Fierce Battle in 19 States As Nigeria Elects Governors 

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Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
•29 governors, 991 members of Houses of Assembly to emerge  

• INEC: Logistics challenges resolved   

Conduct yourself within the ambit of the law, military warns politicians  

• US, British envoys canvass for peaceful polls in Rivers 

INEC office in Akwa Ibom bombed    

CAN demands free, fair, credible poll   

By Ahamefula Ogbu, Benneth Oghifo, Ernest Chinwo, Kingsley Nwezeh and Alex Enumah

Millions of Nigerians will this morning troop out to elect governors for 29 states and 991 members of Houses of Assembly.

On the eve of the elections, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assured Nigerians that the polls would be free and fair, while urging them to turn out massively.

He said that the commission had tackled the challenge of logistics and all materials for today’s elections had been delivered to all the local government areas.

In addition to elections into 1,082 constituencies nationwide, the commission will conduct supplementary elections in 14 states of the federation covering seven senatorial districts and 24 federal constituencies.

Security agencies have put all necessary machinery in place to ensure hitch-free elections, warning that trouble makers would be dealt with.

The battle for governorship is expected to be fierce in 19 of the 29 states. In Abia State, incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of the PDP will be contending with two main rivals, Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); and Uche Ogah of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Regardless, Ikpeazu has the power of incumbency to his advantage, having governed the state close to four years. Thus, he has control of the state’s treasury, as well as other state apparatus required to renew his tenure as governor today.

Oti of APGA is contesting the governorship seat for the second time. He is a close contender whose personality as a technocrat and his platform put him in good standing.

In Adamawa State, the major contenders are incumbent Governor Jibrilla Bindow of the APC, Umaru Ahmadu of PDP and Nyako Abdul-Aziz Murtala of ADC.

Bindow has headwind advantage both as incumbent governor and as a prospective beneficiary of the win his party had at the presidential election. However, his thrust could be checked by the PDP candidate, whose state party presented the presidential candidate for the presidential election, Atiku Abubakar. It is going to be a tough contest for Bindow.

Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel of PDP is adjudged to have performed creditably well, added to the state being a traditional PDP state, which has drawn the peoples support to him. This fact was recorded during the presidential and National Assembly elections. But Nsima Ekere of APC could give Udom problems. Added to this is the fact that Ekere is representing the ruling party with the backing of Senator Godswill Akpabio who was governor of the state for eight years and who also has a very deep war chest.

Bauchi State is another kettle of fish. Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar (APC), who is the incumbent governor, has the backing of Abuja. However, he has Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed (PDP), a former Minister of the FCT and a grassroots politician to contend with in today’s election. Mohammed has an able ally in former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara who won his election against the opposition of the governor. He has enough resources to prosecute the quest. 

Benue State

The Benue State governorship contest is between incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom (PDP) and Emmanuel Jime (APC). Ortom has his people behind him, particularly with his anti-open grazing law. He appears to pander to the feelings of the people and is poised to retain his seat as governor. Emmanuel Jime of the (APC) has the backing of Abuja, running on the platform of the ruling party. He has already been tagged “Myetti Allah” candidate, which may work against him.

Cross River

It will be a straight fight between incumbent Governor Ben Ayade of PDP and John Owan Eno of the APC. Ayade, has a key campaign thrust, standing on the zoning formula to hang on to his mandate. Uncertainty had dodged Eno’s candidacy before the courts cleared him to be on the ballot. He has the support of the power at the center which is believed wants all the Niger Delta States in its kitty. 

Delta State

Many believe the incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (PDP) has performed. He is still maintaining former Governor James Ibori’s structure with vast resources. He is superintending a purely PDP state where APC is doing everything to take over.

The APC intends to wrest power from PDP through Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, who comes with his sturdy reputation as a grassroots champion. He has been a power broker even under the military but has not been lucky to make a front run. He is a politician with deep pocket and running under the platform of the ruling party. He will not be a pushover. 

Gombe State

The governorship contest in Gombe State appears to be between the government and traditional institution. Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya (APC) is running on the federal might, while Nafada Usman Bayero (PDP) is running as opposition with some royal support. 

Imo State

There is a loose fight today for the Imo State government house. Nwosu Uche (AA), has the backing of the incumbent governor, who is his father-in-law. His candidature has been facing a lot of opposition but the treasury and contacts of the state are open to him.

Uzodinma Hope (APC) is running on the platform of the ruling party and his emergence broke the ranks of the party in the state leading to the suspension of the governor for supporting his son in-law.

Also in the race is Emeka Ihedioha (PDP). He is running as the main opposition and lost the election for the same position in 2015. He has been a lawmaker for a while and is one of the closest allies to Atiku Abubakar; He will not lack funds and support.

Kaduna State

In Kaduna State, incumbent Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (APC) is seen as controversial in some of his decisions. He has the treasury of the state and the backing of APC at the centre to his advantage. Contending with El-Rufai is Isa Mohammed Ashiru (PDP). He is running against an incumbent in a state divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Kano State

Incumbent Governor Ganduje Abdullahi Umar (APC), who is dodged by bribery scandal, has the treasury of the state and is running on the platform of the ruling party. He is in close contest with Abba Kabir Yusuf (PDP), who has the backing of Kwankwaso. Whether or not he can displace the incumbent will be seen today.

Kwara State

In Kwara State, the contest is between Abdulrahman Abburazaq (APC), who has the support the federal government and Razak Atunwa (PDP), who is supported by the Saraki machinery. Regardless, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed sees it as a project to install a governor and sack the Saraki dynasty. He has funds from the federal government. 

Lagos State

Babajide Olusola Sanwolu (APC) is Tinubu’s candidate who has unlimited resources even from the center. He may benefit from the unfortunate tribal politics being played in cosmopolitan Lagos. He detests it and has called on perpetrators to desist from it.

He has Jimi Agbaje (PDP) to contend with. Agbaje is struggling to break the stronghold of Tinubu on Lagos. The power at the center would want to control Lagos.

Nasarawa State

Alhaji Sule Audu (APC) is running to maintain the hold of the party in the state. Also in the race is David Emmanuel Ombudagu (PDP), who is running on the platform of the main opposition.

Ogun State

In Ogun, the main contestant is Adedapo Abiodun (APC). He was chosen above the candidate of the incumbent governor that led to altercation in the party. He will have support from the center. Next is Akinlade Adekunle Abdulkabir (APM): He is backed by Governor Amosun who will open the floodgate of the state treasury and support base for him. 

Oyo State

In Oyo State, Adelabu Adebayo Adekola (APC) stands for the ruling party, which has seen alignments and realignments, while Oluseyi Makinde (PDP), appears to garner the support of the aggrieved people of the state.

Plateau state

In Plateau State, incumbent Governor Simon Bako Lalong (APC) has access to the treasury, as well as support from the center. Belonging to APC and the problem of herdsmen attack may hamper his re-election bid. He has Jeremiah Useni (PDP), former FCT minister, and lawmaker to contend with. Useni has deep pocket and will have the advantage of rallying his people for security reasons over incessant attacks.

Sokoto State

In Sokoto State, Tambuwal Aminu Waziri (PDP), the incumbent governor, has access to the treasury and could retain his seat. However, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto (APC) is working with former governor Wamakko Maittagarawa to snatch power with the support of the ruling party in Abuja.

Taraba State

The Taraba contest is between Darius Ishaku (PDP), incumbent governor with access to the treasury. He may have a free run, more so as 20 other gubernatorial candidates have endorsed him. Abubakar Sani Danladi (APC) who is running on the platform of APC is his main challenger. Though, he was formerly disqualified by the court, but his appeal was speedily heard and he was brought back to the race. Danladi has federal support. 

Again, DHQ Warns Politicians against Unlawful Conduct  

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday warned politicians against engaging in unlawful behavior and urged them to conduct themselves within the ambit of the law in today’s governorship and state House of Assembly elections.

This is coming as it said the military would not embark on reprisal attacks over the killing of its personnel in some parts of the country in the last elections.

Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said that politicians and their supporters should tow the part of the law in their conduct throughout the elections.

“It is imperative to state that no one deserves to lose his or her life during elections, be it personnel of security agencies, civilians, electoral officials or observers, both local and international.  The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) therefore urges all politicians and their supporters to embrace peace and conduct themselves within the ambit of the law.  “In order to guarantee prompt response to security challenges in any part of the country, the DHQ and the Services Headquarters established Situation Rooms where security situations are monitored across the nation during the elections. This is also to further ensure compliance of AFN personnel to the code of conduct during the elections”, he said.

On fears of reprisal attacks following the killing of military personnel in the last elections, Nwachukwu said as a reputable and professional institution, there would be no such attacks.

The DHQ also ordered military commanders to ensure sanity in their areas of responsibility and arrest anyone in military uniform who is not on election duty.

INEC Office in Akwa Ibom Bombed

A section of INEC’s office in Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has been destroyed with the use of explosives by suspected thugs.

Electoral materials were burnt in the affected offices in the building, but the commission’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr. Mike Igini, said sensitive materials meant for the conduct of the election on Saturday were not destroyed. Igini, who had earlier inspected the extent of damage, noted that elections would go on unhindered in the local government area.

Court Clears Wike

In a related development, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State from today’s governorship election. The suit was dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to provide credible evidence of forgery against the governor.

The plaintiff, a Rivers State indigene, Elvis Chinda, had filed the suit last year praying the court to interpret certain sections of the Electoral Act, which deal with presentation of forged document to INEC by aspirant seeking clearance to contest an election.

Delivering Judgment in the main suit, the court held that the crux of the suit against Wike bothered on criminality especially forgery of certifcate, which requires the plaintiff to proof beyond reasonable doubt before judgement can be entered in his favour. The judge said apart from the documentary evidence obtained by the plaintiff from doubtful sources, the ingredients of establishing a criminal matter were not provided to establish a case of forgery against Wike.

Besides, the judge said that the plaintiff being the sole witness in the suit, served as both the accuser and prosecutor, adding that his failure to call vital witnesses in respect of adocumentary evidence brought to court was fatal to his case and made it liable to dismissal.

Justice Ekwo said he could not ascribe probate value to the documents purportedly obtained by the plantiff from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), because the plaintiff failed to attach receipt of payment for the Certified True Copy of the documents obtained from INEC as required by law.

Justice Ekwo therefore dismissed the suit for being unmeritorious in substance and in fact.

US, British Envoys in Rivers, Canvass for Peaceful Polls 

The United States Consul-General to Nigeria, John Bray, and the Political Officer of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Louis Edwards yesterday visited Governor Wike; Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; and other stakeholders, canvassing for peaceful polls in the state.

The team visited Wike at Government House while they met with Amaechi at his private residence in Port Harcourt.

The joint meeting with Wike, which lasted about one hour, had the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Harry Banigo; Rivers State PDP Chairman, Bro Felix Obuah; and Senator Lee Maeba in attendance.

Wike tabled the concerns of the government and people of Rivers State before the Diplomats, pointing out that the people were concerned by the mass arrests of PDP leaders by security agencies. He said the State Government and the PDP have issued several statements alerting the world on the illegal activities of security agencies ahead of the elections.

At the resident of Amaechi, the head of the delegation, Edwards, said, they were in Port Harcourt to support free, fair and credible elections. 

“We are here to support free, fair and peaceful election. We have engaged major stakeholders such as politicians, security chiefs and INEC personnel on the need to have a peaceful election”, she said.

Amaechi told the envoys that he wondered why Wike and the PDP would be worried about the security deployments in the state instead of joining forces to encourage them to beef up security apparatus in the State.

 Amaechi affirmed that with the presence of the military in the state for the Saturday’s elections, everybody including the APC and PDP members is protected. 

Meanwhile, Wike and the state chapter of the PDP have condemned the arrest and intimidation of members of the party by security operatives.

Wike urged security agencies to be professional and unbiased in the discharge of their duties for the peaceful conduct of credible polls in the state.