VIEW FROM THE GALLERY BY MAHMUD JEGA
It is either a sign of confusion or a sign of maturity, depending upon the angle from which you look at it. The presidential race three weeks ago was a close three-way race with APC and PDP winning twelve states each while LP won eleven states and FCT. Many people thought the results of last weekend’s election for governors and State Assembly members will mirror the same pattern, but that was a major mistake. The candidates are different, the issues are different, expectations are different, mistakes are different and strategies adopted by the different actors were also very different. While voters in many states held firmly to the pattern of the presidential election contest, we ended up with important flip flops in some states.
Most closely watched was Lagos State. Lagos was the biggest shock of the February 25 election. Long consigned by reporters and analysts to be President-elect Bola Tinubu’s political fief, his APC party lost the state, very narrowly, even though he was at the head of the party’s presidential ticket. Loss of Lagos did not prevent Asiwaju from winning the election, nor would it prevent him from the exercise of presidential powers after May 29, but it promised to be a major personal, social and political discomfort. I say so because, as a student back in the Second Republic, I used to stand by the street in Sokoto to watch the spectacle whenever President Shehu Shagari visited his home state. The NPN state governors spared no effort to make it a political carnival. If an LP or PDP man is Governor of Lagos, would President Tinubu enjoy his home visits?
But that was not the main issue in Lagos at the weekend. Following LP’s victory in the state in the presidential election, some of its overzealous supporters, many of them based abroad, made the unguarded remark about Lagos being “No man’s land.” This generated the most hectic ethno-political mobilization seen in a governorship election in recent times. For the first time since Edo State in 1991 when the Oba of Benin, through his Chief Priest Nosakhare Isekhure, placed a curse on anyone who voted for Lucky Igbinedion, the son of “an enemy of the Oba,” we saw traditional chiefs in white robes performing rites on the streets of Lagos in order to prevent its “conquest” by hostile forces. In the event, APC’s votes from the previous election went up by 260,000, LP’s votes nosedived by 280,000 while PDP was virtually extinguished in the state.
Not only Lagos flipped. The two big Northern states of Kaduna and Katsina were also expected to flip. Though both are presently APC controlled, the party lost them in the presidential election, Katsina by a narrow margin but Kaduna by a wide margin. This time around the large chunk of Southern Kaduna votes that went for LP on February 25 was expected to return to PDP and help it to victory. But then, the populous local governments in the state’s northern parts broke for APC by wide margins. Unlike Kaduna which has sharp ethno-religious divides, Katsina State is ethno-religiously near-homogenous and APC’s candidate was winning in all local governments.
An important survivor was Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde. He bucked the trend of the G-5 governors’ fate. Though he played with political fire by supporting a different party’s candidate in the presidential election, he easily bounced back yesterday and was re-elected with a wide margin. It was historically important because in the same Oyo State in 2003, when then Governor Lam Adesina joined other AD governors in supporting the PDP candidate Olusegun Obasanjo for president, he was promptly rewarded with a humiliating loss in the governorship election. Makinde played the same trick and got away with it, which in future will tempt others to try.
Not so lucky were his G-5 fellow travelers Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia. As at yesterday evening, LP’s candidate Alex Otti was set to win in Abia, not a surprise since his party won in the state on February 25. APC candidate Reverend Hyacinth Alia was also well ahead in Benue, again not a surprise since his party won presidential elections in the state. Ortom was actually elected Benue’s governor on APC’s platform in 2015 but was re-elected on PDP’s platform in 2019. Social media wags were already saying last night that Ortom will blame Fulani herdsmen, his favorite bogey, if his party lost the governorship election.
That Governor Babagana Zulum was heading towards an easy re-election was not a surprise since Borno was the only North Eastern state that APC won in the presidential election. Tallies late afternoon yesterday also indicated Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara was headed for an easy victory, as were APC candidates in Jigawa and Niger states. Since the party won all these states on February 25, there was no flip there. There was however a big flip in Yobe, which APC lost to PDP on February 25 but whose candidate, Governor Mai Mala Buni appeared headed for an easy re-election last night. Yobe and Borno thereby maintained their record as the only two Northern states that have never been ruled by PDP since 1999. The only other such state in the country is Lagos.
Another flip was in the offing in Gombe State, where Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya was on his way to getting re-elected despite his APC party’s defeat in the state in presidential election. These flips in Yobe and Gombe suggest that it was the homeboy factor that helped Atiku Abubakar to win most of the North East states in the presidential election, including these two that have APC-controlled state governments. APC’s victory in the presidential election would also be a factor that buoyed up party men and somewhat discouraged its opponents.
Also keenly awaited last night were results from the three states of the extreme North West corner, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara. The latter two are APC controlled, but PDP won both Sokoto and Kebbi in the presidential election, the latter by a narrow margin of 3,000 votes. Senatorial election results in Sokoto, in which both Governor Aminu Tambuwal and top kingmaker Aliyu Wamakko are candidates, were all declared inconclusive. Partial results released last night indicated all three states were on course to flip from February 25, but it was yet to be seen.
There were no surprises in either Akwa Ibom or Ogun. In the former, PDP candidate Umo Eno won the election, confirming his party’s win in the presidential polls three weeks earlier. In Ogun, Governor Dapo Abiodun was declared winner after managing to survive a hot challenge from PDP candidate Ladi Adebutu. After winning the neighbouring Oyo State, sweeping State Assembly seats in Osun and doing so well in Ogun, it shows that PDP is alive and well in the South West, despite its virtual wipe out in Lagos, where LP took over its base.
One of the biggest battles was unfolding in Kano State last night. NNPP’s leader, presidential candidate and former state governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso finished fourth in the presidential election but garnered nearly a million votes in Kano, two-thirds of his total haul. The party was fighting last night to consolidate its gains by winning the state governorship. Many analysts suspect that the governorship of Kano was the Kwankwasiyya movement’s top political goal in the first place. If Kwankwaso’s candidate Abba Kabir Yusuf, who is also his son-in-law, succeeds, it will be the godfather’s second sweet revenge in 12 years. The first was in 2011, when he won a second term to succeed Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, who defeated him at the polls in 2011. An NNPP victory this time around will be sweet revenge against Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Kwankwaso’s former deputy and anointed successor, with whom he later fell out. But the contest was still too close to call last night against Ganduje’s deputy and APC candidate, Nasir Gawuna.
Also keenly awaited last night was election result from Adamawa State, where APC’s Hajiya Aishatu Dahiru, better known as Binani, was in a push to become Nigeria’s first elected female governor ever. It was a very keen contest unfolding in the state, home state of PDP’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar. His loss in the presidential election could have boosted Binani’s confidence, though she was up against the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of PDP.
By this morning, results from most of the states would probably be in, and the scale of the flip flops would become clearer.