As the Saturday, March 18 date for the governorship and state assembly elections approaches, political observers project that the seeming redrawing of Nigeria’s electoral map, which began during the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections, could continue.
That means the reign of some gladiators in some political parties and states will be determined at the polls. So, it is either they guard their ‘political kingdom’ and win their turf for their parties or they are dethroned.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s Kaduna State presents one such interesting scenario. During the February 25 elections, the Peoples Democratic Party almost rendered the governor, a king without a kingdom with his ruling All Progressives Congress getting a thorough beating at the polls.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, defeated the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu, in the state.
Atiku garnered 554,360 votes to beat Tinubu, who got 399,293 votes to come second while the Labour Party’s Peter Obi polled 294,494 votes to claim third position.
El-Rufai has been the governor of the state since 2015 under the APC. But, under his reign, the APC lost the three senatorial seats to the PDP at the National Assembly polls.
The main opposition party also won 10 seats out of the total 16 seats for the House of Representatives in the state.
The Central North Senatorial district seat was won by Lawal Usman of the PDP who polled 225,066 votes to defeat the former Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Budget and Planning to Governor El-rufai, Abdullahi Sani, of the APC, who garnered 182,035 votes.
According to the Returning Officer, Prof. Haruna Adamu of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the candidate of the Labour Party, Ibrahim Sani, came third with 87,510 votes while Umar Tijjani of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, polled 24,395 votes to place fourth.
The PDP also clinched the Kaduna North Senatorial District won by its candidate, Khalid Mustapha, who defeated the incumbent, Senator Suleiman Kwari, of the APC.
Mustapha scored 250,826 votes to defeat Kwari, who got 190,008 votes.
The governorship battle
Against the above backdrop, many see the Saturday governorship election in the state as both challenging and of course interesting, a battle to finish between El-Rufai’s APC candidate and the PDP.
The PUNCH reports that no fewer than nine governorship candidates in the state on March 6 endorsed the candidate of the PDP, Isa Ashiru, as the consensus candidate.
Under the platform of the ‘Kaduna State Rescue and Rebuild Gubernatorial candidates Forum,’ they claim that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC is a mere ploy to divide the state along religious lines.
The nine parties comprised the Young Progressives Party, Action Alliance, Allied Peoples Movement, All People’s Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, and National Rescue Movement as well as the leadership of the Accord Party, ADP and the Zenith Labour Party.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna, the Chairman of the Forum, who’s also the governorship candidate of the YPP, Sani Yaya, said they decided to endorse the PDP candidate because he remained the best man for the job.
Going by how people voted in the state during the presidential election, pundits believe the PDP could have its best outing since 2015 this time around. If the pattern of voting continues, the PDP might cruise to victory again on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket strategy introduced by El-Rufai, which worked for him in 2019, may also be in favour of the APC governorship candidate, Uba Sani.
Before his election as senator in 2019, Sani had served as political adviser to El-Rufai in 2015. He is the incumbent senator for Kaduna Central senatorial district
His campaign jingles and programmes dominate virtually all local radio stations in Kaduna.
He promises to review and build on El-Rufai’s achievements in the past seven and half years, though citizens of the state do not seem to generally be in agreement on the governor’s achievements, especially, Christians, who might have reservations. The APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is what the opposition parties are exploiting to campaign against the APC.
Meanwhile, as much as the election is majorly between the APC and the PDP, there is also a major factor which is the growing influence of the Labour Party.
The LP governorship candidate, Jonathan Asake, was the President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, which makes him popular in Southern Kaduna. Asake is an obstacle which the APC and the PDP have to deal with.
No doubt, the major contest will be between the APC and the PDP on Saturday, and while the PDP will want to capitalise on the success it recorded in the presidential election in the state, the ruling APC will be doing everything to spring back into reckoning from the February 25 defeat and save the outgoing governor from a devastating political misfortune.