BATTLE OF THE GODFATHERS
If he is not contesting, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu could be described as the ultimate godfather. He has all it takes to assume that role. He has been the commander of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 'Army' in the state. Then, he moved against the party, contended for territory and won the bitter war with the Progressive Peoples Alliance in 2007. A miscalculation last year saw his fish moving out of water, but he quickly retraced his steps. Now, he is back in the PPA.
Kalu is not just a godfather in today's polls, he is a godfather-candidate. He is contesting in Abia North. Who is his opponent? A former political protégé and godson, Senator Uche Chukwumerije is flying the PDP flag. They had worked together at checkmating the PDP in the state. It appeared that the bond was inseparable. But, today, Kalu has come full circle. He is not only a senatorial candidate, other PPA candidates in the South and Central districts have had to rely on him for succour.
But for Kalu, PPA would not be regarded as an active participant in the general elections in Abia State. He knows the written and unwritten laws, he understands the people, he could be cold and deadly in his calculations. He is a wealthy businessman and, as a former governor of the state, he has a channel of reaching out to his people. He is a man to watch. Closely.
Chukwumerije’s new godfather is the man who replaced Kalu at the state Government House. His name, too, is Orji, Theodore Orji. He does not strike anyone as suave and charismatic. He is one of those that one could easily brush aside and dismiss as guileless. However, in Abia State today, anyone who dismisses this Orji does so at his peril. What he lacks on the political field, he makes up for by his firm grip on the levers of power. One would have expected that the chameleonic way he moved from PDP to PPA to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and then back to the PDP would haunt him in this election. Maybe. But, he has manage to repair the damage by his devastating use of state power. Orji Kalu and Theodore Orji are the generals at way, the ultimate godfathers in this war for the control of Abia soul in today’s polls and the subsequent ones in this year’s general elections.
ADAMAWA: Nyako, Marwa, Haruna test run their race
This is a state that has produced more godfathers than most others. They understand the game and know what to do to move things in favour of their wards. But, many are in retreat and retirement. They do not really count in today’s war. They hover in the air but are unable to stand on firm ground. The retired commanders of the territory include Prof. Jubril Aminu, a former Ambassador to the United States of America, two-term member of the senate where he is an influential chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee and sponsor of ministers from the state. He has lost control.
In the political terrain of Adamawa State, the words of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were laws. He made governors and senators. He had much patronage to dispense, at the federal and state levels. Today, he is out of government. He is out of power. He is out of favour. He is out of the calculation. Despite his return to the PDP last year in a bid to regain his relevance and possibly advance to storm Aso Rock, he lost at the January primary and has been unable to regain his balance in national politics.
Rather than regain his composure and relevance, after that bitter experience where the political general was treated like a junior officer, the man who has bounced into reckoning is Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. His Minna house has turned into a political Mecca and palace. He holds court regularly. The president has been unable to ignore the gap-toothed general; neither has the PDP whose BoT chairman, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, has been sent to negotiate the terms of engagement.
Both Aminu and Abubakar are out. It is doubtful if they could still step into the ring. Or better still, be assured of a prominent place at the ringside from where to control events.
Today, the new kingmakers, another name for political godfathers, are the state governor, Murtala Nyako, a former military chief and successful farmer. He still has a lot to learn on the political turf, but cannot be dismissed. He has taken over the party in the state and shown that only those who reckon with him can win the PDP ticket. The question that today’s elections will answer is what is the PDP ticket distributed by Nyako worth?
In the opposition parties, there are Mohammed Buba Marwa of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Boni Haruna of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Marwa is the lord of the CPC. Until he joined the party in February, the party was a fringe player in the Adamawa political life. His appearance in the party’s colours as the governorship flag bearer has breathed life into it. He controls affairs, taught his wards the lessons they must learn in confronting the giants and funds the party.
In the ACN, the man in charge is former Governor Boni Haruna. After the exit of Atiku Abubakar, Haruna moved to knit the party together and assume control of the flock. Today, like Kalu of Abia State, Haruna is a godfather candidate. He guides the other ACN candidates and flies the flag in Adamawa North from where both he and Marwa hail.
AKWA IBOM: Udoedehe, Akpabio in tug of war
Uyo, the capital of the state, has been unsettling, unnerving and unsettled since the 2011 elections approached and the ACN made a bold move. First, its net caught a big fish in John Akpanudoedehe, a former Uyo local government chairman, senator and minister. Then, the party’s victory in Ekiti and Osun states won it attention in states outside its natural habitat. It emboldened Udoedehe to work hard and focus on the light after the tunnel. His chances brightened somewhat when Ime Umanah, a veteran of many gubernatorial fights accepted to partner Udoedehe in the battle. Since then, the political scene has not been the same.
Governor Godswill Akpabio loves to dictate the pace. The manner by which he dethroned his predecessor, Chief Victor Attah turned Akpabio into a hero of sorts. He, indeed, saw himself as a giant killer, one who could move the state in whatever direction. This is one state where the war is perhaps hottest. Akpabio is throwing everything into maintaining his hold on the territory and, Udoedehe who was the Campaign Manager for the group in 2007, has sworn that he would stop at nothing in repeating the feat of 2007. He is Ibibio and has the advantage of numbers, while Umanah is Annang. Akpabio is also Annang.
The travails of Udoedehe appear to have sold him to many of his kinsmen as the underdog who is deserving of their sympathy. To some of the Ibibio, the ACN governorship candidate is a hero who deserves full support. The arrest for treason, trial and humiliation in court might prove ultimately a miscalculation on the part of the governor who had earlier given indication that he would hinge his campaign on the good work that he has done in the past four years.
In today’s election, the candidates are hardly the issue. It is about Udoedehe and Akpabio. The godfathers. Who carries the day? In the Annang territory or Ikot Ekpene senatorial zone, there is little doubt that the governor will have the upper hand despite the fact that there are two Ibibio local government areas in the zone. In Eket where the Ibibio and Oron mingle, the race is less predictable. And in the purely Ibibio enclave that the Uyo senatorial zone is, the election would point the way to other elections.
There is no doubt that the governor has lost some ground. But the percentages of turn out, the influence of his field commanders and the much that money can do for him will play the major role in deciding how things turn out. It is also the first opportunity of gauging the independence and impartiality of the electoral umpire. If the election is free and fair, it may provide the Akwa Ibom people an opportunity of encouraging Udoedehe to go to battle with his heads up, and shoulders erect.
BAYELSA: Does Alaibe stand a chance against Jonathan, Sylva?
This is the land of the president. As Nigerian politics goes, the man who should be deciding who wears the crown in Bayelsa should be President Goodluck Jonathan. But, he is helmed in by a frosty relationship with Governor Timipre Sylva. However, in this enterprise, both men are partners. It is too late, they discovered, to go their separate ways. So, in the PDP, they are joint godfathers. The president has his office and control of some machinery of state to contribute, while the man in charge, who produced all the PDP candidates, is the governor.
At a point, there was rumour that Chief Timi Alaibe had been seconded to the Labour Party by Jonathan to do battle against the governor. However, the president ‘s categorical statement debunking the insinuation at the launch of the presidential campaign in Yenagoa was enough to stop advancement by LP on this score.
This has however not deterred the swift movement by Labour and Alaibe. The former Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) man who later served as Special Adviser to the President on the affairs of the region has continued to take his gospel to all the nooks and crannies of the state. It appears that, when it comes to dispensing cash, Alaibe could not be easily beaten by the satte governor. He also has some advantage of having served for long at the NDDC where he was able to dispense patronage.
Today, it is Alaibe versus Jonathan plus Sylva. Can he run up this hill without fainting? As the governorship flag bearer of his party, the National Assembly elections will point the way forward. The outlook appears brighter for the PDP and its men.
BORNO: Buhari makes wave offshore
There is one man whose name has become synonymous with the politics of this far northern state in the Eastern flank. He is Ali Modu Sheriff. At the inception of the Fourth Republic, he was elected a senator. Then, after four years of serving as a kingmaker, he opted to be crowned the king. The move was resisted by his protégé who had been elected governor and desired a second term. Egos clashed. The governor, Alhaji Malla Kachalla, left the ruling All Nigeria Peoples party (ANPP) for the little known Alliance for Democracy. Predictably, Sheriff triumphed at the poll in 2003. Now, eight years in the saddle, Sheriff is barred by the constitution from contesting for governorship. He is heading for the Senate. Can anyone stop him? Hardly.
That is the minor part of the task. He is also the rallying point for all National Assembly candidates in the state. In this role, as the godfather, he has the task of keeping the ANPP alive in Borno State. His main opponent, strangely enough, is not from the state. He is General Muhammadu Buhari , the moving spirit behind the CPC. If there were doubts about the popularity of the General in the state, the cloud lifted when the CPC campaign team visited Maiduguri, the state capital last month. The cars in the convoy were swarmed by supporters and enthusiasts. Sheriff himself must have been surprised and probably alarmed by the passion that his people showed in receiving Buhari.
Although there is also the PDP in the race in each of the three senatorial districts, it appears it would be fourth time no dice for the party that has consistently held sway at the federal level but found Modu Sheriff’s hold to strong to break. In this election, who blinks in Borno, Sheriff or Buhari? It is a new dimension to politics and politicking. It promises to be interesting.
EDO: Oshiomhole, Anenih renew rivalry
This was the state of the godfathers. In the PDP, there were three- Esama Gabriel Igbinedion who "donated" his son as the first governor in this dispensation, "General" Tony Anenih who is so cold and calculating that he goes by the appellation Leader on the national political scene and Chief Samuel Ogbemudia. Politically, the star of Ogbemudia no longer shines so brightly in the state. Igbinedion is no longer a factor in the PDP since his son ceased to be governor.
The man left as backbone of the PDP is Anenih who is sometimes also known as "Mr. Fix It." The lot of picking up the rubbles and rebuilding the collapsed wall of the federal ruling party in Edo State has fallen on Anenih. He leads the battle charge against the ACN government led by the suave and charismatic Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The governor has vowed not to bow to Anenih, nor is he willing to worship at the altar of the man who as chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) negotiated away the victory of the party in the 1993 presidential election. He has maintained that he and the other leaders did so in the interest of the country. Anenih has the support of the federal government and president whose campaign he is handling. He knows the terrain and is very versed in party administration and electoral calculations. He cannot be ignored as he leads the PDP senatorial and House candidates to the electoral battle field today.
Neither can Oshiomhole be waved aside. When he hopped on the scene, many dismissed him as a rabble-rouser who would make of the enterprise. But, he has proved in two years that he has all the ingredients needed to build a strong political empire. The people of the state craved good governance; he has supplied. The ACN wanted a strong leader; he has proved himself in this respect. He has campaigned for the party.
The National Assembly battles are his to win as the PDP is still fragmented in the state. But, the manner that the primaries were handled in the state may haunt the party. A number of Oshiomhole’s close aides and officials of the party have ditched him to team up with his arch enemy, the PDP. What would this translate into? How would the Oshiomhole factor help Senator Uzamere in the strategically important South zone? The North may be easier for Oshiomhole, but he also has to watch out in the central.
JIGAWA: Turaki tries Lamido for size
The rivalry in the state is between the state governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, one of the most experienced state chief executives, and his predecessor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, now a senator. When Turaki was elected governor in 1999 on the ticket of ANPP, Lamido was appointed a minister by President Olusegun Obasanjo. All attempts by Lamido to upstage Turaki in 2003 failed. It took a defection of the senator to the PDP in 2007 to hand the state to the PDP.
Now the political wedding conducted in 2007 has been dissolved and Turaki has quit the PDP fold. He is now the senatorial flag bearer of the ACN for the Northwest district. He is thus a godfather-candidate. He is the points man for his new party in the state. Until he introduced the ACN to Jigawa, the party had no effective presence. As the presidential rally flagged off in Dutse on February 21 showed, the Turaki name is a magic wand in the state’s political firmament.
But, are his name, political structure and capital enough to secure victory against an equally suave Lamido? Lamido is undoubtedly a progressive. He was tutored by the late Mallam Aminu Kano and this has been an enduring foundation for his political edifice. The two men are locked in the battle for supremacy. Who wins?
In Lamido’s favour is effective control of state machinery. He also has a tested structure in the PDP. Can Turaki upturn these advantages in favour of his wards today? Pundits say the ACN structure is not strong enough to win more than Turaki’s zone for him. He may have to wait for four years to upturn the cart in other zones. How he performs in these elections may determine what happens in the others.
Another godfather is Gen. Buhari’s CPC. From outside, he is a strong influence in Jigawa.
KADUNA, KANO, KATSINA and KEBBI: Buhari is the issue
In the four Northwest states, one name that has threatened all previous political calculations and dreams is Muhammadu Buhari. He is not just the presidential flag bearer of the CPC, he is seen as the Commander-in-Chief of its "Armed Forces". Nothing is allowed to stand in its way. Buhari is the man of the moment who, within one year, has planted the party and nurtured it round the country, but especially in this all-important zone.
In Kaduna, the CPC has built itself up as the main challenger to the dominant PDP. Although it will be tough challenging such candidates as Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi and Mrs. Nenadi Usman, the Buhari trademark remains unmistakable.
In Kano, it is a three-horse race. The ruling party is the ANPP and has incumbent governor and presidential candidate, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau as the moving spirit. The PDP’s governorship candidate, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who had ruled the state between 1999 and 2003 is back in reckoning. He is being supported by former HOR Speaker Ghali Na’Abba, influential HOR member Farouk Lawan and Third Republic governor, Senator Kabiru Gaya who is also a senatorial candidate.
The war has been joined, not by the candidates, but Buhari for CPC, Shekarau for ANPP and Kwankwaso of the PDP. Also involved is the incumbent Deputy Governor Tijjani Gwarzo who is the governorship candidate of the ACN. He has the support of Alhaji Lawan Gwadabe in attempting what appears to be a very difficult task within the time available after he defected just in January.
In Katsina that produced the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, the main combatants are Daura-born Gen. Buhari and state Governor Ibrahim Shema. To support Buhari are governorship candidate Damarke Lado, a serving senator; his running mate, Col. Abdulaziz Yar’Adua (rtd) of the illustrious Yar’Adua political clan; former HOR Speaker Aminu Masari and Dr. Sayyadi Ruma who was late President Yar’Adua’s man Friday, among others.
To support Governor Shema who is fighting for his political life is Senator Kanti Bello who used to be a staunch Buhari supporter while both men operated in the ANPP horizon. Shema is fighting for his political life after the demise of Yar’adua who was his political mentor and owner of the platform on which he was elected. He has an assignment to deliver the state to the PDP as the coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo campaign in the region.
Can Buhari pull his weight now that Yar’Adua is no longer available for the PDP? Now that Prof. Attahiru Jega is INEC chairman, would the elections be free and fair and therefore show the standing of the godfathers and parties? This is obviously the last chance for General Buhari, how would he fare at the home front? Posers. We await answers within 48 hours as Jega has promised.
Kebbi is another state where General Buhari is making hay while his political sun is still shining. Like a hurricane, Buhari is threatening to blow anything that stands in his way away. He is being strongly assisted in the assignment on the Kebbi front by a godfather-candidate, former Governor Adamu Aliero is a senatorial candidate and has donated his entire political structure that installed Governor Dakingari in 2007. Now that he has withdrawn the platform, can Dakingari prove himself as the new kingmaker for the PDP? Has he come of age?
Kabiru Turaki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is the ACN governorship candidate and is making waves. He however has more hurdles to scale in turning the party into a victorious platform in Kebbi State.
LAGOS: Tinubu is undisputed king
Brand Tinubu rules the waves here. He has campaigned vigorously for all the candidates, especially the governorship candidate, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN. The de facto leader of the ACN who was Fashola’s predecessor has proved over the years that he is in control of the state’s political firmament. Today, as his wife, Oluremi, incumbent Senator Ganiyu Solomon and Mr. Gbenga Sharafa file out for the senatorial contest, it is expected to turn out well for the party’s candidates.
The godfather behind the PDP challenge is Chief Olabode George, a former naval officer, military governor who later became deputy national chairman of the party. Recently released from jail for infraction of the law while serving as chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, George has since seized control of the party structure in Lagos. Observers have however wondered what has become of the party in the state as it is devoid of the vibrancy it had when the late Funsho Willaims and the High Commissioner to Ghana, Alhaji Musiliu Obanikoro were candidates in 2003 and 2007. The senatorial candidates are hardly known. In PDP’s place, the party posing some challenge is the Labour Party, especially in the central zone where its efforts could be noted. Lagos remains safe for ACN.
KWARA: Sarakis at war
In political circles and parlance, Kwara was known as the land of Oloye, later of the Sarakis. The appellation followed the feat supposedly recorded by Dr. Olusola Saraki in 1979, 1983, 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2007. Dr. Saraki is believed to have established himself as the number one kingmaker in the country by installing his men in the Kwara Government House over the years. This credential is however being disputed by the opposition who claim that the "feats" were recorded cleverly.
The incumbent governor is Dr. Bukola Saraki, a scion of the kingmaker. Father and son have parted ways ahead of today’s poll and next Saturday’s. The governor is the PDP candidate for the central zone, while ACPN has Hajia Rukayat Alaro Isa and the ACN, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe. The general elections in Kwara will prove who is the kingmaker. Has Dr. Bukola succeeded in retiring his father and taking over the role? Will the elections see Bukola emerge a senator and the new king of Kwara politics? Or will Bukola’s sister, Gbemisola emerge the new governor and the father’s position confirmed? The elections will point the way to the future of the North central state.
OGUN : Daniel, Obasanjo fight to the finish
In Ogun State, there are three political parties in contention: the ACN, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and PDP. The godfathers are Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Chief Olusegun Osoba of the ACN; ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP and Governor Gbenga Daniel of the PPN.
All the godfathers are fighting for their political lives. Obasanjo’s daughter is the PDP senatorial candidate for Ogun central but she will have her hands full as it is also Amosun’s base. Daniel had the duty of pushing his ward, Gboyega Isiaka to the PPN at the last minute after the faction had been outfoxed by the Obasanjo faction. Both men have points to prove.
Amosun was also of the PDP family, but he vacated the ship in 2007 when he could not stand the combined strength of Obasanjo and Daniel whose interests then converged. He moved to the ANPP, fought the election on the platform of a party that was virtually non-existent and performed brilliantly even though he was denied the prize. The support he has from Chief Osoba, a former governor and the ACN could help in determining what happens at the polls today.
OYO: Fireworks from Ladoja, Akala, Lam
In Oyo State, the battle is between Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala for the PDP and former Governor Lamidi Adesina of the ACN. Akala has the support of Chief Richard Akinjide who is electorally a featherweight, but understands the language of power politics. The government machinery available to him avails much.
Lam Adesina has the support of a charismatic candidate, Senator Abiola Ajimobi who proved his mettle in 2007 when, on being denied the ticket of AC, defected to the ANPP and made the mark. One of the Justices who heard his petition agreed that he won the election. Others gave it to PDP’s Akala. However, the fact that he defeated AC at the poll showed his worth. He is teaming up with Adesina to back the party’s candidates in the three zones and federal constituencies.
The impact of ex-Governor Rashidi Ladoja cannot be discountenanced. Even then, his Accord came too late to create much ripples.
PLATEAU: Dame Tallen takes on Da Jang: Who’ll blink first?
The field is wide open. Plateau is a state in the throes of crises. One man who, over the years, has established himself as Leader in the state is Chief Solomon Lar. He has been involved since the 1950s, was in the House of Representatives in the First Republic. In 1979, he was elected the only Nigerian Peoples Party’s governor in the North and carried the string of victories to the Third Republic when he dictated the pace for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state.
As the first national chairman of the PDP in the Fourth Republic, he could be said to be the founding father of the party in the state. However, while he remains relevant, he is no longer the numero uno of politics in the state.
Jonah Jang is the governor. He is candidate of the PDP and the recent crisis that hit the party and forced some members out of the party has established him as the most powerful politician in the PDP. Those who remain in the party owe their loyalty directly to Jang and will do anything for him. He is the sponsor and godfather of all the senatorial and HOR candidates in today’s election. If the party wins, Jang can claim victory. It will point the way to next Saturday and beyond. If the PDP records victory in all the election, t will mark the emergence of King jang.
However, Labour is proving a strong challenge. Paradoxically, the heart of LP is Dame Paulline Tallen, the deputy governor. She has attracted the cream of leaders of PDP into the LP and is sending fear into the spine of the governor, his machinery and party. She has as major senatorial candidates, former Governor Joshua Dariye and Senator John Shagaya. It promises to be thrilling as 15 of the 26 members of the House of Assembly defected with her from the PDP.
They are not contesting today. But, all eyes are on Jang and Tallen who are in the control room directing affairs.