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Governorship Election: See 10 ‘Key Battle States’ As Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Enugu, Delta Top The List

As 28 new governors are set to emerge this weekend, about a third of the states in contention, has emerged as battle grounds, Nigerian Tribune’s survey has shown.

While most of the battleground states are in Southern part of the country, the emerging political realities in the North have also moved some states, considered safe for the respective ruling parties, before now, to toss-up.

The “disruptive” emergence of a very strong Third Force in Peter Obi’s Labour Party and Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso’s New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) sweeping the largest-voting state in the country, has significantly altered political calculus of this election cycle, in a way, never seen before in Nigeria’s political development.

The just-concluded presidential election, which went down to the wire as a three-horse race, has significantly shifted permutations for the governorship election in the states electing new helmsmen and even the state Houses of Assembly races in all the 36 states, including Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Edo, Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi, where new governors aren’t being expected for now.

The upset in the presidential election, especially in Lagos where the ruling APC was trounced by the Labour Party; Kano, where APC was dislodged by NNPP; Kaduna, where APC again suffered a shock loss to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and the Peter Obi’s hurricane that ran through the South-East, where APC, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and PDP used to be king, has reset the governorship contests, making states hitherto trending the ruling parties, now major battle grounds.


Lagos, until the presidential election, was largely considered a safe bet for the ruling APC because of the influence of Bola Tinubu, who was a two-term governor of the state and was presidential candidate of the APC. Tinubu is the apex leader of the ruling establishment in the state and after his tenure, he had almost singlehandedly delivered all his three successors; Raji Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode and the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu. A largely-reliable exit poll from the presidential election loss of APC in Lagos showed that a combination of factors propelled the historic upset. One, is the widespread anger of the elite against the ruling party’s performance at the centre, with Tinubu being tied to the failures of the Buhari presidency, despite his frantic attempts to distance himself from the controversial policies of the government. Two, those who identified as born-again Christians overwhelmingly went for Obi and Labour Party, because of Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. Youths also inflicted the EndSARS wound on APC and its candidate. There were also those who felt another Yoruba man should not occupy Aso Rock, immediately after the vice-presidency of Yemi Osinbajo, arguing that denying Igbo this time, would garb the Yoruba race, like those it had consistently fought as power-mongers without sense of justice, in the North. Lastly, the large Igbo community in the state, overwhelmingly came through for their own and with the help of sympathetic Yoruba voters, put Obi atop Tinubu. While all these factors may not produce similar results in the governorship contest, the biggest headache for Sanwo-Olu is the youth, the EndSARS factor and clamour in some quarters for a proper Lagosian to hold the seat.

Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour, is likely to be a major beneficiary of Obi’s acceptance in the state, despite the earth-scorching ethnicity campaign ongoing against the young architect, who shares a Lagosian father and an Igbo mum.

However, the chances of the PDP candidate, Olajide Adediran, popularly called Jandor, seem to have been affected by the rising profile of the LP, as evidenced by the result of the last election in the State.

Sanwo-olu has since jumped into the street, to avoid his leader’s fate, and doing well to recover lost ground. His character as urbane, approachable, his visible achievements are working for him. To shore up the chances of Sanwo-Olu, all major APC stalwarts, including Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola have intensified door-to-door campaign for candidates of the party ahead of the elections. Aregbesola has particularly been leading campaign in Alimosho local government area, one of the largest in terms of voting population.


The re-election project of Seyi Makinde is catching national attention, because of his politics. While anti-party isn’t new to Nigeria’s politics, the ethnicity bent that came into his, has now put his much safe re-election bid, in a bit of crisis, though he is still a beloved of the people, particularly in Ibadanland, where the winning votes for Agodi, always come from. Ordinarily, his decision to queue behind his kinsman, Tinubu, against his party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, a Fulani, should make him a shoo-in in a Yoruba-dominated, South West state of Oyo, but the pang of loss suffered by his party’s National Assembly candidates, is the biggest threat facing his bid to hold his seat. In the immediate aftermath of the election, as expected, many party members were angry. Notwithstanding, most of the defeated candidates are still canvassing for votes for Makinde.

Nigerian Tribune learnt Saturday’s poll is being primed as cold revenge salad by the defeated PDP candidates and their supporters, though the Tinubu caucus in APC is being touted to back the governor, though APC’s Teslim Folarin and his supporters believe that the party would support its own. Oyo APC stalwarts also believe the party defeated the PDP in the presidential election without influence from any PDP stalwart.

In the past few days, both Makinde and Folarin have had a wave of endorsements from prominent parties, groups and individuals. Among others, the State Working Committees (SWC) of the LP and Accord and candidates of the parties have endorsed Makinde’s bid while the SWC of SDP and some other candidates have expressed support for Folarin’s quest. The Accord candidate, Chief Adebayo Adelabu makes it a three-horse race in the State.


With more than 154,000 votes, Kaduna’s Nasir el-Rufai, lost the state to the PDP in the presidential election, but more misery is likely awaiting the stormy petrel of Nigerian politics, considering the reported merger talks between Labour Party in the state and the el-Rufai-conquering PDP. If the merger should sail through before the governorship election on Saturday, APC will certainly kiss the state and the ambition of the governor’s caucus, to pass the governorship seat round their circle, goodbye. But the factors that ruled the presidential contest may not be conveniently true for a local election where everybody knows everybody. The last contest however, showed a largely-weakened, diminishing el-Rufai, who appeared to have put himself in the middle of the currency swap crisis for redemption. It was however a little too late for him, with even his Kaduna North stronghold falling to PDP’s Khalid Mustapha who defeated APC’s incumbent senator, Suleiman Kwari. Kaduna South, which was trending Labour and Central, also fell to PDP. Since senatorial elections are largely considered local, el-Rufai and his party, are likely counting days to their exit from power. However, the choice of Hajiya Hadiza Balarabe as running mate for the governorship remained a serious matter of contention because of the Muslim-Muslim governorship ticket. She is also the deputy governor of el-Rufai. According to the critics, the choice is divisive because it skews against the collective interest in the state.

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Bookmakers had Kano in NNPP’s column for the presidential election and it was a bulls eye. In fact, talks on the street, suggest that former governor and founder of the party, RabiuKwankwaso went solo with the party even when he knew Obi was the bigger brand in their merger talks before the presidential election, mainly to win Kano governorship for his caucus, which an alliance with Obi as the running mate, may truncate, due to predictable lack of voter’s enthusiasm if he isn’t atop the ticket. The Kwanwkasiyya movement leader is very close to achieving his dream of taking over Kano again as the ultimate political actor, as a prelude to launching another presidential run in 2027. Though Kano is the only state Rabiu won, he won it big, crushing Tinubu, incumbent governor and estranged protégé, Abdullahi Ganduje and ruling APC. To prove his superior ground game and grassroots support in the state, Rabiu took 17 House of Representatives’ seats out of 24 available to the state and two senatorial seats out of three. Nobody proves community value better. Save for a stunning comeback and turnaround, NNPP is taking Kano.


Aminu Tambuwal must have heaved a sigh of relief that he was able to produce the winning numbers for Atiku in the just-concluded poll. But it was a very narrow margin, with less than 3,000 votes, separating his candidate from APC’s Tinubu. Even Obi in third position, did better, in beating Kwankwaso to fourth position. He secured 6,568, to Rabiu’s 1,300 votes. The signs can’t be comforting for the outgoing governor, who got re-elected by a breath and all the rampaging opposition needs to change the ruling party in the state, is seeking a few alliances and Tambuwal, PDP and its candidate, Saidu Umar, would be toast.

The uncertainty hanging over the National Assembly election in the state, where INEC had suspended the REC and refusing to recognise any winner yet in senatorial and House of Representatives’ races, is adding to the uncertain fate awaiting Team Tambuwal. Sokoto is trending APC, but the nuances do not say a definite flip.


Aftermath the bloodied nose suffered by APC and its leading lights in Nasarawa in the presidential election, the re-election project of Governor Abdullahi Sule has become an uphill task. Despite the national chairman of APC, Adamu Abdullahi being a political royalty in the state, APC lost the presidential race and all the three senatorial seats, to a consortium of Labour, PDP and SDP. The two senatorial seats won by SDP in Nasarawa West and North, could have gone to the ruling party, but for internal wrangling over tickets. Now that they have proven their mettle by winning on other platforms, Sule will need a humble pie, to have a fighting chance of staving off a starring defeat. His godfathers also failed in the election, meaning he would have to seek support elsewhere or be a one-term governor. At play during the last poll were religious and ethnic factors, as well as elite anger. The most shocking of all the defeats suffered by Sule’s men, was the loss of Danladi Halilu, the former Secretary of the National Judicial Council (NJC) to his former protege, incumbent Senator Godiya Akwashiki. The election was deemed a walkover but the voter-rage ravaging the country, consumed the former Judiciary top-shot, who many had considered a governor-in-waiting. Sule and his men are back in the field, knocking doors and making amends. It remains to be seen if the last-minute return to the drawing board, will keep Sule’s seat. Nasarawa is a three-horse race among APC, SDP and Labour.


The shocking defeat of PDP by LP in Delta State on February 25 altered the political structure of the state and most pre-election permutations. With the choice of the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as the vice-presidential candidate of PDP, the expectation among stalwarts of the party was that it would consolidate its control of the state. LP reversed PDP grip on Delta since 1999. Therefore, the candidacy of Honourable Sheriff Oborevwori, for next Saturday’s governorship poll is seriously under threat. Oborevwori is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Apart from humbling PDP during the presidential poll in the state, LP also won two out of 13 seats for the National Assembly, and its governorship candidate, Kennedy Pela, had cried foul over the outcome of the last election and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to gird its loins ahead of the March 18, 2023 governorship and House of Assembly elections in Delta. Though APC came third in the first election, the party is presenting a prominent candidate in the person of the deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ovie-Omo-Agege on Saturday.


There are predictions about another imminent electoral setback for PDP in Enugu State following its colossal defeat in the February poll by the LP. The state had been one of the strong holds of PDP, but the fate of its governorship candidate, Peter Ubah is shaky due to the likely bandwagon effect of the February poll coupled with the strained relationship between PDP G5 governors with PDP national leadership. Incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is a member of the group and he lost the election for a senatorial seat. He was defeated by the candidate of LP, Okechukwu Ezea. And the candidate of the party for Saturday’s election is a former lawmaker, Chijioke Edeoga. APC is fielding Uchenna Nnaji.

ALSO READ: DECISION2023: All Eyes On Makinde As Three G5 Members Lose Senatorial Bid


In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom, who is pushing vigorously for the candidate of LP, Herman Hembe, instead of that of his party, PDP, Titus Uba has a major obstacle in the candidate of APC, Hyacinth Iormem, whose party won the state in the February presidential poll in the state. Some bookmakers had tipped Obi to win, just as Ortom lost his bid to go to the Senate in the next dispensation.


Governor Nyesom Wike is deploying every arsenal in his effort to maintain a firm hold on the politics of Rivers State. In spite of having worked for APC in the presidential poll, the governor has mobilised heavily for his anointed PDP candidate, Siminialayi Fubara for the governorship. Wike is the face of the embattled PDP G5 governors, and the conduct of the presidential poll in Rivers was mired in controversies with the LP in particular alleging gross irregularities. Besides, there is pent-up anger among PDP chieftains over the role played by Wike in the electoral setback recorded by PDP in the history of general election in the state. LP governorship candidate is Beatrice Itubo, but the chance of the party is threatened by internal contradictions and power struggle. Meanwhile, the candidate of the APC, Tonye Cole is unrelenting in his bid for the governorship seat, just as his SDP counterpart, Senator Magnus Abe, is optimistic about creating an upset.


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