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Tension As Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa Elect Governors

Uzodinma tackles Athan, Anyanwu, in Imo; Ododo, Ajaka, Dino Melaye in intense contest in Kogi; Diri, Sylva, Eradiri, battle for the soul of Bayelsa.

Tension remains very high in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states as voters file out Saturday morning to elect governors that will manage affairs in the next four years.
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and his counterpart in Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, are seeking re-election, while Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who is rounding off his second term, is supporting the All Progressives Congress’ candidate, Usman Ododo, whom he anointed, among the aspirants, to win the party’s ticket.
After weeks of acrimonious campaigns, voters are bitterly divided between the leading governorship candidates, with allegations and counter-allegation of violence and rigging by the different camps.

Fear of violence is palpable in the three states, but the police and other security agencies have assured voters of maximum security. Indeed, every nook and cranny of the states are heavily policed.
As at press time, tough-looking security agents were on the streets of Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pleaded with the political parties for a peaceful poll.
The commission disclosed that 5,169,692 registered voters who collected their PVCs would cast their votes in the three states today.
The breakdown indicates that out of 1,056,862 registered voters in Bayelsa State, 1,017,613 have collected PVCs. In Imo State, the number of registered voters is 2,419,922 out of which 2,318,919 have collected PVCs. In Kogi State, out of 1,932,654 registered voters, 1,833,160 have collected PVCs.
The Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, has ordered restriction of vehicular movement in the three states from 11:59 p.m Friday to 6.00 p.m Saturday to curb the movement of illicit arms and political thugs.

Egbetokun has deployed no fewer than 92,000 officers and men for election duties in the three states.
By Friday morning, the Police had completed its operational deployment in the three states. The IG assured that the force has enough manpower ready for election duty.
Egbetokun said his men will deal with hoodlums who may be planning to snatch ballot boxes during today’s governorship elections.
Egbetokun said: “Concerning security at the collation centres, if collation centres have been porous in the past, I’ve said it before now, collation centres in this election will be heavily secured.”
The IG also ordered the distribution of additional 220 operational vehicles for election security management across the states.
Anti-riot equipment, including water cannons, Armoured Personnel Carriers, helmets, bulletproof vests, and tear gas canisters have also been deployed across the three states.

The IG also announced that dignitaries and Very Important Persons would not be allowed to move around with police escorts on election day, adding that it violates the Electoral Law.
“And anyone that does that is violating the electoral law and is liable to prompt arrest, and such people will get dealt with when they’re arrested,” the police chief stated.
Also on Friday, the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, assured residents of Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states of their security during the governorship elections.
This is as he warned political actors against any act of violence in the states.
Ribadu stressed that there would be “severe consequences” for anyone found trying to disrupt the elections in the three states.
Ribadu noted a monitoring system had been established with monitors deployed to the field to collect any evidence of violence and irregularities.

Kogi State
Today’s gubernatorial election is a three-horse race in Kogi State. The leading contestants are Usman Ododo of the APC, Dino Melaye of the PDP and Murtala Ajaka of the SDP. Analysts argue that the three candidates are from different ethnic backgrounds, namely Ebira, Okun and Igala, respectively and that the voting pattern may likely reflect the same. While APC will dictate the pace in Kogi central, the SDP will make a huge statement in Kogi East and PDP will dominate Kogi West.

Usman Ododo
Ododo was, in the last seven and half years, the Local Government Auditor General of Kogi State before his emergence as the flag bearer of the APC. He hails from Okene (Kogi Central) just as the outgoing governor.
Ododo, an Ebira, is expected to win the five local government areas in the zone.
He will have it tough in Kogi West, where agitation for power shift is intense. However, based on the dividends of democracy enjoyed in the area under Governor Bello, particularly with the establishment of a university in Kabba, Ododo is expected to get a fairly good number of votes here.
In Kogi East, the cries of marginalisation and agitations for power shift will deny Ododo significant votes. The influence of the incumbent Deputy Governor, Edward Onoja, and Ododo’s running mate, Joel Oyibo, both from the zone, may however help to attract some votes. The fact that Kogi East has 14 governorship candidates in today’s election may be a plus for Ododo.

Murtala Ajaka
As a result of his inability to secure the governorship ticket on the platform of the APC, Ajaka dumped the party and subsequently emerged as the candidate of SDP. Prior to this time, he was the National Deputy Publicity Secretary of APC. With his emergence, the political observers in Kogi State have argued that it may have altered political permutations, with many in his zone seeking a return to power tagged “Igala Agenda.”
The rising profile of Ajaka in Kogi East allegedly led to violent clashes between APC and SPD supporters in the state. Ajaka is expected to dominate Kogi East.
In Kogi West, the presence of SDP is felt in few local government areas but Ajaka will still make an impact. Ajaka’s chances in Kogi Central are very slim.

Dino Melaye
Dino Melaye’s emergence as PDP’s flag bearer not only split the party, but also resulted in a gale of defections. The big wigs from the Kogi West axis left the party over alleged doctoring of the delegates’ list at the primary. This notwithstanding, Melaye has put his acts together in his determination to wrest power from the APC.
Melaye hails from Aiyetoro Gbede in the Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. Unfortunately, some leaders of the party in Kogi West are not happy with 2015 episode when Dino played the role of a spoiler, preventing an Okun son becoming the governor after the sudden death of Audu. However, Melaye may still dominate Kogi West. He will struggle to make an impact in Kogi Central and Kogi East.

Imo State
The key contestants in Saturday’s election in Imo State are incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma of the APC, Sam Anyanwu of the PDP and Athan Achonu of the Labour Party. The race is seen as unpredictable and could swing in favour of any of the three leading contenders.

Hope Uzodinma
Factors definitely not in Uzodinma’s favour include Imo State’s degeneration from centre of relaxation and hospitality to hotbed of insecurity and violence.
Ordinarily, the incumbency factor would have given Uzodinma an edge, but the state’s persisting insecurity could hinder his chances. Some say his actions and body language are contributory factors in the violence and uncertainty in the state.
Additionally, there is the populist sentiment that his best had not been good enough for the state.
What stands out in Uzodinma’s favour is the spread of the APC structures across the length and breadth of Imo State.
Further enhancing Uzodinma’s chances include the squabbles in the two main opposition parties – PDP and LP.

Two jokers Uzodinma may finally play include the ethnic card, and the Federal might. The former two-term Senator of Orlu zone, with its 12 LGAs, is the man to beat today.
The Federal might would equally come in handy for Uzodinma as the APC-led federal government would not be willing to lose Imo, its strongest South-east ally, either to the LP or the PDP.
APC, as a ruling party is an attractive bait to political elites, some seeking political rehabilitation and revival or as a haven to escape investigation or prosecution for corruption charges. Such big names which had clustered around Uzodinma would bargain for a piece of the pie and support him.

Athan Achonu
Achonu is expected to pool the majority of the votes from the Okigwe zone. The Peter Obi LP sentiments would equally enhance Achonu’s chances, especially in the metropolitan capital city of Owerri where collapsing infrastructure, particularly road network, had distanced the people from Uzodinma.
But the LP is weakened by internal bickering after its hotly contested governorship primary which led to the exodus from the party of several ‘Obedients’ who would have brought the Peter Obi wave to bear on the election.
Besides Ochudo Martin Agbaso, another LP chieftain, General Jack Ogunewe left the party to pick the Action Alliance ticket. Others like Dr Sam Amadi have refused to support Achonu, while some like Dr Fabian Ihekweme, a former Commissioner and one-time gubernatorial candidate had subtly defected to the Uzodinma camp.
A decisive Mindshift by the people and a high turnout of voters might favour the LP candidate, but there are fears that the insecurity scare would checkmate such development.

Sam Anyanwu
PDP’s internal bickering, including the Emeka Ihedioha factor, may work against Anyanwu’s chances today. It would seem the absence of Ihedioha in the race united his Mbaise people to solidly line up behind Uzodinma.
The PDP boasts of widespread structures, but the bickering and sabotage rocking the party had clearly diminished its potential and robbed Anyanwu of the enormous goodwill the party hitherto enjoyed.
Findings show that Ihedioha was able to triumph in 2019 by winning with the largest votes from the nine LGAs of Owerri zone and consolidating with votes from one or two LGs from Orlu and Okigwe zones. Would the same formula work for Anyanwu? Perhaps not.
While both Owerri and Okigwe zones are bitter that the Orlu zone has had more than its fair share of the governorship, occupying it for 20 out of 24 years of democracy, they do not have a winning formula that could effectively combine their joint 15 LGAs against Orlu’s 12, thus the Uzodimma joker, even as he seems to have votes from Orlu’s 12 LGAs safely under his belt.

Bayelsa State
The leading candidates in Bayelsa State are incumbent governor Douye Diri of the PDP, Timipre Sylva of the APC and Udengs Eradiri of the LP.

Douye Diri
Diri, a former teacher, Organising Secretary of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), hails from Kolokuma/Okpokuma Local Government Area. He was a Senator, a former member of the House of Representatives, and former Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the state.
The incumbent governor is looking good for a second term based on his first term performance and the fact that leading opposition parties in the state are in crisis.
Diri is heading to the warfront with a more formidable and united party. The PDP has been ruling Bayelsa State since 1999.
During the last general election, PDP cruised to victory in most of the seats contested, winning all the National Assembly seats and majority of the state’s House of Assembly seats.

Timipre Sylva
Sylva, who hails from Okpoama, Brass Local Government Area, based on his antecedent and pedigree, is the strongest among those jostling to wrestle power from Diri.
However, his campaign was negatively affected by the failed attempts to disqualify him through the court.
He was a former governor of the state for four years and immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
Some members have accused him of running the party as his private estate, they blame the abysmal performance of the party in the state at the 2023 elections on his overbearing attitude.
They accuse Sylva of imposing himself as the party gubernatorial candidate to the detriment of a more popular candidate in David Lyon.

Udengs Eradiri
Eradiri is the youngest among the leading candidates at just 47. He is an Engineering graduate from the University of Benin.
The former President, IYC worldwide was Commissioner for Youths and later Environment under the Seriake Dickson administration. Eradiri is regarded as the dark horse among those jostling to occupy the Creek Haven.
The youth activist turned politician is from Agudama-Ekpetiama, Yenagoa Local Government Area.

Key Battle Areas in Bayelsa
Going by feelers from the Bayelsa East, comprising Brass, Nembe and Ogbia local government areas, regarded as the APC stronghold and Sylva’s Senatorial District, the APC might cause the PDP some pains here.
Diri is expected to win big in the Bayelsa West Senatorial District which has Sagbama and Ekeremor local government areas. This is also home to PDP big wigs like former Governor Seriake Dickson; Fred Agbedi; the Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewrujakpor.
In Bayelsa Central, one of the largest senatorial districts in terms of land mass and voters’ strength, the key battle will be in Southern Ijaw, where Sylva’s running mate, Joshua MacIver hails from.

Yenagoa, made up of the three local governments, will also be a place where an upset cannot be ruled out. With Eradiri and the Labour Party’s pressure, votes may likely be divided among the three contenders. Reasons being that Eradiri’s LP is targeting the youths, made up of over 70 percent of eligible voters in the state capital.
Though it is expected that Diri will get the majority of the votes in Opokuma Local Government Area, being his own local government. Diri looks good to win Bayelsa Central and ultimately return for a second term.

Charles Ajunwa, Ibrahim Oyewale, Tony Icheku, Olusegun Samuel

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