2023: Ganduje, Okowa, Ikpeazu, Ortom, Wike others in succession crisis

Stakeholders rally against Kano, Benue govs’ preferred candidates

Ahead of the governorship primaries of the major political parties, efforts by some governors to hand-pick or influence who emerges as their successors in 2023 are facing serious resistance by party loyalists and other aspirants, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Our correspondents gathered that attempts to violate the unwritten zoning arrangements by some of the governors in favour of their preferred successors were central to the brewing rancour being generated ahead of the primaries.

Over the years, it has become a practice for outgoing governors to produce their successors.

In some states, the governors have openly rallied stakeholders’ support for their preferred successors, while some are said to be making silent moves, including subtle persuasion and coercion, to have their way.

The All Progressives Congress said its governorship aspirants would be screened on May 12 and the primary scheduled for May 18, while the Peoples Democratic Party fixed April 26 for the screening of its governorship aspirants and the primary would hold on April 28.

The states, where such intrigues are playing out, include Enugu, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Taraba, Katsina, Delta, Rivers, Niger, Abia, Ebonyi, Plateau and Cross River.

In states like Osun, Ekiti, Anambra, Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi, Ondo and Edo, their governorship elections are held off-season.

In Enugu State, the battle over who succeeds Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in May 2023 has pit stakeholders against one another. As of April 20, no fewer than 18 aspirants have indicated their interest to contest the election.

Although there is no written zoning arrangement, it is said to exist in principle. Between 1999 and now, the governorship seat has rotated between the three senatorial districts, and many believe the position should revert to Enugu East that first produced the governor.

Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, from Enugu East, was the governor between 1999 and 2007. He was succeeded by Mr Sullivan Chime from Enugu West, while the incumbent governor, Ugwuanyi, from Enugu North, will complete his second term in 2023.

While many persons argued that Enugu East should produce the next governor, the ambition of the senator representing Enugu West at the upper chamber of the National Assembly and former deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, is said to be disrupting the plan.

One of correspondents gathered that most of the 17 other aspirants, including a former Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji, were from the six local governments that constitute the Enugu East Senatorial District.

The governor has yet to make known his preferred aspirant, but sources close to him said he would likely support Mr Chijioke Edeoga, who once served as his Commissioner for Local Government Affairs and lately as the Commissioner for Environment before he resigned to pursue his ambition. He is from Enugu East Senatorial District.

A political analyst, Chief Chuka Nweze, said ordinarily competence should supersede zoning, but that since that was Nigeria’s reality, it was better if it reverted to Enugu East. “Without controversy, the next one, being 2023, should come from the Enugu East Senatorial zone and I think it should be respected in the interest of peace,” he added.

Also, a former Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Mr Ray Nnaji, said the rotation could not be done in an anti-clockwise manner. “It ought to go back to Enugu East where it started from, but Ekweremadu knows that by the time Enugu East will finish its eight years, he may not be politically relevant to contest,” he stated.

In spite of opposition to his ambition, it was gathered that Ekweremadu was deploying resources to ensure he emerges as the party’s candidate.

Meanwhile, three aspirants, a former Minister of Information, Mr Frank Nweke (Jnr.); Chief Dons Udeh and Mr Jeff Nnamani, have indicated interest on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, while only Dr Dave Nnamani has indicated interest on the APC platform to govern Enugu State.

In Kano State, no fewer than 13 APC aspirants are in the race to succeed Governor Abdullahi Ganduje next year. Prominent among them are the deputy governor, Dr Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna; a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Kabiru Rurun; Senator Bala Maliya; a former governor of the state, Senator Kabiru Gaya; a former Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Murtala Garo; and a former Chairman of the state’s Anti-Corruption Commission, Muhuyi Magaji Rimin Gado.

Ganduje is from Kano North, while former governors Rabiu Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Shekarau are from Kano Central. Many aspirants are, therefore, insisting that it’s the turn of the South to produce the next governor, but Garo, who is also from Kano North, is said to be the governor’s choice. Many stakeholders are said to be uncomfortable with Ganduje’s choice.

A member of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, Sanusi Bature, who is an aspirant for the House of Representatives, said the governor would not be able to produce his successor because both the APC and PDP would lose the election.

“Never again will any politician be allowed to deceive or pull the wool over the eyes of the Kano electorate. The APC leadership disappointed the good people of Kano, who earlier gave them the mandate and failed to deliver the dividends of democracy as anticipated. For now, the NNPP will take over the reins of power in Kano come 2023,” he stated.

In Akwa Ibom State, the succession crisis came to the fore when Governor Udom Emmanuel at the PDP stakeholders’ meeting held on January 30 in the Government House announced his Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, as his preferred man for the 2023 governorship election.

A former governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah, reportedly presented Eno as Emmanuel’s anointed successor.

Some governorship aspirants alleged that they were invited to the meeting without being told the agenda. Some members of the State Executive Council were also said to be missing at the event.

A governorship aspirant, Mr Onofiok Luke, who is the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, took to his Facebook page to register his grievances after the event. He said he was neither against the choice of the governor nor the aspiration of Eno, who hails from the same local government as him, but that his quest to become the state’s chief executive officer, remained on course.

A former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Senator Anietie Okon, also expressed his dissatisfaction with the governor’s choice, saying his Ibiono/Itu Federal Constituency, which should have produced the next governor, had again been sidelined.

“Governor Emmanuel selected some people and defied the constitution of the party. Things are not done that way. I was not consulted; they knew that the meeting would have been grounded if I was invited. What they did there was a charade. We will ensure that the issue is addressed,” he stated.

In Taraba State, Governor Darius Ishaku had during the last PDP stakeholders’ meeting in Jalingo, the state capital, told party members through his deputy, Mr Haruna Manu, that the northern zone should be allowed to produce his successor since it last produced the governor in 2007.

Though the governor did not mention any name, some people close to him said the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Joseph Kunini, and a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Danladi Baido, were his preferred aspirants.

An aide to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We have not been officially informed to mobilise delegates for Kunini, but we understand that’s Ishaku’s preferred successor. I think the governor is confused as to who to support, because of the pressure on him.

“At the end of the day, when they go to see General T. Y. Danjuma sometime next month, a preferred aspirant will emerge and we will all work for the person.”

Meanwhile, the southern zone, where Ishaku hails from is threatening to support someone from the zone or he (the governor) should forfeit his senatorial ambition. Mr Agbu Tikon from the zone told one of our correspondents that the governor should allow the southern zone to produce his successor, having waited for long to produce the governor since the creation of the state in 1991.

But the member representing the Donga/Takum/Usaa Federal Constituency from the southern zone, disagreed with this position, saying it had never been an issue of one side waiting patiently for its turn and getting it on a platter.

“It will be better for us to make some compromise in the interest of our party, the PDP, rather than scatter the party because of this issue. There is no indication that if the governor is from your place, you will be better off than others,” he stated.

The Chairman of the PDP Elders’ Forum, Taraba Northern Zone, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Musa, called on the aspirants to work together to return power to the zone.

A governorship aspirant in the state under the APC, Chief David Kente, said the party was not concerned with zoning but competence.

In Rivers State, it is still unclear the aspirant being supported by Governor Nyesom Wike, but there are strong indications that he is tilting towards the state’s accountant-general, whom he is said to have a close relationship with.

Four cabinet members, including the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, have expressed interest in the top job and have resigned their appointments. Some other bigwigs in the APC have also shown interest to deliver the state for their party.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 10 aspirants from the riverside part of the state have expressed interest in the plum job and have signed a pact to unite and support whoever gets the party’s ticket.

A former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Legborsi Pyagbara, said it was the turn Ogoni people, having been unable to produce the governor, deputy governor, Speaker and the Chief Judge of the state.

A top source close to the governor told Saturday PUNCH that the contest would be a tough one and that Wike was doing everything possible to ensure that the PDP retained the seat.

He said, “To ensure a smooth transition, the governor has hired a renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria to draft a bond for all the aspirants in his party. The agreement, which if signed, bars any aspirant from challenging the outcome of the primary or consensus, will determine whether an aspirant will get the form or not.

“Most of the PDP aspirants are his stooges, who will step down for his choice, but the agreement is targeted at a few rebellious ones, who are challenging his decision.

“I can tell you that the seat is already reserved for a non-politician, the accountant-general of the state. The man was the treasurer when the governor was the Chairman of the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and who he brought into the state structure when Amaechi appointed him as his Chief of Staff.

“When Wike became the governor, he put the man in charge of virtually everything finance and he was promoted from being the Director of Finance, Government House, to Permanent Secretary and now account-general. Wike believes he is the only one who knows his financial records and it will be safer to hand over to him than anyone else who will come and look into his records.

“There are allegations that he is using state funds to fund his party and his presidential campaign, so he needs someone he can trust. Political watchers of Rivers politics see Wike’s choice of the account-general of the state as a third term for him as the choice means a continuation of his administration.”

In Katsina State, there is agitation from Katsina North that the zone has not produced the governor before and should be allowed this time. The incumbent, Aminu Masari, has, however, not shown preference for any aspirant.

A Daura-based lawyer, Ado Lalu, said despite having the highest number of local governments at 12, the zone should be allowed to produce Masari’s successor. The Chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in the state, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdullahi, however, believed that more emphasis should be placed on the quality of the next governor than zoning.

Masari recently declared publicly in a statement by his Director-General, New Media, Al-Amin Isa, that the APC had not zoned the governorship position to any part of the state. The aspirants include the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Mustapha Inuwa; the Deputy Governor, Mannir Yakubu ; the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Alhaji Faruk Jobe; the Managing Director, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Ahmed Dangiwa; and the Director-General, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, Dikko Radda.

The defection of the senator representing the Katsina North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Ahmed Baba-Kaita, from the APC to the PDP during the week is also believed to add new intrigues to the contest. Other aspirants in the PDP include Alhaji Salisu Majigiri, and the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, Senator Yakubu Lado.

The Katsina and Daura emirates are believed to have strong influence in political choices in the state.

Ibori’s dominance threatened in Delta, Okowa moves to stamp authority

In Delta State, it is believed that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is supporting the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr Sheriff Oborewori, who hails from Delta Central, although the governor had said openly that he had no preferred candidate.

A major political godfather in the state, Chief James Ibori, was said to have canvassed for his preference, Olorogun David Edevbie, a former finance commissioner, to be the sole aspirant, a request that was allegedly rejected by many stakeholders. The governor had also insisted that all the aspirants must take part in the primary.

It was gathered that the refusal to accept Ibori’s choice as the consensus candidate had created bad blood between Oborewori and Edevbie’s supporters.

Given the influence of Ibori in the state’s politics, many people believe that the road to securing the party’s ticket would be laced with hiccups for Okowa’s candidate.

The Chairman, PDP Leaders and Stakeholders’ Forum in Delta South, Chief Mike Loyibo, said, “We have agreed to go with the Speaker and ensure that he clinches the ticket of the party.” But the Urhobo Progress Union Worldwide in a statement by its President General, Olorogun Taiga, and others endorsed Edevbie’s aspitation.

Meanwhile, Okowa’s deputy, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, who hails from Delta South and once claimed to be the governor’s anointed aspirant, said having completed the zoning arrangement among the three districts, any zone could produce the next governor.

In Niger State, the seat is said to have been zoned to Niger South, comprising eight local governments, and no fewer than 15 aspirants from the zone have indicated interest to become the next governor of the state. The aspirants include Governor Sani Bello’s deputy, Ahmed Ketso, and the Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Zakari Abubakar.

It is unclear who the governor is supporting, but sources in the government said he might support Abubakar. A stakeholder from the southern district, Musa Abdullahi, said he was sure the governor would have someone he preferred as a successor as is usually the practice with politicians.

“One thing we are sure of is that the person the governor is supporting may be revealed at the last minute,” he added.

In Abia State, there were expectations that power would shift to the North, but the party was said to have zoned the seat to Abia North and Abia Central, a move believed to favour an aspirant.

Based on alleged plans by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to anoint his kinsman and former university vice-chancellor from the Central, an aspirant, Ncheta Omerekpe, said such a move would fail.

Aspirants whose participation may change the dynamics of the primary include the Senate Minority Leader and senator representing Abia South, Enyinnaya Abaribe; a former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara; and a former Secretary to the State Government, Dr Eme Okoro.

Abaribe said in a statement, “My attention has been drawn to a document signed by the state Chairman of the PDP, Dr Alwell Asiforo, purporting that the Abia State PDP has zoned the governorship seat to Abia North and Abia Central. I wish to assure all Abians, who are desirous of an end to imposition in Abia State, to disregard the purported zoning. It is only Abians that will decide who will be their governor in 2023.”

Wabara advised the governor to emulate the openness of his predecessors, who left no one in doubt as to where their preferred successors would come from. He added, “The governor cannot unilaterally zone the position. The state party chairman does not also have the power. It’s only in Abia that things are turned upside down. If things are not done the right way, the PDP will lose Abia State.”

Eme also said attempts to deny the North would not be tolerated, adding, “Abia North will resist any attempt to change the goal post in the middle of the game.”

Another aspirant and former member of the state House of Assembly, Sampson Orji, said the only way to get out of the imposition syndrome was for the PDP to organise a free, fair and credible primary.

The natives of Ngwa in the United States have also advised the governor to ensure that power shifts to the North, while the founder of the Gregory University and former governorship aspirant, who recently defected to APGA, Prof Greg Ibe, said he left the party due to its inability to honour its zoning arrangement.

The Abia Youth Vanguard, in a statement by its Chairman, David Onwuneme, said it was the turn of the North. But members of the Aba Divisional Forum vowed to produce their kinsman’s successor for another eight years. It called on the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the Abia State University, Uturu, Prof Uche Ikonne, to accept their invitation to vie for the seat.

Ikonne, however, said he would consult stakeholders.

In Ebonyi State, the APC stakeholders of the Izzi clan, comprising Ebonyi, Abakaliki and Izzi local government areas, disagreed over who would succeed Dave Umahi in 2023. They expressed their opposition to the rumoured support of the governor for the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru.

Umahi had penultimate week convened a meeting of the stakeholders with the aim of harmonising and choosing two prospective candidates on the platform of the party for the governorship as well as for other positions.

In Plateau State, it is also not yet clear who will succeed Governor Simon Lalong, even though more than 30 aspirants, who have so far declared their interest to contest the election come from the Central zone, where power is expected to shift to after the tenure of the incumbent, who comes from the South.

The aspirants include a serving Permanent Secretary, Sunday Biggs; a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Bagudu Hirse; a former local government chairman, Caleb Mutfwang; an ex-Secretary to the State Government, Prof Shedrack Best; Mr Aminu Jonathan; Mr Satu Jatau; a former governorship aspirant, Alex Ladan; and a retired military officer, Brig.-Gen. John Sura.

Sura said zoning had come to stay in the state, adding, “We have decided to respect an unwritten agreement on zoning of the governorship position among the three senatorial districts and the 2023 election won’t be different.”

As of now, it is not yet clear who the governor will support among the aspirants, or whether he has a preferred aspirant from another zone.

In Benue State, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Titus Uba, emerged as the consensus PDP aspirant for the 14 local government areas in the Tiv speaking areas. Governor Samuel Ortom and his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, spearheaded the exercise.

Meanwhile, some other aspirants, including a former Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Dr Paul Angya, have expressed opposition to the consensus option. Angya said the process lacked merit and transparency, and did not reflect the popular will of the people. PUNCH

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