IN a month from today, Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo States residents will elect a new governor (on November 11) as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts the states’ off-cycle governorship poll.
The states are three of six states in Nigeria with off-season governorship polls. Others are Ondo, Edo and Osun.
The former INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee Chairman, Festus Okoye, announced the election date in October 2022.
Okoye said the decision was in tandem with Section 28(1) of the Electoral Act of 2022, which requires the commission to publish the notice of election not later than 360 days before the date set for the poll.
While the current governor of Imo State’s term expires on January 14, 2024, Okoye said the governors of Kogi and Bayelsa States had respective terms that expire on January 26, 2024, and February 13 of the same year.
The ICIR looks at the top candidates in the three states and their chances.
In Bayelsa, South-South, 16 candidates will be slugging it out to win the top seat of the oil-rich state. The major three candidates include the incumbent Governor Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former governor and the immediate Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Udengmobofa Eradiri of the Labour Party (LP).
However, The ICIR reported on Tuesday, October 10, that a Federal High Court in Abuja disqualified Sylva from participating in the exercise on Monday, October 9. The court argued that he had taken oath as an elected governor twice.
He was the state governor from May 29, 2007, to April 15, 2008, and from May 27, 2008, to January 27, 2012, when the court sacked him.
Hours after Monday’s ruling, the APC vowed to appeal the judgment.
Bayelsa State is constantly faced with a flooding crisis. A flash flood hit the state and other parts of Nigeria in the last quarter of 2022. At least 3.5 million people were displaced, 569,000 hectares of agriculture were devastated, and over 600 people died, according to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Candidates and their chances
Diri, a former senator, House of Representatives member, and Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the state became governor following a court judgement that disqualified the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the state, David Lyon.
The 2019 election in Bayelsa was between Diri of the PDP and Lyon of APC.
Lyon won with 352,552 votes, defeating Diri of the PDP with 143,172 votes.
However, a day before his swearing-in, the Supreme Court sacked him as governor-elect because his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, forged the certificate he submitted to INEC.
Diri will be banking on the fact that the PDP has led the state since the nation returned to democracy in 1999.
Sylva is the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum. He was also a former governor of the state. He governed the state under the PDP.
Among others, Sylva will be counting on his accomplishments when he led the state and the clout of his party, APC, at the national level.
Though, as it stands, he is out of the contest following Monday’s Federal High Court judgement against him, he can still participate in the election if a superior court upturns the decision.
It is posited that the youth’s support for him may swing the pendulum in his favour.
An engineer, he is a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, commissioner, and special adviser on Youth Matters in the NDDC.
He will also be capitalising on the popularity of Peter Obi, the LP’s Presidential candidate in the February 25 Presidential election, to cause an upset.
According to the candidates’ list published by INEC, the governorship elections in Kogi state will be keenly contested by 18 candidates.
Kogi faces substantial security issues. Flooding is also a perennial issue in the North-Central state.
Among the leading candidates jostling for the number one seat in the state are Murtala Yakubu Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dino Melaye of the PDP, Ododo Usman Ahmed, APC and Leke Abejide of African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Usman Ahmed Ododo
Ododo is a former auditor-general for Local Government in the state.
He enjoys the advantage of being the only candidate from the central senatorial district of the state, the support of the incumbent Yahaya Bello, and his party (the APC), which leads at the federal level.
He is, however, faced with opposition from some members of his party who lost out in the primaries.
He is the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the coming election.
A former House of Representatives member and senator, Melaye contested the governorship primaries of his party in 2019 and lost.
He was the spokesperson for the PDP presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
He is famous for his flamboyance.
Melaye hails from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of the state.
Muritala Yakubu Ajaka
Muritala Ajaka was the former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC.
He resigned the party membership, after which he emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the SDP for the November 11 election.
Many residents see him as one of the likely winners.
He is from the eastern senatorial district – the region with the highest voters and population.
Abejide is a serving House of Representatives member elected under the platform of the (ADC). He represents the Yagba Federal Constituency.
He was reelected on February 25, 2023, for a second term.
Abejide is running for the Kogi governorship seat under the ADC platform.
He is one of the three candidates from Kogi West Senatorial District.
Like others, The ICIR reports that the Kogi election promises to be interesting, given the heavyweights vying for the exalted seat.
Insecurity has been a major challenge in the Southeast region, and it has led to the deaths of more than 1,700 people between January 2021 and June 2023.
Deaths occur from protests, armed clashes, abductions, mob violence, activities of secessionist groups, riots, electoral violence, and other causes.
Insecurity affects all five states: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.
In Imo, INEC cleared 17 candidates for the forthcoming election.
The major candidates are the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodinma of the APC, Athan Nneji Aconu, LP and Samuel Anyanwu of the PDP.
Uzodimma has been Imo State governor since 2020 after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and declared him the winner despite coming fourth in the election results announced by INEC.
He is the current chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum.
He has the advantage of incumbency. He will also enjoy the APC support – a party ruling at the national level.
In August, Uzodimma dropped his deputy and unveiled Chinyere Ekomaru as his running mate for the poll.
He is the LP’s candidate for the election.
He served briefly in the National Assembly as a senator before the courts sacked him.
Achonu has built a name for himself by embracing his disability.
If he wins the election, he will become the nation’s first amputee governor.
He will also bank on the LP’s success in the South East during the February and March general elections.
Anyanwu was the former National Secretary of the PDP before contesting the governorship election in Imo state.
He served as a senator in the 8th National Assembly.
He contested for the PDP ticket in 2019 but was defeated by Emeka Ihedioha in the party primary.
A former local government chairman and State House of Assembly member from 2007 to 2015, he is well-grounded in the state’s local politics.