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2019: Top Battles In Nigeria’s General Elections (I) By Saheed Animashaun

October 29, 2018

With federal might unavailable for a Rivers State governor for the first time since 1999, Nyesom Wike of PDP vs Tonye Cole of APC would prove to be an interesting face-off in 2019. Wike, in addition to the advantage of being the incumbent, comes across as being very influential, popular and having a solid grassroots connection. Tonye Cole on the other hand is a billionaire oil tycoon who co-founded one of the biggest indigenous oil and gas firms in Nigeria, Sahara Energy.

The 2019 elections are barely four months away and as expected, the next four months are bound to be full of intrigues, name-calling, allegations, counter allegations, and pure drama. Many political battles will be fought; many myths will be unravelled; many political gladiators will be retired, and many hypotheses will be proven or disproven.

I have picked out what I believe to be some top political battles at the national level, and in the different geo-political zones of Nigeria.


Buhari vs Atiku

No soothsayer is required to know that all other things being equal, the next president of Nigeria will be one of the two Baba 70s; Buhari or Atiku. While the possibility of Buhari losing his bid to win a second term in office was slim some months ago, many factors have changed since then. Many expected the PDP primaries to erupt into a bitter battle due to the high calibre of the contestants involved. Quite surprisingly, the primaries were hitch free and the major contenders have all congratulated and pledged to support the winner, Atiku. In fact, Senate President Bukola Saraki, who came third at the election, has been appointed the Director General of Atiku’s presidential campaign. In addition, Atiku is widely regarded to have scored a masterstroke in picking Peter Obi as his running mate. Add to the mix the fact that the influential former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) has endorsed Atiku, and you get a better idea as to why Buhari versus Atiku is bound to be tight.

In spite of the aforementioned, beating Buhari would require a near-miracle. He remains wildly popular in the North West and North East, and with Osinbajo as his running mate, it would take a lot for the APC to lose the South West at the presidential elections. In addition, Atiku will have a hard time removing the corruption tag on his neck, and the APC will harp on it as much as they can.

It remains to be seen who would win; the key deciders in my opinion would be the North Central, South West, and the share of votes Atiku is able to shave off Buhari in the North West and North East. 2019 will also reveal whether OBJ is as influential as he is commonly touted. Furthermore, it would also reveal whether the defection of popular South South politicians (Senator Godswill Akpabio and former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan especially) to the APC will give the party some in-road into the South South.

South West

Lagos: Sanwoolu vs Agbaje

Up until six months ago, even the staunchest of PDP members in Lagos would have expected the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Lagos to be a walkover for the APC. The PDP in Lagos was so much in disarray that it’s State Chairman, Moshood Salvador defected to the APC.

However, Governor Ambode’s running issues with his party leader(s) and party members, which culminated in his huge-gap loss to Babajide Sanwoolu in the Lagos State APC gubernatorial primaries, has created an opening for a different party to govern Lagos for the first time in 19 years.

The major strength of Sanwoolu is APC’s deep grassroots structure, which was evident during the primaries, and the support of arguably the most powerful politician in the South West, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

However, Jimi Agbaje has many factors going for him too. First, he is a three-time contestant and would have learnt a lot from his last two losses. Second, he only lost to Ambode in 2015 by 150,000 votes. Third, his major campaign selling point is his bid to free Lagos from the supposed stranglehold of one man.

Sanwoolu vs Agbaje may prove to be another Oyetola vs Adeleke.

Ogun: APC vs PDP vs ADP

While APC remains the party to beat, its internal battles could pave way for another party to win in Ogun. The governorship primaries in Ogun APC produced two winners, Dapo Abiodun and Adekunle Akinlade (Governor Amosun’s anointed candidate). While the former has been ratified by the party at the National level, as evidenced by the fact that his name (Dapo Abiodun) has been submitted to INEC as the valid APC gubernatorial candidate for Ogun State in 2019, it is unlikely that Amosun would ever accept Dapo Abiodun as the party’s candidate or campaign for him, judging by his recent comments. The battle is bound to be settled in court, which may pave way for opposition parties.

However, the PDP is not exactly in pole position to take advantage. It also produced two candidates in two parallel gubernatorial primaries organized by different factions; Ladi Adebutu and Adeleke Shittu. These controversies would most likely have to be settled in court.

The confusion in APC and PDP may pave way for two former PDP stalwarts Dimeji Bankole (candidate of ADP) and Gboyega Isiaka (candidate of ADC).  Dimeji Bankole is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, while Gboyega Isiaka was the PDP gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 elections. Another outsider is Rotimi Paseda of SDP.

Oyo: Seyi Makinde vs Bayo Adelabu

Oyo State is bound to have one of its most interesting governorship races in recent history. Seyi Makinde is a 51-year-old oil magnate and philanthropist and. He is a quite experienced politician with considerable following in Oyo State. He polled about 54,000 votes with the SDP to come fifth in the 2015 governorship election in Oyo. This was impressive then, given that the first four were political behemoths (A sitting governor, two former governors, and a senator; Isiaka Ajimobi, Rashidi Ladoja, Adebayo Alao-Akala, and Teslim Folarin respectively).

Bayo Adelabu, 48, is the grandson of the late influential Western Region politician, Adegoke Adelabu Penkelemesi. He is a technocrat per excellence, having worked at PWC (a Big 4 accounting firm), served as an Executive Director at FirstBank, and most recently served as a Deputy Governor of CBN. While the APC and PDP have lost many members due to internal bickering, the two parties are well positioned to produce the next Governor of Oyo State on the strength of their candidates.


Rivers: Nyesom Wike vs Tonye Cole

With federal might unavailable for a Rivers State governor for the first time since 1999, Nyesom Wike of PDP vs Tonye Cole of APC would prove to be an interesting face-off in 2019. Wike, in addition to the advantage of being the incumbent, comes across as being very influential, popular and having a solid grassroots connection. Tonye Cole on the other hand is a billionaire oil tycoon who co-founded one of the biggest indigenous oil and gas firms in Nigeria, Sahara Energy. He also has the backing of Rotimi Amaechi, who alongside Wike, is one of the most influential politicians in Rivers State. A major obstacle in his path is the “war” between Magnus Abe and Rotimi Amaechi that is threatening to tear the party apart. The courts will ultimately settle the dispute.

The biggest threat to what could be an interesting face-off is the unbridled violence which has characterized elections in Rivers State. Hopefully, all security agencies will act professionally and ensure unscrupulous elements in the APC and PDP are unable to thwart the will of the people of Rivers.

Akwa: Ibom Udom Emmanuel vs Nsima Ekere

This is quite an interesting one! Nsima Ekere of the APC was once the Deputy Governor to Godswill Akpabio, who is also now in the APC. The pair fell out due to the ambition of the former to succeed the latter as Governor. Akpabio instead threw his weight behind Udom Emmanuel and ensured his victory at the polls. In a weird twist, Akpabio is now in the APC, having left the PDP partly due to his bickering with Udom Emmanuel. In his support, Ekere has his achievements as Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and the support of Godswill Akpabio, Ita Enang, Umana Umana, and many other influential Akwa Ibom politicians.

Udom Emmanuel’s greatest asset is his incumbency and the fact that Akwa Ibom is traditionally a PDP state. It remains to be seen who would become victorious.

Delta: Ogboru vs Okowa

Will Ogboru be sixth time lucky? This will be the question on the lips of many, as Great Ogboru aims for the number one seat in Delta State for a record sixth time. This time, he has on his side key Delta politicians like former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Dr Cairo Ojuogboh, and Prime Minister of Warri Kingdom, Ayiri Emami.

However, APC’s infighting might make Great Ogboru yet unlucky the sixth time. The controversy surrounding the primaries that produced him does not look like it will die down any time soon. Two other aspirants, Hon. Victor Ochei and Prof. Pat Utomi have maintained that the primary that produced Ogboru was a sham. Another factor that may count against Ogboru is the unwritten power rotation agreement in Delta. The incumbent, Okowa, is from Delta North, and the district is expected to spend eight years in power; of which Okowa has spent 4. In addition, Okowa enjoys the support of the Supremo-General of Delta State politics, James Ibori.  

South East

Abi: Alex Otti vs Okezie Ikpeazu 2.0

In a repeat of the 2015 face-off, APGA’s Alex Otti (former GMD/CEO of Diamond Bank) will contest against the incumbent, Okezie Ikpeazu. Till date, many of Otti’s supporters believe he won the 2015 election and only lost in court due to technicalities.

Asides the incumbency power of Ikpeazu, Otti’s major obstacle is the campaign by proponents of zoning, who argue that Abia South should be allowed to complete 8 years in office just like Abia North and Abia Central.

Alex Otti would definitely have learned from his surprising loss in 2015, making for a tight race for the Abia State Government House next year.

Anambra: Andy Uba vs Chris Uba vs Nicholas Ukachukwu

Two brothers, who have almost always been at loggerheads, will directly go against each other in 2019, for the Anambra South Senatorial District seat. Chief Chris Uba of PDP, a godfather of Anambra politics, would be contesting for the Senate against his elder brother and sitting Senator, Andy Uba of APC. Victory is not guaranteed for either however, as Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu of APGA is also in the race. Prince Ukachukwu nicked the ticket ahead of Bianca Ojukwu (diplomat, lawyer, ex-pageant, and widow of Biafra secessionist, Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu). Who will win in 2019 - one of the Uba brothers or Ukachukwu? Time will tell.

Imo: Uche Nwosu vs Emeka Ihedioha vs Ifeanyi Araraume

The 2019 election in Imo will be interesting for many reasons. Despite stiff opposition from the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, and Senator Hope Uzodinma, Governor Okorochas’ in-law, Uche Nwosu was declared the winner of APC’s governorship primary election in IMO.

Asides from court cases by his opponents in his party primaries, Nwosu has to contend with influential former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, and perennial governorship aspirant, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume of APGA.

Araraume’s chances may be adversely affected by the in-fighting in APGA over the controversial primaries that produced him as the candidate.

The bickering in APC and APGA may well pave way for Ihedioha, following PDP’s relatively peaceful primaries and the peace pact between Ihedioha and his biggest opponent, Senator Sam Anyanwu.

Many regard the governorship election in Imo as effectively a referendum on the performance of Rochas Okorocha in his 8 years as Governor. Who would emerge victorious?

The concluding part x-raying the battle of the Third Forces at the national level, and top political battles in the North Central, North West, and North East will be published next week.

Saheed Animashaun is a political analyst. He writes from Lagos and can be reached via [email protected]