Fourteen months to the 2023 general elections, posters of governorship aspirants are dotting strategic locations in Jos, the Plateau State capital, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
The second term of Governor Simon Lalong will elapse in May 29, 2023, but aspirants eyeing his seat are already scheming ahead of the governorship primaries of their parties.
Our correspondent reports that although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to permit electoral campaign for the 2023 general elections, campaign posters of aspirants are everywhere, especially in Jos.
Also, there have been reports of underground meetings by some of the aspirants, canvassing for the support of party members ahead of the primaries.
So far, over 30 aspirants are said to have informally indicated interest to contest for the Plateau plum seat. Party sources said at least 20 top shots of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are eyeing the governorship seat. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) parades 10 aspirants.
Political pundits say many aspirants are coming up in the ruling party, believing that the party may retain the governorship seat in the state. Incumbency, they say, will play a key role in determining the successor of Lalong come 2023.
Looking at the current political activities and gossips over the 2023 governorship election in the state, pundits say the election of the number one citizen of the state will be keenly contested, with each of the two major parties, APC and PDP, claiming to have more popular support than the other, saying the fight is no doubt going to be between the ruling party and the main opposition.
Some members of the APC said to be interested in the race are Prof Sonni Tyoden, deputy governor of the state; Garba Pwul, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN); Robert Taplea, chairman, Plateau State Civil Service Commission; Patrick Dakum, a politician; David Dimka, a retired comptroller of Customs, among others.
In the PDP, the people likely to aspire for the party’s ticket include Dr Mazadu Dader Bako, a retired civil servant; Prof Shedrack Best, secretary to the state government during the administration of David Jonah Jang; and Dauda Gontring, an active politician in the state.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that apart from the APC and the PDP, campaign posters of aspirants of other political parties are not seen in the public.
Pundits say there are many other people who are nursing the governorship ambition but are keeping their aspirations close to their chests, saying it is too early to publicly show interest in the race.
Will zoning be respected in 2023?
All the aspirants said to have indicated interest to aspire for tickets across the two major parties (APC/PDP), hail from the Plateau senatorial district, where the successor of Lalong is expected to emerge from if zoning formula is to be respected and maintained. Lalong is from the southern zone.
In the 2015 governorship election, however, the PDP, under the leadership of former Governor Jang refused to maintain the zoning formula, a situation analysts said gave Governor Lalong of the APC an advantage over to win the election.
In line with the internal agreement, the PDP candidate was supposed to emerge from the central zone, but the party presented Senator Gyang Pwajok, who hails from the same northern zone with Jang. This decision indeed affected the party in the 2015 governorship exercise.
Analysts said that whatever the case maybe in next governorship poll, for political parties to win popular votes, candidates of all parties must emerge from the central zone, explaining that the zoning arrangement is highly respected in the state when it comes governorship election.
Dr Ezekiel Adeyi, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, said there were many factors that could affect the next governorship election in the state.
“The gubernatorial election that was held during the administration of former Governor Jang established a principle, or kind of consciousness that Plateau people may not vote based on party. So, even if it is a dark party, so long as its flag-bearer is a credible candidate, it will win the election. But even if the PDP or APC presents a candidate that is questionable, Plateau people may vote against the popular party.
“The internal democracy of a party and process of nominating a candidate will determine how the election will go. If there is an invisible hand trying to create influence in the process internally, people may revolt against that.
“There is this unwritten understanding of zoning formula in Plateau. They rotate the governorship election between the three senatorial districts.
“The protest in the 2015 election was that the PDP candidate was from the northern zone instead of south; and that was why people voted against the PDP. That agreement can also affect the election.
“Apart from that, the credibility of the candidate can also affect how the election is going to be. The consciousness of the people can also affect the exercise. If there is voter apathy where people refuse to come out during the exercise that can also affect the exercise,” Dr Adeyi said.
Our correspondent reports that internal crisis currently rocking the APC and PDP is another factor that will determine how the next governorship election will take place in the state. The two major parties are battling with internal crisis, with each having camps within the parties.
During the recent election of party executives in the APC, there was serious crisis among members, leading to a legal action against the state chairman of the party, Rufus Bature, by a faction.
Lalong’s body language
Analysts say that although Lalong often remains silent when it comes to party affairs, there are strong indications that he has his preferred aspirant for the governorship race.
In the APC, Governor Lalong is said to have two aspirants in his mind to back during the party primaries, out of the over 20 that have indicated interest, depending on who would favour him the most after ‘winning the election.’
Those likely to have the support of the governor include Prof Dakas Dakas and Dr Patrick Dakuma, former commissioners of justice and information respectively under former Governor Joshua Dariye.
Both Dakum and Dakas had worked with Lalong when he was the Speaker of the State House of Assembly during Dariye’s tenure. Analysts say his support for any of the two university dons can be connected to their long-time relationship.
In the PDP, Prof Best, who hails from Plateau central, is said to be getting the support of his former boss, even though there are many aspirants who are warming up to join the race.
Daily Trust reports.