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APC makes final push in Nigeria’s governorship polls

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Friday, 8 March 2019 14:55, updated on Monday, 11 March 2019 14:55

It's back to the polling booth for Nigerians Photo: REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

The sons of political godfathers will lock horns this weekend as 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states go to the polls to determine who oversees their affairs as governor for the next four years.

The remaining states will not vote for their governors, owing an electoral timetable altered by landmark post-electoral decisions given over the years by the judiciary. Elections for the 36 state houses of assembly will also be held on Saturday. Governorships ensure a steady stream of patronage thanks to Nigeria’s federal revenue-sharing system.

What are the stakes?

More than half of the governors are seeking re-election. After retaining the presidential seat as well as winning the majority of the seats in both houses of parliament, the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC) is seeking to consolidate on its good run so far and win as many states as possible.

  • After internal party rifts led to the electoral commission deciding that the APC cannot field candidates for governorship in the key states of Rivers and Zamfara, it will now be a fight to the finish for the remaining states.
  • The APC’s main goal will be to outwit the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and outmuscle regional parties nationwide, most notably the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
  • The money shared by states is the bedrock of Nigerian politics, so don’t expect the weekend to pass without a fight, despite the hold the ruling APC have on the states.

6 key states to watch:

  • Lagos: Africa’s seventh largest economy is bedevilled by problems including a humongous waste problem that cost embattled governor Akinwunmi Ambode his party’s nomination, or so it is publicly claimed. Saturday’s elections are seen as merely a coronation for Babjide Sanwo-Olu – another godson of Bola Tinubu, ex-Lagos governor and APC national leader – who dusted Ambode at the party primaries.
  • Ogun: One of the most fascinating races will play out in the next-door state to Lagos. The dark horse is the PDP’s Buruji Kashamu, currently a senator and formerly an inmate in an American prison, whose life inspired the popular TV show Orange is The New Black. The main contenders, however, are the Allied People’s Movement (APM), publicly backed by the current governor – a staunch Buhari ally of many years standing – and the APC.
  • Oyo: Here, another outgoing APC governor has found himself ostracised by Tinubu. Isiaka Ajimobi, an ex-senator with two disastrous terms as governor, lost his bid to return to the Senate a fortnight ago. Keen to dissociate itself from him, Tinubu has banned him from attending rallies even as the state party chapter has released a jingle eulogising its gubernatorial candidate and insulting Ajimobi. The opposition could benefit from the situation.
  • Sokoto: Home to Nigeria’s most important Muslim – the Sultan – a godson will lock horns with his godfather to prove he has fully come of age. Aminu Tambuwal, the incumbent, lost the presidential primaries to Atiku Abubakar last October but managed to deliver 41% of the vote for the PDP in what is an APC stronghold. He will be hoping to do one better and cement another four years in office, despite stiff  opposition  from his predecessor and erstwhile sponsor, Aliyu Wamakko, who has remained in the APC.
  • Kano: The commercial city will see controversial APC governor Umar Ganduje contest for re-election against a candidate-less PDP, thanks to a recent court decision disqualifying the candidate backed by influential former governor Rabiu Kwankwaso. Ganduje, who made news headlines last October after at least five videos emerged of him stuffing alleged kickbacks in dollars into his robes, is still rated highly within the APC.
  • Akwa Ibom: The APC’s inroads into the Niger Delta seem to be bearing fruits in the state where it garnered 305 of the votes in last month’s presidential election. Consequently, the presidency and party hierarchy led by Godswill Akpabio, Senator and ex-godfather to the incumbent governor, are set to unleash as much federal might as possible to wrest control of the government from the PDP. This, in a state that has consistently voted the PDP since 1999, could unleash a round of unnecessary violence.

Bottom line: Will anyone turn up?

“Some are privately saying that the shortcomings of the election are an indication that democracy as a system cannot address Nigeria’s problems”, worries former US ambassador John Campbell, who fears progress has stalled in the country.

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