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March 11: Eyes on Lagos, others as battlegrounds shift

The dust from the presidential and National Assembly elections has yet to settle, but one thing is clear: a major upset occurred and it threatens to reverberate during the polls slated for March 11.

Kelvin Okojie

The dust from the presidential and National Assembly elections has yet to settle, but one thing is clear: a major upset occurred and it threatens to reverberate during the polls slated for March 11.

In Lagos, Nasarawa, Delta, and 19 other states, political calculations failed to deliver the goods for many candidates.

Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos and now the president-elect, lost its stronghold state for the first time in more than 20 years to Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.

Three incumbent governors, including Samuel Ortom of Benue State, could not achieve their ambitions to go to the Senate.

The Labour Party surprised many Nigerians as Obi won in 11 states, with the party producing many first-time federal legislators.

Ahead of the March 11 governorship election, many expect upsets to take place.

The contest is expected to be between five political parties: the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party, the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), and the Social Democratic Party.

“The Labour Party bloodbath has spooked a couple of our gubernatorial clients. We are already strategising to ensure they get re-elected. Social media is suddenly a real strategy,” said a political analyst who did not want to be identified.

In Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC is seeking reelection. His main contenders are Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, governorship candidate of the Labour Party; and Abdul-Azeez Adediran, alias Jandor, of PDP.

Rhodes-Vivour, a 40-year-old politician, is an architect, a social and human rights crusader, and a successful businessman. He goes by the nickname “the hopeful Nigerian” or simply by his initials “GRV”.

His journey into the murky waters of politics became pronounced when he contested for the Ikeja Local Government Chairmanship position under the umbrella of the KOWA party in 2007.

In 2019, he lost the Lagos West senatorial ticket under the PDP to Senator Adeola Olalekan (Yayi).

Rhodes-Vivour emerged as the Labour Party’s governorship candidate in August 2022 after decamping from the PDP.

Before establishing his own firm in Nigeria, he worked for some of the country’s top architecture firms, including Patrick Waheed Consultants and Consultants Collaborative Partnership.

According to him, the housing deficit in Nigeria was the motivation behind the establishment of his firm, Spatial Tectonics. He also serves on the boards of Alhuda Construction Nigeria and Delta International Commercial City Ltd.

He aggressively campaigned for Obi, selling the manifesto of “consumption to production,” and free education at the primary and secondary levels, including subsidising it at the tertiary level for Lagos State.

Rhodes-Vivour’s chances of winning the governorship race were brightened after Obi surprised many political pundits by taking the most votes cast at the presidential election in Lagos, defeating Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu’s political mentor and former boss.

Labour Party received 582,454 votes from Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Amuwo-Odofin, Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Somolu, Ojo, and Alimosho local government areas, while Tinubu garnered 572,606 votes from Agege, Apapa, Badagry, Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikorodu, Mushin, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Surulere.

Voter intimidation and other electoral malpractices in parts of the state reduced the gap many believe would have increased the votes cast for the three major political parties.

A political analyst believes that the post-election violence on Monday, in which some shops belonging to people from the Igbo-speaking part of the country were destroyed, would have an impact on the incumbent governor’s chances.

“It’s likely that the violence meted out to Igbos could affect the chances of the governor of the state if he doesn’t reach out to the Igbo-speaking community and reassure them that it won’t happen again,” Temitope Musowo, a public policy affairs analyst, said.

He added: “With Obi’s 582,454 and Abubakar’s 75,750, the young population is likely to make this number even larger.

“However, cases of political violence, voter intimidation, and other forms of electoral malpractice witnessed in the February 25 election are likely to take place during the March 11 election.”

With Tinubu’s victory at the presidential poll, many are of the view that losing Lagos was just a sacrifice to enable him to get the presidency and later concentrate on getting the states back through the governorship election.

A lawyer with inside knowledge of the inner workings of the ruling party said: “Tinubu is old and physically impaired, but he is very well organised (look at how he routed those physically fit and highly intelligent opponents) and has always had an excellent team around him. Ultimately, the most crucial task of a president is personnel selection and management.

“I suspect we will know who is likely to be where after the governorship elections. Tinubu needs to focus on getting his base in Lagos back into Alausa.”

Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran would be banking on the huge youth population, which voted overwhelmingly for Obi. Many expect them to drive this same population to come out and cause an upset.

Delta State is another battleground state. The major political actors in the upcoming March 11 governorship election are Pela Kawhariebie Kennedy of the Labour Party, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC, and Sheriff Oborevwori of the ruling PDP.

Kennedy would also be banking on the enthusiasm of the youths who voted massively for the Labour Party in the presidential election. Obi won in the state with 341,866 votes. This is more than the votes garnered by Tinubu and Atiku put together.

“However, the governorship election is expected to be different because this time around it is local,” James Ajiduah, a political analyst who resides in Asaba, said.

According to Ajiduah, all the three candidates are well known in the state, with the PDP likely to win because of the power of incumbency. “I feel Sheriff Oborevwori should win because of the influence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the fact that the PDP owns Delta State,” he said.

He, however, said Omo-Agege, the deputy Senate presiden, and Kennedy have the potential to cause an upset because of the general dissatisfaction of Deltans with the performance of the incumbent government of Okowa.

With the state having more than 1 million unemployed people, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, Ajiduah added that the Labour Party and APC would be working hard to turn this number in their favour.

He said some very influential politicians in the fold of the PDP, especially at the state level, were completely against the choice of Oborevwori as governorship candidate.

Ebonyi State is another state to watch. Going by the outcome of the presidential election, the contest is between the Labour Party and the APC, with the PDP having an outside chance.

Edward Nkwegu is the Labour Party’s governorship candidate in Ebonyi. Nkwegu, an industrialist, promised that, if elected governor, he would create over 250,000 jobs within the first two years in government.

Nkwegu would be contesting to wrestle political power from the ruling APC, whose candidate, Francis Nwifuru, has promised to continue the policies of the incumbent governor, Dave Umahi.

In Saturday’s presidential election, Obi got 259,738 votes to defeat Tinubu of the APC by a wide margin. According to reports, Nkwegu plans to capitalise on the votes from Obi to take power away from the APC.

Ifeanyi Odii, of the PDP and founder of Orient Global Group, has the grassroots political experience and resources to mobilise massive support to actualise his governorship dream.

In Nasarawa, the contest is expected to be one of the toughest in the North Central state. This is because the Labour Party governorship candidate, Joseph Ewuga, inspired by the victory of Peter Obi, has boasted of his intention to unseat the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Sule.

Obi, who had 191,361 votes, narrowly defeated his closest contenders, Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who had 172, 922, and 147,093 votes, respectively.

Rivers is another state in the eye of the storm due to the role Governor Nyesom Wike is widely believed to have played during the presidential election that saw Tinubu winning the most votes.

The governorship election is between Wike’s ego and the growing demand for change from the Labour Party and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“The battle is between the APC, whose presidential candidate got 231,591 votes; the Labour Party, which got 175,071 votes; the PDP, which got 88,468 votes, and the SDP,” Ajiduah said.

The SDP candidate, Magnus Abe, is a big force in the state and is expected to cause an upset.

However, if all is allowed to function without interference, political power in the state could shift from the ruling party, the PDP, to the Labour Party because of Obi’s influence.

Beatrice Itubo, the candidate of Labour Party, could benefit from the Obi-Datti movement, which is very strong in the state.

Other states to watch out for include Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, and Katsina. 

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