2023 governorship elections: Champions and fall guys

The just concluded governorship election was just as keenly watched as the presidential poll. Apparently, the two major political parties as we knew them, viz, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were taken unawares by the Labour Party, LP, as it won the presidential election in all of the South-east states, majority of the South-south states, some North-central states like Plateau and Nasarawa. LP also won other places of national importance, namely, Lagos state (the nation’s commercial nerve centre, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. 

Having seen the embarrassing result of not reckoning with the LP, these parties went back to the drawing board to restrategise for the governorship poll, taking into consideration the LP factor in their new campaigns cum strategy. The result is that the LP was largely subdued in the governorship and state houses of assembly elections, not least in the South-east zone, where it had the largest percentage wins in the presidential/national assembly polls, dismantling the old order and sending some veteran politicians to political oblivion.

In Ebonyi state, Governor Dave Nwaeze Umahi, who defected from PDP to APC a few years ago, proved that when push comes to shove, the tough gets going. The governor’s anointed successor, Francis Nwifuru (incumbent Ebonyi state House of Assembly Speaker), won the gubernatorial election, comfortably. For Governor Umahi’s candidate to have defeated both LP and PDP in the election on a platform (APC) that is not so popular in this zone, I give kudos to him.  Umahi is a champion in the general elections for being able to endear APC to the electorate in Ebonyi state. Leader of APC in Ebonyi state, his party lost only the presidential election, winning all others — national assembly, governorship and house of assembly polls. 

There were no gubernatorial elections in Anambra and Imo states. However, Imo state governor Hope Uzodinma of APC proved his mettle as his party cleared 25 of the 27 state house of assembly seats. That is a massive victory in the HOA poll. One cannot declare Uzodinma a champion as yet until in November when he will be standing for re-election. If he is able to win, he would be considered a political colossus worthy of an award. 

Similarly, though Anambra state governor, Charles Soludo, was not up for election, his APGA party won the majority seats in the house of assembly — 17 of the total 30. Labour had 7, PDP and YPP three each. As I predicted in my column titled, ‘Governors on tenterhooks as electorate give judgement’, LP is likely to win only Abia and Enugu states in the South-east zone. As at the time of writing this column, the Labour Party candidates were leading in both states although INEC was yet to officially declare a winner.

Governorship election was held in five of the six states in the South-south zone, all of which had been PDP controlled states since birth of the fourth republic in 1999. The odd state is Cross River whose governor, Ben Ayade, defected from PDP to APC sometime ago, automatically making him the APC leader in that state. Ayade lost his senatorial bid and his APC also lost the presidential election in February. For being able to put aside its setback in the presidential and national assembly elections to emerge tops at the governorship poll, Ayade’s Cross River state APC is a champion in the March 18 elections.  More so when the APC candidate’s closest rival, PDP’s Sandy Onor, was backed by PDP heavyweights like former governors Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke, among others. 

Most especially too, when winner of the presidential election in the state, LP’s Peter Obi, was in Cross River state to personally direct his supporters (the Obedient movement) to vote for Onor. Notwithstanding these obstacles, APC’s Bassey Otu still won the guber race and is now governor-elect. Kudos to him. Edo and Bayelsa states are not due for gubernatorial polls yet. The other states in this zone – Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta – are still controlled by the PDP as the party won in these areas. 

Expectedly, there were no surprises in the South-west zone. This columnist had predicted that notwithstanding the noise about the president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu losing his home state of Lagos in the presidential election to the LP, the APC would win the March 18 poll as the party would tighten up and restrategise. 

And, it so happened as Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu beat the LP candidate by a wide margin, according to INEC’s result. Ditto Katsina state where the APC’s national leader cum Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari suffered a rather embarrassing defeat in February as his party lost both the presidential and national assembly elections to the PDP. Indeed, apart from losing the presidential poll, APC lost all three senatorial seats in Katsina state. 

This huge loss made Governor Aminu Masari to sack a number of his appointees. Much water passed under the bridge in the intervening three weeks before this election. Katsina APC intensified its campaigns, some PDP members crossed over to APC. And as I rightly predicted some weeks ago, APC’s Dikko Umar Rada beat PDP’s Garba Yakubu Lado 859,892 to 486,620 votes and was declared governor-elect, thereby saving President Buhari further blushes. 

My prediction for Nasarawa state was correct. Though a close call, Governor Abdullahi Sule scored 347,209 votes as against PDP’s candidate David Ombugadu’s 283,016 votes. However, APC did not win majority seats in the state house of assembly election. It won nine seats, PDP eight while SDP and NNPP have two seats each in the 20 member house. Of course, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and his  NNPP is a champion of this election. He was the only one that won with over a million votes in the presidential election in Kano state and his candidate again won the governorship election with over a million votes. Kwankwaso delivered through his NNPP and in style. I predicted he would have a sole governor. 

APC Benue state and its leader George Akume are joint champion for winning all four elections – presidential, national assembly, governorship and house of assembly – a feat which none of the states that border it could achieve. Akume deserves special kudos for getting a winning team led by its gubernatorial candidate, Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia, that galvanised the electorate to vote for APC. Significantly, APC regained Sokoto from PDP. Last time when PDP’s Governor Aminu Tambuwal was re elected in 2019, he won by a slim margin of about 300 votes over the APC candidate. 

The ‘fall guy’ in this governorship poll is the Labour Party. LP was the ‘man of the match’, so to speak, in the February polls as its presidential candidate gathered over six million votes in just nine months of entering the race while the party also won a number of  National Assembly seats, the most significant being the senate seat of Abuja, the nation’s capital. In this election, however, LP was found out. It did not win any governorship election in the South-west and South-south. It only managed to win two in the South-east (one yet to be confirmed as at time of writing). In the whole of the Northern region it was somewhat invisible as the governorship race here was between APC and PDP.  

Thumps down too to the social media with its fake news, one of which was the trending social media news that the APC’s sole female governorship candidate in Adamawa state won the election. Congratulatory messages were already pouring in for her, including one from the British Embassy in Nigeria (later deleted). It was false. Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of PDP was thought to win by correspondents at the final collation centre as he was leading with all the local government results tabulated. But the electoral umpire has just announced that the election is inconclusive. 

Ikeano writes from Lafia, Nasarawa state via [email protected] 08033077519