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LAGOS. NIGERIA.     Thursday, December 12 2002

 

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Legion of non-incumbent governorship aspirants battle for service
By Kodilinye Obiagwu

AS the parties begin to hold their primaries and pick their flagbearers for various elective offices, there are indications that the impending 2003 election will very be competitive. One pointer to this is the number of aspirants. However, other reasons have been offered to explain the impending competition.

Alhaji Mohammed Sambo, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives aspirant from Plateau State, said, "in 1999, a lot of qualified people refused to join partisan politics because they were doubtful that the military will hand over power.

"But today, many highly qualified and successful people are retiring from their jobs or leaving their businesses to venture into partisan politics."

Mr. Chima Umeh, an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) House of Reps aspirant in Ideato South Federal Constituency in Imo State, sees another reason. He said, "the apparent declining quality of representation is forcing many people to believe that they can offer better services to the people."

In many ways, the PDP is expected to set the tone for the election. The party controls 21 out of 36 states of the federation. At the National Assembly, it has the majority. This means that the party will have more eager aspirants and incumbents to contend with. For various positions, the party reported that over 40,000 nomination forms were sold. Meanwhile the 67 non-incumbent governorship aspirants led by Alhaji Haruna Abubakar, former deputy Senate president, threaten boycott of the primaries. They are protesting the PDP guidelines, which was seen as designed to favour the incumbents. But despite the accusation that the PDP has tacitly endorsed the candidacy of its incumbent governors, the aspirants are not letting go.

Across the nation, the governorship election is generating excitement. In non-PDP states, the battle is not less fierce. While disaffected PDP governorship aspirants are decamping to rival parties, to continue their fight, their colleagues elsewhere are encouraged to extend the frontiers of the party. Some aspirants are apparent no-hopers but those with a fair chance of success are pegging their hopes on a 'level playing field,' the euphemism for a free and fair election.

The pre-campaign rhetoric and promises are as familiar as the fears of excessive use of state power by the incumbents. However, PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos, Chief Dapo Sarumi said the campaigns for 2003 would be dominated by political issues against the appeal to ethnic sentiments, which prevailed in 1999.

The PDP incumbent governors raised their declarations for a second term to an expensive event. From Owerri to Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Calabar, Benin etc, the governors, perhaps in an intimidating display of their support, rolled out the drums to offer themselves to the people of the state again. But all that hardly fazed the aspirants.

At least 28 people are in the governorship race in Osun State. From this crowd, 21 are from the PDP while the rest are from the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The race, therefore is likely to be a straight fight between the AD and the PDP. The other political parties except for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) have not established their presence.

The AD aspirants include Governor Adebisi Akande, a nephew of the late Chief Bola Ige, Mr. Kunle Ige, Chief Jumoke Ogunkeyede, Chief Femi Alafe Aluko and Akogun Tunde Odanye. The prospects of a PDP victory look bright, but the question is will the PDP pick the right candidate to battle Akande?

The AD aspirants in the state are Chief Abiola Morakinyo, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke, Dr. Peter Babalola, Bashir Lawal, Mr. Lateef Olayinka Babawale, Otunba Abdul-Rasaq Adeagbo, Chief Simeon Oduoye, Senator Olu Alabi, Dosu Oladipo, Prince Alade Oyebisi, Dr. Babatunde Durosomo, Mr. Sola Oni, Erelu Olusola Ogbada, Mr. Nathaniel Oke, Prince Adesuyi Haastrup, Chief Dosu Fatokun, Dr. Bayo Faforiji, Mrs. Oluremi Olowu, Mr. Tunde Fagbohungbe, Chief Ayoade Bibilari and Chief Omole Agboworin.

The deputy governor, Otunba Iyiola Omisore is also in the race and if he eventually dumps the AD, he will swell the PDP number of aspirants to 27. Despite the crowd, the AD has vowed to win Ondo State in the governorship election.

Olu Agbesua, a former campaign manager of the former presidential candidate of the joint APP/AD, Chief Olu Falae dismisses the threat of the PDP. He said, "we believe that the electorate would not vote for the PDP. They know that it is only the AD that can transform their lives by providing them with basic amenities of life."

A PDP aspirant in Ekiti State, Chief Samuel Kolawole Babalola has lamented the erosion of values in the state and promised to restore them if elected. Among the problems he identified are the deteriorating educational standards, and lack of electricity for the industrialisation of the state.

Babalola, who is also the Special Adviser to the President on Education, said the time has come for a change in the political direction of the state. He said that in Ekiti, every citizen is calling for change to honesty, industry, diligence, integrity and good governance. He called on the people to vote for the change. As governor, he would place emphasis on road construction and rehabilitation, provision of clean water and rural electrification.

"We shall embark on mechanised agriculture, provide agricultural loans to rural farmers through co-operative societies, as well as encourage private initiative in commercial farming and plantation agriculture."

A former National Financial Secretary of the PDP, Chief Clement Awoyelu said the slow pace of development in Ekiti is due to mis-management of resources. While declaring his interest in the PDP he said the people should not be deceived by the AD's cries of lack of fund. He said he joined the race because the situation in Ekiti now calls for a tested knowledgeable leader. Awoyelu, founding chairman of the PDP in Ekiti added that it is time to give the state a new direction.

Meanwhile Ekiti State governor, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo has described his endorsement as a consensus candidate for a second term by the state chapter of Afenifere as an appreciation of his performance. Adebayo was rated high in road development and the provision of basic infrastructure for the development of the state.

Akure, the Ondo State capital stood still when the former Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko joined the governorship race on the platform of AD. Mimiko had resigned as commissioner to pursue his ambition. According to him, "governance has become extremely dynamic and there is a limit to how far we can continue to use prevailing styles to confront new realities. It is time indeed for our elders to pass the baton.

"We the younger ones are ready and it is a challenge we must take and indeed are already taking by our declaration of interest in the governorship seat today."

Mimiko's fellow ANPP aspirant is a Lagos based lawyer, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim. In his declaration, the 35-year-old businessman lamented that the standard of living has not improved despite the billions of naira collected as revenue by the AD government of Chief Adebayo Adefarati.

" For a long time, our people have suffered neglect, despite being an oil producing state. The present government has been unable to affect the lives of the people and so the people of the state are at liberty to vote for a government that will deliver the goods. It is their right, come 2003," he said.

The state chairman of the ANPP, Alhaji Yinusa noted that Jimoh's potentials made him the best material for the party in its quest to grab power from the AD government.

Meanwhile, the Abia State deputy governor Enyinnaya Abaribe has warned the PDP leadership to be wary of fostering candidates on the party ahead of the 2003 election.

Abaribe's remarks came against the backdrop of a statement credited to the former Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Tony Anenih that the PDP leadership may be predisposed to adopting all its incumbent governors in 2003. Abaribe noted that if that happens, the decision will foreclose the chances of other aspirants of the party nationwide. He said he might opt for another party as a last resort.

A similar scenario confronted human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome in Edo State. Ozekhome is contesting the endorsement of Governor Lucky Igbinedion as a consensus candidate by the PDP. He explained that he was the first aspirant to pick his nomination form and recalled that his declaration dated back to last September 18 while the governor declared his intention forty-two days after he,(Ozekhome) declared. He believes that the party may be heading for a major crisis if it goes ahead to pick Igbinedion.

However, the pioneering secretary to the state government, Dr. Clement Imuetiyan Alile, is oblivious of Ozekhome's fight with the PDP and Igbinedion. Alile is seeking the governorship mandate under the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP). Alile's aspiration makes him the first candidate outside the PDP and the ANPP who jointly have about 14 aspirants in the state. Alile in 1984 was a commissioner in the administration of Maj. Gen Jeremiah Oseni in the old Bendel State.

One of those who will contest the adoption of Anambra State governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju is Dr. Obinna Uzoh, a Lagos based businessman. Uzoh said his ambition is to bring back the lost glory of the state and this will be achieved through prudent management of the state's resources.

The abandoned infrastructure in Anambra is upsetting Ichie Mike Ejezie a UNPP aspirant. He said his party would transform the state into paradise. At a rally in Ihiala to flag off his campaign tagged: "Liberation 2003", Ejezie said his mission was to clean up the mess left by the PDP and Mbadinuju in the state.

Said he: "I was compelled to come out due to the apparent failure of the PDP government to deliver the democratic dividends." He appealed to the people to embrace UNPP, which would produce the next government in the state.

A former Secretary of Science and Technology in the Interim National Government (ING), Prof. Barth Nnaji shunned the PDP where his kinsman Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, holds sway and declared his intention to contest under the platform of the ANPP.

Nnaji, who was the chairman of the Ohanaeze Ndigb Development Committee, said he has already developed a blue print on how to industrialise the state, adding that he would be the first governor to begin the implementation of that blue print.

He said he hoped that the state would return to her glory and life would become meaningful when the electorate cast their votes for the right person.

Although Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu is yet to declare his intention to seek re-election in 2003, the people of Ezza, the dominant clan in the state have expressed their resolve to back him. Led by the chief whip of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Tobias Okwuru, the people of Ezza said they felt that Egwu was the only candidate that would give the state the level of peace it needs now. Okwuru argued that the Ezza as the most populous group in the state, knew what was good for the state.

Meanwhile, following the continued face-off between Egwu and his deputy, Dr. Emmanuel Isu, some members of the PDP in the Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone from where Isu hails, have decided to dump him in the governorship race. However, Isu dismissed the decision as "laughable" stressing that he had made it known that he was not interested in coming back as deputy governor.

One of the people that want to end the tenure of Chief Achike Udenwa and the PDP in Imo State is a UNPP aspirant, Dr. Obioma Iheduru. He said he is a man with courage to make visionary and responsible changes in the state. One of those changes is to attract Igbo in the Diaspora to set up two universities of technology and the other for medicine. "We need a school to produce functional individuals who will develop the state," he said. Iheduru who is a professor of political Science at the Fort Valley State University, United States of America, said that he would also build a technology park where the benefits of information technology can be fully exploited.

In Plateau State, Governor Joshua Dariye enjoyed a similar endorsement as Egwu when the Southern senatorial zone of the state gave him a go-ahead. The people of the zone under the umbrella of the Lowland People's Assembly presented the governor as their sole candidate. One time deputy senate president, Mr. John Wash Pam said the people were always united in their politics. Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu restated that the candidate for the state was still Dariye who is described as "the Joshua of our time."

Amidst misgivings that trailed his declaration for a second term, Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has explained that he was persuaded by 86 different organisations to re-contest.

"Over the last two years, about 86 organisations have called on me to return to the Government House. This is beside the overtures of well-meaning individuals and respected opinion leaders," he said.

He said that the request of these groups has been buttressed by the arguments that he had done well. According to the governor, the call for his return was persistent and he could no longer pretend to be deaf "but accept to renew the mandate for a second term." Alamieyeseigha believed that the call represents the genuine feelings of the people.

The governor advised that political campaigns should be free of violence, bitterness and acrimony and enjoined all political players to play down personality deficiencies and inflammatory statements.

Maybe his warning was belated. Following attacks on members of the opposition, the former Secretary to the State Government, Chief Felix Oboro called on the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police, to prevail on Alamieyeseigha to provide a level playing field for all politicians.

Oboro who is the campaign co-ordinator of Mr. Timi Alaibe's gubernatorial platform the "New Vision 2003," said that if the attack on opposition members continues, politicians in the state would resort to other means to ensure their participation.

He said that the opposition was considering engaging the services of private security outfits such as the Egbesu Boys since the government intimidates the police.

Oboro's call followed an attack on some members of Alaibe's supporters by youths believed to be loyal to the Alamieyeseigha Campaign Organisation (ALAMCO), who invaded the Kaiama headquarters of Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA.

The attackers were said to have threatened to weaken the opposition to the re-election of Alamieyeseigha. Oboro said that, "the disturbing aspect is that the whole incident occurred while the police was watching." However, the Director of ALAMCO Barrister Fedude Zemoghen denied the violence traced to the group.

In Abia, Chief Henry Ikoh an ANPP aspirant is having a task explaining that his bid was not sponsored by Governor Orji Kalu to scuttle the chances of aspirants from the two other zones other than North or Old Bendel from where Kalu hails.

He said: "I am not being fronted by Kalu. I am a self made man, it is an unfair to me for anybody to allege such."

Ikoh who has dumped the PDP and joined the ANPP, stated that there was no time it was discussed and agreed that the political power in the state should shift from Abia North zone to Abia South or Central.

"I am on my own and it behoves that power should naturally go to the central before the South because I do not see why this power should jump central zone and land on the South zone."

"The problem between old Bende and Ukwa/Ngwa will be buried with me, from Abia Central. I am the Bridge."

Just as Ikoh is trying to assert himself, the supporters of PDP governorship aspirant in Kaduna State, Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar Hamisu have denied insinuations that he has stepped down for Governor Ahmed Makarfi. The supporters, under the auspices of Kaduna State Movement for Equity Transparency and Good Governance said, "reports that the vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar prevailed on Hamisu Abubakar to step down for Makarfi was false, and a plan to cause confusion in our midst."

The secretary of the group, Alhaji Sanusih Maikinde said, "no amount of blackmail can force us out of this historic duty of saving our dear state and our people from anarchy and dictatorship. We remain a viable and credible alternative to be considered amongst others by the people on merit. This is the only way our democracy can aspire to be truly a government of the people for the people and by the people."

He said, "we are not going to betray the confidence reposed in our aspirant, which is evidently manifested in the massive public support we enjoy across the state. The statement is cheap propaganda to confuse people.

Borno State governor, Malla Kachallah at a grand reception organised for him on the conferment of an honorary degree by the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) signified his interest for re-election.

Addressing a crowd of ANPP party supporters in Maiduguri, he said the grand reception organised for him was an opportunity to respond to the people of Borno.

But Kachalla is up against eight ANPP aspirants and six PDP aspirants who have resolved to support anyone who emerges as the party's flagbearer. The consensus was reached while Alhaji Gambo Lawan, chairman of the board of Warri Refinery and Petro-Chemicals (WRPC) disclosed his intention to contest the governorship in Borno.

But for Kachalla's counterpart in Kano, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, it would seem there is a consensus option in the incumbent. Long after the sale of forms to aspirants commenced, he appears to be the only aspirant for the race according to the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Kutawa.

Kutama said as far as he was concerned only Kwankwaso had indicated his interest to run on behalf of the party. He said he was convinced that pasting posters in the streets is not enough to consider other aspirants as contenders. "I only notice posters in the streets of Kano but none of the aspirants has formally picked his form" he said.

Cross River State governor, Donald Etim Duke, the Eto Nkori of Efik has indicated that he wants a second term. But, unlike his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Obong Victor Attah who has painted all parts of the state red with posters of his robust face, Duke is going about his campaign quietly.

Despite Duke's style, his campaigners are working to reinstall him at the government house. Prominent among the various groups are 'Restoration 2003', 'Mandate 2003', 'Necessity 2003' and lately 'Women Arise And Move' (WAAM) for Duke amongst others.

However, it is not going to be an easy ride for Duke. He will contest with Nigeria's Ambassador to Korea, Major Akpang Obi-Odu, Hon Member Dr. Mike Ogar and Dr. Joe Itafu Okey. The others are ousted PDP's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Ibeshi, Duke's opponent in 1999, Mr. Mark Ukpo as well as the deputy governor, Chief John Oyom Okpa.

Of the six contenders, four are from ANPP, one is from the National Democratic Party (NDP) whilst the others are from the PDP. Okey moved to the PDP recently at an impressive ceremony in his Nsofang ward, Etung local council.

But no sooner had he declared than trouble started. The situation worsened and he dumped the PDP to the ANPP. His exit from the PDP, political analysts said, may be connected with a statement accredited to the state chairman of the party, Chief Sonny Abang. At his inauguration last year, Abang told party faithful that anybody who has the ambition of becoming governor in the state should wait till 2007.

On his part, Obi-Odu a retired army major is likely to decamp from PDP for the NDP. Given his political clout, he stands a chance of rocking Duke's foundation. His chances will be enhanced if the Atam Peoples Congress (APC) a socio-cultural cum political group, which zoned the governorship to the Northern senatorial District endorses his candidacy.

Pundits however believe that APC's pendulum will tilt in favour of Mark Ukpo, a scion of the Ukpo dynasty in Ogoja who declared in Calabar soon after Obi-Odu declared in Ogoja. Ukpo was Duke's opponent in 1999. Now that he has declared on the platform of the ANPP, the question in whether he will give Duke the kind of challenge he presented in 1999.

He said: "My conviction is that this state deserves purposeful leadership and most importantly, a leadership that will govern with the fear of God. In this direction, I hereby offer myself to serve you as governor in 2003."

Ogar's interest in the governorship election arose as a result of the present "deceitful, unimpressive, insensitive and financially irresponsible administration in the state."

For Ibeshi, printing colourful posters has not stimulated interest in his governorship ambition. Joining the NDP, a party that has not established itself in the state, Ibeshi said he is "tested and God fearing."

Okpa's emergence as an aspirant on the platform of the ANPP was long overdue. His alleged anti-party activities came to the fore early in the life or this administration. Duke was aware that Okpa wanted his job. He caused him to deny it on the pages of newspapers. But their relationship remained sour and strained and a "cold war" developed between them. It was only natural that he should leave to realise his ambition.

The ANPP in a statement signed by its state publicity secretary, Obono Igbobor, heartily welcomed "His Excellency, Deputy Governor of Cross River State (Okpa) who formally decamped from the PDP". It also said his decision to dump PDP was "due to lack of direction of the PDP as presently constituted."

Meanwhile, the only female governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom, Mrs Maria Ikpe, has said that she will not step down for any aspirants because of her gender. She is on the platform of the AD. Ikpe said that "people are wasting their time if they thought so, because I strongly believe that women, if given a fair and level playing ground, will win any elective position in Nigeria and do better than men.

"With God on my side I am going to get the party's nomination in the state and I will just keep my mind open," she said.

The aspirant promised to fight for the cause of women and the oppressed in the society saying that she will provide free education and free health services for all if elected as governor.

She is joined in Delta State by a former commissioner, Princess Olivia Agbajoh who pitched her aspiration with the NDP. Agbajoh said that she decided to pursue her ambition through the NDP because the party was gender sensitive and youth friendly.

She said: "Having carefully understood the formation of the political parties in the country, I decided to pursue my ambition with the NDP because of the fact that it is gender sensitive and has the interest of the youths at heart".

She said she would pursue programmes that will stimulate and sustain the interest of the private sector in the development of the state. Agbajoh who was also a former member of the House of Reps, assured that there will be an even spread of well-defined and aptly articulated projects across the state.

If Mallam Adamu Modibbo becomes governor of Adamawa State, perhaps the economic viability of the state will be assured. The aspirant plans a six-point cardinal economic blueprint, which he said would transform the state. A retired banker, he said the blue print is tailored towards providing and improving basic infrastructure, construction and rehabilitation of roads, production of food, comprehensive health care, security and qualitative education. He noted that despite the fact that the state has the largest livestock in the country, past governments have not exploited the potentials.

The ANPP aspirant described the situation where despite the rich fertile agricultural land in parts of the state, there is shortage of food in Adamawa.

In Lagos, Sarumi said that the 1999 political campaign was dominated by ethnic sentiments. He however expects that the electorate have learnt the lessons will want a change. The former Minister of Integration in Africa said that the nation's political leaders should borrow a leaf from advanced democracies of the world that have succeeded in elevation of political campaigns to national debate rather than making it an ethnic issue.

Sarumi who failed in his bid to govern Lagos in 1991 under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) called for a level playing field in the campaign. Other PDP aspirants in Lagos are Funsho Williams, Prince Ademola, Adeniji Adele, Chief Bashorun Olorunfunmi, Tunde Onokoya, Mrs. Oluremi Adiukwu-Bakare and Chief Ayo Kolajo.

Aware of the complex nature of the state, Sarumi says it would take an experience leader to galvanise and harness the potentials of the state to the maximum. The PDP stalwart is however of the view that he is one of those that obviously fit the bill.

What makes the governorship aspiration of Chief Bekinbo Soberekon in Rivers State curious is his decampment from the PDP to the ANPP. He was one of the founding members of the PDP in the state.

His governorship aspiration started in 1992 under the SDP. Since then, he has pursued his intention to govern the state. He was among those in the PDP who installed Governor Peter Odili. It is believed there was an unwritten arrangement that he would take over from Odili in 2003, but shortly after Odili's first year in office, it became apparent to Soberekon that Odili would seek re election. And so, the two parted ways and Soberekon joined the opposition.

Meanwhile, the endorsement of Odili for a second term by the PDP had shut the door against other aspirants like the deputy speaker of the House of Reps, Chief Chibudom Nwuche and Sergeant Awuse. Soberekon knows that he may not easily get the governorship ticket in the ANPP there but he believes that if a free and fair primary is conducted, he remains the only candidate to defeat.

Dr. Harry Marshall, who forced him to abandon his ambition to go to the Senate, is also in the ANPP. But will Marshall allow a direct primary or will he still want to adopt a consensus candidate and back Soberekon? That is the question agitating observers in the state. Marshall, the acclaimed kingmaker made Odili governor but he later said Odili let him down.

Reports from Fred Okoror, Godwin Ijediogor, Muyiwa Adeyemi (Lagos), Aminu Oyarekhua (Yola), Muhammed Abubakar, Madu Onuorah (Abuja), Chris Ikwunze (Yenagoa), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Gordy Udeajah (Umuahia), Julius Alabi (Akure), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Ifedayo Sayo (Ado-Ekiti), Eno Abasi Sunday (Calabar), Mike Osunde (Benin), Kenneth Ofoma (Abakaliki), Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri), Seun Adeoye (Osogbo), Isa Abdulsallam (Jos), Sunny Ogefere (Asaba) and Adamu Abuh (Kano).

In many ways, the PDP is expected to set the tone for the election. The party controls 21 out of 36 states of the federation. At the National Assembly, it has the majority. This means that the party will have more eager aspirants and incumbents to contend with. For various positions, the party reported that over 40,000 nomination forms were sold

Across the nation, the governorship election is generating excitement. In non-PDP states, the battle is not less fierce. While disaffected PDP governorship aspirants are decamping to rival parties, to continue their fight, their colleagues elsewhere are encouraged to extend the frontiers of the party.

 

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