As citizens vote their representatives into the 993 State Assembly seats, we profile 17 lawmakers to watch in the 2023 Governorship Race across the six geo-political zones of the country
According to data released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 10,240 candidates are taking part in Saturday’s legislative elections into the 993 seats of the 36 State Houses Of Assembly, with only about 1,019 female candidates and 3,632 youth candidates.
However, a paltry 24 of the candidates are Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).
Similarly, the Gubernatorial Election holding simultaneously in 28 States nationwide, parades 837 Governorship and Deputy Governorship Candidates across eighteen political parties. This, however, does not include Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun States. The process is expected to produce 17 new governors, while 11 state governors are seeking re-election.
In the 28 states still aligned with the general election cycle, there are the incumbent lawmakers seeking to become state governors across the six geo-political zones:
A. NORTH EAST
1. Senator Aisha Dahiru Ahmed (Binani)
A first-term Senator, the lawmaker representing Adamawa Central Senatorial District is the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa State.
She is seeking to stop the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, from getting a second term and make history as Nigeria’s first elected female governor.
2. Senator Halliru Dauda Jika
Representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Jika is the Governorship Candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NNPP) in Bauchi State.
He is up against the incumbent governor, Bala Mohammed of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), who is seeking a second term.
3. Rep. Auwal Mohammed Jatau
A representative of Zaki Federal Constituency of Bauchi State in the Ninth House of Representatives, Jatau, is running mate to the incumbent Bauchi governor.
A former Speaker of the Bauchi State Assembly, the lawmaker was first elected to the Green Chamber in 2011.
4. Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (APC)
A former member of the House of Representatives for Donga /Ussa /Takum, Bwacha crossed over to the Red Chamber in 2011 and has since then represented the people of Taraba South Senatorial District.
He is the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State.
5. Rep. Danladi Tijos Baido
Incumbent member representing Lau/Karim/Lamido/Ardo-Kola Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Baido is seeking a move to the Taraba Government House and is governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the State.
A second-term lawmaker in the National Assembly, he was first elected to the parliament on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)
B. SOUTH EAST
6. Rt. Hon. Francis Ogbonnaya Nwifuru (APC)
A third-term member of the Izzi West Constituency, Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Nwifuru has served as Speaker of the House since 2015.
First elected into the Assembly in 2011 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he defected alongside the incumbent governor, David Umahi and 15 other House members in 2020.
Known to enjoy the full backing of the governor, the APC and its candidate will be seeking to win a governorship election in the South East State for the first time since 1999. He is up against Ifeanyi Odii of the PDP.
C. NORTH WEST
7. Senator Uba Sani (APC)
Representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, the first-term lawmaker also chairs the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial institutions.
A former member of the Civil Society movement in Nigeria during the era of military intervention in politics, Sani previously served as Special Adviser on Public Affairs to then President Olusegun Obasanjo and later to Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and governor.
Having emerged as the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State, he is in tough race against former lawmaker, Isa Mohammed Ashiru, to succeed his former principal, Governor El-Rufai.
8. Rep. Sha’aban Ibrahim Sharada
A first-term lawmaker, he represents Kano Municipal Federal Constituency in the 9th House of Representatives and doubles as Chairman of the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence.
The first non-indigenous politician from outside the walled city of Kano to be elected to parliament, he’s reputed to, at one time, be the ‘most powerful media aide’ of President Muhammadu Buhari. Following a running battle with the governor of his home state, Abdullahi Ganduje, he was banned in June 2021 by the Ward Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from relating with members of the party for one year over complaints of alleged high-handedness.
He would later decamp to the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in August 2022 and emerge as its governorship candidate. Sharada is, however, up against incumbent deputy governor, Yusuf Gawuna of the APC, Sadiq Wali of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NNPP).
D. SOUTH WEST
9. Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin
A former Senate Majority Leader and fourth-term lawmaker, Senator Folarin was first elected to parliament on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Oyo Central Senatorial District.
He, however, was absent from the Red Chamber during the 8th Senate, having run in the 2015 governorship poll and lost as a candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Senator Folarin, who is currently Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Content, however, staged a comeback in 2019 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Senator Folarin, as the governorship candidate of his party, is up against the incumbent governor of his home state, Seyi Makinde of the PDP, seeking to dislodge him and take over the top seat at the Agodi Government House in Ibadan.
E. SOUTH SOUTH
10. Senator Bassey Albert Akpan
A second-term lawmaker representing Akwa Ibom North-East (Eket) Senatorial District, Akpan is seeking to dislodge the party on whose platform he was elected to the Red Chamber.
Largely embattled by a seven-year jail term hanging around his neck, the lawmaker withdrew from the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before his eventual defection to the Young Progressives Congress (YPP) in June 2022.
He will be seeking to stop his political arch-rival and incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, from successfully handing over the reins of power to his preferred successor, Umo Eno.
11. Senator Akon Etim Eyakenyi (PDP)
Representative of Akwa-Ibom South Senatorial District in the 9th National Assembly, Eyakenyi previously served as Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development under then President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
She had, in 2000, been appointed Commissioner for Industry, Commerce and Tourism in Akwa Ibom State during the administration of Victor Attah and has since then, enjoyed a meteoric rise in politics.
Perhaps, gearing up initially for re-election to the Red Chamber, fortune smiled on her, as the Governorship candidate of her party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), chose her as the Deputy Governorship Candidate in Akwa Ibom State.
12. Senator Sandy Onor
A professor of history, Onor has been the representative of Cross River Central Senatorial District at the Red Chamber since 2019. He is also Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and Tertiary Institutions.
From serving as Executive Chairman of the Etung Local Government Council in Cross River State (1999 – 2002), he went on to represent the State at the 2005 Political Reform Conference. As Council boss, he also served as State Chairman and Deputy National President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON).
The two-time Commissioner will be seeking to reclaim the State for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) after the incumbent governor, Ben Ayade, abandoned the party for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2020.
13. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
A second-term lawmaker representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Omo-Agege is the first Deputy President of the Senate from the South-South geo-political zone since 1999.
He first ran for the governorship of his home state in the 2007 primaries of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) bur lost to Emmanuel Uduaghan. He would later return to elective politics in 2015 when he won the Senatorial seat under the Labour Party (LP) platform.
Alleged to have led thugs in 2015 to desecrate the hallowed Senate chambers and pick up the mace, he currently leads the opposition in the state. The Delta lawmaker is running against the PDP alongside other major players like 5-time Governorship contender, Great Ovedje Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Kenneth Pela of the Labour Party (LP).
Deltans will be deciding whether to hand the reins of power to Omo-Agege and the APC for the first time ever, or to support the PDP, which they’ve always aligned with in the last six electoral cycles.
14. Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori
Oborevwori served as a lawmaker at the ward level before his election to the Delta State House of Assembly, where he is representing Okpe State Constituency for a second term.
Two-time Speaker of the parliament, he was also elected in 2020 as Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures in Nigeria. Shortly after his win at the PDP primaries, Oborevwori was alleged to have presented academic certificates with inconsistencies in the names. The case was challenged up to the Supreme Court, where the apex court ruled in Oborevwori’s favour on 21st October 2022.
Discredited as a lightweight in some quarters, he, however, has the machinery of the state well-oiled in his favour.
F. NORTH CENTRAL
15. Rep. Herman Iorwase Hembe
First elected into the House of Representatives in 2007 to represent Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). he has since then won re-election in every single electoral cycle.
A highly controversial figure, Hembe became enmeshed in a corruption scandal in 2012 as Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market and other Financial Institutions after he was accused of demanding a N30 million bribe. Since leaving the PDP, he has since joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) before his latest entrant into the Labour Party (LP).
Largely popular in his constituency, he will be up in a tough battle against the Speaker of the Benue Assembly, and Catholic Priest, Hyncith Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
16. Rt. Hon. Titus Uba
From being a Chief Whip in his first term as the member representing Vandeikya-Kyan State Constituency, he rose to become Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, all within four years.
Uba, a first-term lawmaker, emerged as Speaker in August 2018 under controversial circumstances after the majority (13 PDP lawmakers) conceded the speakership to the minority (9) at the impeachment of the erstwhile Speaker. A former member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he defected to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and thereafter sent the remaining 8 members of the APC on suspension.
Upon re-election to the House in 2019, he was re-elected Speaker and, in 2022, emerged as the Gubernatorial Candidate of the PDP, defeating the current deputy governor, Benson Abounu and others to pick the ticket in a keenly-contested primary.
17. Rep. Umar Bago
Bago is the lawmaker representing Chanchaga Federal Constituency in the 9th House of Representatives and has been in parliament since 2011.
Barely four years ago, he was in the race to become the country’s number four citizen but lost to the party’s favourite, who is the incumbent Speaker of the Green Chamber, Femi Gbajabiamila. Rising from that defeat, he picked up his party’s governorship ticket in 2022, and is leading the charge in his party’s quest to retain power for at another four years.
Widely reputed to be an ambitious politician, he would be attempting to rewrite his own electoral history as he squares up against Muhammad Liman Kantigi of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Interestingly, he will be making efforts to replace the incumbent governor who is headed for the 10th Senate, having secured the Niger North Senatorial seat on February 25.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a journalist, thought leader and political analyst with keen interest in governance and Nigerian history and politics