This year came with a lot of prospects on the political scene, with many first term governors who believe they have done enough already fixing the machinery for campaigns to get a second term, even as many other politicians are equally unrelenting in their efforts to upstage them.
Recent developments might reshape Ortom’s chances in Benue
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who is gradually rounding off his first term recently indicated interest to re-contest the governorship election in 2019 after he claimed to have received “divine leading” to do so at the end of a spiritual retreat.
Nobody from Ortom’s All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state has yet declared the intention to challenge him at the polls, but several people from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are believed to be warming up for the coveted seat.
Feelers are rife that Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, the PDP candidate who lost to Ortom in 2015 would make a big comeback to the political scene. Also, Dr. Steve Wande, the proprietor of First Fertility Hospital in Makurdi, is speculated to be rooting for the governorship position under the PDP alongside Tarzoor. The body language of Engr. Felix Atume, a PDP gubernatorial aspirant in 2015 general elections, suggests at the moment that he would still dive into the political terrain.
But a sacked member of the House of Representatives who represented Vandekiya and Konshisha federal constituency and an APC member, Herman Hembe, is rumoured to have started campaign in disguise for seat of power following series of stakeholders’ meetings he had held lately which tilted towards such direction as he continues to gather momentum at his locality.
Political watchers are however of the opinion that the names dropping so far are not likely to pose much threat to the incumbent governor’s ambition except, of course, things change, as they certainly would as election date draws closer.
In the thinking of these political observers, Ortom may survive the storm only when his administration surmounts the challenges of unpaid salaries to workers and surmount the current insecurity in the state.
While many from outside expect that the herders/farmers clashes in Benue might be Ortom’s undoing considering how he is championing the anti-grazing law, political analysts believe that the governor is now a “hero” among his people, with many who disliked him in the past for some reasons now seeing him as the man to beat.
However, the governor, at the wake of fresh killings by gunmen in parts of the state since new year day, announced suspension of political activities pending when peace returns to the state.
Before then, Ortom had on Thursday, November 9, 2017, told stakeholders from the Masev, Iharev, and Nongov Development Association (MINDA) which comprises Gwer, Gwer West, Makurdi and Guma local government areas, that he was ready for re-election.
Subtle challenge in Sokoto
There is an impression in certain quarters that there would be less threat to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in case he makes up his mind to re-contest the governorship of Sokoto State, but some analysts believe circumstances might alter cases.
Tambuwal has maintained cordial relationship with the two political gladiators and former governors of the state-Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and Alhaji Dalhatu Bafarawa, both who still hold sway in the state’s political arena.
The two are noted to have remained the determining factors on who becomes what in their respective political parties, the APC and PDP, and since coming on board, Tambuwal has maintained good relationship with both, visiting them at will and paying homage to them at festive periods.
It was said that Bafarawa, despite his long standing misunderstanding with Senator Wamakko, has resolved not to interfere in state affairs, and there are reports that he had cautioned his followers, particularly leaders of the PDP, to avoid criticizing Tambuwal’s government.
Similarly, Bafarawa has been shying away from granting media interviews on Tambuwal, whom he always calls “my son”, and with whom he would never join issues.
In 2015, Tambuwal on the platform of the APC contested against his in-law, Senator Abdallah Wali of the PDP.
Wali had contested two times for the position, once against his current political Godfather, Bafarawa in 2003 and the second against Tambuwal. It is not clear what will happen next year.
The second likely contestant is a two-time commissioner in the state, Faruk Malami Yabo, who was dislodged by a mutual arrangement that catapulted Tambuwal to be the APC flag bearer during the last election after a “gentleman’s” agreement.
To demonstrate that he was privy to the arrangement, Yabo took Tambuwal’s hand and presented him to the delegates despite the entrenched believe at the time that he (Yabo) was the anointed successor of Wamakko.
Yabo is said to be highly interested in contesting the governorship seat next year but it is too early to say under which platform. The success or otherwise of his bid for the candidature of the APC might depend heavily on where the Wamakko factor swings.
Another possible candidate is a veteran politician and one time Commissioner for Industry in the old Sokoto State and a former chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Senator Umaru Dahiru Tambuwal. He had equally aspired to become governor in 2015 under the banner of APC but could not secure the ticket. For now, his posters are seen in Sokoto metropolis with words of praise. One of such posters read: “A patient man will one day secure victory.”
PDP the challenger in Plateau
Popular politicians in Plateau State such as Sen. Jeremiah Useni, Sen. Victor Lar, Eng. Jimmy Cheto and Hon. Kemi Nshe all have one thing in common-they, alongside many others in the PDP, want to tackle Governor Simon Bako Lalong for the number one seat in the state.
Most of those eyeing Lalong’s seat are members of the main opposition party and hail from his southern Senatorial zone, giving an indication that the PDP may likely zone its governorship seat to the zone as a way of accosting Lalong from the home front.
But Lalong is seen by many as one man with a “thick shell” which cannot be easily cracked. Despite his gentle posture which many take for granted, the governor survived as the state’s longest serving speaker in the past and was even the chairman of the Conference of Speakers in Nigeria twice.
However, the likes of Sen. Jeremiah Useni, the oldest among those eyeing Lalong’s job, are trying to prove that the governor’s legendary simplicity and humility which endears him to the masses can be challenged.
Useni’s ambition is becoming more pronounced by the day and insiders say rumours about the senator’s state of health will not deter the army general turned politician.
Useni, now a senator representing the southern senatorial zone, is also braving speculations that his age is a factor as his media aide, Abubakar Ateeku, recently said the senator was “strong and capable”.
However, before he thinks of tackling Lalong, Useni has to device ways of convincing his majority Tarok ethnic group to support him against a much younger Sen. Victor Lar, who vacated the senate seat for him in 2015.
With Lar already making his mark among the youths who see him as vibrant, many say he is better shaped to be used by the PDP to upstage Lalong.
Lar’s ambition to become governor is not new as he had contested the governorship seat in 2007 on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) but lost to a former governor, Jonah Jang. The former senator had traded his senatorial seat to grab the PDP governorship ticket in the build-up to the 2015 general elections but with Jang at the helm of affairs, the ticket eluded him, depicting a classic case of what many call “Two zero.”
Eng. Jimmy Cheto also of Tarok extraction made three failedattempts to become governor. In 2015, Cheto was so angered by Jang’s choice of the late Gyang Pwajok that he supported Lalong’s candidacy.
Unlike Useni, Lar and Cheto, Nicholas Kemi Nshe is not only from Lalong’s local government area but is also of his Goemai tribe. Nshe’s name came up more often than most at the twilight of the PDP primaries in 2015 as many had thought Jang would reconsider anointing Gyang Pwajok from his northern zone for Nshe, his then close ally and chairman of Shendam LGA.
Even with the PDP consistently mocking the governor’s achievements as only completing projects started by them, there are those who have risen to the governor’s defence that he is never one that brags, and has kept to his promise of executing existing projects and ensuring a conducive environment for investors. By that, they say, he has fulfilled his campaign promises.
Most importantly, the peace which Plateau has enjoyed for nearly three years now outshines whatever the PDP had put on ground, an edge which many say would count for the governor.
Masari suppressing threats in Katsina
In Katsina, Governor Aminu Masari’s perceived threats to re-election seem to be coming from the APC splinter group called the APC-Akida comprising people like MT Liman, Sadiq Yaradua, Sada Ilu and Usman Bugaje among others.
While the PDP has people like Garba Faskari, Musa Nashuni, Umar Tata and Muttaka Rabe, Masari feels more threat from within.
But obviously, emerging political developments, especially from the governor’s camp,are suppressing the threat.
Recently, some supporters of two former gubernatorial aspirants that took part in the 2015 elections crossed over to the Masari camp. These include the structure left behind by the late Senator Kanti Bello and Sada Ilu.
Masari was also able to win the hearts of over 250 former councilors who served under the past government. They were publicly received into Masari’s camp at an elaborate ceremony.
Another recent event was the decamping of some prominent PDP personalities like the former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Yau Gwajo Gwajo, his deputy, Bilya Rimi, Ibrahim Ida, Sabiu Mai Jamaa, Abdul Isa and Musa Adamu, among others. These were strong political pillars in the PDP before their departure.
The coming of these men led to the formation of the APC Consultative Forum that has strong support of the party and government. They are now convincing more people to join the APC to support Masari.
At present, Masari has absolute control of the party which in turn has endorsed him as the sole candidate for the 2019 election.
Kogi’s political waters full of uncertainty
Gladiators eyeing the Kogi governorship seat have begun to make underground moves and consultations on how to wrestle power from Governor Yahaya Bello.
Bello is believed to be gunning for another term according to his associates and supporters. Nearly 30 aspirants vied for the APC ticket which was won by the late Prince Abubakar Audu in 2015 but eventually went to Bello. Many of the aspirants are reportedly bracing up for another trial.
Although many of such gladiators are yet to declare their interests publicly, some names of likely contenders who are set to give the incumbent governor a run for his money have started emerging even as more are expected in the weeks ahead.
One of them is Aliyu Aku, a PDP chieftain and current member representing Omala Constituency in the state House of Assembly. Aku who is a second term member, was also a deputy speaker in the 6th assembly before he resigned in the wake of a leadership crisis that rocked the assembly.
He was also a personal assistant to former governor Ibrahim Idris from whom he still enjoys good support. Aku is well respected for his show of courage and integrity while the crisis in the assembly lasted. His decision to stay faithful to his party, the PDP, when other colleagues crossed to the APC for alleged personal gains, seems to have endeared him more to the people.
A former governor, Ibrahim Idris, recently said they would wrestle power from the “non- performing” APC-led government and many are suggesting that he may support Aku.
Another contender is Chief Dr. Joseph Ameh Erico, a security expert. He is said to be one of the front line contenders in the governorship race and has been making wide consultations with critical stakeholders ahead of the election.
Dr. Idris Omede is the current president, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN). He was a Commissioner for Health in the state and a one time National President, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA). He hails from Dekina Local Government Area of the state and is said to be among those that would pose a threat to the governor if he contests.
Senator Alex Kadiri who represented Kogi East Senatorial District in the National Assembly at a time is also said to be warming up to contest the governorship election.
He was among the 28 governorship aspirants that contested the APC ticket in the 2015 election. AVM Saliu Atawodi is another contender who was among those that contested the APC ticket in 2015.
Engr. Emmanuel Omebije who hails from Dekina LGA was a two-term member of the state assembly as well as a deputy speaker of the assemblyis another contender.
Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Aruwa is one those that has indicated interest to seek the number one seat. The aspirant has put in many years in the banking sector and believes the experience has equipped him to govern the state.