Two key gubernatorialelections are scheduled this year in Edo and Ondo states. Both are controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) but their governors have fallen out of favour with the party’s leadership.
Edo State’s Governor Godwin Obaseki is engaged in a supremacy battle with his political mentor and the current APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, over who controls the party structures in the state. Oshiomhole was instrumental in Obaseki’s election the latter’s bid to resist his interference in how the state is run has not gone down well with Oshiomhole who is now determined to see that Obaseki does not get the party’s ticket for a second term.
Obaseki could defect from the APC to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but he has denied that he has any plans to do so. The reality may, however, be different. If denied the opportunity to be re-elected for a second term as the APC’s candidate would leave him with no option than seek an alternative platform and the PDP is likely to be the most viable alternative. It is unclear if Obaseki would follow this option or even if the PDP will offer it to him.
The PDP is also in a tight position. Until last year — when Bayelsa voted for the APC — Edo is the only South South state that has not been ruled by the PDP since 2007. The PDP is therefore desperate to win Edo again and especially after losing the two gubernatorial elections that were held last year in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
The PDP would also love to win Ondo State which is another state where the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is not in the good books of the APC’s leadership. In December the APC lifted its suspension on Akeredolu from participating in party activities but he is also likely to be denied the party’s ticket for a second term. Like Obaseki, this may force Akeredolu to defect and the PDP remains an option for him.
The PDP’s attractiveness is, however, limited by its own internal issues which include: weakened finances; lack of unity; and, most significantly, a lack of access to power at the federal level which gives the ruling party control over the security forces. The latter was partially instrumental in helping the APC win off-cycle gubernatorial elections last year in Kogi State and Bayelsa State which further weakened the PDP.
Some key members of the PDP, including governors, are considering defecting to the APC. If the party is unable to win one or both of the gubernatorial elections this year, it could trigger defections of some of the PDP’s senior members to the APC.
Despite the APC’s own internal conflicts, the chances of the PDP winning any of the elections are slim. The party still has its own internal conflicts that threaten to tear it apart. Atiku Abubakar — the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections — said on 4 January that the PDP should focus its attention on trying to rebuild the party ahead of the state elections. This occurred after the PDP Board of Trustees’ chairman, Walid Jibril, claimed that his life has been threatened after he said that the PDP’s 2023 presidential ticket will be open to all comers. He said that those who threatened his life wanted him to state that Atiku would be given the ticket.
The PDP faces a Herculean challenge in rebuilding itself into a competitive platform. Besides its weak finances Atiku’s determination to have yet another attempt to win the Presidency in 2023 is likely to leave the party divided and distracted. Also, without being guaranteed the PDP ticket for 2023, Atiku will be reluctant to fund the party’s activities and without Atiku’s money the PDP will continue to struggle to remain relevant.
The governors on the party’s platform are not eager to fund it. Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike — who was the PDP’s main financier before the emergence of Atiku — has reduced his support after being unable to get his way in selecting the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections. He also appears to even be flirting with the APC with some thinking he may want to cut a deal that ensure Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) does not come after him when his term ends in 2023.