•Wike fights Amaechi to a standstill, security unpredictable
•Gov Emmanuel set for Akpabio, Ekere; Ayade at ease
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Jimitota Onoyume, Asst News Editor (Warri), Festus Ahon (Asaba), Egufe Yafugbori (Port Harcourt) In Warri, Oshiomhole boasted that Governor Okowa should get his handover note ready, while Osinbajo maintained that the state could no longer afford to be ruled by PDP, comments that infuriated Gbagi, who upbraided them to be mindful of their utterances, as they cannot enslave Deltans.
And in Uyo, Osinbajo indicated that PDP stole its mandate on February 23, which it was going to retrieve today, an allegation that PDP had strongly denied and put Osinbajo to the strictest proof, thereof.
Citizens, who had traumatic encounters with soldiers during the February 23 elections, would not want a repeat of such harrowing experiences today.
Already, there are reports that security agencies apprehended thugs allegedly brought in several buses from Edo state where governorship election is not holding today, to cause mayhem in Akwa Ibom state.
The thugs mentioned a top APC leader that hired them, a similar band of hooligans also stormed Delta state on Wednesday.
DELTA: Okowa expected to win as Ogboru relies on federal might
In Delta state where former governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, is the arrowhead of the battle to crown APC’s governorship standard-bearer, Chief Great Ogboru, as the next governor against PDP’s bid to ensure a second tenure for incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, there is ominous impression of trouble.
Uduaghan charged back at the Director General of PDP Campaign Council, Delta state and his former Commissioner for Works, Hon Solomon Funkekeme, whom he accused of pointing fingers at him in connection with APC’s planned violence for today’s polls.
He said, “As an inner caucus member of my team for over 14 years, I know you are well aware of my commitment and dedication to promoting peace. In and out of government, I will continue to do so. I have always preached against election violence.”
“You and I prepared for, executed and won several elections. Did we ever budget for thuggery? Did we ever buy guns or military uniforms? I just contested for Senate in our Senatorial district. Were you told I used military uniforms or guns, or even other weapons?
“The APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and I have never been known to be violent people. We know those who have history of cultism and violence. I pray you get what you have been promised, which has pushed you to raise the false alarm against us. Many who traveled this route are getting disappointed as they are coming out empty handed,” he added.
It is still not clear why former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the All Progressives Congress, APC, lost his bid to represent Delta south senatorial district in the last election to Senator James Manager of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Hon Funkekeme had accused APC of planning to “psychologically disorganize the PDP members and/or placing key members of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s cabinet and top PDP officials of the state under house arrest in order to break their resolve.”
He also said the rival party planned to cage PDP chieftains to weaken party in their areas, while law-abiding and non-indigenes, especially those residing in Delta Central would be given the “Lagos treatment” by identifying and violently stopping them from voting and destroying electoral materials where voting had actually taken place.
Funkekeme said the PDP had it on good authority that APC has assembled ex-militants and moved into a covert and concealed location where they would debrief and provide them uniforms and arms to unleash mayhem on innocent Deltans going to vote today.
“Our impeccable sources within APC confirm with certainty that the masterminds behind the devious plan include the APC national chairman, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former Delta state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was recently trounced convincingly by the PDP,” he purported. He added that “Chief Great Ogboru, serial loser to PDP, as well as top officials of APC in Abuja and other APC stakeholders in Delta state” were part of the plot.
Looking, however, at what is on ground in the state, today’s governorship election is a clash of the titans between the two major contenders, Governor Okowa of PDP and Chief Ogboru of APC.
Okowa wants Deltans to give him another four years to consolidate like his predecessors in office, former Governors James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan. He has the support of Ibori, but had since lost Uduaghan. Besides Ibori, prominent Deltans, including elder statesman and influential opinion leader in the state, Chief Edwin Clark, Olorogun Gbagi, Delta’s biggest industrialist and others are behind him. In the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, the PDP won in 23 out the 25 local governments in the State. The PDP also won two Senatorial seats and nine Federal House of Representatives seats leaving its major opposition, the APC with one senatorial seat and one House of Representatives seat.
On his part, Ogboru, having contested five times and lost, and believing in his seeming popularity, thinks today is his appointed day. Ogboru who is from Delta Central Senatorial district does not believe in the zoning arrangement in the state. The APC gubernatorial candidate is confident that his party controls government at the centre and can use the instrumentality of the Federal government to his advantage.
The major stronghold of Chief Great Ogboru is Delta Central (Urhobo-speaking area), while Okowa has a vice-like-grip of Delta North (Anioma) and Delta South, comprising Ijaw, Itsekiri and Isoko. He is, however, totally in charge of his district and the battleground is Delta South, where he has upper hand.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, is from Delta North, as well Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Chief Hyacinth Enuha and a host of other APC chieftains.However, no Anioma son, apart from some APC stakeholders, is willing to sacrifice Okowa for Ogboru.
In the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, the APC won two local governments out of the 25 local governments in the State. It won Delta Central Senatorial seat and Ughelli North/Ughelli South/Udu Federal constituency seat, while PDP took Delta North and Delta South.
AKWA-IBOM: Gov Emmanuel coasting home
The battle for the soul of oil rich Akwa Ibom state today is an epic one. As they say, when two elephants fight, the grass must definitely feel the twinge. The governorship contest in the state is a straight fight between Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and his fierce contender, Obong Nsima Ekere. Others could be aptly tagged as pretenders to the throne as their campaigns were mainly on the social media and the few nondescript campaign billboards adorning strategic points in Uyo, the state capital.
Governor Emmanuel comes into the race armed with the power of incumbency and the fact that no sitting governor has ever lost re-election since 1999, despite stiff opposition is an essential tonic for him. On his side are key allies such as Senator Anietie Okon, Senator Effion Bob, Otuekong Idongesit Idongesit Nkanga, Dr. Chris Ekpeyong, Etim Okpoyo, Nsikak Eduok, Nduesse Essien, Paul Ekpo, Helen Esuene, Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem and a host of others in the PDP family.
On the other hand, Obong Ekere enjoys unalloyed support of veterans such as Senator Godswill Akpabio, Atuekong Don Etiebet, Umana O Umana, Sam Ewang, Eme Ufot Ekaette, Val Ebie, Senator Ita Enang, Udom Ekpoudom, Abom Tony Esu, Bassey Dan Abia, Arch Bishop Samuel Akpan, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, among others. Meanwhile, the APC decided to zone its governorship position to Eket Senatorial District where the governor also comes from, so as not to alter the unwritten code of power sharing among the three senatorial districts.
The PDP swept the stake in the Presidential and National Assembly polls, leaving the APC reeling in defeat and calling for the cancellation of the polls over allegations of widespread electoral fraud by the PDP in connivance with the electoral umpire.
The governor won his unit and recorded an overwhelming votes in his Onna local government area, while Obong Nsima, could not win his Ikot Abasi local government area for the president and other national assembly candidates, although he pulled off an impressive result in his unit and ward.
According to PDP faithful, since the return of democratic governance in 1999, the two previous governors; Obong Victor Attah and Senator Godswill Akpabio completed eight years apiece, and as such, it is only expedient for Governor Emmanuel to complete two terms, like his predecessors.
The governor is relying on his achievements in nearly four years as the basis to continue in Government House, christened ‘Hill Top Mansion’. The PDP- led government points to the massive roads construction covering over 1,000 kilometers, industrialization, prudent management of resources, investments in agriculture and power supply, health care delivery, prompt payment of salary and educational reforms as their unique selling propositions.
Can Akpabio, Ekere upturn the status quo?
APC however believed that Governor Emmanuel has performed very poorly in the past four years which it would reverse with Ekere’s five-point vision areas of economic prosperity; infrastructural and rural development; education, health and social protection; security; and governance and infrastructural reforms.
When Ekere first indicated his interest to contest the 2019 governorship election, his desire was founded on the need to offer the state a new vision for collective prosperity. Ekere, who is the immediate past Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) also looked at his past records in public and private sectors as an asset for him. Both contestants are not only from the same Eket Senatorial District, they are also Ibibios.
While a vast majority concluded that the PDP would win convincingly based on the fact that the state has been governed by the party since 1999, others contended that in politics, as in any other battles, “it is never over until it is over”.
It is however, instructive to note that at no time has the state been so divided along party lines than now. The Akwa Ibom war is all about the PDP defending the zoning formula, while the APC is primed to upstage the status quo and take the oil- rich state to APC- controlled central government.
RIVERS: Wike appears unstoppable in Rivers
The governorship clash in Rivers state today would have been clearly a two-horse race between incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike and whoever the opposition APC, would have presented before the party was stopped from presenting its candidate by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. In the build up to the race, however, nothing had ever seemed equal. By some twist of fate, the alleged imposition of presumed outsider, Tonye Cole as APC’s governorship candidate marked the beginning of the party’s self-destruct and critical shattering of permutations.
Fueled by the rebellion by aggrieved Sen Magnus Abe, the APC fell from being a major contender to a non partaker as the the court ordered INEC to delist APC from all ballots, except the Presidential Election in Rivers. From this point, the odds have been in favour of Wike
Not Even APC’s Plan B worked
As a wounded lion, Amaechi’s faction of Rivers APC, was reportedly set to bury its frustrations and align with Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs, who incidentally defected to procure a controversial Accord Party’s guber ticket the moment Cole was announced as preferred flag-bearer. Like Cole, not only did the court, penultimate Wednesday, also disqualify Dumo, the Accord’s ticket was handed to parallel claimant, Pastor Precious Baridoo who, weeks before, had joined 57 other parties’ candidates to endorse Wike for re-election. Barely 72 hours to the election day however, APC adopted the AAC gubernatorial flag-bearer in the state, Biokpomaba Awara, in a last minute maneuver. All APC faithful are to vote for him.
As signal to justify the odds being in favour of Wike, the PDP defeated the APC in the February 23 elections. All National Assembly election results declared so far went to PDP.
Remarkably strengthened by the disqualification of key contenders, particularly APC and alternative Dumo, Wike’s chances are further boosted by his widespread projects delivery in his first tenure. Many people however suspect that Abe’s faction of the Rivers APC, would tilt to Wike in the governorship election. The endorsement of Wike by almost all other candidates, except Eniye Braide of the African Democratic Congress, Isaac Wonwu of Labour Party, Precious Elekima of Social Democratic Party and Victor Fingesi of Action Democratic Party, who are all widely perceived as weak candidates, is also working out positively for Wike.
The main odd against Wike is his face- off with security operatives, especially the Nigerian Army and Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police who he fiercely accused of allegedly playing APC’s script to rob him of deserved victory at the polls.
The PDP will also snap most of the state Assembly seats against virtually anonymous oppositions across the state in an election that the courts would go on record as having been the biggest decider. The result would justify or discredit the incumbent’s boast that, “I have no opposition in Rivers state.”
CROS RIVER: With APC in chaos, Prof Ayade is favoured to win
In Cross River state, the internal crisis in APC, over the accepted governorship candidate has put the party in a very difficult position, especially with the different verdicts from the courts. This has made some persons to see the party as unprepared.
In spite of the plethora of contestants, there are four major contenders in the Cross River state governorship race. They are Professor Ben Ayade, PDP, Senator John Owan Enoh of APC, Mr Eyo Ekpo of the Social Democratic Party, SDP and Emmanuel Undie of the Young Democratic Party, YDP.
The four contestants have been crisscrossing the state to seek the votes of the 1.5 million registered voters in the 18 local government areas of the state. On the other hand, Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani, insists that he and not Ekpo, is the lawful APC gubernatorial candidate.
However, leading the pack is Senator Ayade, the incumbent governor of the state, who from all indications is likely to carry the day, possibly followed by the APC flag bearer, Senator John Owan Enoh.
The battle is between what people refer to as PDP 1 and PDP 2 forces in the state. This is because the major players in the two parties, APC and PDP were all former members of a defunct political family, headed by Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of the state. The split occurred in 2015 after the APC won the election at the national level and there was exodus of a number of aggrieved members of the family to APC.
What is working for Ayade is the power of incumbency, which he has put to effective use. He gravitated to many people in the state and accordingly received loads of endorsements from various groups cutting across cultural, political, workers and private sector operators.
These endorsements transform to votes which was evident during the Presidential and National assembly elections when the PDP won by a wide margin. The party also won all the National Assembly seats except one. People of the northern senatorial district of the state who believe the slot is theirs actively support him and that he should serve for eight years, the same way the central and southern districts occupied the post.
The people of the southern senatorial district are also in support of the governor for the simple reason that they want the slot in 2023 after he must have served his tenure for eight years.
Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong, Leader of the 7 -Alive Southern Senatorial Forum told Saturday Vanguard that the district is billed to produce the next governor of the state in 2023 after Ayade and, therefore, their support is to enable the governor complete his eight years tenure and hand over to the district.
“We have supported this government from the start and we cannot abandon it now and with the southern district set to produce the next governor in 2023, we have to do our best to make the transition hitch free,” he asserted.
Chief Ekpenyong called on the leaders in the district to mobilize voters to vote en-masse for the governor and other contestants without fear, as the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, would win without much struggle.
“There is no fear of federal might because we are in charge and nobody can intimidate us. It is only when you do not have support that federal might can work, but we have massive support so we have no fear of anybody,” he said.
Also working for the governor is the large number of young people he has appointed as aides. He has over 5,000 of such people whom he pays monthly in his “food on the table” policy and many of them are willing to give their right hand to ensure he returns to keep their food on the table, which he has assured them. He gave the young men a simple task of winning their polling units, which many of them did during the February 23 elections.
APC’s divided house
Senator Owan Enoh who is a strong contender for the post is looking up to federal government and the support of the former members of the PDP, who assume they are conversant with the winning trick of the party and would put it to use today. He has a vast war chest and actively supported by Senator Victor Ndoma Egba former Senate Leader, who contested the Central Senatorial district slot but lost in the February 23 elections.
However, strings of court cases have dogged the APC governorship race in the state. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani, also contending for the APC ticket instituted a number of court actions to give credence to the fact that he is the APC flag-bearer.
In one of such cases at the Federal High Court, Calabar, presided over by Justice S.A. Ambeda, the court had on February 11 given judgment recognizing the Etim John- led Working Committee of APC as the authentic party executive in the state. The court then directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognize the list of candidates as submitted by the Etim John Working Committee of APC in the state.
Owan, however, said the Federal High Court judgment lacked merit, insisting that an earlier ruling by another High Court had declared him the authentic candidate of the party for the governorship election
“A High Court has earlier delivered judgment on the matter; another High Court cannot now adjudicate in the matter which is already in an Appeal Court. It is unconstitutional, null and void” Enoh pointed out.
Ekpo (SDP) and Undie (YDP) are tomorrow’s candidates
Mr Eyo Ekpo of the SDP is obviously a very intelligent candidate who has vast knowledge of the problems of the state and how to address them, but his party has no strong structure. Though he has mass support from the youths, most of them go to where they may get cash on voting day.
He has a young running mate, Wofai Uka, who has attracted the youths to him, but with leaders of the southern senatorial district where he comes from backing Ayade, it is difficult to see how he would make much impact in the elections.
Emmanuel Undie of the YDP is a green horn and though he is running on the platform of a youth party, not many youths have been attracted to his campaign. He is also from the same local government with Ayade, which makes his case more problematic, as the people will rather keep the proverbial bird at hand that the million in the bush.
So, give and take, Senator Ayade is favoured to carry the day in today’s governorship election