As the governorship aspirants of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) slug it out at the primaries this week, the atmosphere seems to be engulfed with trepidation as states have become real battlegrounds for contestants to flex their muscles.
While the PDP holds its primaries for 210 aspirants vying for the 28 governorship positions in 28 states today, the APC will follow suit tomorrow.
No fewer than 145 aspirants are seeking the governorship tickets of the ruling party.
In the PDP, a breakdown of the list shows that Plateau State has the highest number with 18 contestants, followed by Enugu with 17 aspirants.
Rivers comes next with 16 contestants, while Benue, Delta and Akwa Ibom have 14 contestants each.
In Ebonyi, 13 aspirants are chasing the ticket while 11 contestants will slug it out in Abia.
Cross River State has 10 aspirants. Nine contestants will be testing their strength in Kano.
Kaduna and Taraba have seven aspirants each; Zamfara, Lagos and Gombe have six contestants each.
Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger have five contestants each. Katsina and Ogun have four aspirants each.
There are three contestants each in Kwara, Nasarawa and Yobe; there are two each in Borno and Oyo.
In Adamawa, Governor Umar Fintiri is the sole aspirant.
Investigation revealed a number of flashpoints among the states where the parties will be conducting the exercise.
For instance, in Plateau State where 18 aspirants are contesting for the PDP ticket, there were pockets of disagreements over the delegates list to be used for the exercise.
The tension is said to be heightened by the absence of a sitting PDP governor in the state to coordinate activities ahead of the exercise.
A source attributed the high number of aspirants to the general perception that the APC administration in the state did not perform to the people’s expectations.
Also in Abia, seven of the 11 aspirants have kicked against the delegates list.
A petition by Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe and six co-aspirants to the PDP national leadership has not been addressed.
In Enugu State, stakeholders in the East and West Senatorial Districts are agitating for zoning.
This has pitted Senator Ike Ekweremadu of Enugu West against Senator Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu East.
In Sokoto State where Governor Aminu Tambuwal is serving out his second term, the five aspirants have been left guessing as to who among them has the governor’s backing.
Signals from Rivers State indicated that the 16 aspirants were still holding meetings as of last night to deliberate on how to withdraw for the “anointed” candidate of Governor Nyesom Wike.
In Zamfara, three of the six aspirants are said to have teamed up with the sacked deputy governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, who is considered a favourite among stakeholders.
Aspirants in Ebonyi State were still struggling with the delegate list as of yesterday.
However, former Senate President Chief Pius Anyim is said to be in control. Anyim, who is one of the 15 PDP presidential aspirants, is the leader of the PDP in the state.
The seven aspirants in Taraba State are said to be waiting for the final word from Governor Darius Ishaku, who will be completing his second term next year.
There are only two aspirants in Bauchi State, where Governor Bala Mohammed is seeking the 2023 PDP presidential ticket.
Sources said the governor is also contesting for the governorship ticket. Mohammed had said earlier that he had a Plan B. The other aspirant may step down for him.
In Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s preferred aspirant Ume Eno is being challenged by 13 other aspirants, among who are serving senators and members of the governor’s kitchen cabinet.
Two former governors of Cross River State, Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke are said to be playing stabilising roles in the chapter.
A source said stakeholders have seen the need to forge a common front in a bid to take the state back from the APC. However, there are 10 aspirants in the race.
Reports indicate that states like Nasarawa, Benue, Kwara, Niger, Kebbi and Kano were relatively peaceful as of last night.
However, disputes over delegate lists, which are common in many states, may upset the peace in these states.
Meanwhile, there is anxiety in Rivers State over the primary.
Wike had anointed the Accountant-General of the state, Siminialayi Fubara, as his successor.
Fubara’s late entrance into the race had caused upset. Other aspirants had opposed the plot by the governor to impose him as they had insisted on a free and fair primary.
Other aspirants from the Rivers West are David Briggs, Felix Obuah, Dr George Kelly and Dr Tammy Danagogo.
The aspirants from Rivers Southeast Senatorial District are Ledogo Lee Maeba, Olaka Johnson Wogu, Isaac Kamalu and Siminialayi Fubara.
Aspirants from Rivers East are Dr Abiye Sekibo, Austin Opara, Boma Iyaye, George Thompson Sekibo, Chief Morgan Tom West and Tele Ikuru.
Last year, Wike had promised not to impose any aspirant on the party.
He said the candidate must emerge from the collective decision of the party’s stakeholders.
The governor, however, gave an indication that he would not fold his arms and watch the entire process that would lead to the emergence of the candidate.
He listed the qualities that the individual must possess to merit his support and the flag of the party.
He insisted that the person must be courageous, firm and ready to protect the interest of the state.
He said: “One mistake I will not make is to impose somebody. From my experience as a student of history, reality has shown that it is difficult for you to say Joseph is the man I can trust.
“Until you give somebody power and money, that is only when you will know whether that person is trustworthy or not. God will ensure that it is only someone who is courageous, firm, and ready to protect the interest of Rivers that will succeed me.
“Rivers is a state that so many people have an interest in. It is a state where you have to put your feet on the ground. It is a state where you have to annoy a lot of Nigerians and a lot of Nigerians will hate you.
“But what is important is for you to know what is good for your people and stand for your people. Do not allow personal interest to sway you against the interest of your people.”
Obuah has calmed the frayed nerves of his supporters, who stormed his residence to warn against any plot to impose a candidate.
He reiterated his loyalty to the party, saying PDP must be considered supreme in all matters and decisions.
He appealed to party members to remain loyal.
Obuah said whoever is chosen by the party would become the candidate.
He said: “The party’s choice is also binding on all other aspirants in the spirit of togetherness necessary for the desired victory at the elections proper.
“I am a loyal party man and will always stand by the decisions of the party. It’s not in the best interest of the party to engage or encourage anybody or anything that will affect the overall interest of the party negatively.
“I, therefore, enjoin all my supporters across the state not to be disheartened or lured into any form of protest or agitation by anybody on my behalf should the outcome of the primary not reflect their expectation”.