an issue until Obi swept the polls in Delta three Saturdays ago. Omo-Agege who popularised the castigation of the outgoing governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as an ethnic bigot has now been snared by the same words.
Just a year ago, Omo-Agege and the APC rarely issued a statement without calling Okowa as an Owa-Alero governor. That was because of assertions of the governor’s alleged diversion of projects from neighbouring communities to his village.
Now, Omo-Agege is being seen as even worse given the way he is accused to have pulled projects to his Orogun community. For that very reason, the PDP candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori who was seen as sinking after Okowa’s disastrous performance in the presidential elections has resurrected.
Okowa it is now whispered is desperate to the extent of breaking the bank to stop Omo-Agege.
If the masses sustain the momentum for Obi and the Labour Party, then Okowa and Omo-Agege may well lick their wounds together.
Imo, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, and Sokoto States are also states that will be of interest to many with incumbent and outgoing governors determined to sustain their political footholds in their states.
The permutations above, however, would depend on one fact, that is the extent to which the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC exerts the integrity of the process. Should Prof Mahmood Yakubu not disappoint the nation again, we could well be in for a very exciting time this weekend.