Senators who want to be governors

The current trend in Nigerian politics is for governors to seek election into the Senate after serving out their tenures as state chief executive officers. In the current Seventh Senate, the population of former governors in the red chamber has risen to eleven, from four in the Sixth Senate.

While some current governors have not hidden their ambition to proceed to the Senate after their current tenures, some senators, at the same time, are angling to take over from such governors in their various states.

Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West/PDP)
Even though he has tried a couple of times to deny that he has any gubernatorial ambition, political watchers of events in Enugu State still believe that Ike Ekweremadu’s gubernatorial ambition is still alive. In May this year, at two different interviews with the media, the Deputy Senate President refuted any such ambition.
Also, during the last routine interactive session with Senate correspondents in his Apo Quatrers, Abuja official residence, Ekweremadu categorically denied ever having any gubernatorial ambition.
But somehow, this rumour has failed to disappear. But the truth of the matter is that Ekweremadu’s gubernatorial ambition predates 2007. Towards the twilight of the Chimaroke Nnamani’s eight year term, Ekwereamddu was generally perceived as a possible successor to Nnamani. That dream was only thwarted by none other than Nnamani himself with the opposition forces within the Ebeano political camp.

Those who are strongly convinced that Ekweremadu still nurses strong gubernatorial ambition in 2015 point to the fact that in recent times, he has commissioned so many projects in his constituency, more than any senator of the federation has attracted to his senatorial zone.

The projects include some state and federal government projects. The lawmaker has also executed a number of empowerment projects for the youths and women through his famous Ikeoha Foundation. Political analysts in Enugu State and beyond believe that one of the strongest factors in Ekweremadu’s favour, should he decide to take a shot at the gubernatorial project is his huge financial muscles as well as the political influence he enjoys within the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP both at the state and the federal levels.

He is, in addition entrenched in the politics of the seat of power at the federal level. But a major problem Ekweremadu may encounter in the project is the Sullivan Chime factor, who comes from the same zone; Enugu West with him. The governor has never hidden his belief that it will be politically immoral and smacks of sheer injustice for another Enugu West indigene to succeed him after his eight year tenure.

Also, the governor feels that he needs to redeem his pact with the people of Enugu North during his 2011 campaign to zone the governorship to Enugu North come2015. The governor used that agreement to garner support for his return for the second term bid. That arrangement somewhat vitiates Ekweremadu’s ambition.

Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South/PDP)

A one-time deputy governor of Abia State under Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, is believed to be in strong contention to be the next governor of the state. He comes from the Ngwa stock, which is believed to be in line to produce the governor of the state.
His current status as a senator is a strong factor for his ambition. Also, having been a former deputy governor puts him in strong contention for the office above other contenders, because experience counts so much in his favour.
Political observers in the state and at the federal level believe that financially, Abaribe has mustered some real strength; having been in the Senate for two terms and is currently chairing the Senate Committee on Media, Information and Public Affairs.
The lawmaker, who also belongs to five other committees in the Senate is seen by the elite in the state as a person who is patient, understanding and level-headed and who is not a political enfant terrible. During his trying period as the deputy governor of the state, Abaribe received a lot of support and sympathy from the political elites in the state and even from the media because he was seen as suffering unnecessary political persecution from Kalu.
The economist, teacher and politician is entrenched in grassroots politics and that makes him popular among the youths and women, who constitute the bulk of voters in the state. However, one of the greatest challenges Abaribe may face will come from some of his kinsmen, who are also interested in giving a shot at the same office.
For instance, Emeka Nwogu, who is a two-term serving Minister of Labour and Productivity is one of those who are likely to pose some serious obstructions to Abaribe’s ambition. One factor going for Nwogu is his closeness to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nwogu’s wife is an Ijaw, from Jonathan’s home state. This naturally presupposes that Nwogu is more likely to gain the support of the President for the project than Abaribe.
Besides, there is also the Kalu factor. Chances are that the former governor will sure want to thwart Abaribe’s ambition at all costs, particularly given the cantankerous manner the senator was forced out of office by the former governor.

Ayogu Eze (Enugu North/PDP)
Senator Ayogu Eze has never concealed his ambition to become the governor of Enugu State. Indeed, at every event, Eze has always sounded this ambition loud and clear, such that at any time the Senate President, David Mark, wants to gain Eze’s attention at the Senate, he would always refer to the lawmaker as, “Enugu Government House.”
A journalist by profession and practice, one of Eze’s strongest advantages in his gubernatorial quest is that he is intellectually sound and politically very influential in his native Enugu State. He is also very experienced in the politics of the state.
While this may count as an advantage to him when it comes to grassroots support, the same factor may likely work against him within the elite class of his Nsukka kinsmen, who perceive him as too ambitious and indeed a desperado.
Watchers of Enugu State politics believe that in the Enugu North senatorial zone where he comes from, and in particular, Nsukka area, the lawmaker has issues with a lot of political leaders there.
The elite see him as craving for political dominance, which most of them found distasteful and unacceptable. For instance, he has fallen out of favour with the Nwodo brothers who are supposed to be his political benefactors and mentors.
At a recent stakeholders’ meeting in Enugu where the issue of power rotation in the state was discussed, a governorship aspirant, Chief Dubem Onyi, former Minister of State, Foreign Affairs moved the motion for the zoning of the governorship to Enugu North.
The motion was unanimously adopted by all at the meeting, including the governor, Chime and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. Observers believe that the endorsement of the governor no doubt provided great fillip to the ambition of Eze, who hails from that zone.

The action of the governor provided an opportunity for the former PDP National Chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo to admit publicly that all along, he had misunderstood the governor and never knew that he (Chime), meant well for the state. Another strong factor that may play in Eze’s favour is that he has the ears of Governor Chime, even though fifth columnists have been trying to create a hedge between them.

Eze, also have the financial muscle, particularly as he has been in the Senate, in the past six years. Through the influence of the Senate President, Eze, who is seen as, “one of Mark’s boys,” got the slot to chair the Senate Committee on Works, which is considered as a Grade A committee and which will in some ways help in oiling his gubernatorial ambitions.
Nkechi Nwogu (Abia Central/PDP)
Politically and traditionally, Abia State is still a sexist society; an essentially male dominated society. This makes it a herculean task for Senator Nkechi Nwogu to actualise her ambition of becoming the next governor of Abia State.
But those who know the Abia Central Senatorial district representative well will tell you that she is not a person that is easily cowed by predominant beliefs and prejudices. Indeed, it was her strong belief in confronting challenges, no matter how daunting that saw her unseating the former senator and becoming the current senator for the zone.
A two-timer in the Senate, Nwogu made her marks in the red chamber in the Sixth Senate when she was the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Banking, where she used her position to get the banks to conform to good corporate practices. Her experience as a former member of the House of Representatives has played a key role in her robust parliamentary activities in the Senate so far.

Currently, Nwogu is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Gas, where National Assembly watchers believe that she is yet to stamp her full marks. At the grassroots politics, Nwogu has shown a lot of understandings, particularly with her closeness to the women and youths.

One of her Achilles’ heels in this project may be her attitude to holding very tightly to money, as she is reputed to being too miserly with funds. Also, the dominant male political leadership in Abia State has not yet come to the consciousness that it is time for a woman to lead the state.

Andy Ubah (Anambra SouthPDP)
Anambra State is peculiar in the sense that it is populated by money bag politicians. This is more so with the Southern part of the state where Senator Andy Ubah hails from. He will be slugging it out with the likes of Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, another money bag, who has vast interest in real estate business and enjoys government patronages through contract awards.

The battle will also be joined by Ifeannyi Ubah, an oil and gas mogul who also comes from the same Southern part of the state. Ubah is seen as a come-back kid, having had a brief stint as governor of the state until his tenure was aborted by a court process. Generally, Ubah wields a great deal of influence in the politics of Anambra State through his huge financial resources and political influence.

In fact, the lawmaker is said to be worth over N1 trillion in cash and assets. In the PDP, the Ubah family controls the politics of the state through the younger, Chris. Ubah will be leveraging on this advantage.
This means that he will be relying on two factors to foster his political ambition. These are his huge financial clout as well as his family political structures in the PDP. What may work against him is the issue of credibility.

The people of Anambra State are yet to forget the events of 2003, involving the kidnap of the former governor, Chris Ngige. The elite in the state are not particularly disposed to Ubah and indeed the Ubahs, because they see them as vicious politicians.
They will also see the emergence of any of the Ubahs as a process of ceding the state to former President Olusegun Obasanjo because of their closeness to the former president. Ubah’s chairmanship of the Senate Committee on INEC is seen by National Assembly watchers as part of his early ploy at nurturing his 2015 gubernatorial ambition. However, the hurdle Ubah may have to scale through is how to grab the ticket of the party at the primaries to fly the party’s flag at the 2015 polls.

Already, the lawmaker has suffered the first blow in this regard, because the preferred candidate by the NWC of the PDP for the chairmanship of the state party, who is also the choice of the Ubahs, Ken Emeakayi, has been unilaterally replaced with Ejike Oguebego by the national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. This is seen as a bad omen for his ambition.

Chris Ngige (Anambra Central/APC)
A former governor of Anambra State until he was unseated by the court, Senator Chris Ngige may not be financially endowed but he enjoys grassroots support in the state. He will be relying on the financial support of the leadership of the new All Progressives Congress, APC, to prosecute his gubernatorial quests.

Ngige, who became a senator under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and now will be seeking election as governor of Anambra State under the new APC, owes his popularity with the people of the state due to his being actually the first person that made the people of Anambra State feel the impact of government through his massive investments in infrastructure.

Ngige still enjoys the goodwill of the people and it was the same goodwill that enabled him to defeat the former Information Minister and very popular Prof. Dora Akunyili at the poll to become a senator. Ngige will still be relying on the same goodwill to prosecute his 2015 gubernatorial ambitions. The lawmaker will be seeking election as a clear alternative to the PDP and APGA options.

Hope Uzodinma (Imo West/PDP)
Senator Hope Uzodinma is an influential member of the ruling PDP both at the state and the federal level. He is a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of the party and recently, he was made the head of the special panel that was mandated to look at the leadership crisis in the Taraba State chapter of the PDP, which was occasioned by the long absence of the governor, who was involved in an air crash.

Uzodinma is not only personally close to the national chairman of PDP, Tukur, he as well enjoys cordial relationship with the chairman of the party’s BoT, Chief Tony Anenih. At the Senate, where he is a first time lawmaker, Uzodinma was able to muzzle his way through to chair the very strategic Senate Committee on Aviation. He is also seen as a member of the kitchen cabinet of the Senate President, Mark.

The lawmaker spends hugely in the media and has also reaped massively from it. He was recently enmeshed in a certificate scandal, where some of his political adversaries accused him of not possessing a school certificate as he claimed in his resume. But somehow, that scandal has fizzled out, almost as it came.

Uzodinma may not have serious difficulties obtaining the ticket of PDP to run for the gubernatorial slot for Imo State, but he may have to contain with Ifeanyi Ararume, who was the party’s candidate in the 2007 election and is believed to still be interested in the project. However, the PDP will have to be very careful on who flies the flag of the party in the next election in order to wrestl the state back from the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Chris Anyanwu (Imo East/APGA)
Senator Chris Anyanwu will have to fight a very herculean battle if she must actualise her ambition of winning the ticket of APGA for the gubernatorial race. The first challenge she may have to contend with is that of Mrs. Kema Chikwe, who until recently was the national women leader of the PDP. It is believed that Chikwe played a vital role in denying Anyanwu the senatorial ticket in the PDP, which made her to return to the Senate under APGA. Besides, there is also the Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho factor.

Even though the former Interior Minister belongs to the PDP, he was said to have supported Anyanwu greatly in actualising her ambition of returning to the Senate despite serious oppositions from Chikwe and the former governor, Ikedi Ohakim.
Now that Iheanacho is said to be nursing similar gubernatorial ambition, Anyanwu can no longer rely on his support since he (Iheanacho) will concentrate all efforts towards actualising his own objective. There is also the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha’s factor.

Both Anyanwu and Ihedioha come from the same zone of the state and it is no longer secret that Ihedioha is eyeing the Government House, Owerri. The implication is that both lawmakers will be competing for the votes from the same place.
Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta North/PDP)
There is a current political agitation in Delta State by the people of Anioma that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state. Indeed, since the creation of the state, none of the Aniomas have had any shot at the governorship of the state. If this sentiment gains the support of the other ethnic groups in the state, then this will put Okowa, who comes from that part of the state in good stead for the office.
A medical doctor by profession, Senator Okowa was the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, SSG, from 2007 to 2011, under the present governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, before proceeding to the Senate.
Okowa has done relatively well in the Senate where he is the current Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health. The chances of the lawmaker, becoming the next governor of the state will depend, to a very large extent on whether the present governor, Uduaghan, will buy into the sentiment that it is the turn of the Aniomas to produce the next governor of the state.
Magnus Abe (Rivers South-East/PDP)
Before the current political crisis in Rivers State, Senator Magnus Abe was seen as the, “Khalifa,” the successor to the throne in the state.
It was believed in political circles in Rivers State that Governor Chibuike Amaechi was favourably disposed to handing over to Abe come 2015. His choice was among other reasons, intended to address the age-long marginalisation of the Ogonis.
A very loyal and avid supporter of Amaechi, it is therefore no gainsaying that one of the major casualties of the on-going political crisis in the state is indeed Senator Abe. One time Commissioner for Information, a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Abe has done very well in the Senate where he chairs the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream).
Abe has maintained a very clean record of integrity in a sector that is reeking with high degree of corruption. He chaired the Senate Joint Committees that probed the fuel subsidy scam in 2011 and came out very clean of scandals at a time the same probe led to massive allegation of corruption against members of the House of Representatives.
A lawyer by profession, Abe is said to be in very good stead to govern Rivers State given his experience in both the private and public sector. If Amaechi goes ahead to concede the gubernatorial slot to Abe, the governor will be going against the zoning arrangement in the state that it should be the turn of the Kalabaris to produce the next governor for the state after the Ikweres.
Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon (Lagos West/ APC)
Senator Ganiyu Solomon is widely acclaimed to be a grassroots politician in Lagos State, particularly in the highly populated Mushin area of the state, where he comes from. He is believed to be highly open-minded, a great political mobiliser and closely associated with the leader of the defunct ACN, Bola Tinubu. Solomon has not hidden his interest to govern Lagos State. Indeed, earlier this year, he came out openly to announce his interest in the contest, an action that caused a lot of political upheavals in the state.
Solomon’s position is that it is the turn of Lagos West to produce the next governor of Lagos State. A two-term senator, in 2011, Solomon was cruising home to becoming the Senate Minority Leader until Tinubu intervened to cede the office to Senator George Akume.
Indeed, National Assembly watchers believe that if the office was to have been voted for by the opposition senators, Solomon would have clearly dusted Akume. Solomon was compelled to settle for the Senate Minority Whip. The major problem Solomon may encounter in actualising his gubernatorial ambition is the Governor Raji Fashola factor.
It is believed that the governor may not be favourably disposed to handing over to the lawmaker. The governor, according to watchers of the Lagos State politics, would instead prefer a technocrat to succeed him. But again, those who are versed in the politics of the state will argue that the decision as to who becomes the governor of Lagos State will not entirely taken by the sitting governor.
Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central/PDP)
A two-term member of the House of Representatives, where he rose to become the Majority Leader of the House before coming to the Senate where he is the current Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi is a grassroots politician in his state.
A vibrant lawmaker who contributes actively to debates on the floor of the Senate, he has gathered great parliamentary experiences and it is believed that the next stop for him is to take a shot at the chief executive slot for his state.
Ningi is a loyal party member, who is well connected to the leadership of the PDP and the Presidency. He also maintains a very good relationship with his current governor, Isa Yuguda. Ningi is also credited to being close to the traditional institutions in Bauchi State. What may work against his gubernatorial project is the zoning arrangement in the state.

National mirror
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