Governorship Election: States To Watch (2)

We bring you the concluding part of our preview of this Saturday’s governorship election.

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Kwara State

In Kwara, Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, would be seeking to prevent the total collapse of the Saraki political dynasty by working to ensure the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, wins this Saturday’s governorship election.

The ruling PDP in the state fell to a shock defeat in the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly Election and Saraki lost his bid to return to the senate. The party did not win national assembly seat either.

It was a political Tsunami against the Saraki dynasty which had controlled the state in the past 20 years. The political routing of Saraki was precipitated by the “Oto ge” (enough is enough) movement, which signposts a revolt against the political godfather of the state.

Saraki’s hand-picked candidate of the party, Rasak Atunwa, would be squaring off with Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of the All Progressive Congress, APC.Both Atunwa and Abdulrasaq are from the same Ilorin Central Senatorial district and the election would be decided by votes from the other two senatorial zones-North and South.

But the loss of the PDP in the presidential election has led to a gale of defections to the APC, making it more challenging for the PDP to win the state on Saturday. Over 2000 PDP members last week declared for the APC. The division in the Saraki dynasty may also work to the advantage of the APC which now has Gbemi Saraki, a former senator, in its fold.

According to senator-elect for kwara south senatorial district under the platform of APC, Arc Lola Ashiru  “Nothing is going to stop us from achieving victory. No amount of tribulation, falsehood and illicit funds will stop us from achieving a total victory. Last election was straight ten zero, at the end of this Saturday we will have 36 zero. It is an assurance because people are prepared. On Saturday what is left of Dr Bukola Saraki’s political dynasty would be finally buried”

However, Saraki is not a man to count out so soon and he will fight to the finish. He has boasted that the PDP will emerge victorious at the polls this coming Saturday. He spoke while addressing his supporters at the Charity House in his Iloffa GRA residence in Ilorin, on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

 He said: “We should stop internal wrangling. We shall emerge victorious in the remaining election. I’m here to assure you that I shall never abandon you, my people. The people you have voted for are not known to you. We should forgive ourselves and move forward in the interest of our state.”

Saraki has also received the assurance of the Kwara North Leaders of Thought who promised to work for the PDP candidate. But whether this would translate to votes would be seen on Saturday.

If the PDP loses again in the state this Saturday, it may signal the end of Saraki’s political dominance in the state. But if the PDP wins, then Saraki would remain truly the strongman of kwara politics.

Kaduna State

The governorship election in the state promises to be an interesting and intriguing one. A lot of factors will determine choices when voters in Kaduna State throng out on Saturday, March 9, to elect a governor who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years.

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission cleared 36 candidates for the election, the race is expected to be between two parties: the All Progressives Congress fielding the incumbent governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) represented by Isa Ashiru.

 Mr Ashiru  defeated the lawmaker representing Kaduna North Senatorial District, Suleiman Hunkuyi, and a former Director General, National Emergency Management Agency, Mohammed Sidi to emerge flagbearer of the PDP.

Ashiru has the backing of the former vice president, Namadi Sambo and Mohammed Makarfi, former governor of the state, among other political heavy weights in the state.

Ashiru is running against incumbent Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who believes he has done well in his first term and deserves re-election. He is proud of his achievements in road construction, school renovation and others. The chairman of APC in the state, Emmanuel Jekada, said Governor El-Rufai did not have a challenger during the primary “because he performed well and also brought development to the state.”

Kaduna is one of the states in the north where religion plays an important role in political decisions, and this Saturday’s election would not be different. Governor El-Rufai has made religion even more important in this election because he is running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Even though his running mate, Hadiza Balarabe, is from the Christian dominated southern Kaduna, she is a Muslim.

Although he doesn’t appear to think much of it as a problem. At a town hall meeting with some Christian leaders in February, the governor said his target “is to end the religious, ethnic division and unite the people of the state. In my life, I have never worked with people based on religious and ethnic consideration. Don’t look at what people said but what I have done in the past.”

The PDP on the other hand, picked Marshal Katung, a Christian from southern Kaduna as Ashiru’s running mate. Out of the 23 local governments in the state, southern Kaduna holds. The party the zone supports may clinch the governorship.  

El-Rufai would be going into this election without some of the party big wigs who campaigned for him in 2015. Some of them, such as Senator Othman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani have left the APC due to disagreement with El-Rufai.

The spate of killings and recent violent attacks in the state will surely dictate how the election will go. From Birnin Gwari to Kajuru, Kachia and parts of the state capital, recent kidnappings and violent attacks experienced in parts of the state will determine who the electorate will vote for.

In a recent interview with THE WHISTLER, the PDP governorship candidate blamed El-Rufai for the insecurity in the state, hinging it on his lack of respect for traditional institution which helps to nip crisis in the bud.

In June 2017, the state government sacked 4,776 district and village heads as well as their staff as it began the implementation of the recommendations of the committee it set up to review the number of such personnel in the state.

It said it would now recognise only the 77 districts and 1,429 villages. The government also said the essence of the sack is to shore up the finances of local government councils in the state.

Despite nullification of the appointment of the district heads by a Kaduna State High Court in November 2018, the governor is yet to restore the former heads.

This and the mass sack of teachers in the state have been criticised as anti-people policies within the lower class while the elites applaud it as a sound move towards educational standardization and cost-cutting. The two forces will play out on Saturday.

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Kano State

Kano is a battle ground state this Saturday. The forces of the ruling APC will would be challenged strongly by the Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso-led PDP.

With the landslide victory secured by the president in 2015 and 2019, it may be reasonable to conclude that the APC will win the Saturday’s guber polls. But so much has happened in the state to position the PDP for a take-over of the Kano Government House.

Many in the state seem disenchanted by the administration of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, especially over some of the policies of his administration. Many have complained of the many taxes they have been subjected to pay. Alleged refusal to create jobs and reduce unemployment, and non-payment of scholarship allowances to students, many of who are schooling overseas.

A bribe video that went viral which showed him receiving dollars from a contractor and hiding them in his pockets may have been the final straw for many. They would be waiting for Saturday to show their disapproval.

Moreover, Kwankwaso will see the election as a fight for political relevance and an opportunity to prove he is the undisputed political godfather in the state.

Governor Ganduje too will be seeking to cement his hold on the state and show Kwankwaso that the state has moved on.

The Whistler findings in Kano indicates that the APC may lose the number one seat and several seats in the House of Assembly because of the unpopularity of the governor politically.

But a major twist that may favour the APC was provided by the judgment of a federal high court in Kano, on Monday, which sacked the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Abba Yusuf. The court ruled that the PDP did not conduct governorship primary in the state. Although Yusuf said he is still the governorship candidate of the party going into the election, it may create confusion for many of his supporters who may chose not to vote on Saturday.

Sokoto State

Like Kano, the state governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is seeking a second term; This time around on the platform of his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He became governor on the platform of the APC but re-joined the PDP last year to contest the party’s presidential primary.

He reportedly fell out with his mentor and predecessor, Aliyu Wamakko, now a senator. After he rejoined the PDP , the APC picked another governorship candidate, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, Tambuwal’s former deputy governor who refused to go to PDP with him.

Tambuwal would have to beat the forces of Wamakko, believed to be a grassroot politician and an influential politician if he wants re-election. He also has to overcome the allegation that his first term has not delivered significant dividend of democracy. Many in the state see him as an Abuja-based politician.

APC and President Muhammadu Buhari are still popular in the state and this may swing the votes to the APC candidate. The APC swept the state in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.

In the presidential election, the APC scored 490,333 votes to defeat the PDP which polled 361,604 votes. Wamakko also secured his return to the Senate, scoring 172,980 votes to defeat a former senator, Ahmed Maccido, who secured 138,922 votes.

The APC also won seven of the nine federal House of Representatives seats in the state, with the PDP securing only two seats.

The odds are certainly against the governor, who recently cried out to the international community to help secure the sanctity of Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections across the country.

Although there are about 49 political parties contesting the governorship, not much is expected from other parties besides the APC and the PDP.

However, Tambuwal has the backing of some strong political leaders in the state, such as a former two-term governor, Attahiru Bafarawa.

 As Wamakko puts Saturday’s battle during a rally: “The present political situation in Sokoto is not between me and Governor Tambuwal but between APC as a political party and the dead PDP.”

Saturday will determine whether PDP or APC is the dead party.

Benue State

Another state to watch out for surprises is Benue. With the campaigns and planning over, the political stage is set for the election. Incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and his All Progressives Congress, APC challenger, Emmanuel Jime will be slugging it out for the soul of the state. There are however other candidates in the race, but the election is basically between the duo of Ortom and Jime.

The issue of herdsmen attacks has been a talking point in the campaign of the PDP which hopes the anti-grazing law enacted by the Ortom administration would secure a second term for him.

The APC has described the ruling PDP as a failure and tells the people they deserve better. His non-payment of workers salary in the state is a major minus for him. Unless something is done fast, state workers may shock him on March 9. This is because salary payment is what sustains almost 98 percent of the state population. It is believed that it was because of non-payment of salary to state workers that cost Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of the state, his senatorial bid in 2015.

But Ortoms chances would be boosted by the support of David Mark, former president of the senate and Suswam, who is believed to have a large following among his people. Suswam won election into the senate on February 23.

Jime, a former member of the House of Reps. will also be counting on the support of senator George Akume, who ensured Ortom was elected in 2015 on the platform of the APC. Although he lost his re-election bid into the senate, he believed that he was rigged out by the state government.

This Saturday is another opportunity to test strength.

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