• How wave of presidential poll threw states into panic
By Enyeribe Ejiogu (Lagos), Olakunle Olafioye ( Lagos), George Onyejiuwa (Owerri), Emmanuel Adeyemi (Lokoja), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Noah Ebije (Kaduna), Olanrewaju Lawal (Birnin Kebbi), Timothy Olanrewaju (Maiduguri), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki), Scholastica Onyeka (Benue), Tony John (Port Harcourt), Paul Osuyi (Asaba), Gyang Bere (Jos), and Geoffrey Anyanwu (Enugu)
Until the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the chieftains, stalwarts and members of the two dominant national parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had dismissed the Labour Party (LP)0, as a social media phenomenon with little electoral weight despite the rapid growth of its support base built on the Obidient Movement. But as the results from the polling units began to pour in on hundreds of Twitter handles of its polling agents in the various states, it soon became evident that an electoral tsunami was sweeping across the country and carrying the LP candidates, Peter Obi and Yusuf Ahmed-Datti to a possible unprecedented upset.
By the time results were officially declared, LP’s electoral performance produced surprising upsets, which jolted the governors of ruling parties in states to scramble for solutions to avoid defeat in the March 18 governorship/state assembly elections.
They took several steps to ensure re-election or installation of their preferred successors. Not all of them, like the governors of Abia and Plateau states achieved the goal of retaining the hold of their parties on the governorship. Below, is a state by state account of how governors of ruling parties in states managed to survive the LP hurricane.
In Lagos State, the shocking and embarrassing defeat of the All Progressives Congress by the Labour Party in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state threw Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu into seeming panic mode.
To turn the tide of support of the electorate, he hurriedly announced a 25 per cent salary increase for
civil servants in the state. However, upon being re-elected, the state government cut the percentage of the increase from 25 to 20 per cent, starting from January 2023, with a promise to pay the arrears for the month of January along with March salaries while February arrears would be paid along with April salaries.
The state government also announced the payment of N1.2 billion accrued pension rights to over 500 pensioners in the state. The development was said to have come as a surprise to most of the beneficiaries, who claimed to have steeled their mind for a long wait in queue as those who retired before them had had to wait for almost three years before receiving their benefits.
Perhaps, the most jolting of the state government’s unusual gesture was the free release of vehicles impounded by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) for various traffic infractions. The government also forbade LASTMA operatives from arresting motorists for other infractions.
Although the State Commissioner for Transportation,
Frederick Oladeinde, said the state government’s decision to release the vehicles was borne out of the governor’s compassion for the owners of the vehicles as a result of cash crisis in the country, cynics were quick to interprete the move as a panic response of the state governor to the fear of being ousted by the LP governorship candidate, Mr Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, who ran a strong campaign and presented a formidable challenge to the APC administration in the state.
Also, in the run up to the governorship election, the government reduced the fares on the state’s BRT buses by 50 per cent. But less than two weeks after his re-election, Governor Sanwo-Olu has ordered the restoration of the full fare.
The governor had claimed that the reduction was meant to mitigate the effect of the naira scarcity on the people following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira redesign policy. But the move was also seen by many as the governor’s way of wooing disenchanted electorate in the build up to the last governorship election in the state
Seeing the effect of the Labour Party tsunami in the country during the general elections, Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma decided not to take any chances.
He had to set forth at dawn, like Wole Soyinka advised in his book of the same title, to woo voters in the state ahead of the November 11, 2023 gubernatorial election.
To shore up support, Uzodimma has stepped up his political empowerment initiatives and also moved to reconstruct some critical road arteries in Owerri, the state capital.
Prior to the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls, in apparent imitation of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who had appointed over
25,000 aides as the elections approached, Governor Uzodimma appointed 270 new aides. He had earlier created more ministries, bringing the number to 32. He also appointed 305 Ward Liaison Officers for the 305 INEC wards in the state and put them on monthly stipends. Equally, he appointed new Sole Administrators for the 27 local government councils after two and half years of using Caretaker Committee chairmen to run the councils. However, he retained some of the Caretaker Committee chairmen as Sole Administrators.
Back in November 2022, it is to be recalled, that the governor had directed that civil servants in the state be promoted across board. He also gifted 31 SUVs to traditional rulers in the 27 council areas of the state.
Concerning the youths, the governor introduced the Skills Up Programme under which about 5,000 youths would get free training in ICT and be given free laptops upon completion of the training.
With the approach of the governorship election, Uzodimma has been reportedly wooing some members of the opposition, particularly those belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party in the state.
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello is one state chief executive who can be very resolute over any matter he considers very important. He is also known to be irascible and mercurial. Although governorship election did not hold in the state on March 18, yet Governor Bello determined that the victory of the All Progressives Congress in the election was an existential issue for him. So, he made some drastic moves to check the incursion of opposition parties into the political landscape of the state.
First, he called a meeting of all officials elected on the platform of the APC or appointed by the APC-led administration in the state and gave them an executive directive, to deliver their electoral wards and 25 state assembly constituencies to the party 100 per cent or be fired immediately.
Interestingly, the election did not go the way the governor had envisaged as his party APC won 22 of the 25 seats while the People Democratic Party won in two constituencies (Bassa and Ogori Mangogo) while the African Democratic Congress won in Yagba West constituency.
True to his threat, the governor shortly after the election was said to have pushed for the suspension of nine legislators and four council chairmen, accusing them of gross misconduct, terrorism, electoral violence and anti-party activities.
Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, told Sunday Sun that the decision to suspend the members and council chairmen was reached at a plenary sitting following the adoption of letters from Governor Bello and Bello Abdullahi, the Kogi APC chairman.
Governor Bello in his letter to the Assembly had urged the Speaker to investigate the culpability of the members in the alleged offences.
The suspended members include Hon. Kilani Olushola, Ijumu; Suleiman Attajachi Musa, Idah; Bello Hassan, Ajaokuta; A.T. Ahmed, Okene I; Moses Akande, Ogori-Magongo; Aderonke Aro, Yagba-West; Daniyan Raiyi, Bassa; Muktar Bajeh, Okehi and Atule Egbunu, Ibaji.
A letter from the state secretariat of the APC to the Assembly, signed by Bello Abdullahi also intimated the House that the legislators and the chairmen had been suspended by their respective ward executive councils of the party.
The House also suspended four council chairmen and placed three others on investigation based on the letters from the governor and state party chairman alleging their culpability.
The council chairmen involved are Ogori-Magongo, Goke Oparison and his Vice Chairman; Kabba-Bunu, Moses Olurunleke and his Vice; Bassa – Muktar Mohammed and his Vice; Yagba-West, Pius Kolawole; Ajaokuta, Mustapha Akaaba; Adavi-Joseph Omuya and Ibaji, Williams Iko’ojo.
The Speaker, however, said that decision on Bassa, Ogori and Yagba-West would
be put in abeyance pending the outcome of the House Committee investigating the allegations against them.
After losing the state to the PDP during the Presidential and National Assembly election, the ruling party in Kebbi State re-strategised to avoid defeat in the governorship election.
In the battleground wards where the PDP peeled off voters from the APC by offering them juicy packages of items and promises, APC set up various committee and launched door-to-door campaign teams to woo back the electorate in those areas.
The governorship candidate also personally visited the leaders of the various communities, Islamic clerics, union leaders and other stakeholders.
Also, the state government approved package of palliatives for people to ease the hardship orchestrated by the cash crunch associated with CBN cashless policy.
The government distributed free drugs to pregnant women and underaged children, through the public health facilities throughout the state. The government also appeased civil servants, artisans and pensioners with relief packages to cushion the effects of the cashless policy. Similarly, many unions were given special grants to sustain their businesses and trading activities, to prevent them from collapsing.
Many stakeholders and political groups affiliated with APC embarked on distribution of relief materials to counter the PDP, which was actively reaching out to the people with incentives.
In a surprise move few weeks to the Feb 25 presidential election, Governor Babagana Zulum approved the payment of arrears of promotion allowance to civil servants in Borno State.
Zulum had during the swearing-in of the reconstituted members of the Civil Service Commission announced his resolve to clear the backlog of promotion allowance suspended since 2016 during the administration of former Governor Kashim Shettima to complete the biometric exercise embarked on by the past administration.
Zulum who was declared winner of the March 18 governorship election by INEC for a second term was first elected in 2019.
Before the governorship poll, many civil servants and politicians in his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), were said to be unhappy with his style of governance despite his reported performance. This development drew angry voters to the side of the opposition parties.
Zulum himself admitted he might have wronged some people. He gave this indication in his acceptance speech following his declaration as the winner of the governorship poll.
The swift move by the governor undoubtedly remedied his electoral chance in the March 18 poll as many Maiduguri residents said.
In Ebonyi State, APC was somewhat sure of winning the governorship election after the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections where it won the majority of the federal legislative seats in the state.
However, despite winning the three senatorial seats and three of the six House of Representatives seats, the APC did not go to rest ahead of the governorship elections.
The party deployed every necessary strategy to ensure it did not lose the state to any of the rampaging opposition parties. While the governoship candidate, Francis Nwifuru, adopted private meetings and consultations with major stakeholders and groups in the state, his godfather and financier, Governor David Umahi, adopted the strategy of holding town hall meetings with major clans and LGAs across the state.
A week to the election, the governor had a successful meeting with Ezza clan (comprising Ezza North, Ezza South and some parts of Ishielu, Ohaukwu and Onicha LGAs). He also met with the people of Ikwo, Afikpo, Edda (Afikpo South), Ohaozara, Ivo and Onicha local government areas.
The main focus of the governor’s speeches during the meetings was the need to uphold the existing power rotation which was in favour of the North and the APC candidate.
He noted that the unbroken rotation of the governorship seat among the three senatorial districts since 1999 had ensured peace, unity and progress in the state.
He, therefore, appealed to the people to vote for the APC candidate, Francis Nwifuru, during election.
Former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, while responding during the town hall meeting with the people of Ivo which held at Anyim’s home, the former Secretary to the Goverment of the Federation, agreed with Governor Umahi that it was the turn of Ebonyi North to produce his successor.
He maintained that supporting someone from Ebonyi South to take over from Umahi will cause rancour and disunity in the state.
He enjoined Ebonyi people not to vote for the PDP candidate, Ifeanyi Odii, who is from Ebonyi South, but to vote for the APC candidate, Francis Nwifuru, who hails from Ebonyi North.
The message resonated with Ebonyi people such that after the elections, the APC candidate, Nwifuru polled 199,131 votes to defeat Odii of PDP who scored 80,191 votes.
The APC candidate won in 10 LGAs while the PDP candidate won only in his Onicha LGA. The APGA candidate, Prof. Ben Odoh, won in Ezza North and South LGAs.
In the build up to the governorship and state assembly elections, Governor Samuel Ortom held series of meetings with the various groups in the state to sensitize them on the need to elect all PDP candidates.
The governor also domesticated a law extending the retirement age of some civil servants in the state. He followed up by increasing the retirement age of staff of state-owned tertiary institutions, including the Colleges of Education at Katsina Ala and Oju, as well as the Benue Polytechnic Ugbokolo in Okpokwu Local Government Area, which was raised to 65 from the 60 years.
Ortom had, however, explained that he was doing it in the best interest of the people and that his government was replicating what was done at the federal level.
He also lifted, with immediate effect, the ban on use of motorcycles around Sankara axis after three years from when the ban was imposed. Sankara comprises Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo local government areas. The Benue State Security Council had banned the use of motorcycles in the axis as one of the measures to curtail the heightened criminal activities in the area. But few weeks to the election, Governor Ortom lifted the ban following a court judgment, which vacated the order.
Governor Ortom also went round some of the projects he executed recently to commission them. The projects include the gully erosion control measures at Donald Hwande Community, in North-Bank area of Makurdi and another gully erosion control measure along Holy Family Catholic Church Road, extension of electricity from High Court North-Bank to Ornyiev Layout, Makurdi.
He also commissioned the Ward and Theater Block, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines in the Radiology Department, two dialysis machines at the isolation centre, all at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, (BSUTH), Makurdi, the Unconvicted Prisoners Cells at the Federal Correctional Services Centre, Makurdi, Nigeria Correctional Centre Service, Maximum Security Custodian Centre Makurdi, the Ministry of Urban Development Office Complex, Makurdi, to mention a few. Earlier, Ortom had, through the Teaching Service Board, (TSB), employed over 2,000 teachers into the state service.
After the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 25, 2023, Rivers State residents were highly disillusioned with the outcome of the polls. The results were not what they expected. From field reports, it was glaringly obvious that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, was leading based on polling unit results announced by electoral officers.
At the end, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the final result, surprisingly, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, was declared winner in Rivers State.
Tinubu’s victory cast pall on the people. There was no jubilation or celebration that usually characterizes victory in the state. Protests, however, erupted in some parts of the state, as the electorate claimed the will of the people was subverted by INEC and the state government.
However, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, knowing that the outcome of the presidential election might affect the governorship and House of Assembly elections, announced on March 9 that his administration would implement outstanding promotion in the State Civil Service and fulfil the promise of employing 10,000 youths into the service. This came two days to the originally scheduled date for the governorship and state assembly elections.
True to his word, he forwarded the names of members of the commission to the state assembly for screening, as the commission would oversee the employment of the 10,000 youths.
He also met Igbo stakeholders in the state, to explain his reason for supporting Tinubu. Following this, more than 45 political support groups of the APC drummed support for Siminalaye Fubara, the PDP governorship candidate now governor-elect.
The victory of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi in Delta State during the February 25 polls came as a rude shock to the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the state.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, was more stunned by the significant outing of Mr Obi, as the PDP never lost any poll since 1999 in the state.
The shocking outcome expectedly moved the outgoing governor and the PDP to up their game, in order to retain the state.
In the first instance, the administration quickly approved the domestication of the new retirement age for teachers in the state’s public service.
The approval which was granted during the first meeting of the State Executive Council (SEC) after the presidential election, extended the retirement age for teachers to the attainment of 40 years of service or 65 years of age as against the previous 35 and 60 years
The extension also applied to non-academic staff of the state-owned polytechnics and colleges of education.
Although the government explained that the extension of the retirement age was to enable the teachers and the tertiary institutions workers to contribute more to nation-building, it’s timing was strategic to the governorship election.
Besides, Governor Okowa and the governorship candidate of the party, Sheriff Oborevwori, had personal engagement with civil servants, seeking to understand their grievances.
Governor Okowa also worked to consolidate his engagement with strategic stakeholders and thereby shore up support for Oborevwori and other PDP candidates for the state assembly. He met with religions leaders, ethnic associations, professional bodies, among others.
As a result of these measures and others, the PDP staged a come back in the March 18 election with a resounding victory.
In Plateau State, although Governor Simon Lalong was not seeking re-election as he is currently completing his second term in office, he took steps to shore up support among the electorate, aimed at installing his successor on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Prior to the polls, Lalong through the Civil Service Commission carried out massive employment into the civil service to woo voters for the ruling APC in the state. He set up skills training centres in collaboration with Federal Government Agency, where youths were imparted with employability skills for self economic reliance.
The administration also commenced the presentation of staff of office to the newly upgraded and created chiefdoms and districts across the state. This was aimed at making the populace feel the impact of government at various communities and to re-enforce government trust among the people.
Prior to the election, the APC campaign team had claimed that only the APC governorship candidate would sustain the vision of the newly created chiefdoms and districts across the state.
The governor cleared the pending salary arrears of civil servants before the election, to present himself as being friendly to them despite the fact that staff of some tertiary institutions had remained unpaid for several months.
Nonetheless, the measures failed to help the governor as he lost his ambition to represent Plateau South Senatorial District at the National Assembly and also failed to install his successor.
The electorate sacked him and the APC through the ballot box and enthroned Mr Caleb Mutfwang of the People’s Democratic Party, who is a legal practitioner
Enugu State is one of the states strongly affected by the Labour Party/Obidient Movement pummelling in the February 25 election which left the PDP in the state terribly battered.
On that day, LP had a landslide victory in the state, having about 90 per cent of the votes cast in the presidential, one out of the two Senate seats contested for on that day, and assured of the remaining one for Enugu East. In the Federal House polls, LP took seven out of the eight seats, leaving the ruling party with only one.
Worse still, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and leader of the party both in the state and the South East zone lost his senatorial bid in that election
For the ruling party, PDP, the handwritting was clear on the wall that it would be finished in the state if nothing drastic was done to retain the governorship seat for the PDP.
Not withstanding that he lost his senatorial ambition, Governor Ugwuanyi rose to the occasion and effectively used the extension of the day for the governorship and state assembly elections to woo the electorate.
He immediately approved and released 2020 and 2021 promotions of the state civil service which the workers had been demanding for a long time. The governor made more political appointments, this time concentrating on local governments where PDP presented strong opposition.
The governor also embarked on aggressive visitation of the communities in the state where he and his entourage gave the people gifts, including wrappers and even money to pacify them to vote for PDP in the governorship election.
Another thing Ugwuanyi did to appeal to the hearts of the people to look the way of PDP on the governorship election was his removal of all the blockades placed on the roads leading to or passed through the Government House, thereby giving the people access again.
The blockage of the roads designed to impede the operations of gunmen had caused much hardship for motorists who had to rely only on the Rangers Avenue road with the attendant annoying traffic jams. He commenced some road projects around Nsukka area and also promised to create some autonomous communities which are yet to happen.
Ugwuanyi also paid pensioners of the civil service their January pension on March 16, two days to the election.
In Abia State, after the presidential election of February 25 and the result did not favour the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that has governed the state for the past 24 years, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, apparently to avoid imminent defeat in the governorship election that stared his party, the PDP, in the face, hurriedly did things to woo the voters.
The governor held meetings with the various interest groups, including town and market union executives in the state where he marketed the PDP goverorship candidate, Okey Ahiwe.
As follow up to the strategic meetings, the government announced the suspension of payment of levies and taxes in markets in the state.
The government took a step further to assuage voters in the state. Few days to the governorship election, Ikpeazu held meetings with workers in the state and the agenda was to appeal to workers to vote for the PDP.
At the end of the meetings with workers, Ikpeazu announced command promotion for all workers in the state. What this meant was that every worker in the state was automatically promoted to the next grade level whether due for promotion or not.
The government also promised to pay workers’ leave allowances which most of them said they had not received for many years.
Many, including some of the workers themselves, saw the government’s action as not being genuine.
The member representing Aba South state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Obinna Ichita, described the promotion as fake.
The lawmaker said it was hard to believe that a government that had not paid doctors for 24 months and owed pensioners for years would announce promotion for all civil servants less than eight weeks to the end of its lifespan.
He wondered why government had to wait for few days to the governorship election before remembering the civil servants.
However, despite all the efforts, PDP failed to make it at the polls as Labour Party’s Alex Otti defeated the PDP candidate to become governor-elect.
Immediately Otti was announced as winner of the election after a five-day delay as a result of the ‘Obingwa Magic’ debacle, there were wild jubilations across the state.
In Umuahia, the state capital, some youths were seen carrying a coffin, claiming they were going to bury PDP, which they claimed, had ruled the state for 24 years with little or nothing to show for it.
When on February 22, the Kaduna State government announced measures, including the provision of free transport services, free medical care for common illnesses like malaria and typhoid, as well as necessities like food to, according to the government, mitigate the effect of the cash crunch on the people of the state, the Peoples Democratic Party faulted such measures, saying they amounted to voting buying because they came on the heels of the general elections.
The free services were sustained till the governorship and state assembly elections.
The State Secretary of PDP, Alhaji Ibrahim Wusono, noted that the gesture looked so suspicious, and urged residents not to accept such “Greek gifts” after the APC had allegedly inflicted pains on them under its “draconian administration for the more than seven years.
“The government brought a plan by transporting people from Kaduna to Zaria, metropolitan transportation free of charge. I want to draw the attention of Kaduna citizens that it’s part of the deceit which has always been part of the APC government for the past seven years.
“It tactics introduced by the APC government to distribute food items to the people is just because it has failed to govern well.
“It’s a deception. They governed the state for more than seven years, have they provided free transport to citizens of the state? They didn’t. It’s because of the election. It’s also vote buying.”
However, during the period, the Special Adviser to the Governor (Media & Communication), Muyiwa Adekeye, said in a statement that the measures became necessary because of the severe impact of the naira crunch on citizens’ welfare, trade and economic activities.