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Buhari, Atiku: Zones of strengths, states of weaknesses

HAPPENING NOW: Buhari presides over FEC meeting

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They are two of the most sophisticated parts of the country. Influences of the major parties and the not-too-big ones are examined here. This is the reports on South-West and South-East states.

 

The epic battle in South-West, South-East

The South-West, traditionally, contributes to the emergence of any particular president in no small way. Perhaps, this is because the people of the region are seen to be highly sophisticated politically, aside the fact that it is the region with the second largest number of registered voters, according to the recent record of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Of note is the fact that the APC controls all the six states of the zone and the party boasts an acclaimed political strategist as its national leader, in person of former Governor Bola Tinubu. However, the APC, like others, has peculiar problems in each of the states.

The factor of APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s criss-crossing and distributing ‘TraderMoni’ is very instructive in the analysis of South-West votes. His counterpart on the side of the PDP is Mr Peter Obi from the South-East. This appears to have the potential of throwing a fierce battle between two regions which are supposedly PDP stronghold.

Be that as it may, the PDP remains the other behemoth in the region. It is believed to have a very deep root in the zone, having been in its control for the better part of the political journey in 1999, until recently. With the emergence of a founding member as its candidate for the presidential election, it appears poised to give the APC a run for its money in the South-West.

The South-East geopolitical zone is also believed to have been traditionally PDP since 1999. Though, some of its members are believed to still nurse suspicion of other regions of the country, it has remained a strong factor when leadership issues arise. PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has picked his deputy from this zone, a move analysts claim would sway a lot of votes from the vote-rich South-West. The South-East zone, however, has the least registered voters, according to INEC.

It is instructive that both the South-West and South-East have the loudest voice in the clamour for restructuring which the Buhari-led APC government has been accused of rejecting. It is expected to contribute to how voting in the two zones go.

 

Oyo

In the 2015 elections in Oyo State, a total of 928, 606 residents voted, with the All Progressives Congress (APC), then in the opposition, polling 528,620 votes, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), then ruling party, had 303, 376 votes.

In the coming elections, however, there are a total of 2,937,107 eligible voters in the state.

A cursory look at the political arena in the state shows that the political consciousness, awareness and education of electorate have increased and they may vote according to their convictions about political parties and the candidates, irrespective of what perceived backers would say.

The APC, currently the ruling party in the state, boasts of having a structure across the 33 local government areas, having led government for close to eight years. Governor Abiola Ajimobi, leader of the party, has the task of ensuring that it wins the presidential election in the state, while also ensuring that he succeeds in his senatorial ambition and success of its governorship candidate, Adebayo Adelabu. During the presidential primaries, 421,200 APC members were recorded to have endorsed the candidature of Buhari.

Of the five zones of the state, it is expected that there will be a keen contest in Ibadan, which constitutes over 50 per cent of the votes in the state. The APC and PDP have intensified efforts in the zone.

Ajimobi and his wife, Florence, are key members of the Buhari reelection campaign and have at campaigns of the governorship candidate, Adelabu, rooted for Buhari. They have pointed to the N-Power, school feeding, TraderMoni, MarketMoni, conditional cash transfer and other social investment programmes as Buhari’s achievements. Besides, local government chairmen in the 68 local government and council development areas, who are all members of APC, have been tasked to sell the Buhari brand.

However, there has been marked disenchantment against the party, evident in some members moving to other parties. But the party has since moved on. It has attracted members who defected from other parties.

But while some analysts see the not-too-good relationship between Ajimobi and the Minister of Comminications, Adebayo Shittu, as a minus for the party in the presidential election, others argue that it is, indeed, a plus. Both personalities, they reasoned, would strive to deliver their zones and the state for the president, even if it is only to make political statements.

On the other hand, Atiku will be relying on his party’s governorship candidate, Seyi Makinde, and some loyalists of the PDP like Senator Hosea Agboola, Honourable Mukikat Akande-Adeola, Senator Ayo Adeseun, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi, Right Honourable Moruf Atilola, Chief Jacob Adetoro, Wasiu Adeleke, Alhaji Omokunmi Mustapha, among others, to garner votes across the state.

The governorship candidate of the party, having lost in the same bid in 2015, may get some sympathy votes for himself and his presidential candidate.

However, some observers think it might be difficult for the PDP to match its 2015 votes since it is no longer controlling the federal level.

Many watchers of events have contended that in the coming elections, the African Democratic Congress (ADC), one of the other strong oppositions, is expected to reduce the votes available to the APC and PDP, having emerged as “the third force” and now boasts two senators who defected from the APC. Though, indices point to expected intense battle in the three senatorial districts, it is believed that the APC would cash in on being the ruling party to upstage the opposition.

 

Lagos

In 2015, President Buhari had 792,460 votes to emerge the winner over former President Jonathan who polled 632,327. APC won in 15 out of the 20 local government areas in Lagos State, leaving the PDP with five. The state has the largest concentration of voters in the zone.

Although, President Buhari is yet to come to Lagos to flag-off his campaign, Atiku had been in the state days ago to sell his programmes to the business community. However, Osinbajo and Obi have visited the state to campaign.

Watchers of events have contended that it is going to be hard to do the voting analysis with any precision. However, what is agreed to be clear is that the PDP has since transformed from being a dead party. The defection, few months ago, of the state chairman of PDP, Moshood Salvador, to the APC changed a lot of permutations. Salvador moved thousands of his supporters to APC and then, it appeared that the PDP was stripped naked.

That was before the APC governorship primaries and those of other parties. That was also before the emergence of Atiku. Obi had also not emerged and it was long before Mr. Jimi Agbaje emerged as governorship candidate of Lagos PDP.

Agbaje was the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2015, who lost narrowly to the incumbent, Akinwunmi Ambode, with not a few people, including Agbaje, still believing that he was rigged out. All these developments seem to have changed the equations and permutations that were initially on ground.

Right now, Observers see Agbaje as going for the broke, as he has been rallying the grassroots and reawakening his long-time support base across the state, with a promise to run an impactful government like that of former Governor Lateef Jakande.

Many believe that Agbaje could still be banking on the usual support he got from the Igbo community in Lagos. The Igbo were able to produce lawmakers for both the state House of Assembly and National Assembly in 2015.

It is projected that he could get more support from them, with Obi as the running mate to Atiku.

Besides, it is seen as possible that Lagos indigenes, who have long been crying of marginalisation, would be very prepared to vote for Agbaje because he and his running mate, Mrs. Halimat Busari, are indigenes.

All these, political pundits believe, can translate to huge Lagos votes for the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku.

The ruling APC remains very strong in Lagos, no doubt, but it currently has some challenges. It appears yet to recover from the crisis that rocked its governorship and other primaries, a development that led to Ambode losing the second term opportunity. Arising from that, a commissioner in Ambode’s cabinet, Wale Oluwo, resigned to join Agbaje’s campaign train. There have also been insinuations that aggrieved members of APC are now sponsoring candidates of opposition parties for the coming polls.

Observers underscored the schism in Lagos APC with seeming inability of the Ambode-led executive and the legislature, under Mudashiru Obasa, to find a way to commence the process of passing the 2019 budget, few days to elections.

All these are seen as danger that could affect APC’s chances in the elections.

However, notwithstanding the fact that President Buhari may have lost a number of supporters, findings have shown that there is a consensus within the Lagos APC that his presidential project is a matter of priority. This, it has been said, is why one would see Tinubu and Ambode more concerned with nationwide presidential campaign.

It has been observed that “it is a strategy.”

“Not a few political analysts would recall that a lot of those who got elected, whether as governor or lawmaker, got there because Buhari’s name assisted a lot,” an analyst quipped during the week.

But will they still be that lucky in the coming elections? That is the question waiting for the voters’ answer.

 

Ekiti

The coming presidential election is expected to be a unique test for APC and PDP in Ekiti State. The parties have harboured what some observers have described as “special hatred” for themselves. The opinion is that this mutual disdain was heightened after the conduct of the last governorship election in the state.

There is no doubt among the people that both political parties are strong in the state. But some have begun to express the belief that the electoral loss of the PDP in July last year is already taking toll on its fortunes as the preparations for February 16 reaches a crescendo. This contention is hinged on what they said was “the movement of some of the stalwarts of the PDP in the corridors of APC in recent time.”

Also, it is the talk among some people in the state that the government of Governor Kayode Fayemi is worming its way into the hearts of the people through its early policies and steps. For instance, on October 17, 2018, the day after his swearing-in for a second term, Fayemi announced the abolition of the taxes paid by primary school pupils and secondary school students in the state. This move received a loud applause from the people of the state and while this was on, he has also announced the payment of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees of students and made the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) forms available to 3,000 candidates.

Also, the recent visit of Osinbajo to the state with his TraderMoni train and his stops at some of the major towns in the senatorial districts, visits to traditional rulers and some prominent citizens have been counted for the APC as added advantage. The Buhari/Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Council in the state has also accused the PDP of not campaigning.

These are some of the things people think have been going for the APC, and have swayed opinions in favour of the APC as the elections approaches.

But the PDP has continued to maintain its position that it is the more popular in the state, contending that the activities of the APC in the state were a pointer to jitters. Supporters of the PDP believe that the APC is intolerant and has been vandalising posters and billboards of the PDP candidates, claiming that this was “a clear sign that APC is unpopular and is afraid.”

For instance, last December, the representative of Ado/Irepodun/Ifelodun Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Ayodele Oladimeji, raised complaints following the vandalism of his billboards in parts of the state. Oladimeji, who is also the PDP candidate in the election, noted that the vandals were opponents of the party.

The complaint of vandalism of posters and billboards has been echoed by the PDP candidate for Ekiti Central district in the Senate, Obafemi Adewale. Adewale, a popular legal practitioner in the state, pointedly alleged that his billboards across the state were destroyed by APC thugs or people sympathetic to the party. He further alleged that they did the damage “to give the visiting Vice-President Osinbajo the impression that there were no other political parties campaigning in the state.”

Thus, among the politicians and their parties, there are contentions and counter-contentions as to the strength or otherwise of their political platforms regarding what each could achieve in the all-important election.

While the political parties are sizing themselves up, the Ekiti electorate are looking forward to a peaceful election, where some of them have expressed the desire to go to the polls to choose their preferred candidates on February 16 and March 2. They are also relying on the what they have described as the strength of their candidates in the state.

In Ekiti-South district for instance, the PDP and APC have strong candidates vying for the seat. Senate Minotiry Leader, Biodun Olujimi, is flying the PDP’s flag, while a former Minister of State for Works, Adedayo Adeyeye, is flying the flag of the APC.

In Ekiti-South, the views expressed by the people show that it is going to be a titanic battle between the two, considering factors such as their individual clouts and popularity, as well as their localities. Olujimi is from Ekiti-East Local Government Area, which is said to be the council area with the second highest voting strength in the senatorial district, after Ikere Local Government. Ikere Local Government Area, according to some observers, is still smarting from its near miss of the governorship seat, having presented one of its sons, Professor Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola, as the PDP candidate. It is being touted in some areas in the state that the people of the local government are still not pacified for their electoral loss and might show their anger at the polls.

Adeyeye is from Ise/Orun Local Government Area which is seen as a smaller council area, compared to Ekiti-East, where his opponent comes from. He has the support of the stalwarts of his party in all the six local government areas in the senatorial district namely, Ekiti-East, Ikere, Ekiti South-West, Emure, Gbonyin and Ise/Orun. Adeyeye has also been around the state for a while and is well known. The APC is also believed to have made gains in Ikere, with opinions that some PDP stalwarts there had shifted base to APC in time towards the election.

The Central district of the state also has two formidable candidates being fielded by the APC and the PDP. APC has Michael Opeyemi Bamidele as its candidate, while the PDP has Adewale as its candidate. The two candidates are people-appeal and have caused some prospective voters in the state confusion on who to choose.

Ekiti Central is the zone with the highest voting strength, considering the fact that Ado-Ekiti, the capital city, therein. The zone also has large local government areas, such as Ekiti-West, Ijero, Irepodun/Ifelodun and Efon. Interestingly, the APC won, for the first time, in Ekiti-West in the last governorship election in the state and the party is believed to be hoping to replicate the feat this time round.

It is the belief among the people in the state that the mood of the National Assembly elections would be translated to the presidential election.

 

Enugu

In Enugu State, the debate on who occupies Aso-Rock come May 29 is on low level, as many people seem to be indifferent to the presidential election.

To a larger segment of Ndigbo, President Buhari and Alhaji Atiku are both of the same Fulani ethnic stock, and so, there should be no need to fight over their interest.

Investigations, however, revealed that Alhaji Atiku is seen as liberal Muslim, while President Buhari is perceived as an extremist.

Enugu, according to analysts, is predominantly PDP, a party that has been in control of the state’s political structure since the inception of the present democratic dispensation in 1999. It appears obvious that its presidential standard-bearer will command a larger following than other candidates fielded by other parties in the state.

Analysts have contended that the only selling point the APC has in the state is “the fear of ‘federal might’ which, to an extent, has drawn some people to the party’s fold.

For PDP’s Atiku, investigations show that he has a good number of loyalists from the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the political group founded by the late Sheu Yar’Adua, to bank on.

The PDP is the ruling party in the state, under the leadership of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is believed to be mobilising seriously for the PDP candidate.

Some political watchers told Sunday Tribune in Enugu that although the people of the South-East zone did not vote for President Buhari of the APC massively, the change mantra he proclaimed should have made him give equal opportunities to every section of the country. They cited the alleged one-sided appointments the APC candidate had made in his first term as president.

They wondered why President Buhari had not deemed it fit to include a South-Easterner among his security chiefs, adding that the deplorable condition of the network of roads in the region was frightening.

A public affairs analyst, Mazi Okereke, said, “they told us that President Buhari’s visit to the South-East was to solicit for our votes in the forthcoming presidential election. The man would be asking us to vote for him; to support his reelection.

“He would tell us that once reelected, he would complete the Second Niger Bridge, which is very dear to us, but which we know has remained a recurring decimal for every administration in every election season.

“He would further tell us that work is now ongoing on the Enugu – Onitsha expressway. We would hail him.

“But our dear President Buhari would have forgotten to tell us that as soon as elections were over, works would stop on these two projects. He did not tell us why the Ninth Mile Corner – Markudi road has not been dualised like many other roads up North.”

As it stands, it appears Atiku has the larger following in Enugu than Buhari. For instance, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex umbrella of Igbo socio-cultural associations, has formally endorsed the Atiku/Obi presidential ticket for the next general election.

The Igbo leaders have urged Ndigbo to see their PVCs as their most potent tool to ensure a restructured polity and for a better society, adding that they had called on the international community to help in ensuring free and credible 2019 elections in Nigeria.

Be that as it may, if the mammoth crowd that greeted the zonal flag off President Buhari’s campaign rally in Enugu last Thursday is a barometer to gauge the pulse of Enugu people towards the presidential poll, then, it means that the incumbent will garner more votes than he had in 2015.

 

Imo

Imo State has hitherto been one of those that can be described as the stronghold of the APC, particularly in the other elections aside the presidential of February 6. This is owing to the fact that until recently, it has possessed good showing while the governorship of Chief Rochas Okorocha lasted.

The burble, however, busted with the outcome of the party’s primaries last year. The development resulted in the suspension of Governor Okorocha and expulsion of the party’s governorship candidate, Hope Uzodinma. There had been no love lost between the incumbent governor and its candidate for next month election, as incumbent Okorocha claims his anointed aspirant and inlaw, Uche Nwosu, was “robbed” Uzodinma.

This development balkanized the APC in Imo, so much so that while the governor urges his followers to campaign for APC presidential candidate, Buhari, he, at the same time, directs them to follow the Action Alliance (AA) where Nwosu had sought solace and got governorship ticket. The Imo APC is going into the polls as a divided family. This appears to be the kernel of the impending loss for the ruling party in the elections.

Besides the forgoing, observers are also not dismissing the general lukewarm attitude of Ndigbos to the government of the APC at the centre. The image of President Buhari is said to be an issue against the party in the entire North-East.

The PDP in Imo State also leaves so much to be desired. This development has led observers to describe the presidential contest from the state’s perspective as too close to call.

They contended that the PDP also has always gone into elections with a divided house. This, they said, had been the experience in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

The post Buhari, Atiku: Zones of strengths, states of weaknesses appeared first on Tribune Online.

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