The Peoples Democratic Party is making last-minute moves to ensure that only the most popular among its aspirants are picked during its governorship primaries holding on Monday.
Sunday PUNCH learnt on Friday that senior officials of the ruling party were on the lookout for candidates that could beat their opponents from the opposition All Progressives Congress in the 2015 general elections.
The APC had held its governorship primaries on Thursday, and elected its candidates.
Some of the APC governorship candidates are a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna); a former Accountant-General of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); a former Secretary to the State Government, Umana Umana (Akwa Ibom); and the senator representing Taraba-North Senatorial District, Senator Aisha Alhasan.
All the APC governors in their first term also clinched the party’s ticket to contest for a second term.
The PDP governorship aspirants are also in last-minute lobbying and consultations with delegates to clinch the party’s ticket.
In Akwa Ibom State, stakeholders and elders of the PDP are intensifying their efforts to ensure that the party does not lose the governorship race to the opposition.
The battle for the party’s governorship ticket is between a former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, and a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Effiong Abia.
Governor Godswill Akpabio is said to be backing Emmanuel, a development that has pitted a section of the party members against him (Emmanuel).
Stakeholders and leaders of the party, it was learnt, were not pleased with the development.
On November 30, a former Minister of Petroleum, Donald Etiebiet, met with two former deputy governors, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong and Nsima Ekere, and some leaders of the party on how to stop Akpabio from imposing a candidate on the people.
Akpabio, it was further learnt, had not been able to strike a deal with the party’s stakeholders to back his choice candidate.
But Abia, a formidable contender, is said to be relying on the support of Oro ethnic nationality, which has not produced a governor since the state was part of the South-Eastern Region and Cross River State.
Former Governor Victor Attah and Etiebet are said to be backing Abia for these reasons.
In Lagos, the PDP governorship primary is expected to be a two-horse race between erstwhile Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, and a former governorship candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, Jimi Agbaje.
While Agbaje is believed to have the backing of majority of the party’s leadership in Lagos, Obanikoro’s political influence and links with the Presidency cannot be wished away.
The two aspirants, over the weekend, made frantic efforts to woo the about 900 delegates that would vote at the primary holding on Monday. Both held several meetings with delegates and leaders of the party in various wards across the state to finalise their positions.
As a signal to the impending clash between the camps of Agbaje and Obanikoro, none of the top leaders of the party were seen at Obanikoro’s declaration at the National Stadium, Lagos last Tuesday.
On the other hand, Obanikoro was conspicuously absent at a meeting of governorship aspirants, which was held on Thursday at the residence of a leader of the party, Chief Bode George, who is believed to have endorsed Agbaje.
Obanikoro’s son, Ibrahim, who is a principal actor in his campaign, told SUNDAY PUNCH he was not aware of the meeting at George’s residence.
He said the primary would hold in spite of such meetings, adding that his father would emerge the PDP governorship candidate for Lagos.
He said, “All hands are on deck. We are making sure we leave no stone unturned. He (Obanikoro) has been going round, meeting delegates. We believe we are going to edge them out on Monday.
“All one can do is to talk to the delegates and assure them you are the better candidate that would meet their needs,” he said.
Agbaje’s Director, Media and Publicity, Felix Oboagwina, however said the odds were in their favour.
“From the outcome of the primary for PDP’s flag bearers for the House of Assembly election, it is clear where the party, the leaders and the followers, stand. We know how the result of the primary will be, all things being equal by God’s grace.”
The Publicity Secretary of Lagos PDP, Mr. Taofik Gani, told one of our correspondents that to counter the APC candidate, the PDP would on Monday produce a candidate with integrity and popularity among the people of the state.
In Oyo State, the battle for the PDP governorship ticket has pitted a former governor of the state, Adebayo Alao-Akala, against a former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin.
Two ward congresses had been held in the state and both failed to produce delegates for the primary.
While both claimed they had the majority candidates in the first ward congress, Alao-Akala and a few other aspirants, excluding Folarin, Seyi Makinde and Kehinde Olaosebikan, dissociated themselves from the result of the second ward congress, alleging irregularities in its conduct.
Investigation by SUNDAY PUNCH showed both aspirants were trying to consolidate on their strengths by relying on the might of their godfathers. Both aspirants had shifted the fight to Abuja where several meetings had been held with the Presidency and Senate President David Mark, but with no end to the rift.
Mark was alleged to be backing Folarin’s ambition, while a reliable source said some South-West leaders in the party and the Presidency want Alao-Akala to face Governor Abiola Ajimobi in 2015.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, added that the belief of Alao-Akala’s backers was that only the ex-governor could defeat Ajimobi among all the aspirants.
Folarin’s supporters are of the opinion that only an Ibadan candidate will have a chance of defeating an incumbent governor, who is also from Ibadan.
The same battle is going on in Rivers State where a former Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, and Dum-Bari Ben-Dimkpa are the topmost shots among the PDP governorship aspirants there.
Wike, an Ikwerre-born politician, is said to be controlling the state structure of the party and has invested heavily in its growth.
Ben-Dimkpa is from the Ogoni part of the state.
The people of Ogoni believe the governorship position in the state should go to the oil-rich area.
Wike, who had toured all the local government areas of the state, is said to be the sole financier and leader of the party and reportedly has the backing of the presidency.
In Abia State, the two top contenders, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Dr. Uche Ogah, are said to be making moves to outsmart each other.
According to findings, Ikpeazu’s campaign team is making spirited efforts to work on his kinsmen.
There are fears that unless the aspirants of Ukwa/ Ngwa extraction in the governorship race agree to produce a consensus candidate, Ogah, who is the only aspirant from the entire old Bende zone, may snatch the ticket despite the position of the party on zoning.
A confidant of the oil magnate told our correspondent that “provided the delegates are Abians, Ogah would definitely reach and convince them to vote for him irrespective of who compiled the delegates’ list”.
In Ogun State, the top aspirants from Ogun West include a former governorship candidate of the defunct Peoples Party of Nigeria, Gboyega Isiaka, and a communication expert, Segun Adewale.
From Ogun-Central, there are a former governorship aspirant of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Remi Bakare; a former Chairman, Abeokuta-South Local Government, ‘Yanju Lipede; and a former Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, among others.
The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Waliu Oladipupo, said the party was not jittery over Amosun clinching the APC ticket for a second term and that the party would present a candidate that can beat him.
Intense contest for the governorship ticket of the PDP in Kwara State has also entered the last minute and deciding moment.
The contest is between a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Dele Belgore, who few months ago defected from the APC to the PDP and other candidates.
Belgore had contested in 2011 as the governorship candidate of the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria. Belgore defected to the PDP when the national leadership of the APC handed over the party’s leadership in the state to a former Governor Bukola Saraki who dumped the PDP for APC.
Belgore who is believed to have the backing of the Presidency, the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suliaman, and an influential member of the party as well as a business tycoon, Bola Shagaya, has been intensifying his strategies to clinch the party’s ticket.
Other aspirants include, Mr. Sunday Babalola, a former senator representing Kwara Central, Senator Gbemisola Saraki; a delegate to the recent National Conference, Mr. John Dara, a former Minister, Bio Ibrahim, a former Chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Prof. Oba Abdulraheem; a member of the Senate, Senator Simon Ajibola; a former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on National Assembly Matters, Sulyman Ajadi, a business magnate, Jani Ibrahim; a former Commissioner in Kwara State, Kale Belgore, and Akeem Lawal.
Saraki who is noted as a grassroots’ politician has been intensifying her political strategies to win the party’s ticket. Though reputed to be a politician of note, bias against a female governor appears to be her major hurdle.
Also Babalola, Abdulraheem, Ibrahm, Dara, Ajadi and Ajibola as well as Lawal have been oiling their political machinery to clinch the party’s ticket.