As Kogi PDP looks eastward for governorship candidate

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi State seems to be looking towards the eastern senatorial district of the state for its governorship candidate for the November election. YINKA OLADOYINBO writes on the intrigues and calculations over the party’s ticket.

THE race towards the next governorship election in Kogi State has started in earnest as stakeholders have already commenced moves to ensure victory for their various political parties at the end of the day. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently fixed November 2, 2019 as the date that the people of the state will file out to elect their governor for another four years.

The two major political parties in the state, that is, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have since swung into action with series of activities from both camps to show their seriousness at winning the election.

The state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, last week declared his intention to contest the election on the platform of the APC, while the leadership and stakeholders of Kogi PDP met in Abuja with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, where it was agreed that Kogi East Senatorial District of the state should produce the governorship candidate of the party.

The Abuja meeting of the PDP was said to have exhaustively deliberated on the options available to the party in its bid to stage a come back in the state with the governorship poll. The national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who opened the meeting expressed confidence that the PDP would win the election and salvage the state by enthroning a government that would work for the interest of the people.

Speaking through the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the national chairman said all efforts should be made to ensure that the feat that the party recorded in Osun, Bauchi, Adamawa, Imo, Oyo and Rivers states in the 2019 elections is repeated during the Kogi election. He explained that the party had been able to reach agreement with the leaders of the party in the state to forgo their personal interests and ambitions in order to achieve a collective goal of returning the PDP to the winning ways in the Confluence State.

Secondus said there is no other time for the party than now to rescue the state from the alleged misrule of the APC, saying the people are solidly behind the party and are looking forward to the PDP.

He said: “As we all know, our people have gone through pains, pangs, acute poverty, hunger, dehumanisation, brutalisation, job losses, untimely deaths, suicide and all sorts of anguish as a result of the misrule of the incumbent APC government.

“The people of Kogi State are therefore looking up to the PDP for a rescue and we cannot afford to fail them. We must therefore not allow anything to demoralise us as the winning streaks which our party displayed in Imo, Adamawa, Bauchi and Osun states, among others, will be repeated in Kogi State by the grace of Almighty God.

“In this race, we must also bear in mind that we have the support of the people. Kogi State has always been home to the PDP, notwithstanding the temporary setback of the APC. We must therefore prepare ourselves, stand with the people and salvage our dear state from the pangs of misrule. Our people yearn to move forward and we must give them that leverage which they earnestly seek.”

The party leader also used the opportunity of the meeting to reaffirm the commitment of the NWC to ensure free, fair, transparent, rancour-free and credible processes for all activities toward the governorship election in order to throw up a candidate that would be collectively acceptable to the people of Kogi State. “Our great party will not engage in any form of imposition but as usual will strictly adhere to demands and fulfillment of our internal democracy processes,” he added.

The decision of the party to zone its governorship ticket to the Igala/Bassa extraction of the state may not have come as a surprise to many political observers within and outside the state for strategic reasons. One major argument for the choice was the need to secure bulk votes from the region which has the highest number of population and voters registration.

Out of the 21 local government areas in the state, Kogi East alone has nine, while Kogi West follows with seven and the central senatorial district has the least, five local government areas. Therefore, the party deemed it wise to pick its candidate from Kogi East since politics and elections are games of number. The voter registration figure released by INEC showed that Kogi East has 52 per cent; West has 26 per cent; while Central has 22 per cent.

Another argument brought forward by the proponents of the arrangement is that the last governor on the platform of the party from the zone, Captain Idris Wada, spent only one term and that the zone should be allowed to complete the constitutionally-recognised two terms before another district is given the nod to pick the ticket of the party.

The development may not be unconnected with the high number of aspirants from Kogi East Senatorial District that are jostling for the ticket of the party. As at the last count, no fewer than 15 people have signified their intention to run for governorship on the platform of the party and they are all from Kogi East. They include Captain Wada, Alhaji Abubakar Idris, Alhaji Yakubu Enape, Alhaji Shaibu Mohammed, Emmanuel Omebije, Honourable Aliyu Akuh, Joseph Erico, Mr Ibrahim Wada, Senator Nicholas Ugbane and Honourable Abdulahi Haruna, among others.

The unfolding events within the PDP showed that while the party ties its fate on governorship to Kogi East, it may have settled for the western senatorial district as the one to work with on the ticket. The result of the last presidential and National Assembly election revealed that the party is still very strong in the West, winning six out of the seven local government areas which made Senator Dino Melaye to be reelected as the only senator from the state. Therefore, the calculation may be that since the western senatorial district is sure for the party, a governorship candidate from the eastern senatorial district would make winning the election a bit easier and possible.

But some leaders of the party in the state have denied zoning the ticket to any of the zones as they argued that they are still at the level of consultation and dialogue. They however did not rule out the possibility of Kogi East producing the next candidate of the party.

Speaking on the issue, a former acting governor of the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi, said the party was yet to zone the ticket to any of the senatorial districts as members from the three districts are qualified to show interest in picking the PDP ticket.

He said: “The information that we have zoned the ticket to the East is not correct. We have not zoned to anywhere and anybody from any part of the state is qualified to show interest. Presently, we are at the stage of consultation and we will consult wide before we take a decision.

“Although nobody from the central has indicated interest and I am not sure of anybody from the West, I am from the West and I may decide tomorrow that I want to contest. People are saying we have zoned to the West because of array of aspirants from the East. That is not to say that we have zoned; we have no preference for any zone. All we want for the party is the best that can win election for us.”

Speaking on the qualities the party is looking out for in its would-be candidate, Olafemi, who is also a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly said: “The right candidate must be competent and we are going to conduct a background check on the characters of the aspirants. Secondly, the right person must be financially stable because election is capital-intensive and the candidate must be ready to carry his cross and not somebody that will be looking for people to beg for money.”

In the same vein, the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Yomi Awoniyi, said the party has not sat to decide which of the senatorial districts should pick the governorship ticket of the party. He however did not rule out the possibility of Kogi East clinching the ticket, based on consensus being built in the party.

He said: “I think the governorship position under the PDP has not been formally zoned to any senatorial district; I am not aware of where they sat down to take that decision. However, because of electoral strategy and the need to win the election, a consensus is building and it is very strong and it appears that it is a winning strategy that the other two senatorial districts are not jumping into the fray.

I know that mentions are being made of some individuals in the West and even Central. I think this consensus is building and a committee has been put in place to further explore ways of resolving it to make the party win.

“I believe that with what the party is trying to do, we want to galvanise the people round the issues bedeviling our state. I believe that anybody that the PDP picks as its candidate through a free, fair and credible process has a very good chance, regardless of where he comes from. But if we consider the issue of population, Kogi East has about 51 per cent of voters in the state. So common sense dictates that we should consider that while facing the task ahead of us.”

However to buttress the argument in favour of the choice of Kogi East, a PDP chieftain, Halima Alfa, said: “As it is now, the general thinking is that it should come from Kogi East because that is where the strength lies and you know politics is a game of number. You can’t run away from that.

“The last time it was scuttled as, the other person [Wada] could not complete his two terms. So, it is believed that they will still allow Kogi East to complete its two terms. Then after that, we dialogue on the table and if we all agree, with our own strength from Kogi East and adopt a candidate from Kogi West to become the governor after that. Kogi West is behind us on this that the governor should come from Kogi East.”

As the people of Kogi State awaits party primaries, campaigns and other processes leading to the conduct of the governorship election in the state, later in the year, the question on the lips of many, “Would the PDP get its bearings right to pick the right governorship candidate whose emergence would be through a process that would be seen to be free, fair and acceptable to all?”

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