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Finalist governors faced with tricky succession plans

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
21 November 2021   |   4:14 am
Across the 36 states of the Federation, there are ten states but one to watch when the 2023 general elections hold. Next year, Ekiti State in the Southwest would be going to the polls to elect Governor Kayode Fayemi...


Across the 36 states of the Federation, there are ten states but one to watch when the 2023 general elections hold. Next year, Ekiti State in the Southwest would be going to the polls to elect Governor Kayode Fayemi’s successor. Apart from Ekiti, however, other states where governors are in their final term would be having brand new state chief executives come 2023. The states include Akwa Ibom, Cross River; Ebonyi, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina; Rivers and Taraba.

The interesting thing about these states is that the political rivalry and electoral competition between the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would accentuate the succession politics of the outgoing incumbents.
In the build up to the recent Anambra State governorship ballot, outgoing Governor Willie Obiano told members of his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) that he was following the tradition of other state governors in ensuring that his preferred candidate gets the party’s ticket.

The governor, however, remarked that he did not direct the members of the APGA governorship primary election committee to disqualify any aspirant. Governor Obiano’s preferred candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who clinched the APGA governorship ticket went on to win the main election on Saturday, November 6 and 9, 2021.
Although records show that some beneficiaries of outgoing governors’ endorsement or imposition ultimately fell out with their benefactors, there is nothing to show that the practice of governors anointing a preferred candidate as successor would cease despite the clamour against godfathering.
Barely two years to the next general elections, The Guardian checks reveal that some states would witness some turbulence over the succession politics of outgoing incumbents. The fact that some attempts to impose a successor ended up in tears has not deterred state governors. But with the continuing improvement in Nigeria’s election management system, it would be seen how far the outgoing governors could go in throwing up acceptable candidates as possible successors.

Ekiti: Fayemi’s Turning Point
BY June 18, 2022, voters in Ekiti State would file out at various polling units across the state to elect Governor Fayemi’s successor. Already, APC has announced its schedule of activities preparatory to the poll.
In the notice endorsed by Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, the national secretary of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), the party disclosed that the sale of forms commenced last Tuesday, November 16, 2021.
It is not yet apparent who Governor Fayemi wants to support for the APC ticket in the forthcoming governorship poll, but Ekiti has so far shown the return of former governors whose second term ambition was truncated in subsequent polls.
Ayodele Peter Fayose began that journey to successful repeat poll in 2014, when he defeated Fayemi in what was sold as 16-0. Although pundits blamed Fayemi’s loss on his perceived elitist leadership style, the fact that he congratulated Fayose, despite reservations about the incidence of federal might in the election, endeared him (Fayemi) to Nigerians, particularly Ekiti people.
In the forthcoming Ekiti 2022 governorship, it would be seen whether PDP would revenge its 2018 loss to APC, by fielding either former Governor Segun Oni or former deputy governor, Senator Biodun Olujimi.

Some PDP insiders are of the view that given the level of enlightenment of Ekiti citizens, 2022 is opportune time to field a woman. Similar sentiments were canvassed in the Anambra State governorship, where PDP stalwarts like Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and immediate past Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu all supported Senator Uche Ekwunife.
Despite that outside support, former Governor Peter Obi did not feel comfortable with Ekwunife’s possible emergence, perhaps because they all belong to Anambra Central Senatorial District.
Similar scenario seems to be playing out in Ekiti State. Governor Fayemi did not entertain any possibility that former governor Oni should be supported for the APC ticket in 2022. Perhaps, in a bid to avoid that hurdle, Oni switched camp back to PDP, where Senator Olujimi is bidding her time to contest the governorship.
Similar to her Anambra State counterpart, Ekwunife, Senator Olujimi’s governorship aspiration is receiving tacit backing from Oyo State governor, Seye Makinde. But, the snag that former governor Fayose is not disposed to supporting his one-time deputy to mount the saddle as governor.
Speculations that Governor Fayemi tends to have a soft spot for the current Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Biodun Oyebanji makes the situation dicey. Would APC set up a Biodun versus Biodun contest, in the event that PDP fields Senator Olujimi? Or would Oni stage a comeback like Fayose and Fayemi?  Ekiti 2022 would be interesting.

Akwa Ibom: Udom’s Tense Thrust
FOR Governor Udom Emmanuel, the experience of ‘Warsaw’ in 2019 would be his guiding principle not to play God as he wades through the usual tricky succession politics in Akwa Ibom State.
Akwa Ibom voters have always exercised independence of judgment in electing the state’s governor. It happened in 2007, when the electorate rebuffed Obong Victor Attah’s attempt to foist his brother-in-law and sided with the then Commissioner for Works, Godswill Akpabio.
At the tail end of his second term, Akpabio danced to the temperament of the people, which favours persons outside the political class and introduced Udom Emmanuel. Being a successful banker, Emmanuel was easily accepted by the people leading to his landslide victory in 2015.
It was perhaps in a bid to groom him as a possible successor that Governor Akpabio in July 2013 brought in Emmanuel from Zenith Bank, where he was a Director to serve as Secretary to the Sate Government (SSG).  
However, midway into his first term as governor, Akpabio migrated to APC, thereby setting up a major political clash between APC and PDP in 2019. As soon as Emmanuel clinched a second term in the absence of his political godfather, some political actors like Senator Bassey Albert Akpan started oiling their machinery to contest the 2023 governorship.

Senator Akpan is the chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) as well as the leader of Akwa Ibom State caucus in the National Assembly. He was a prominent supporter of Governor Emmanuel during the 2019 General elections that pitched APC bigwigs against the incumbent governor Emmanuel.
Although the 2019 APC governorship candidate in the state, Nsima Ekere, seems to be out of the picture due to the zoning format in Akwa Ibom, the current Secretary of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planing Committee (CECPC), Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, who slugged it out with Akpabio in 2011, is said to be interested in making a second attempt.
In the light of emerging realities in the state, it would be seen whether Governor Emmanuel would play aloof or side with an aspirant for the 2023 showdown. Watchers of Akwa Ibom politics would want to see whether the outgoing governor would support a private sector person like Udom Inoyo or pitch tent with a career politician like Senator Albert.

Cross River: Ayade’s Payback Time
IT was with an admixture of guile and glib talk that Senator Ben Ayade won the confidence of former Governor Liyel Imoke in 2015. The then outgoing governor supported Ayade in a bid to short-circuit the political clout of Senator Gershom Bassey, who was being propped up by Senator Victor Ndoma Egba.
Last month, the state Commissioner for Rural Transformation, Edem Okokon Effiom disclosed that Governor Ayade’s decision to join the APC has put the final nail in the coffin of political godfathers in the state. Effiom disclosed that 2023 would show that the so-called three-wise men in Cross River politics have lost their relevance and power to determine the outcome of governorship elections in the state.
But, while Effiom boasted that his principal, Ayade, has delivered Cross River from political slavery, the mood in the state is that by crossing over to APC, the second term governor has dug his political grave, especially given the new found collaboration of former Governor Imoke and Donald Duke.
Would the magic budget governor outwit his predecessors through the instrumentality of federal might or bow to their superior political skills? 2023 would be either a payoff or payback for Ayade.
Observers contend that the victory of Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe in the senatorial battle with Ayade’s ally, Stephen Odey, is a potent signal that the outgoing governor would not have his way, especially given his alleged silent prodding of Mr. Chris Agara to prepare for the 2023 governorship contest.

Ebonyi: Umahi As Playmaker
GOVERNOR Dave Umahi’s political adventure into the governing APC has spanned one year this month. Prior to his defection from PDP, the governor deployed his political skills garnered from his university days as a member of the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUT) Students Union Senate. From being a caretaker state chairman, Umahi progressed through the office of substantive state chairman and Deputy Governor to Governor.
Now, as the outgoing incumbent, the governor could be said to be a captain of two ships – APC and PDP. All eyes are on him to see not only who he would support for the governorship, but also how far his body language would influence activities in the opposition PDP.   
For instance, during the recent PDP state congress, an aspirant for the position of chairman, Silas Onu, alleged that former Senate President, Anyim, worked with other stakeholders to abort his ambition simply because he hails from the same Ubulu community as the governor.
Although there are small talks that the governor might support current Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon Francis Nwifuru, there are other well heeled stalwarts in APC, including the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Senator Julius Ali Ucha, former and current SSG, Prof. Bernard Odoh and Kenneth Ugbala, that are also associated with the 2023 governorship.
Within the PDP, stalwarts like Engineer Fide Nwankwo, Hon. Anayo Nwonu, and Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga are possible candidates. But, there is a long list of potential aspirants from the Izzi clan on the APC platform that the governor could side with.
They include, the 2015 Labour Party (LP) gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Edward Nkwegu, former Commissioner for Works, Engineer Chukwuma Nwandiugo as well as the chairman of Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC), Engineer Elias Mbam.
The challenge for Governor Umahi is whether he would focus on his Presidential ambition and allow the process throw up his successor. Whatever he decides, Governor Umahi knows that the governorship would determine whether his decision to join the mainstream resonates with Ebonyi people, particularly against the background of his track record of performance in office.  

Enugu: Ugwuanyi’s Temptations
HE has used the greater part of his governorship to showcase his pacifist political style of leadership. But, as 2023 general elections draw near, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is already feeling the heat of an impending showdown by gladiators for the governorship seat.
In a state with powerful political actors, Governor Ugwuanyi would be confronted with tough political decision regarding whom to side with in 2023. There is already much heat in the state over speculations that former Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, is mobilising men and huge funds to grab the governorship after 20 years at the National Assembly.
Ekweremadu’s supporters boast that he has a big war chest to wrestle whoever the governor would support, even as he is said to be disposed to crossing over to APC to actualise his governorship dreams. There has been much talks in Enugu on whether the zoning arrangement is binding on political parties amid questions about the ratification of the agreement among the three Senatorial Districts, just as allies of the former Deputy Senate President claim that power distribution should be according to cultural zones.  
Governor Ugwuanyi would be guided by the zoning arrangement to retain the support of Enugu people, especially as the popular sentiment is that it is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District to produce his successor.

Taraba: Ishaku’s Hasty Bye-bye
Governor Darius Ishaku had to battle the strong people force behind the former Minister of Women Affairs, Mama Taraba, Aisha Alhassan, to become governor. Having survived the momentum that was built against him during the 2019 election, Governor Ishaku is said to be in a hurry to hand over.
Sources disclosed that an unwritten understanding that the late Mama Taraba would be supported to become governor in 2023 propelled the former Women Affairs Minister to rejoin PDP from the United Democratic Party (UDP), which she joined after losing out in APC in 2019.  
Both state chapters of PDP and APC are enmeshed in intra party wrangling, even as Taraba people expressed misgivings that the governor had been staying outside the state more than necessary after securing his second term.
In the absence of Mama Taraba, whose supporters returned to APC recently, it would be seen how the battle for the soul of Taraba in 2023 would pan out amid the rising influence of ethnic politics in the state.

Kano: Ganduje’s Crossroad
WITH the recent loss of camaraderie between Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his one-time predecessor, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, the situation in Kano State APC makes things a little bit complicated. This is because, even within the main opposition PDP, former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and Ambassador Aminu Wali are not on the same page.
Since December 2020, when a Federal High Court dismissed the suit filed by the PDP faction loyal to the former Nigeria’s Ambassador to China, Wali, in which they challenged the competence of the state and local government congresses in Kano, both former allies have remained at daggers drawn.
It is not easy to ascertain between APC and PDP, which party would have the day in 2023 governorship, because just as Shekarau has sworn not to abandon APC for Governor Ganduje, Wali, who is said to be working in cahoots with the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, is geared up to fight to finish over control of the PDP structure in Kano State.
Having fallen out of favour with his former benefactor, Kwankwaso, it is almost impossible that the outgoing governor will collaborate with his predecessor to throw up a preferred successor. The belief in some quarters is that Senators Shekarau and Kwankwaso are not opposed to such political understanding to diminish Governor Ganduje. The setting makes Kano an interesting state to watch as the 2023 politics gather steam.

Kaduna: El Rufai’s Hard Choices
DIRECTOR General of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salis Lukman and Senator Shehu Sani were strong contenders to the APC ticket against Governor Nasir Ahmad el Rufai in 2015.

In 2019, Senator Sani was displaced by Governor El Rufai to pave way for his (governor’s) loyalist, Uba Sani, for the Kaduna Central Senatorial seat. Although Senator Sani moved over to the fledgling Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), he seems to have discovered the need for a stronger platform to contest the 2023 governorship. That prompted his recent return to PDP.
It is not clear whether Alhaji Isa Ashiru, who contested against the incumbent in 2019 is still interested in the governorship race, but Senator Sani’s strategic move into PDP shows that Governor El Rufai would have a tough time pushing a preferred candidate on APC.

Katsina: Masari’s Dead-end
TO ensure his re-election for a second term in 2019, Governor Aminu Bello Masari, descended on his predecessor, Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Shema. Based on his track record of performance in office after succeeding President Umaru Yar’Adua, Shema remained a rallying point for Katsina State PDP.
While PDP under Shema succeeded in throwing up Senator Yakubu Danmarke, who represented Katsina South District in the Senate, as PDP’s consensus governorship candidate, Governor Masari kept the heat on Shema and ensured that the former governor could not focus on the electioneering.
Some PDP stalwarts in Katsina also alleged that the state government prompted Umar Abdullahi Tsauri (Tata) to reject the consensus arrangement that produced Danmarke as the party’s standard bearer and leave PDP.
Barely a year to another governorship election in the state, PDP is spoiling for a strong battle against APC, especially against the backdrop of the degenerating security situation of the state, which has prompted a comparison between the Masari administration and that of Ibrahim Shema.
Given that President Muhammadu Buhari would not be on the ballot in 2023, the governorship poll in the state would determine who, between Governor Masari and his predecessor, would lead their parties – APC and PDP – to ultimate electoral triumph.

Rivers: Wike’s Waddle  
GOVERNOR Ezenwo Nyesom Wike has dominated Rivers State’s politics in the last seven years. Within that timeframe, his spat with the immediate past governor, Rotimi Amaechi, showcased the state as a political battle ground.
In 2015, when Amaechi supported Dr. Dakuku Peterside against Wike, the flavour of the Buhari’s possible emergence as next President could not help the APC candidate and the former governor who was at the head of Buhari’s Presidential campaigns.
By 2019, when he was seeking a second term in office, Wike had to fall back on his friendly relationship with former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who had fallen out with Amaechi, to win without any challenge from APC.
As 2023 draws near, Amaechi’s supremacy battle with Senator Magnus Ngei Abe has continued to heat up the Rivers’ polity. Abe’s faction recently rolled out their machinery to canvas support for Tinubu’s Presidential ambition, ostensibly to put a strong wedge to Amaechi’s touted aspiration to succeed President Buhari.
Although Wike has pledged to support any candidate that PDP throws up in 2023, it would be seen whether the likely emergence of Senator Abe would arrest PDP’s unbeaten record or Abe would be forced out of APC into PDP by Amaechi’s foot soldiers. No matter how things turn out, Rivers State also fits the billing as one of the states to watch in 2023.