In Nigeria’s political space, the power of incumbency is becoming less potent and the 2023 governorship election is a testament. Interestingly, wielding state power is no longer a guarantee for subsequent election victory.
The 18 March governorship election has largely put the potency of governing political parties to trial in different states. The political dynamics have now shown that the people can choose whomever they want regardless of the political party in the seat of power.
Governorship elections were held in 28 states of the federation. Although winners have not been declared in two states – Adamawa and Kebbi – governing parties lost elections in Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Abia, Plateau and Zamfara. The PDP lost to the opposition parties in Abia, Benue and Sokoto while APC lost in Plateau, Zamfara and Kano.
PREMIUM TIMES analyses the dynamics in different states.
Kwankwaso’ NNPP takes Kano from APC
In 2019, Abdullahi Ganduje, the incumbent governor of Kano, retained power in a keenly contested race with Abba Yusuf, then of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But in 2023, the story changed, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Nasiru Ganuwa, was defeated by the opposition.
Mr Gawuna, who serves as deputy governor of the state, was Mr Ganduje’s anointed candidate, while Mr Yusuf, now of the NNPP, was strongly supported by Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano State and presidential candidate of the party.
At the end of the election, Ahmad Dokko Ibrahim, INEC’s returning officer in Kano, announced that Mr Yusuf won the election with 1,019,602 votes, while Mr Gawuna got 890,705 votes.
Like Kano, like Sokoto
In Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had contested against Ahmed Aliyu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2019 and narrowly won re-election.
But at the just concluded governorship election in the state, Mr Aliyu returned to win the contest against the Tambuwal-backed PDP candidate, Sa’idu Umaru. Meanwhile, Mr Aliyu was supported by a former governor of the state, Aliyu Wamakko.
On Sunday, Armaya’u Hamisu, INEC’s returning officer, announced that Mr Aliyu secured 453,661 votes to defeat his closest rival, who polled 404,632 votes.
PDP loses Benue to APC
Samuel Ortom, the outgoing Benue State governor, is one of the five PDP governors that revolted against Atiku’s presidential ambition. On 25 February, Mr Ortom voted for Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Before then, he had asked citizens of the state to vote Mr Obi for president and PDP in the governorship election.
But as the results of the governorship election were announced, Mr Ortom’s anointed candidate, Titus Uba, lost to APC’s Hycinth Alia, a catholic priest.
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Announcing the results of the governorship poll, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, on Monday, Faruk Kuta, the state collation and returning officer, said Mr Alia scored 473,933 votes to beat Mr Uba who polled 223,913 votes.
Mr Ortom also joined the league of sitting governors who lost their senatorial ambitions during the presidential and national assembly elections.
PDP unseats APC in Zamfara
What can be considered a repeat of history has just happened in Zamfara. In 2019, the APC won the elections in the state. But the Supreme Court annulled the APC’s victory and disqualified all the APC candidates including the governor-elect because the party did not follow due process. The Supreme Court ruled that the runners-up in all the elections be sworn in. Mr Matawalle, then of the PDP, who came second in the polls, thus became the governor. But Mr Matawalle, after his victory, defected to the APC.
Mr Matawalle’s defection initially caused another crisis in the APC but he united the warring factions and placated party leaders like ex-governor Abdulaziz Yari and ex-senator Kabiru Marafa.
The APC unity could, however, not save Mr Matawalle, especially with the increasing popularity of Dauda Lawal, the governorship candidate of the PDP.
Declaring the winner of the 2023 election in the early hours of Tuesday, Kassimu Shehu, the returning officer, said Mr Lawal polled 377,726 votes.
“That Lawal Dauda of the political party PDP, having satisfied the requirement of the law, is hereby declared the winner of the election,” he said.
LP dislodges PDP in Abia
In Abia, the Labour Party engaged in a stiff contest with the governing PDP. Alex Otti of LP was in a clear lead against the PDP candidate, Okey Ahiwe, before INEC suspended the collation of results.
But upon resumption of the collation centre on Wednesday, Mr Otti dislodged the 24 years reign of the PDP after INEC announced the final results. The LP candidate polled a total of 172,386 votes to defeat Mr Ahiwe, who garnered a total of 88,174 votes to come a distant second.
PDP takes Plateau from APC
Since 1999, PDP had ruled Plateau State until 2015 when APC’s Solomon Lalong took over the governorship seat. In 2019, Mr Lalong was re-elected as governor of the state. But in 2023, APC must have realized the danger it was in when it lost the presidential election in Plateau to the Labour Party.
Also, Mr Lalong’s position as the Director-General of the APC’s Tinubu-Shettima presidential campaign council could not save him from losing his senatorial bid to the opposition.
At the presidential polls, APC’s Tinubu trailed behind LP’s Peter Obi while PDP came third. But the dynamics changed during the governorship election with PDP overtaking the leading parties in the race.
At the INEC collation centre on Monday in Jos, the PDP candidate, Caleb Mutfwang, was announced to have polled 525,299 votes to defeat his closest rival and candidate of the APC, Nentawe Yilwatda, who polled 481,370 votes.
What will happen in Adamawa?
The race between Aishatu Dahiru of the APC and Ahmadu Finitiri, PDP’s sitting governor in the state, is a tight one. Mr Fintiri is seeking re-election but Mrs Dahiru, popularly called Binani, seeks to unseat him.
INEC has since declared the election in Adamawa inconclusive. Although PDP’s Fintiri is leading in the contest, having scored the highest votes, INEC said the cancelled votes were more than the margin of victory between him and Binani.
The outcome of the re-run election will determine if PDP will lose the state to APC’s Binani. It’ll also determine if Nigeria will have its first elected female governor.
The situation in Kebbi
When PDP’s Atiku Abubakar won the presidential election on 25 February in Kebbi state, tension gripped the APC camp that the opposition might take the governorship seat from them. This made the 18 March election held in the state more competitive.
But on 21 March, INEC declared the election in Kebbi inconclusive, due to violence, overvoting, destruction of election materials and electoral proceedings in 20 of the 21 local governments in the state.
Before the election was declared inconclusive, however, APC was leading the elections with 388,258 votes, as against 342,980 votes polled by the PDP.
Like in Adamawa, the outcome of the re-run election will determine who takes over Kebbi between the governing APC and the opposition PDP.
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