The chances of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party retaining power beyond 2023 in some of the states they govern currently is fading due to internal crisis and allegations of imposition, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
In the affected states, including Ogun, Sokoto, Delta, Plateau and Rivers, some aggrieved party members expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of their party primaries. In some cases, there was rift between some party leaders and the incumbents, like in Ogun, while in some others, alleged imposition by the incumbent during the primary had been brewing disquiet among the members.
In previous elections, the stakes are often higher in a ruling party because the incumbency factor plays a huge role in elections and candidates of such parties are, oftentimes, almost assured of victory, relying on the party’s influence, coverage and funding to win elections.
In Ogun State, for example, there is renewed rivalry between the governor, Mr Dapo Abiodun, and his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, both of the APC. This, according to some observers, could affect the governing party and favour the opposition in the election.
A week ago, Amosun alleged that the election that brought in Abiodun in 2019 was rigged. He however boasted that the governor would be removed from office, ostensibly in the coming election. “You know clearly my stand on this matter. Just wait, very soon you will hear from us. My stand is where I stand, I am not in support of this administration; he must be removed.”
The governor in his response dismissed Amosun’s threat, saying he would not be distracted by anyone that has a problem with self-delusion and wants to play God. “I will not be distracted by any person who does not appreciate that Ogun State is not anybody’s father’s inheritance, we are all stakeholders in this commonwealth called Ogun State,” he added.
Side by side with this, however, the PDP in the state is wooing Amosun’s supporters with the hope of defeating the APC. One of our correspondents gathered that the PDP had conceded about five tickets to his supporters.
Some of Amosun’s loyalists, led by the former governorship candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement, Adekunle Akinlade, have left the APC for the PDP.
The PDP had conceded its deputy governorship ticket to Akinlade as part of their agreement before he defected.
Saturday PUNCH reliably learnt that the PDP had Saturday last week asked five candidates for the state House of Assembly to step down for Amosun’s loyalists. A source said two seats at the Abeokuta South and three others were conceded and that new primaries were held to replace them.
A party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “It is true that some party leaders from the headquarters came to Abeokuta last week to conduct another primary after five candidates were told to step down. The party realised that apart from Akinlade who got the deputy governorship slot, more slots should be conceded to them.
“We made use of the INEC substitution window which closed on August 11. The group was also given a senatorial slot. A strong candidate was fielded from Ogun West to face the APC candidate.”
The PDP youth leader in the state, Sunkanmi Oyejide, said the party was more strengthened and would defeat the APC in 2023. He added, “We will show the people what they have missed since PDP left power. We will let them know that since 2011, the APC has crippled local governments.”
APC members who have left the party with their supporters include the member of the House of Representatives for Yewa South/Ipokia federal constituency, Kola Lawal; a former House of Reps member, Mikky Kazeem; a former chairman Ijebu North Local Government, Majid Ekelojumati; and a former deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly, Tola Banjo.
Reacting to claims that the PDP would win the election, APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Tunde Oladunjoye, dismissed the threat, saying the party was not losing sleep and that its chances remained very bright. He said the PDP staged a similar gang up against the APC in 2019 but failed.
He added, “They openly signed Memorandum of Understanding to work together and ridiculously shared offices even before the elections, so the realignment being touted is merely a renewal of their moribund and ill-fated MoU.”
In Oyo State, there are also fears that the defection of prominent politicians from the PDP may affect the re-election of Governor Seyi Makinde.
Some of the politicians that have left the party include Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeyan; a former Majority Leader at the House of Representatives, Mulikat Adeola-Akande; Senator Lekan Balogun and a member of House of Representatives from Ibarapa, Ajibola Muraina.
Also, the coalition which assisted Makinde to win in 2019 has been dismantled and some have dumped the party. Makinde’s erstwhile deputy, Rauf Olaniyan, who was removed from office by the House of Assembly, has also left the PDP.
A former governorship aspirant, Hazeem Gbolarumi, told one of our correspondents that the party needed to woo the aggrieved politicians to boost its chances in the 2023 election.
He said, “The more the merrier. We need them to return to the PDP and work for our victory. But efforts are still on to bring them back and I hope we will get them back soon.”
Meanwhile, there are also defections in the APC, as a former governorship candidate of the party and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, also dumped the party. The crisis within the party may also affect the chances of the party from winning the election.
It is however believed that the PDP has more to lose as aggrieved members could work against the party. The APC has Teslim Folarin as its candidate.
In Sokoto State, there is a brewing disaffection in the PDP over the emergence of the party’s governorship candidate, Sa’idu Umar, who was favoured by Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
PDP’s Tambuwal won his re-election with 511,660 votes in the keenly contested election in 2019, defeating the APC governorship candidate, Ahmad Aliyu, who scored 486,145 votes.
A party stalwart in the state, Yusuf Mohammed, said the outcome of the primary shattered the hopes of many party members, noting that it would be difficult for the party to retain the state.
He added, “I don’t know the reason why our governor came to this wrong arithmetical conclusion to drop the favourite among PDP elders, youths and the citizenry and the most feared candidate by the APC in Sokoto State because of his acceptability. He was dropped for someone people barely knew and does not have the strong personality to win even the election.
“Sa’idu Umar is unpopular among the four contenders, and many can attest to this. He is yet to be accepted even in the PDP not to talk of the generality of the people. I think Tambuwal did it intentionally to return power to (former governor Aliyu) Wamakko (of the APC). His deputy, Manir Dan’iya, stands a better chance but he didn’t choose him.”
Some of those who defected from the ruling PDP are a Special Adviser to the governor, Ibrahim Gidado; Chairman of Tangaza Local Government Area, Salihu Kalanjine; Commissioner for Careers and Security Matters, Col. Garba Isa (retd.); and the Chairman of Tangaza LGA, Isa Kalanjine.
Others are Zakariyya Madugu, Abubakar Kalanjine, Abubakar Aliyu, Halilu Aliyu, Ibrahim Sarkin Tudu, Musa Sulaiman Sakkwai, Abdullahi Garba, Jamilu Muhammad, Abubakar Garba and Jamilu Muhammad.
In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is in his second term. The run-up to the governorship primary and the outcome of the exercise in the state has caused some rift in the party given that Okowa and his political godfather, James Ibori, supported different candidates for the primary.
PDP’s Okowa won his re-election in 2019 with 925,274 votes defeating Great Ogboru of the APC who got 215,938 votes.
Okowa’s candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori, defeated Ibori’s choice, David Edevbie, even though the court has sacked Oborevwori.
The rift has yet to abate as aggrieved supporters recently protested at both the national and state offices of the PDP. They expressed fears that the party might not participate in the 2023 poll owing to the crisis and court case.
However, the Executive Assistant on Communication to Okowa and strong supporter of Oborevwori, Fred Latimo, said the issue on ground would not affect PDP’s victory come 2023.
He added, “We don’t have any fears because Sheriff Oborevwori’s name is already with INEC. We objected the court judgment and filed for a stay of execution. How can you rule on a certificate without consulting the authority that issued the certificate? Rest assured the PDP will win.”
The Director of Strategic Communications, David Edevbie Campaign Organisation, Mr Fred Edoreh, however, said they were optimistic they would win irrespective of the odds. He said INEC ought to have listed Edevbie’s name in compliance with the court order.
He stated, “We have no fears about PDP being listed for the Delta PDP governorship election. INEC regulations say all parties have till sometime in September. We trust that the courts would have determined the dispute before then. It was a declaratory order which ought to have been effected immediately after it was made, irrespective of any appeal or intention to file for stay of execution. That is the law.”
While the PDP struggles to put its house in order, the candidate of the APC in the election, Ovie Omo-Agege, who is the current Deputy Senate President, is said to be a strong contender in the election and is strategising on winning the election.
In Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong of the APC is in his second term, but there are fears that the 2023 election may be a strong contest between the APC and the PDP. It was gathered that plans by the APC to retain power is being threatened by internal party crisis.
APC’s Lalong won his re-election with 583,255 votes while his closest contender, Jeremiah Useni of the PDP won 548,366 votes.
After the party primaries which produced Dr Nentawe Yilwatda, a former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner as the governorship candidate, the party has been battling some internal conflict.
Some of the governorship aspirants who lost out during the party primaries are accusing the governor of imposing the former REC on the party against the wishes of the people.
Some of the aggrieved aspirants and their supporters have vowed to work against the party if Yilwatda is not replaced. The leader of the aggrieved aspirants’ forum, Amos Gozi, in an interview insisted that they would not recognise Yilwatda as the party’s candidate because the process that produced him was “fraudulent”.
Gozi added, “We have said it before that we don’t recognise Nentawe Yilwatda as the APC governorship candidate in Plateau State unless the right thing is done. What took place during the party primaries was a sham and we cannot take it.”
But the spokesperson for the APC in the state, Sylvanus Namang, dismissed Gizo’s claims as mere distraction.
He said, “We have moved on as a party since our governorship candidate emerged and Dr Nentawe Yilwatda remains the governorship candidate of the APC in Plateau State. We expect everyone who is a genuine party member to team up with the APC and its governorship candidate because we cannot allow anyone or group to distract us from our quest to secure victory for the party during the 2023 poll.”
Apart from the party’s internal crisis, there are also arguments over the governor’s performance and that his party might need to work harder to win the election.
Meanwhile, hundreds of aggrieved APC members had dumped the party. They include two governorship aspirants, Dr Patrick Dakum and Ambassador Yohanna Margif, who defected to the Labour Party; former state chairman of the APC, Letep Dabang, who defected to the PDP alongside two former transition committee chairmen of Langtang South Local Government Area, Rims Nimchak and Nanzing Saure, and their supporters.
In Kwara State, there are insinuations that the protracted crisis in the state chapter of the APC may have some impact on the re-election bid of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.
In the last two years, there has been leadership tussle between the governor and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, over the control of the party.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that some aspirants who were dissatisfied with the conduct of the primaries for various seats in the state have challenged the results in court. While some aggrieved members have defected to different parties, some others stayed in the party to challenge the outcome of the primary.
A former publicity secretary of the faction loyal to the minister, Abdulrauf Bello, who has defected to the Social Democratic Party, said the crisis would affect Abdulrazaq’s re-election because many people had left the APC.
Bello said, “The APC crisis will affect the chances of the governor next year because his camp is being depleted every day. So, I don’t see him winning the election next year.”
When told that efforts were being made to reconcile warring factions, he said he was unaware of such moves.
But Chief Oluwole Oke who belongs to the governor’s faction said although the crisis would affect the chances of the party, the governor would win the election.
Oke, a majority leader in the state Assembly in the Second Republic, added, “The APC crisis will definitely affect the chances of the party in next year’s election but it will not stop Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq from winning. Unlike the 100 per cent recorded in the House of Assembly in the 2019 election, it may not be like that now.
“The last party primary conducted in various constituencies is still on because many aspirants who were not satisfied with the results have gone to court.”
Prominent politicians who have defected from the APC to other political parties in the state include Prof Shuaib Abdulraheem, who led his supporters to the New Nigeria People’s Party and is now the party’s governorship candidate.
Also, Senator Suleiman Ajadi defected to the African Democratic Congress; Mallam Yakubu Gobir joined the Young Progressives Party and is the party’s governorship candidate; while Alhaji Yaman Abdullah who defected to the PDP is now the governorship candidate.
Others are a former commissioner in Abdulrazaq’s cabinet, Ms Aisha Ahman-Pategi, who defected to the PDP; some supporters of Lai Mohammed who defected to the SDP; Alhaji Hakeem Lawal, who defected to the SDP and is the governorship candidate; Mr Gbenga Oyekunle, who defected to the ADC; and Prof Wale Suleiman, a former Special Adviser on Health to Abdulrazaq, who defected to the SDP.
In Rivers State, there is said to be some disaffection in the PDP after Governor Nyesom Wike’s preferred candidate, Siminialayi Fubara, emerged as the party’s candidate.
In 2019, PDP’s Wike won his re-election with 886,264 votes while his closest contender, Biokpombo Awara of the African Action Congress got 173,859 votes.
Apart from the allegations of imposition by the governor, Wike’s recent disposition towards some leaders of the party, including former governor Celestine Omehia and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, is causing a fresh crisis.
It was learnt that the governor was unhappy that Omehia, Opara and a former senator, Lee Maeba, visited Atiku without his permission, given the rift between him and Atiku.
Peeved at the development, the governor was said to have removed Omehia and Opara as leaders of the party in Ikwerre and Port Harcourt City LGAs respectively.
Maeba in a recent interview with The PUNCH said the governor threatened him by saying to him, ‘Let me see how you (Maeba) will campaign for Atiku in this (Rivers) state’. Maeba said his relationship with Atiku dates back to his days in the SDP (early 1990’s).
But Wike said their closeness to Atiku while he was vice-president did not benefit the state, a claim Maeba disagreed with.
He added, “It (closeness to Atiku) brought Intels. Atiku did Intels which employed many people. It was because of us he (Atiku) invested more in Intels Rivers. Must friendship bring something? What has his (Wike’s) friendship brought to me? His friendship has only brought me pains and more pains.”
Some party members are worried that the crack may affect the party in 2023, considering the influence of Omehia, Opara and Maeba in their respective areas and the state at large. This is independent of the fact that the candidate is currently wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Conversely, the APC is also having its internal crisis, which has forced some members to dump the party. Some heavyweights, including Tonye Princewill, Ms Ibim Semenitari, Chris Finebone, Dr Dawari George and Senator Magnus Abe, have dumped the party. Abe is now the governorship candidate of the SDP in the state.
PDP, APC react
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, when contacted by one of our correspondents on the dispute in Delta and Rivers states, said he was not aware of any disagreement in the states. “As of now, the two state chapters of the party are still waiting for the outcome from the court,” he added.
Also, on the intra-party crisis in Ogun, Plateau and Kwara states, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, said efforts were on to reconcile aggrieved supporters and stakeholders.
He added, “Beyond the states you referred to, anywhere the APC identifies any type of flashpoint, the party is aggressively taking steps to bring actors involved together to deal with the conflict. I think conflicts and disagreements are inevitable in any party, especially after a keenly contested primary. All I can tell you is that the APC is not taking anything for granted.”