Kogi: Battling for the PDP gov ticket
A former governor of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris, is backing his son, Abubakar, to pick the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the November 16 election, YINKA OLADOYINBO, writes on the development and its implications.
THE Kogi State governorship election slated for November 16 is fast approaching and the political parties along with their members are leaving no stone unturned in their bids to either win the tickets of their respective parties or the general election. To this end, many aspirants in both leading parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have picked up the expression of interest and nomination forms, despite the huge amount of money attached to them.
In the PDP, no fewer than 12 aspirants picked the forms valued at N25 million. The people paid N22 million to the covers of the national secretariat of the party, while N3 million was paid into the purse of the state secretariat. Among those that have bought the forms are: son of a former governor of the state, Abubakar Ibrahim; former Governor Idris Wada; his younger brother and Abubakar’s in-law, Musa Wada; the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye; a bank executive, Victor Adoji; security consultant, Dr Joe Erico; and a quantity surveyor Aminu Abubakar, Atawodi Salihu; Mr Bayo Avirehe; Muhd Shaibu; Kabiru Haruna; and Mrs Grace Adejoh, the only woman who enjoyed the privilege of not paying for nomination form.
Although observers say it remains to be seen if he can win the ticket, Abubakar’s ambition attracted more comments and actions than any other aspirant from the PDP. Many of those comments have been criticism of his move as some people see him as attempting to build a dynasty and also extend the influence and grip of his father, former governor Ibrahim Idris, on the party and the state. The former governor, popularly called Ibro, governed the state for almost nine years, from May 2003 to January 2012 before handing over to Wada, who was governor till January 27, 2016.
Idris has been the only governor that has served two terms in the history of the state. Besides, he also succeeded in installing a successor. His efforts at supporting Wada for another term, however, were not successful as he lost the reelection to the incumbent, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, of the APC.
Since he left office in 2012, the former governor has always been the rallying point of the party and he is seen as the number one leader of the PDP in Kogi. Now that election is coming and his son is a frontline contender for the ticket of the party, some people have gone to town to oppose him, accusing him of trying to build a dynasty. They say Kogi is not meant for Ibro family alone. To the people in this category, the ability and capability of Abubakar to governor the state were not necessary; his only sin is that he was born by a former governor. Constitutionally, he is qualified to contest. He is 52 years old, but those opposed to him won’t want to hear that.
The people are perturbed that the younger Ibrahim might ride on the influence, connection and the support of his father to clinch the ticket of the PDP and eventually become the candidate of the party.
Abubakar entered the murky waters of Nigerian politics, early last year when he commenced consultations on his dream of contesting the governorship election. He seems to have acquired relevant preparations in character, learning and administration. Abubakar is coming without a baggage of corruption.
Those who oppose him, however, blame his father’s administration for every evil that occurred in the state. They describe him as a crude carpenter and clueless leader who lack the finesse of a modern politician. They also accuse him of executing substandard projects and approaching governance too casually, when he was in office. This group does not want to touch the younger Ibrahim with a long pole.
To them, Kogi is not a personal estate and should have no room for encouraging a dynasty. “What we are saying is that Kogi is not a fiefdom. We need a fresh blood that is vibrant. Abubakar is not the answer.” Zakariah Idu, a politician said. He opined that Abubakar’s aspiration is tantamount to his father getting a third term through the back door.
But those that believe in the ability of the aspirant to deliver argue that the former governor laid the foundations for a modern Kogi. They back up their claims with the infrastructural development of the state when Idris was governor. They point to the network of roads, the Lokoja international market, about 1,500 housing units, 2,000 primary school blocks, the state specialist hospital and government offices as evidence that the state was well governed by Idris.
They also point at 24-hour water supply through the greater Lokoja water scheme, prompt payment of salaries and emoluments and unceasing payment of WAEC/NECO fees, bursary and scholarships as legacies that set aside the Ibro years as golden. This group will stop at nothing to see Abubakar become governor.
“History is replete with examples of parents who have successfully mentored their children to follow in their footsteps. In fact, the tradition dates to the beginning of times. It is not unusual therefore to hear of a family of lawyers, generation of politicians, lineage of priests etc. The prayer of every parent is to have children that will surpass them in success. Since Abubakar’s ambition is lawful and he is competent, then he should be encouraged,” William Ochaja, a chieftain of the PDP, said.
He argued further that the destiny of a child must be separated from that of a father and that it amounts to injustice to lump both together. “If Ibro had been convicted for a crime and gone to prison and his son also committed similar offence, will the father’s prison term cover or atone for the son’s offence? In any case a child does not determine the routes through which he enters the world.”
During the public declaration of his intention, Abubakar enphasised that his desire for public service was self conceived. “I am more than 50 years and some are still saying someone wants to impose me, that is insulting to me and more so to the Kogi people,” the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria graduate said.
Speaking on the allegation that he wants to build a dynasty with his ambition, he said, “It is normal for some people to make such insinuation, but I can assure you that the present situation that we find ourselves in Kogi State has nothing to do with personal or family interest. If you know me very well, you will understand that I am not one person that likes to play to the gallery; even when my father was the governor, I was hardly seen pushing for relevance. Now, the juncture at which we are is such that the foundation of the state has been badly destroyed. It is such that the unity existing among the ethnic groups has been threatened. The civil servants are suffering; pensioners have been subjected to all manners of frustration leading to unprecedented numbers of death.
“The underlying structures for a sustainable socio-economic development of the state have been totally bastardised. So, it is uncalled for, for anyone to be linking my aspiration to personal or family affairs. I understand the sentiment of such people, but one thing I like to say is that I will be doing the people of Kogi State the greatest disservice if I fail to yield to the repeated calls for me to join the governorship race. Also, those who know me can attest to the fact that I am not the desperate and overambitious type. But we have come to the point where we have to sit down and determine our future and the future of the unborn. It is in the light of this agonising moment that it has become imperative for all well-meaning Kogites who have genuine interest of our people at heart to yield to the call for selfless service at this period.
“In the last few years, no state in Nigeria has attracted bad publicity like Kogi State on account of the directionless government we have in place. So, if God has endowed me with the capacity to turn things around for the good of the people, will it be right for me to turn down this call because of a sentimental factor or reason?”
With the development in the camp of the PDP, the fear of Idris is beginning to be the foundation of wisdom. The matter was even more complicated with the outcome of the last state congress of the party where loyalists of the former governor, including the state chairman, Sam Uhuotu, were elected back into office. However, it will soon be seen on September 2, the date fixed for the primary of the party if Idris will be able to pilot his son to pick the ticket, or whether the proponents of “We cannot serve the father and serve the son” will have their way.