2019 Senatorial Election: Battlegrounds To Watch

As the deadline for political parties to submit names of their candidates for 2019 elections to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) closed last week Thursday, there are some senatorial seats that will be keenly contested in 2019.

It is not that the senatorial seats are too important or strategic. It is just because of the personality of the candidates, their political status, age-long rivalry and others. Most of the parties’ candidates in the affected senatorial zones are mainly ex-governors. These senatorial zones include…

Delta South Senatorial District
In this senatorial zone, the battle for the seat will be between ex-governor of Delta State and All Progressives Congress senatorial candidate for the seat, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and a third term senator and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the seat (PDP) James Manager.

Uduaghan’s desire to occupy the seat in 2015 after his tenure as governor expired was truncated by when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP showed preference for Manager to continue on the seat. It was alleged that President Jonathan calculated the possibility of Manager becoming Senate leader in 2015 and that it was for the same reason that the then Senate Leader, Senator Ndoma Egba was denied return ticket to Senate by PDP in 2015.

Manager, has held on to the seat since 2003 after it was relinquished by Senator Stella Omu. It was disclosed that Uduaghan’s decision to defect to APC was informed by lack of interest of the powers-that-be in Delta PDP to give him the party senatorial ticket.Now that Uduaghan will be slugging it out with Manager, who enjoys the backing of the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, the contest will be a battle royal. This is considering the fact that Uduaghan’s cousin and ex-governor of the Delta, James Ibori may pitch tenth with Uduaghan in the battle.

The Isoko people who are fed up with Manager’s sit-tight attitude may team up with Uduaghan’s people-Itsekiri to vote him out. Manager being a veteran in the battle will leave no stone unturned in the fight to hold on to his seat. To solidly back Manager in the struggle is Governor Okowa, who seems not to have forgiven Uduaghan for not supporting him for governor in 2015.

Abia North Senatorial Zone
This is another senatorial zone to watch in 2019 as it was keenly contested in 2015 with two rerun elections that did not change the status quo.Major candidates in the senatorial district are ex-governor of Abia State and candidate of APC, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and incumbent senator and candidate of PDP, Senator Mao Ohabunwa. Ohabunwa with the support of the PDP-controlled state government defeated Kalu in 2015.

After the Appeal Tribunal nullified the election and ordered a rerun, Ohabunwa defeated Kalu again. Now that Kalu is the candidate of the ruling party at centre, will the outcome of the contest go in his favour or will he be humiliated again by Ohabunwa?Won’t Ohabunwa be supported by the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who is also seeking a second term? Besides, Southeast is not APC’s stronghold and that sentiment may count against Kalu, but federal ‘might’ might work in his favour.

Benue North-East Senatorial Zone
This is another senatorial election that the contest will be interesting to watch. Major contenders for the seat are ex-governor of the state and PDP candidate Gabriel Suswam, incumbent senator and candidate of SDP, Barnabas Gemade and APC candidate, Mrs Mimi Orubibi. Following the recent political reconfiguration, after the defection of the state governor, Samuel Ortom from APC to PDP, Gemade also defected to PDP, hoping to secure his return ticket. This did not work out for Gemade, following Suswan’s declaration of interest in the seat.

That was how Gemade defected to SDP and picked the party’s senatorial ticket. It was Suswan’s ambition in 2015 that made Gemade to rush to APC and teamed up with the likes of Senator George Akume to defeat Suswan and others.Will Suswam lose for the second time to Gemade? Will Gemade defeat Suswam and Orubibi even with APC ticket? If Suswam could lose the senatorial seat as an incumbent governor in 2015, what is the guarantee that he will survive Gemade/ APC onslaught if the two parties agree to work together to stop him? Is it not possible, that with the political atmosphere in Benue coupled with Ortom’s support, that Suswan will emerge victorious in the election?

Kano Central Senatorial Zone
This is one senatorial zone whose election will shape the politics of Kano State in the years to come. Major contenders for the seat are two ex-governors of the state, who happen to be the candidates of the two major parties- APC and PDP. They are sworn political enemies, who could not agree to work after one ousted the other from office as governor. They are Ibrahim Shekarau of the APC and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the PDP.

In 2003, Shekarau, the ANPP governorship candidate and modest public servant latched on the massive support and popularity of then ANPP presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari in Kano to defeat Kwankwaso, who was an incumbent governor. Shekarau went ahead to break record by winning his second term in 2007 and became the first to do so in the state.

In 2007, Kwankwaso staged a comeback to Government House by defeating the candidate of the ANPP. After the formation of APC, of which Shekarau played a significant role ahead of 2015 elections, Kwankwaso defected to APC. Shekarau and his supporters were asked by APC leadership to queue behind Kwankwaso. Shekarau felt betrayed and insulted, and quickly defected to PDP and was made Minister of Education.

Shekarau remained in PDP until recently, when Kwankwaso returned to PDP again ahead of 2019 polls. Efforts by PDP leadership to reconcile Kwankwaso and Shekarau to work together for the party proved abortive. Shekarau left PDP to APC and was compensated with Kaano Central senatorial ticket of the party. Kwankwaso, had after losing the PDP presidential election, picked the party’s senatorial ticket for Kano Central.

Shekarau will enjoy the backing of Kwankwaso’s estranged son and governor of the state, Ibrahim Ganduje. Kwankwaso will be banking on the support of his political base, Kwakwansiya movement.

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