2019: Lagos, Ogun and the 8 battle grounds to look out for in the governorship race

This Saturday, Nigerians will once again move out to elect their leaders (state executives) for the next four years in the second stanza of the much anticipated general election. If history is anything to go by, the state polls are likely to be more intense especially in states where the incumbent governors are wrapping up their second and final term.

While this should not be surprising as the political structure of the country legally supported by the constitution, vests enormous powers in the office of the state governors, such that only second to the Nigerian President, our “executive governors” are one of the most powerful political office holders in this part of the world – just like emperors, the widespread dissatisfaction in the rigorous process involved in the country’s electioneering process will be a huge factor in the  success or otherwise of the polls.

Also worthy of note is the fact that Saturday’s election comprises the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), gubernatorial and state assembly elections. The legislative polls will be held in the 36 states of the federation, while only seven states are participating in the governorship polls, having held their gubernatorial elections last year and some holding same in the months to come.

Interestingly, the contest in a few of these states is very difficult to predict, given the dynamics of the polity in these states – ranging from historical antecedents, ethnic and religious agenda, economic indices in the state (judged majorly by the payment of salary and pensions) to the strength of the respective parties and their candidates.

We did a little study on the terrain and here is our analysis on 10 states where the battle is likely to be hottest; 4 states with incumbent governors seeking a second term and 6 states whose incumbent governors would have completed the constitutionally-permitted 8-year term by May 29.

Open race candidates ( Non-incumbents)

Lagos

The centre of excellence leads the pack on the list of states with a keen contest ahead of Saturday’s elections, especially being the commercial capital of the country with a robust economy ranked as the 5th largest economy in Africa. More so, with the results of the 2015 elections where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by a margin of 160, 133 votes in the Presidential election and 152, 206 votes in the gubernatorial elections, the political fireworks at this stanza of the election is expected to even be higher in “Eko,” judging especially from the results of the 2019 Presidential election where the PDP again lost to the APC with even a slimmer margin of  132,810 votes.

Indeed, certain indices will determine who eventually emerges the next Lagos Governor; the support of the non-indigenous population, majority of whom appear to be rooting for an opposition candidate, the rugged political structure of  the ruling party and its grandmaster, Bola Tinubu who has indeed been calling the shots in the state since 1999 as well as the turn-out of voters. Amidst these, here are the odds of the top 3 candidates:

Babatunde Gbadamosi

Relatively unknown before the 2019 Lagos Governorship debates held in January, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) candidate wormed his way into the heart of Lagosians with his very lofty ideas on tackling the perennial problems of the mega city from traffic congestion to taxation and the likes posited at the debate.

More so, while the ADP did well at the just concluded Presidential election, many expect that the real estate tycoon will equally perform well at Saturday’s election. However, with a poor campaign (inclusive of  the use of social media) and a less formidable political structure to turn in the much needed votes from the grassroots, Gbadamosi will likely emerge 3rd in the polls.

Jimi Agbaje

Unarguably the most familiar name in the opposition on the Lagos political landscape, JK as he is fondly called, will be seeking for the 3rd time to win a battle against the ‘Lagos establishment’ led by former Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in what may be the PDP flagbearer’s last shot at the office, given his assertion in September when he had said, “it is true that initially, I did not want to re-contest, but I had so many people urging me to run.”

While that statement ended speculations about his participation in the 2019 Lagos Governorship race, it did leave a lot of his supporters disappointed in his lukewarm approach to the office and by extension, governance in the state; post-2015 when he came so close to clinching victory as he literally stayed dormant and near-silent in the political space. In spite of these developments, Agbaje stands a huge chance to create one of the most likely upset in the 2019 governorship race and with strong support from the non-Yoruba voting bloc and an expected massive turn-out, the pharmacist may just be the next Lagos governor.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Perceived in many quarters as the ‘Incoming Governor’ given political calculations in the state since 1999, B.O.S is the favourite to win Saturday’s polls and having run one of the most expensive campaigns in the history of the state combined with the super-backing of the Lagos godfather and his successor Babatunde Fashola, whose erstwhile anointed candidate for the seat is the Deputy Governorship candidate following a power-sharing agreement between his group and the Tinubu-led Mandate Group, Sanwo-Olu is tipped to win the 2019 Lagos governorship, albeit with a slim margin.

Interestingly, while many expected that with the widely acclaimed support of the ‘Lagos Establishment’ which saw him mercilessly defeat incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the APC primaries, the 3-time commissioner would do less in his campaigns, the reverse was the case and other than his intimidating credentials in the private and public sectors, should Sanwo-Olu emerge winner in Saturday’s elections, his campaign strategy would be deemed to have done the magic for him.


Ogun:

In neighboring Ogun, the battle is too fierce to outrightly predict a winner as the race is essentially a 3-horse race. As in other states of the country, a number of factors will decide the next Governor of the state.

Dapo Adigun

In spite of the daunting opposition to his candidacy from his bosom political associate and incumbent governor, Ibikunle Amosun, the APC gubernatorial candidate stayed afloat with his campaign and got himself an endorsement by former Governor, Gbenga Daniel who has directed his supporters to vote for the oil mogul.

With the strong root of the APC in the state, combined with the support of two former governors; Gbenga Daniel and Olusegun Osoba, it won’t be much of a surprise if the Iperu-Remo born-politician clinches victory.

Gboyega Nasir Isiaka

Arguably, one of the most popular political players in the State at this time, GNI as he is fondly called will be seeking to seal victory in his 3rd attempt at leading the ‘Gateway State.’ 

For the Imeko born-politician, the long-running clamour for a candidate of Ogun West descent to take over the mantle of leadership in the state puts him in direct contest with the candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and if the internal wranglings rocking the two major parties in the state, the PDP and APC is anything to go by, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) candidate is most likely to reap from the crisis to emerge as winner of the 2019 contest.

Adekunle Abdulkabir Akinlade

Widely regarded as the anointed candidate of incumbent Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, Triple A is seen as the favourite to win Saturday’s election, as he has the SIA political structure to rely on and a huge financial war chest to with which he bankrolled his campaign. Judging however by the high-wired political giants against his candidacy, it is doubtful that the Ogun West politician can seal victory come Saturday.


Oyo:

The ‘Pace Setter State’ is undisputedly one of the key states to watch out for in Saturday’s polls. Reputed as the land of strong men politicians, the battle for the Agodi Government House is a straight fight between the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, both of whom are parading for the first time in a long while, young politicians as strong contenders for the exalted office.

Adebayo Adelabu

The former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would be facing an upheaval task on Saturday to win the contest for the top political office in the state. Chief of the factors that are likely to work against the candidacy of the 48-year old politician is the loss of popularity of the incumbent Governor and Leader of his party, Abiola Ajimobi who lost his return bid to the state penultimate week.

His major strength will be his youthfulness, famed political root and background- the Adelabu family popularly known as “Penkelemesi” as well as the last minute alliance with Ogbomoso-born politician and former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, whose support is expected to swing the votes in that part of the state to the favour of the APC candidate. How well this can propel him to victory remains to be seen.

Seyi Makinde

51-year old Makinde would be counting on a number of factors to emerge as winner in Saturday’s elections, with the most critical being his party’s victory at the February 23 Presidential election in the state as well as the support of former Governor, Rasheed Ladoja; ADC candidate Olufemi Lanlehin and the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Sharafadeen Alli who have all lined up behind the Ibadan-born politician him to ensure he emerges victorious.

Moreso, armed with years of experience from the private sector and three failed bids to be Senator (2007 and 2011) and Governor (2015) respectively, the candidacy of the businessman resonates with the average Oyo man and it would be a surprise if Makinde doesn’t emerge as winner in Saturday’s elections.


Imo:

Uche Nwosu, candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) and former Chief of Staff to the Imo Governor, is the candidate to beat in the March 9 election and he squares up against Hope Uzodinma (APC), Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Running for a second time, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha is likely to emerge winner in the contest as the performance of the PDP in the Presidential election held on February 23 as well as the fierce wrangling between incumbent Governor, Rochas Okorocha and his party’s candidate, Hope Uzodinma is predictably going to work in favour of the 3rd most formidable candidate in the race.


Kwara:

Razak Atunwa

Up until the February 23 Presidential/National Assembly election, it may have been difficult to foresee a candidate backed by Senate President, Bukola Saraki lose an electoral contest in Kwara and given the trajectory of politics in the state, the chances of 49-year old Atunwa clinching victory is slim. On the other hand, in what is the most daunting political battle since his foray into politics, how well the political structure of his political mentor, Saraki who will be desirious of regaining some hold on to power in the state, remains to be seen.

Abdulrahman Abdulrazak

Leveraging on the outstanding performance of his party in the February 23 polls held in the state, the ‘O to ge movement in Kwara is expected to work in favour of the APC governorship candidate.

With the average Kwara voter resilient on putting an end to the Saraki domination of politics in the North Central State, it is easily predictable that oil magnate will be the next Governor of the state.


Nasarawa:

Twenty-nine candidates are participating in the Nasarawa governorship election but the contest is a straight battle between the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) , the candidate of the ruling APC, Abdullahi Sule and the youthful guber candidate of the PDP, David Ombugadu

While Engr. Abdullahi Alhaji Sule is the clear favourite to win the race owing to the popularity of his party and the incumbent governor, Tanko Al-Makura who won a seat in the Senate election conducted on February 23, the PDP candidate is also expected to give Sule a run for his money.

Ultimately, an upset is likely in this contest as the victory of APGA in neighbouring Taraba in the House of Representatives election, may jsut be the confidence booster for its candidate and former Deputy Governor, Labaran Maku to emerge as winner.

Second Term Governorship Candidates

Sokoto:

Aminu Tambuwal, one of Nigeria’s most charismatic former Speaker of the House of Representatives; will be fighting the toughest battle in his political career having parted ways with his politcal benefactor and former Governor, Aliyu Magatarkarda Wammako, when he dumped the ruling party to run for the Presidential ticket of the opposition PDP where he came second behind Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Deemed to have performed credibly in his first term which has made him retain his popularity as well the loyalty of his foot soldiers, Tambuwal will predictably triumph over his rival, Ahmad Aliyu of the APC.


Kaduna:

Arguably, one of the best performing governors in the country, Governor Nasir El-Rufai will be seeking a second term in the Kashim Ibrahim Government House.

Given the fierce opposition from several quarters in the state, including enemies the governor has created for himself owing to his choice of a Muslim (although from Kaduna South) as his running mate in a state reputed to be sharply divided along religious and ethnic lines, the contest is unexpectedly a huge test for the former FCT Minister’s political strength.

In spite of the hurdles, it will not be a surprise to see the governor comfortably defeat his closest rival, Mohammed Sani Sidi of the PDP.


Benue:

The political atmosphere favours an easy return for Governor Samuel Ortom to win a second term. Up until the February 23 elections in the state which saw Benue strongman and his political benefactor, George Akume lose his return bid to the Senate, many political watchers in the country had questioned the governor’s political calculations which saw him abandon the ruling APC for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), predicting that the governorship election was his to lose.

On the other hand, inspite of reports about his poor performance in office, Ortom squared up against Emmanuel Jime of the APC, will comfortably triumph against his former party as he appears loved by his people especially for standing tall and providing leadership during the onslaught meted upon them by herdsmen.

 


Taraba:

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, Governor Darius Ishaku would be up to battle one of the strongest women actors in the Nigerian political landscape at present, Aisha Alhassan.

The former Minister of Women Affairs was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 race and lost the contest polling 275,966 votes to the PDP’s 369,318 votes; a first for a woman running for such a prime office in this part of the world.

She dumped the ruling party in September 2018 after she was disqualified from running in its primaries, joined the United Democratic Party (UDP) with 7 state Assembly Members, all executives from  the 169 wards, 16 local Government and states executives of the party and is no small way, a force to reckon in the election.

This indeed makes it difficult to predict a walkover for the governor. Albeit, the governor is the favourite to emerge victorious in the contest.

 

Dayo Taiwo-Sidiq :Dayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Public Affairs Analyst, Compere and Social Change Advocate with major interests in Politics, Governance and Inspirational Speaking. He equally has a strong commitment to being a role model to young people in Africa by making a positive impact on everyone he meets and everywhere he goes.