Guber polls: Fears of violence, low voters turn-out in battleground states

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All is now set for today’s governorship and House of Assembly elections in the country. The atmosphere is already charged as Nigerians file out to once again, exercise their franchise after the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23. The governorship election will take place across the nation except in Bayelsa, Kogi, Anambra, Osun, Edo, Ondo and Ekiti states.

Considering that all politics is local, today’s exercise in the estimation of many, will not be a tea party because of the legion of interests involved. For the voters, their choice of candidates will be based on a lot of variables in the various states.

Saturday Sun in this report, looks at some flash point states and x-rays factors that will determine the outcome of the elections and possible threat of violence. Already, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General, Tukur Buratai has raised the alarm over plans by some politicians to employ mercenaries to carry out assassinations, infiltrate domestic staff of political opponents and use the social media for smear campaigns to disrupt the governorship and House of assembly elections.

Buratai also disclosed how some politicians were planning to use farmers/herders’ crisis, armed political thugs, militia groups and other activities, including bombings and spreading fake news as strategies to rig the electoral process. But he said unlike the presidential and National Assembly elections, the Nigerian Army will this time be tough on those who plan to rig or disrupt the electoral process. Though the dynamics vary across the states, the most common denominator to the strategic battleground states is the fears of violence, which automatically results to low voters turn-out.

LAGOS: APC, PDP RENEW OLD RIVALRY

In Lagos State, even though APC appears to be the dominant party, recent political developments may make the poll a tough one for the party and its flag bearer, Mr.Babajide Sanwo-Olu in today’s governorship election.

Unlike previous governorship elections where APC leaders usually boasted and expressed confidence that there was no cause for alarm, this time, leaders of the party in the state and at the national level have  been cautious. This is unlike before when they would boast that APC was unbeatable in Lagos State, and that PDP was dead in the state.

One major factor that may affect the performance of APC in the governorship election is the lingering internal crisis rocking the party as a result of its rancorous  primaries that produced Sanwo-Olu as the party’s flag bearer.

Sanwo-Olu’s emergence was challenged by a faction of the party led by Mr. Fuad Oki  who complained that the exercise was riddled with malpractices. The faction had already dragged the party’s leadership to court, asking it to nullify the primaries. The case is still pending in court.

While speaking on the guber poll, a member of Oki’s faction of APC, Otunba  Maruph Abdurahman said members of the faction had resolved to vote en-masse for the candidate of PDP, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

“Since we have not got justice from the national leadership of APC, we have resolved to mobilise our members to vote for PDP candidate. It is going to be a protest vote. Our decision is irrevocable. We are against tyranny in APC. We are against one-man show in Lagos State. In Lagos State now, the song or the words on our mouth now  is  ‘O to ge’, like what happened in Kwara State  with the defeat of  the Senate President, thus marking the end of the Saraki dynasty, we are expecting the same wind of change  to blow in Lagos State during this gubernatorial election. Enough of one-man show in Lagos State. Enough of Tinubu’s oppression. Time is up for him in Lagos’’, he declared.

Abdurahman who expressed belief that the table will be turned against APC, and its candidate, Sanwo-Olu in the election added that  members of  Oki’s faction had forged an  alliance with  Agbaje, and other concerned stakeholders with a view to liberating Lagos State from Tinubu’s alleged  stranglehold.

While saying that Sanwo-Olu should not think he will have it easy in the election, the politician added: “Even if Sanwo-Olu wins, his joy will be short-lived because we believe that the court will declare the primaries that produced him as illegal.’’

Saturday Sun reliably gathered that last minutes’ attempts made by the mainstream APC  leaders in Lagos State  reportedly acting on the instructions  of the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to woo Oki, the arrow-head of the rebellion against Sanwo-Olu’s emergence  was rebuffed by Oki who stayed away from a peace and reconciliation meeting organised by the party leaders in the state during the week.

It was gathered that Oki warned a former governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola,  and former APC national legal adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire who attended the meeting to be careful not to take photographs at the meeting because APC leaders and Tinubu’s aides would use such in the media to create  the impression that the two were back into Tinubu’s political dynasty.

“Oki was eventually proved right as photos of Fashola, Banire and other APC leaders were prominently circulated in the media the following day. Members of the public should not be deceived about Tinubu’s political chicanery. The end of his political empire and oppressive dynasty has come to an end. Enough is enough. As we have the rise  and fall of empires, so also we have that of individuals, the political curtain is being drawn on Tinubu’s era in Lagos State’’, Abdurahman declared.

Another challenge that threatens APC’s chance is that of Igbo, and other non-indigenes’ factor. In 2015, APC lost heavily in such places like Okota, Oshodi, Isolo, Ejigbo, Amuwo, Ojo, Ajegunle, Surulere, and Apapa among a host of others. In these places, Yoruba PDP members combined with votes from  Ndigbo, and other non-indigenes to beat APC hands down, and there are fears that the same pattern may be followed in today’s guber polls.

But in order to avoid a repeat of such defeat, notable APC leaders have been holding series of meetings with leaders of Igbo and other non-indigenes in the affected areas with a view to appeasing them. On the issue of threat to peace especially in those areas, political analysts have pointed to the need  to beef up security  in Lagos State, especially in the areas mentioned to forestall a recurrence of the ugly incident that took place during the presidential, and national assembly elections when political thugs  invaded  Okota and Oshodi  and unleashed violence on voters who they perceived not to be APC supporters.

OYO: STILL WITHIN THROES OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE

Before the last presidential and national assembly elections, the general belief, especially among APC leaders was that the state was safely secured in the hands of the ruling party, and that President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory was already guaranteed. But contrary was the case when the result came. The news was devastating for APC leaders as PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar narrowly defeated President Buhari with over a thousand votes. It was a shocking defeat that took many APC leaders by surprise. The state governor, Abiola Ajimobi upon whom the party’s hopes rested even lost his own election  as he was defeated by the PDP Senatorial candidate, Dr. Kola Balogun.

Ajimobi’s defeat was said to have rattled APC  leadership, and the party was forced to re-strategise as the party’s national leadership took  direct control of the party’s campaign for the gubernatorial election.

But in today’s poll, there are indications that the exercise may be characterised by violence unless proactive measures are taken by security agencies to nip the looming crises in the bud. The major clashes, as gathered may be between the ruling APC and the leading opposition political party, PDP. Though 42 governorship candidates are on the list of the INEC for the poll, recent political developments have narrowed the Oke-Oyinbo, Agodi Government House to two.

Barring last minute changes, the next governor of Oyo State, will either be the APC candidate, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, or the PDP candidate, Mr. Oluseyi Makinde. Already many governorship candidates of other political parties have queued behind the two candidates, with exception of a few of them that have resolved not to be involved in any alliance or coalition to form a government of unity.

Already, the intervention of the National Leader of APC and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been yielding positive results for the party ahead of the governorship poll. Many aggrieved members of the party that defected to opposition parties, based on controversies that surrounded the congresses of APC held between April and May 2018, have started returning to the party, with promises that they would work to ensure the victory of APC governorship candidate, Adelabu, during the poll.

In the same vein, governorship candidates of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Senator Olufemi Lanlehin; Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN); Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Chief Saradeen Alli; New Progressive Movement (NPM), Col Feyisayo Ladoye (retd) have stepped down for the PDP governorship candidate, Makinde. They have also asked their followers to vote for Makinde. A former governor of the state, and Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, is the leader of the opposition coalition.

The threat of violence on the election is being fuelled by the alarms being raised by residents of the state from many quarters. The APC has been accusing PDP of making attempt to cause violence during the election, and PDP has also been pointing fingers at APC for allegedly planning to disrupt the conduct of election in some areas.

Saturday Sun, however, gathered that some of the political parties have recruited thugs to disrupt elections and perhaps steal ballot boxes in some areas where opponents have advantages. The thugs were said to have been given firearms they will probably use to silence anybody that dares to challenge them against disruption of election.

The exercise may witness pockets of violence because information from across the state revealed that the two leading political parties, APC and PDP, have invested so much in the election and each of them plans to win at all cost. Political observers and analysts have said the chances of APC and PDP are still 50-50, and it has been very difficult to predict who will win between Adelabu and Makinde, who both hail from Ibadan, the state capital.

There are seven political divisions in Oyo State, which are Ibadan City, Ibadan Less City, Oke Ogun I, Oke Ogun II, Ogbomoso, Oyo and Ibarapa. Ibadan City and Ibadan Less City have 11 local governments and the two divisions control 55 per cent of the total votes in the state.

Oke-Ogun I and Oke Ogun II have 10 local governments, Oyo has four local governments, Ogbomoso has five councils, and Ibarapa also has three councils, making a total of 33 local government areas in the state.

As gathered, the flash points where pockets of violence may be recorded are four local government areas in Ibadan, which are Egbeda and Ona Ara in the less city and Ibadan South East and Ibadan South West in Ibadan metropolis.

Ibadan South East and Ibadan South West form the heart of Ibadan, where there are volatile communities such as Beere, Mapo, Oja’ba, Idi-Arere, Born Photo, Popoyemoja, Oopeyeosa, Isale Osi, Oja’gbo and so on.

During the collation of results of the presidential and national assembly elections conducted on February 23, this year, a 25-year-old man was shot dead when some hoodlums stormed a polling centre and attempted to disrupt the process. Three ballot boxes were snatched during the exercise. The residents of Ibadan would not easily forget the incident of Friday November 21, 2014 when a police inspector was shot dead at a political rally in Oke-Ado, Ibadan. The cop was shot dead by hoodlums that disrupted the rally organised by the APC.

Three days later, another tragedy struck the area again as three persons were killed during another fracas that engulfed Born Photo, Isale Osi, Popoyemoja and Idi-Arere communities in Ibadan South West Local Government. Then, the four communities looked like a war zone. Broken bottles littered the roads in the affected communities.  At least, 10 houses, 200 shops, many cars, comprising two articulated vehicles, one tricycle and eight motorcycles were burnt during the mayhem. Also, the transformer at the Born Photo Junction was set ablaze.

Apart from the 10 houses that were set ablaze, many other houses were also vandalised. The invaders reportedly used guns, cutlasses, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons freely.

A few weeks after the incident, another clash was recorded at Oja’ba, where one person reportedly lost his life and many others sustained varying degrees of injury during a bloody clash between two rival groups at Orita-Merin and Oja’ba over supremacy battle.

Based on the volatility of the areas, Personal Assistant/Director of Media and Public Affairs to Olubadan, Mr. Adeola Oloko, has called on security agencies to beef up security, especially in the crises- prone communities in order to ensure that the election is peacefully conducted and concluded.

In areas such as Queen Cinema, Ekotedo, Dugbe, Adamasingba, Iwo Road in Ibadan, highly populated by non indigenes of Oyo State, it was alleged that one of the political parties has been threatening them not to come out to vote because there were tendencies that they would vote for another party.

Also, Ogbomoso axis may be volatile based on the resolution of a prominent native of Ogbomoso and a former governor of the state, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), who has shelved his governorship bid and resolved  to work for the success of APC candidate, Adelabu.

It is believed that Alao-Akala, has a very strong political influence on the five local government areas of Ogbomoso, and he will determine the voting pattern. There could be a clash of interest between the loyalists of APC and PDP in Ogbomoso. It is expected that other political divisions will be probably peaceful.

The PDP chairman in the state, Alhaji Omokunmi Mustapha, said the party is confident of winning six out of the seven political divisions of the state.

He stated that PDP would win in Ibadan City and Ibadan Less City, saying the evidence of winning in Ibadan was predicated on the performance of the party in the state during the presidential and national assembly election, in which Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the ruling APC lost Oyo South Senatorial district’s election to Dr. Kola Balogun of PDP.

Mustapha, who warned INEC against manipulation of votes, was optimistic that the eligible voters in Ibarapa, Oke Ogun I, Oke Ogun II, and Oyo would vote en masse for governorship candidate of PDP, Makinde, and the party would record electoral victory over APC.

But he said the PDP would record an impressive performance in Ogbomosoland, though it might not score highest number of votes in the division, where a former governor of the state, Otunba  Alao-Akala, is said to hold the ace on the determination of voting pattern.

“It wasn’t that PDP did not perform during the last election. We did because people are tired of the present government. We all know it, even before the time of the election, that people are tired of the present government. This is the reason they took all means to rig the last election, and which they succeeded.

“The defeat of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in the last senatorial election is the end of APC. Today, we have a coalition of no fewer than five political parties supporting PDP. In Ibadan, all the governorship candidates of major political parties, except the APC have stepped down for Mr Seyi Makinde, the PDP governorship candidate.

But the Oyo State chapter of APC, through its Publicity Secretary, Dr. AbdulAzeez Olatunde, accused PDP of allegedly planning to engage in massive rigging and vote buying in the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly election, adding that APC would ensure strict resistance to the PDP and its candidate, Mr. Seyi Makinde to steal peoples’ mandate. He said the party would not tolerate a repeat of the Saturday February 23 election where the party allegedly robbed some local governments.

Winning election, according to him, should not be seen as do-or-die affair “but the situation is different in Makinde’s case as his only investment in Oyo State is directed solely to the prime seat of the governor’s Office.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mr. Shina Olukolu, has assured the electorate of adequate security of lives and property before, during and after the election, adding that the police and sister security agencies have mapped out strategies to ensure peaceful conduct of election across the state. He said flash points have been identified and measures have been put in place to prevent breach of peace.

“During the last presidential and National assembly elections, the command recorded a tremendous support and cooperation of the entire citizens of the state, including the media, which made the election a hitch-free exercise. We are equally seeking the same support in the forthcoming gubernatorial and state assembly elections, while we promise to put all necessary security architecture in place to have a smooth conduct of the exercise,” Olukolu said.

VOTER APATHY, VIOLENCE LIKELY IN RIVERS

There are two major problems that have always given Rivers State bad press. They are politics and insecurity. Unfortunately, over-ambitious politicians have discreetly employed the services of ever-ready killer-youths to eliminate their political enemies.

That the state is grouped among states in the federation with high level of security challenge, is not in doubt. This is because of its antecedents since 1999,  when the existing democracy came to be. There have not been any elections conducted in Rivers State, that went smoothly without pockets of violence.  Even mere House of Assembly by-election seat  conducted late 2018, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),  experienced unprecedented violence,  where gunshots boomed.

Ordinarily,  today’s poll is not supposed to cause panic in the state.  This is because there is ‘no’  known opposition political party challenging the candidate of the ruling party, PDP,  Governor Nyesom Wike. Already,  the major opposition party,  APC  is out of the 2019 elections in the state, following a plethora of court rulings and judgements that barred it from participation, which arose from intra-party crisis.

Another party that would have made an impact during the governorship and House of Assembly elections is the Accord Party (AP),  with the embattled governorship candidate,  Dumo Lulu-Briggs. Rivers people had suspected an underground political romance between APC and AP, to give PDP an unforgettable fight. Suddenly,  on Thursday,  February 28, a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt sacked Lulu-Briggs as the governorship candidate of AP for the Saturday, March 9 elections. Instead,  the Court declared that Precious Baridoo, who was duly nominated during the October 4, 2018, AP  governorship primaries is the authentic candidate of the party.

The trial judge, Justice Emmanuel Obile, declared that Lulu-Briggs cannot participate in the election  because he was not duly nominated at the party’s primaries.  He stated that Lulu-Briggs did not participate in the party’s October 4, 2018 AP governorship primaries,  hence he cannot be their candidate.

This latest development in the party has,  undoubtedly,  thwarted the APC and AP’s romance to unseat Wike,  who has received re-election endorsement from over 50 governorship candidates in the state.

Baridoo, who, the  court has recognised as the authentic AP governorship candidate, for today’s polls, is not as popular as Lulu-Briggs.  Though he is from the Ogoni ethnic nationality, he cannot pull the crowd like the ousted candidate. The latter (Lulu-Briggs) has the wherewithal to pull surprises with the support of APC.

Looking at Governor Wike’s re-election,  one would say there is God’s hand in his chances of winning.  Apart from the power of incumbency, providence has somehow removed the major obstacles (APC and Lulu-Briggs AP) on his road to Rivers Brick (Government) House,  Port Harcourt for another term of four years.

But,  the area of worry is the drums of war by the opposition party. Prior to the presidential and National Assembly elections, two chieftains of the APC reportedly declared that PDP would no longer have its way again as it was in the past, in this year’s elections.

True to their threat, PDP,  though won in the state,  did not have it easy during the last polls.  This showed in the number of votes scored by APC and PDP,  number of local government areas (six) cancelled and the level of violence recorded across the state,  as well as killings allegedly executed by the military.

Last presidential and National Assembly elections in the state recorded significant voters apathy.  The  total number of registered voters was 3,215,273.  Number of accredited voters was 677,743. Out of the number of voters accredited for the election,  a total number of votes cast was 666,585;  valid number of votes was 642,164, while invalid votes were 24,420. The enumerated figures covered the 17 local government areas their results were accepted, out of the 23 LGAs.

With the outcome of the recent polls, which recorded killings and shootings, Rivers residents may feel reluctant to leave their homes on Saturday to cast their votes. The latest report making the rounds in the state is that, APC has planned to stage ‘violent ‘ protest within the week, calling on Rivers people to vote out Wike.

In a swift reaction,  the State Government has assured residents and the people of the State to ignore rumours peddled by enemies of the state, that there would be a violent protest by some disgruntled politicians, who have lost relevance in Rivers politics. State Commissioner for Information and Communications,  Emma Okah, blamed the plot to scare people or cause any violence in the State, on the APC and their collaborators. In a surprise move, the APC on Wednesday pulled a last minute stunt; forming an alliance with a relatively new party, African Action Congress, AAC to support its governorship candidate in today’s poll. That tells one thing; that they mean business but ultimately, Rivers people will decide who their governor will be for the next four years.

KANO: APC ALL THE WAY

There is nothing in the air to suggest that the results of Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly’s election in Kano State will be any different from that of the Presidential elections held two weeks ago. 

The Presidential election, instead of inspiring a spirit of contest  or competition between the leading political parties, has demoralised the opposition to an all time low. All their dreams of victory went with the winds after the margin of loss in the presidential election.

The prediction, therefore, is that the governor of the state, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his deputy, Alhaji Yusuf Gwanna will be returned with ease by the people of the state, having survived the scare of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and the Kwankwassiyya group in the presidential election.

In addition to this factor, there has been a number of fresh endorsements and defections from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as other political parties to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. For instance, the factional state executive of the party, led  by Senator Mosaad el Jibrin Doguwa, on Monday, announced its resignation from the party including its defection to the APC.

This singular blow, days to the polls, amounts to the fact that the PDP in the state will be marching to the polls without a quarter or more of its previous membership

The same defection drama was also witnessed in the state when the leadership of Advance Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) endorsed Governor Ganduje even while it has a sitting candidate in the person of Alhaji Muhammad Abacha.

Apart from the defections, a recent court order asking the PDP in the state to conduct a fresh primary election for the governorship slot has simply nailed the party’s ambitions and aspirations in the present contest. There is hardly any hope it will survive this onslaught. 

A governorship aspirant in the party, Alhaji Ibrahim Ali Amin, had approached a Federal High Court sitting in Kano, months ago asking it to nullify the governorship primaries of the party on the grounds that the exercise had violated the provisions of the party’s constitution.

The court presided by Justice Lewis Alaoge on Monday granted all his prayers and asked the party to conduct a fresh primary election within 14 days. So far, the court verdict has been raising dust in the party and there is a feeling that the party has finally fought itself out of the governorship race in the state. A reprieve however came on Thursday when the court of appeal approved that the PDP candidate can now contest the election.

From the look of things, except a miracle happens, the candidate of the APC is certain to emerge victorious on Saturday. A similar good fortune awaits the candidates of his political party vying for the State House of Assembly.

The victory signs are crystal clear and members of the APC in the state are only waiting for Saturday to set out for victory.

ALL EYES ON KWARA

As the battle for the soul of Kwara comes up this Saturday and after the low performance of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki in both the presidential and national assembly elections, tension is high among the power brokers in the state. Saraki on one hand naturally would approach the election as a battle he must win at all cost to save his political career from going into extinction while those in opposition too are not taking things for granted in the ensuing melee.

This has led to heightened tension among residents and predictably, no part of the state is insulated from violence as both sides will capitalise on support from voters to slug it out at the polling units. Some of the likely flash points include Ajikobi ward of the Senate President, Alanamu ward of an APC stalwart, Moshood Mustapha, Adewole, the polling units of APC governorship candidate, AbdukRahaman AbdulRazaq. In the South senatorial district, Oro,  home of Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and Shamusudeen Bada,  PDP House of Assembly  candidate for Irepodun constituency, both will want to see who wins Oro ward 11 elections. Also, in Omu Aran, the deputy chief of staff to the Senate President, Gbenga Makanjuola will want to win his wards as he is being touted to be the deputy governor to Rasak Atunwa of PDP. Offa too may record some violence except reason prevails as Kola Shittu, the state chairman of PDP who is from the area and Lola Ashiru, the senator -elect of Kwara South will not want their party to lose.

The situation will not be different in Kwara North senatorial district as the APC will like to sustain the victory of the last elections against the ruling party.

However, against threat of violence ahead of today’s poll in Kwara, the police command has deployed a total of 5,000 officers and men to ensure security.

Speaking on the level of preparedness of the command, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi, said that the number of the policemen would be assisted by officers and men of other sister security organisations in the state.

The police boss, who said that some miscreants have also been arrested from their various hideouts, added that the command was ready for the conduct of the election to ensure credible, free and fair election.

Okasanmi also advised members of the public to shun rumours and unfounded speculation that could cause apprehension among residents of the state.

Meanwhile, despite the clean sweep enjoyed by the Kwara APC against the PDP in the last presidential and National Assembly elections, the PDP is still believing that fortune can still smile on their governorship and State Assembly candidates.

Analysts say that the contest is too close to call. The PDP, which has been the ruling party in the state under Saraki’s dynasty for over 40 years may not have it easy unlike before following the rising opposition against it by the APC, the main opposition party in the state.

As it stands, the two leading governorship candidates, Razaq Atunwa and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, share equal chances in the three senatorial districts of the state, while any political miscalculation or last minute horse-trading could give the eventual winner the edge in the contest.

While the APC has the mythical federal might in the law enforcement agencies and appointees, the PDP also has the incumbency power in the state with members currently holding present political offices in both the local and state governments.

Commenting recently on the 2019 politicking, the Senate President and the leader of the Saraki political structure, Bukola Saraki said, “This election is not about me or our governorship candidate, Razak Atunwa. It’s about this state, our culture and tradition. Time will tell about whatever we do today. We go back to PDP because we need a government that will care for our people, give jobs to our people. We should not vote a candidate whose DG said he does not care, he does not know”.

However, the APC leader in the state and the current Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that the political issue in the state is not about ethnicity, religion, nor that of gender.

“The main issues here have to do with how our state has been governed in the past 50 years, 40 of which have been dominated by a single family.

“What has happened to the commonwealth, which has been cornered by a single dynasty at the expense of the people? Where are the roads and other infrastructures to justify the huge resources that have accrued to the state? If you follow a path for so long, and it leads you nowhere, won’t you try another path? These are the issues”, he said.

Political watchers are of the view that some of the issues that might work against PDP in the state include unpaid salaries. The most potent weapon the opposition used against the Senate President and his party was the issue of unpaid salaries. People affected include teachers, local government officials and pensioners, among others.

While Saraki is not the current state governor, having served in that position between 2003 and 2011, residents of the state hardly separate the Abdulfatah Ahmed-led state government’s performance from the Senate President.

In effect, he is widely seen as immensely influential in the decision-making process of the Kwara government. Due to the harsh economic conditions thrown up by the unpaid salary controversies, it was all but easy for the opposition to ride on this wave and convince affected people to vote out the PDP.

Also in Kwara South,  Offa, a major town, is considered the home of opposition in Kwara politics. From the second republic through the third and the current dispensation, the town is known for standing shoulder high against the Saraki dynasty.

The struggle that resulted in  Saraki’s fall two weeks ago is said to have its root in Offa and other parts of Kwara South, beginning with the Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero Federal constituency bye-election which the APC won in 2018. But shortly before the bye-election, the anti-Saraki sentiment in the town was however intensified by the Offa robbery debacle of April 2018.

For decades, one of the reasons why anti-Saraki dynasty electoral battles in Kwara State always lost is that they were most often championed by people outside Ilorin, the state capital. From Lai Mohammed to Simeon Ajibola, people outside Ilorin rarely pulled the crowd for reasons analysts opine may be cultural and ethno-religious.

In the last election, however, many of those considered the backbone of the Saraki winning machinery in the heart of Ilorin were recruited into what the APC called the “struggle to liberate Kwara”.

With Lai Mohammed and APC governorship candidate, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman leading the pack, Saraki’s ex-loyalists including Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Yinka Aluko, Moshood Mustapha, Cook Olododo and others like Misbau Esinrogunjo, Yahaya Seriki, Abdulyekeen Alajagusi were on ground in the emirate to deliver for APC.

On the other hand, the APC also appealed to the Christian population, using its “O to ge” mantra. Shortly after the election was postponed, Kayode Alabi, APC deputy governorship candidate visited churches in Ilorin to canvass for support wherein he recited Bible verses containing the “o to ge” mantra.

THREE-PRONGED BATTLE IN OGUN

In Ogun State, the battle for the governorship seat is a three-pronged contest between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), African Democratic Congress (ADC and the Allied People’s Movement (APM).

Oil magnate and billionaire business man- turned politician, Dapo Abiodun, will be flying the flag of the APC. Two-time governorship candidate, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka otherwise known as GNI, will carry the banner of the ADC,  while a sitting House of Representatives member and preferred candidate of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Abdul-Kabir Adekunle Akinlade, is the standard bearer of the APM.

Ordinarily, the gubernatorial election in the state would have been peaceful and free of violence, but the avowal by the state governor that he would not spare any expenses in ensuring that Akinlade succeeds him, has raised the bar in the state.  And every step of the governor, before and during the campaign visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ogun, left no one in doubt that he was spoiling for battle.

While missiles were hurled from the crowd on the turf of the MKO Abiola International Stadium,  at the stand where the president and his entourage sat, APM supporters and Governor Amosun’s loyalists, brazenly attacked and pursued supporters of APC gubernatorial candidate, Abiodun, out of the stadium.

Also, campaign posters, wooden portraits and banners of Abiodun, in and around the venue of the APC presidential campaign, were destroyed.  Before then, the violent clash between APC supporters and loyalists of APM House of Reps candidate, Mikky Kazzim,  which left scores of people injured and several vehicles damaged, was a strong pointer to the fact that 2019 elections, beginning from the presidential and National Assembly poll, would not be violence-free.

Besides, the continued raising of alarm on the level of political insecurity in the state by the ADC and APC State Caretaker Committee, became a source of worry to the people.

They both alleged that the state governor was ready to unleash terror on anybody who appeared to be a clog in his succession plan. And, perhaps, realising that the security alarm was not a false one, three additional Commissioners of Police and one  AIG, were drafted to the state,  to forestall breakdown of law and order, during the presidential poll.

Despite this security measure, there were reported pockets of violence in some locations in the state during the election. The height of this is the killing of a police corporal, who was shot dead by gunmen,  suspected to be political thugs, while escorting election results to Ilaro, Yewa South local government collation centre.

  Though, Ogun appears to be calm ahead of the governorship election, there is palpable feeling that the poll would be a clash of the Titans, particularly between the APC and APM. Even the ADC,  which governorship candidate appears averse to violence, has sounded a serious warning that no party has a monopoly of violence.

The Director- General of Gboyega Nasir Isiaka Campaign Organisation (GNICO), Anthony Ojeshina, at a press briefing last week,  declared that any attempt to unleash violence, to rig the poll, will be resisted by the ADC.

Though the police and other security agencies have expressed their readiness to ensure a violence-free election in the state, Ogun, no doubt,  remains one of the flash points in the country.

AKUME, ORTOM GO FOR BROKE

Every politics, they say, is local, hence many expect that today’s election will be tougher than the presidential and National Assembly polls in Benue State.

Today’s poll is going to be a fight to finish especially among the two major parties in the state led by Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP and George Akume of the APC with each vowing to take over power.

Recall that the former governor of the state and the incumbent’s estranged political godfather, Senator Akume lost his bid to return to the Senate for the fourth time. Akume who had accused Ortom of having a hand in his predicament insisted the election was rigged against him and further reinstated his call for better security in the next election.

Shortly after the result of the Benue North West Senatorial District was announced and winner declared, Governor Ortom in a chat with newsmen said he had fulfilled his promise to retire Senator Akume from politics after he (Akume) gave him a red card from the APC.

The APC leader in the state seemed to have also vowed that his erstwhile political godson would have a taste of what it means to lose an election by ensuring he deploys all his arsenals to work assiduously to achieve that aim.

Also, the APC through a Deputy Director of the Jime/Ode Campaign Organisation, Tersoo Kula in a statement had called on the Federal Government to send enough security to the state ahead of the governorship poll.

Kula who alleged that the incumbent governor of the state had been using the Livestock Guards whom he had armed to perpetrate violence and rig elections said the aim was to secure the lives of the people and their wishes which they would be practically demonstrating using their fingers on the ballot papers. But reacting swiftly, Media Adviser to Governor Ortom, Tahav Agerzua in a statement said his principal has never and does not need to resort to the use of thugs or militia or any form of self help to prosecute election.

“Governor Ortom has had unblemished public and private sector record and there is no basis whatsoever to question his integrity,” Agerzua stated.

Certain factors will no doubt influence outcome of today’s polls in Benue. Herdsmen menace -Recall that only a week to the presidential election, herdsmen struck again in Agatu killing no fewer than 19 people. And just a week to the governorship election, 16 people were reportedly killed by herdsmen in Gwer West Local government area of the state. This development and the fact that the APC had been tagged Miyetti Allah Party in the state, can lead to people voting in favour of other parties other than the APC.

Another factor is the alleged non-performance by Ortom. Political watchers in the state and the opposition parties have accused the incumbent governor of non-performance. This group of people alleged that there is hardly anything to show for Ortom’s first four years in office after collecting so much money in the form of bonds, bailouts, Paris Club refund among others.

But to this, Ortom’s supporters have continued to insist that he had performed creditably well especially in the areas of education, rural roads, health care delivery among others, a development which they say, had endeared him to the electorate who are ready to vote him in again.

Salary issue – It is common knowledge that the civil servants form the largest group of voters in the state. This group of voters has vowed to vote for anyone who will make payment of salary a major priority. Although opposition parties in the state have continued to use the non payment of salaries and pensions by the present administration as one of their campaign tools, Ortom’s supporters have insisted that the governor has been up to date in paying salaries since January 2018 while funds are being sourced to offset the arrears being owed before then.

KADUNA AND RELIGIOUS, ETHNIC BUG

Governorship election in Kaduna State is likely to witness low voters’ turn out as well as political crisis between various contenders, considering recent communal crises in some of the council areas of the state, and outright campaign of calumny among political rivals, few weeks before the D-day.

Everything about the gubernatorial campaign in the state turned into Muslims versus Christians, Northern Kaduna versus Southern Kaduna, even when the leading candidates in the elections are all Muslims from Northern part of the State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai for the APC and Alhaji Isa Ashiru for the PDP.

The APC is seen as the favourite for Muslims in the North, and PDP for Christians in the South.

But the reality is that the parties and candidates will not be able to control their respective supporters during and after the election, if nothing is done.

Before now, divisive campaigns openly took over sermons in Mosques and Churches across the state, especially on Fridays and Sundays and in the presence of political leaders, provocative and inflammatory sermons were transmitted.

In whatever ways one looked at those sermons, they were calls for unruly conducts, religious and ethnic dissents with high risk of outbreak of violence and loss of lives during and after the election.

The situation was compounded by  renewed attacks by gunmen in Kajuru and Kachia Local Government areas of the State, where police authorites confirmed 29 persons killed. There was similar bloody attack in the area on the heels of the postponed presidential election of February 16, when the State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, announced that over 130 people were killed in the area, following reprisal attacks.

But, in the latest attack, it was gathered that four communities of Karamai, Gidan Gajere, Gidan Auta and Chibiya, all under Maro, a border town between Kajuru and Kachia local governments, were attacked by gunmen in the early hours of February 26.

A competent source within Karamai community, who preferred not to be named, told Saturday Sun that immediately reports of the attack got to the state capital, a combined team of security agencies were deployed to the place and were able to go into the villages where the bodies were recovered.

He said most of the bodies were found mainly in Karamai and Gidan Auta villages. The people in these communities are not likely to vote in today’s governorship election, because they have been displaced by the crisis, just as they are still mourning their beloved ones who were killed in the crisis.

The Kaduna State government, in a statement,  condemned the recourse to violence, and called on all communities to support the efforts to restore calm in the area. Regardless, reports of the attack created fresh tension in communities around the Kaduna-Kachia road as well as the State capital.

Also, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations Officer, Colonel Muhammed Dole told Saturday Sun, via telephone, that policemen and soldiers were on ground at Kasuwan Magani, to respond to distress calls from the environment. The army officer cautioned locals and interest groups to be wary of how they use statistics to avoid misconception and distortion of facts and figure before investigation.

“They should know that there are policemen and soldiers in Kasuwan Magani. Already they have been mobilised there. So, if there is any issue, instead of sending message to people outside, let them go to the police or soldiers in Kasuwan Magani, it’s quicker. And they should not exaggerate,” he cautioned.

Similarly, armed men suspected to be bandits in the early hours of last Saturday stormed Sabon Sara, Kidendan, Giwa local government area of the State, leaving no fewer than five persons dead while eight others survived various degrees of gunshots.

Sabon Sara is close to Dogon Dawa in Birnin Gwari local government area of the State, a local government whose economic development had been crippled due to deadly activities of bandits operating between the area and Zamfara State through Buruku forest.

Mid last year, barely a week after search for arms operation at Kuriga village by security operatives, armed bandits stormed the village along Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna road and killed five people while 12 others sustained bullet wound. From all indications, areas like Kajuru, Kachia, Giwa, Birni Gwari may witness political crisis as well as low turn out of voters. Also, Rigasa, a kaduna suburb in Igabi local government area may witness post election violence if the election goes in favour of the opposition party, PDP, because the area is considered to be APC stronghold.

AKWA IBOM: UDOM, AKPABIO GO FOR ROUND TWO

For many in Akwa Ibom, the inclusion of the state among the flashpoint states, is surprising as the citizens, including about 44 political parties, have described the presidential and national assembly elections conducted penultimate Saturday as the “freest, fairest and most credible in the state in recent history.”

However, the realities point to the facts that today’s election may not be as peaceful as the last one for many reasons. One is the fact that the ruling party at the centre, the APC, appears unable to stomach the shame of losing all the 13 national assembly  (10 House of Reps and three senatorial) seats, including that of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, to PDP, despite all the assurances the party chieftains in the state which included the Etiebets, the Udoedeghes, the Godswill Akpabios, the Sam Ewangs, the Nelson Effiongs, the Ita Enangs,  etc gave them.

With this embarrassment, the party appears ready to fight dirty, to redeem its image, using whatever federal might, fair or foul. To confirm this, vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo only last Monday, led a retinue of APC top brass to the state to rue over the party’s abysmal outing, but blamed it on vote theft by the PDP and INEC, and promised to reclaim their mandates by all means.

The presidency’s declaration is seen as a reaffirmation of the posture of Senator Godswill Akpabio. The second reason today’s election would not be a stroll in the park for either APC or PDP is the fact that there are more candidates –for the governorship and the House of assembly seats. Each candidate has their own supporters who are ready to do anything to make their principals win.

The security agencies are not equally helping matters. Only last Saturday, the 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Uyo began what it called “Show of Force Parade” in conjunction with other sister security agencies like the police and the civil defence, claiming they were getting prepared to deal decisively with any electoral offender on the next election day.

The PDP in the state described the show of force parade as a smokescreen by the army to rig election for APC. The state publicity secretary of the party, Mr Ini Emembong, said in a statement made available to our correspondent: “This plan we have learnt was hatched after the failure of the army to effectively intervene at the Ikot Ekpene collation centre to save the Warsaw general and Senator, Godswill Akpabio. This announcement is therefore a smokescreen to aid the Army high command to deploy military personnel to aid in the hijack of election materials in favour of the APC.

  All the same, there is the likelihood that some local government areas that the army identified as flash points in the state may actually experience violence. Places like Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, Ukanafun, Ika, Etim Ekpo all of which are in the Akpabio’s  Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District or even Ikot Abasi and Oron axis were assumed to have been in control of the APC until the results of the last election proved such assumption wrong. Ukanafun, Ika and Etim Ekpo local government areas, until recently were embroiled in cult war. Though Gov. Emmanuel later granted them amnesty for them to handover their weapons, it is believed that some of them still kept back some of the weapons and could be handy during the election if their services are paid for by  some desperate politicians.

Apart from internal struggle for power, Akwa Ibom may also be pushed into violence by outsiders who want to benefit from its real or imagined affluence. As the highest producer of oil, it receives the highest federal allocation. Both the PDP and APC in the centre want their party to be in control of this wealth in order to fund their parties and this has been the reason that there are stories of importation of mercenaries from other states on the orders of those in authority.

In summary, greed, inordinate ambition, external struggle for Akwa Ibom wealth even at the detriment of her citizens, connivance of political gladiators from within, attempt to redeem battered political image, effort to prove a point, are some of the factors which could confirm Akwa Ibom as flashpoint state in today’s election.

IMO GUBER RACE UNPREDICTABLE

Palpable tension has enveloped the state ahead of the March 9 , 2019 Governorship and State Assembly elections because of the political actors involved namely : former deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA), Senator Hope Uzodinma of the APC, and of course, Uche Nwosu of Action Alliance, the Son- in- law of the out going Governor Rochas Okorocha.

The apprehension of the people is propelled by the violence that had marred the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly polls where supporters of the candidates of the major political parties in the state had engaged one another in a near mortal combat especially in Ohaji/ Egbema/ Oguta, Ideato North/South, Nkwerre  of Orlu zone  .In this area, members of the AA/ APC  faction of Governor Okorocha battled with the APC coalition of Senator Hope along with their thugs and militants engaged the opposing parties in a battle of supremacy.

It was the same scenario in Okigwe zone where Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, the governorship candidate of APGA, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim and the governorship candidate of Accord Party, the APC/ AA  supporters  with Chike Okafor, Acho Ihim, who is the incumbent Speaker of the state Assembly and the running mate of Uche Nwosu are locked in a do- or-die game.

In fact, as a result of the unrelenting violence in Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano and Ihitte Uboma and in Okigwe councils including the burning of the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Isiala Mbano by political thugs allegedly hired by one of the gubernatorial candidates, the senatorial and House of Representatives election was declared inconclusive.

Owerri zone was relatively calm except in Ngor Okpala where thugs had abducted one of the electoral officials who was later rescued by the police. However, this Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly poll would be a different kettle of fish as it is going to be a very fierce battle among the top contenders who would be trying to protect their strongholds.

The major issue in this election is the charter of equity the Owerri senatorial zone  is laying claim that it is its turn to produce the governor of the state in 2019, as the two others, Okigwe and Orlu have occupied the top political office. In fact,  Orlu would have governed the state for 16 years at the end of Governor Okorocha’s second term by May 29, 2019. Previously, Chief Achike Udenwa also from Orlu had governed the state between 1999 and 2007.

The Okigwe Zone under Ikedi Ohakim who is currently the governorship candidate of the Accord party was the governor of the state between 2007 and 2011 and if the tenure of the late Sam Mbakwe, the first executive governor of old Imo is added, the zone has held power for eight years. But the Owerri zone had only held the office of the governor for just 18 months in 1992/3 through the late Evan Enwerem.

Besides the issue of zoning, the major factor would be the ability of the candidates to win substantial votes across three zones. In Orlu zone with 12 local governments, Senator Uzodinma would have to battle with Governor Rochas Okorocha who has vowed to make his son- in- law, Uche Nwosu  of Action  Alliance his successor, and the likes of the candidate of the PDP which had won 9 out of the 12 local government councils during the presidential and National Assembly polls. It is the same in Owerri zone with nine local governments which has the highest number of registered voters where Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP holds sway.

As for Okigwe zone  with  six local councils, it would be another war front between Sen Ifeanyi Ararume  of APGA and his kinsman, Ikedi Ohakim of Accord and of course the chieftains of the PDP who had the upper hand during the presidential and National Assembly polls. But in all, the most critical factor would be, who the security agencies are more favourably disposed to.

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