From 8am today, Saturday, 16th November, 2019, the electorate in Bayelsa and Kogi States will troop out to vote for their next governors.
In Bayelsa, the voters will be choosing a new man, as the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson is rounding up his second term in office while in Kogi, the choice will be between incumbent Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is angling for a second term in office against an array of candidates from other polical parties.
As it has become the tradition, the battle will be between old foes, the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two dominant political parties in the country.
There is no doubting the fact that the stakes are high, as the two parties have done all they could to outsmart each other for votes.
Ripples Nigeria brings you a preview of the way voters in both Bayelsa and Kogi may vote in the next few hours!
Traditionally, Bayelsa has remained a PDP state since the advent of democratic rule in 1999. The party has retained the state over the years despite the acrimonious nature of the elections, especially that of 2015 when the ruling party, APC, did all it could to annex the state.
Indeed, over the years, APC had not hidden its intention to pocket at least one of the major oil producing states the Niger Delta. That desire, nay ambition, has not changed, and the party will do all it can to win in today’s election.
However, recent developments may put this dream in jeopardy. It will be recalled that a Federal High Court on Thursday disqualified the candidate of the APC, David Lyon, from contesting the election, after nullifying the state’s governorship primary. The court also ordered that the party does not have any candidate for the election.
This came after another court disqualified the deputy governorship candidate of the party. Though an Appeal Court in Port Harcourt on Friday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to retain APC on the ballot paper, it may be safe conclude that the rumpus caused by the party’s primary may have done sufficient damage to the chances of the APC in wrestling Bayelsa from PDP.
To start with, the court case that led to the disqualification of David Lyon emanated from a high flying member of the party and former President Muhammadu Buhari’s minister, Heineken Lokpobiri. What this implies is that the APC, from whichever angle it may be viewed, will be going to today’s election with a divided house. A division that may prove costly for the party.
Secondly, the disqualification of Lyon and his proposed deputy, no doubt, is likely to unsettle supporters of the party in the state, who may not know what is in the offing for the party in the election. The experience of the party in Zamfara State during the 2019 general election may readily come to mind where, despite assurances that all was okay, all candidates of the party in the election were axed by the court.
The subsisting confusion and uncertainty may lead to apathy on the part of supporters of the APC in the state when the polls open in the next few hours. This will sufficiently put the contest beyond the party.
On the other hand, the PDP, despite a not-too-tidy primary and complaints by a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, seems to have stabilized its affairs better going into the election.
The Senator Bukola Saraki-led reconciliation committee, set up by the national leadership of the PDP, no doubt helped in calming frayed nerves arising from the primaries.
Consequently, the PDP will be going into today’s election, a more united front compared to its arch-rival, APC.
Another factor that will work for PDP is the history of Bayelsa being a core PDP state, and the widespread perception by local folks that ‘APC is not our party.’ The ethnic sentiments weigh heavily and most citizens in the South-South geopolitical zone, given a trend analysis, are not likely to change their voting habits. The inroads made by APC in the zone may not amount to much.
The power of incumbency at the state level is also expected to work for the PDP. Governor Dickson did all he could to get his loyalist and former Chief of Staff, Senator Duoye Diri to win the PDP primary and will expectedly go out of his way to ensure he comes out victorious today.
It is, however, instructive to note the aloofness of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the build up to today’s election. His non committal to the PDP candidate’s cause has been interpreted to mean that he is rooting for the candidate of the opposition party in the state. Though that has been debunked, his silence speaks volumes.
Possible Election Violence
Elections in Bayelsa State, just like its twin brother state, Rivers, have always been marred by violent eruptions. Today’s may not be any different.
The two dominant parties are already in the threnchies and if the violence that marred PDP’s campaign days back Nembe is anything to go by, then more disruptions should be expected today.
Except the security agencies choose to play above board and remain apololitical in today’s election, bloodbath, as it happened in 2015 may just be in the offing.
If the Bayelsa governorship election is conducted fairly and the reveiwed indices remain, then Senator Duoye Diri is expected to come out victorious.
The election will, however, be a tough one as the APC and the central government will be expected to deploy every thing in their arsenal to annex the state.
It is also expected that the election will be marred by violent eruptions that may likely put it at jeopardy. The likelihood of cancellations that may render it inclusive is also high.
Today’s governorship election is in a class of its own in many ways. This is because the state is a unique one with ethnic politics the main determining factor, unlike Bayelsa which is a one ethnic state, Ijaw.
Expectedly, the battle will be between APC’s Yahaya Bello and PDP’s Musa Wada, with Barrister Natasha Akpoti expected to play the role of a spoiler.
As stated, the politics of Kogi State is highly ethnic based and it was a major campaign theme in the 2015 elections, where many clamoured for power shift from the East Senatorial District to other areas. Even incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello pursued same arguments in the build up to the primary election of the APC which late Abubakar Audu won.
The East Senatorial District, before the advent of Bello, had dominated the politics of the state to the chargrin of other districts. Power shift and ethnic politics are again on the front burner and may just again determine the direction of the election.
The Kogi East Senatorial District, as noted earlier, had dominated the politics of the state since 1999 on account of its population which is estimated at about 50 percent of the entire population of the state.
Also instructive is the fact that Kogi East, where the governorship candidate of the PDP, Musa Wada hails from, has a commanding number of registered voters on INEC data base. This has over the years tilted the position of governor to the district.
Igalas, from Kogi East, only lost the position because of the unfortunate death of Audu Abubakar, shortly before the announcement of the results of the 2015 election.
Today’s election presents the Igalas another golden opportunity to snatch the highest office in the state from the Central District where the incumbent, Yahaya Bello hails from. And judging from the homogeneous nature of the Igalas and their ‘Omaye’ mantra, it is expected that they will largely queue behind their own.
However, Edward Onoja, the former Chief of Staff to Bello and now Deputy Governor, will not easily allow the zone to go the way of the PDP candidate, Wada.
Though Onoja, before the advent of Bello, was not known politically in the state, he has been able to build an army on the streets in the zone and will be banking on same to influence voting in the district.
Coincidentally, the East Senatorial District has been known in recent elections to be the hotbed of violence in the state and Onoja is expected to maximise his street credibility to either make or mar the election in the zone. This is largely because he has become the undisputed godfather of the streets, even far beyond his zone and deep into the Central and West districts.
But barring the activation of the streets, which may be the only trump card of the APC, in the zone, the PDP candidate is expected to carry the day in the zone.
The controversial sacking of Elder Simon Achuba, the more urbane former Deputy Governor of the state is still fresh in the memory of voters in the zone.
Kogi Central is the home zone of Governor Yahaya Bello and it is expected that the zone will largely queue behind him in today’s election.
The death of Audu Abubakar and the decision of the APC to award Bello the party’s ticket gave the Central District, populated largely by the Ebiras, the once in a lifetime opportunity of producing the state’s chief executive, and may not be willing to allow it slip off easily without a chance for a second term in office.
Though in terms population, the Central district may be no match for Kogi East, the ethnic considerations and the agitation for power shift dating back to 2015 will play a major role in the voting pattern in the zone.
The candidature of Barrister Natasha Akpoti, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is, however, a major cause for concern for APC and Governor Bello.
Though a new entrant into the political terrain in the state, her impressive inroad in the Central District during the last 2019 senatorial election, shows that she is an emerging force in the district.
The way and manner she handled the immediate reconstruction of her supporters properties in Okene that were destroyed during the general elections, has also endeared her to many as a leader that can be trusted. She will definitely divide the votes in the district.
The APC in the state and Governor Bello’s reactions to her reinstatement by the courts, including acts of violence against her party by suspected thugs of the ruling party in the state, also show that they are worried about her prospects in playing the role of a spoiler for Bello in the Central Senatorial District.
If the election is free, fair and violence-free in the zone, Akpoti may just chop off a sizeable number of votes from Bello’s APC.
From all indications, Kogi West Senatorial District will be the battle ground in today’s election, as non of the two major candidates are from the zone.
It’s, however, instructive to note that the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Kolawole (APC) and the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP, Sam Bamidele Aro are from the zone.
The Speaker will be banking on the state government machinery to sway votes in the zone for Bello, especially with the way the Bello administration has successfully empowered local boys with appointments in his government.
Many of those former street boys are now either Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants or given one appointment or the other at the local government level.
For Sam Bamidele Aro, he will be banking on his deep pocket as a major player in downstream of the oil and gas industry, the traditional support PDP has ways enjoyed in the zone and the sentiment that it’s better to have one of their own as deputy governor.
The Senator Dino Melaye factor, who incidentally will be up for election on the same day after the nullification of his election by the Court of Appeal, may also sway voters the way of Musa Wada.
Bello’s First Tenure Performance
The major setback Governor Yahaya Bello has going into today’s election is the widespread believe that he underperformed in his fast fading first tenure.
From a never ending verification process that left many civil servants in the cold, to several months of unpaid salaries, the Bello administration has a lot of baggage to contend with.
Infrastructures, especially roads, remain in a sorry state, despite huge bailout funds and Paris Club refunds the administration has collected in the last four years.
The seeming failure of the administration forced Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to go on his knees, begging Kogi people for forgiveness. That alone, suggests admittance of guilt, and may, though not intended, further accentuate the feelings in the state of not having a failure back in office.
The Buhari Connection
The above sentiments and calculations notwithstanding, the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari points clearly to an overriding desire to have Bello back in office in January.
Bello has never hidden his closeness to Ask Rock Villa, and once declared a public holiday to celebrate the President’s return to the country after a long soujourn in London for medical reasons.
The approval of a N10 billion refund for supposed federal roads done in the state just two days to election day is seen by many as a way of empowering Bello with sufficient financial war chest for the election.
Whatever happens today, Bello will solidly have state machinery at his beck and call, including the security agancies, and except INEC decides to play by the rules and remain nuetral, Bello may just have a walk over.
On the face value, and considering the performance indices of the incumbent, the election is supposed to be an easy win for the PDP candidate, especially with the expected massive vote he would garner from the East and sizeable number from West. This is coupled with the splitting of votes from the Central district by Akpoti.
As good as the above looks, the APC and Bello may likely take the day for the following reasons. These include possible violence through its array of street army, a good financial war chest enough to buy votes in their thousands, and the possible collusion with security agents that may be acting on the orders of the central government.
DINO VS ADEYEMI
Today’s Senatorial contest in Kogi West will be the third between Senators Dino Melaye and Smart Adeyemi, who are both from Ijumu Local Government Area.
On face value, Melaye, a hugely popular politician and grassroots mobiliser is expected to carry the day. He has fought many battles, especially with the state government, which tried unsuccessfully to have him recalled from the Senate in his first stint in the red chamber.
Dino, no doubt has a great connect with his constituents, unlike Adeyemi, who many dub the ‘Fourth Senator from Kwara State’ during his two terms in the Senate.
It is, however, expected that both the state and federal governments will deploy every weapon in their arsenal to have Adeyemi, the APC candidate carry the day, and have Melaye, who has become a huge embarrassment to them, done away with.
Melaye may come out victorious if sentiments against Adeyemi, who many now see as Bello’s bootlicker persists during voting. This may, however not be, if the APC and the Federal Government are able to activate their state run machineries against Melaye.
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