YEKINI JIMOH examines the chances of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidates in Kogi State towards the countdown to the November 16 election.
THE governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged as the candidate of the party during the primary election. In the same vein, Mr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also emerged as the governorship candidate of the party.
Apart from these two major parties in the state, there are other candidates in over 60 political parties that have emerged. However, the real battle in the forthcoming election is between the PDP and the APC.
Wada was never expected to win the primary. But he emerged ahead of Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, son of a former governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada, who happened to be his blood brother. Former Governor Wada had administered the state between 2012 and 2016. Apart from him, there were Senator Dino Melaye and nine other aspirants in the PDP.
The state PDP state that it was happy with Bello’s emergence as APC’s governorship candidate, hoping that the coming election would be a walkover, on account of Bello’s perceived poor performance and inability to deliver dividends of democracy to Kogi people.
In a statement by PDP publicity secretary, Bode Ogunmola, the party said: “PDP has long been praying for the APC to make the mistake of re-presenting Bello for the governorship poll. It is a well-known fact that the governor cannot win any local government in Kogi, due to his poor performance and the way and manner the resources of the state is being massively looted. His desperation to return is to save himself from going to prison over looted funds. That was why he had to spend hugely to get strong contenders (for the APC ticket) disqualified. If he succeeds in fooling the leadership of his party and the delegates, we are confident that he cannot fool Kogi electorate who are victims of his monumental mis-governance.”
Governor Bello, on the other hand, having won the APC ticket for the second term, has many odds standing against him ahead of the November 16 election.
Bello became governor in 2015 by divine providence, following the death of Abubakar Audu, the then APC gubernatorial candidate and the declaration of the election inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Sadly, Prince Audu died shortly after the election was declared inconclusive and APC brought in Bello who came second in the primary election conducted ahead of the governorship polls, as James Faleke, the late Audu’s running mate, was pushed out.
With the 2019 governorship poll, Bello may not be as lucky as he was in 2015, as he had faced stiff opposition right in his party before getting the return ticket he contested with nine aspirants cleared by the APC.
Before the party primaries, about 30 aspirants indicated interest in the APC ticket and had, through different groups, asked the APC leadership not to allow Bello to become governorship candidate for a second term, as this would lead to the defeat of the party at the poll. It is not clear whether these aspirants will team up with Bello to avoid the defeat they predicted.
Bello’s ‘enemies at home’ had, in one of their protest letters to the national leadership of the APC, accused him of various anti-people activities, ranging from suicide among civil servants in the state whose salaries have not been paid for many months, dearth of institutions in the land, misuse of state resources, hunger and molestation of people who are believed not to be supporters of his administration.
“Salaries of civil servants for November and 60 per cent of that of December 2017 are yet to be paid. This is despite receiving N20 billion as bailout funds, over N21 billion from the Paris Club refund, money from the monthly federal allocations as well as the internally generated revenue (IGR).
“As a result of nonpayment of salaries, about three civil servants took their own lives because of their inability to meet up with their family needs, while over 100 have died due to lack of funds to continue treatment,” the protest letter read.
Bello is not spared by the PDP, one of the main opposition parties in the state, which is bent on sending him packing out of the Lugard House.
According to the party’s publicity secretary, Ogumola, “it is shameful that in four years, Bello could not invite President Muhammadu Buhari for inauguration of any project. None of the governor’s colleagues has been called to inaugurate projects initiated and completed by his administration.”
He asked Bello to forget a second term “after his monumental and woeful performance, as Kogi people are wiser and so, are not ready to go through another round of no salaries, no pension, harvest of suicide, no infrastructure development, but government sponsored thuggery and violence.”
But again, there is no doubt that ethnicity will play out during the election. It is very pronounced in kogi politics, according to some political stakeholders.
PDP’s cup of tea
However, it is not as if the PDP has not got its own worries. Some of the aspirants kicked against the outcome of the party’s primary. The senator representing Kogi West, Melaye, and Abubakar, son of former Governor Idris, kicked against the emergence of Wada and petitioned the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party over the issue.
Sunday Tribune reliably gathered that the aggrieved aspirants stormed the Wadata Plaza in Abuja where they registered their grievances. Senator Melaye, in a statement, said he rejected the outcome of the primary on grounds that all the votes cast in his favour were not counted before gunmen disrupted the exercise. He also submitted his petition to the national secretary of the party, Abubakar, on the other hand, said he would have emerged winner, if 247 missing ballot papers were recovered. Speaking after the Ahmadu Fintiri-led electoral committee declared Wada winner of the primary election, Ibrahim, who came second, said the winner defeated him with 38 votes, which he said was not up to the missing 247 ballot papers. He expressed the confidence that if the missing ballot papers could be recovered, he would emerge the winner.
How far can reconciliation go?
However, it has been learnt that efforts are being made by the leadership of the party to resolve the issues. Already, Musa Wada has visited Senator Melaye to see how they can work together and win the election in November.
He has also visited his eldest brother, Captain Idris Wada, seeking for his support.
Their strengths, their weaknesses
Musa Wada was considered to be an underdog before the PDP primary. In 2015, the then governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, wanted to bring him on board as his successor. Unfortunately, his late father opted for his eldest son, Captain Idris, who later became the governor of the state.
Musa Wada is an engineer by profession and his emergence as the PDP candidate was a big surprise to most people of the state.
One of his strengths, according to pundits, is that he is from the majority Igala ethnic group which has the largest voting population in the state. This could be an advantage for him. Apart from being an Igala, he is also from Dekina Local Government Area which has the largest voting strength among the 21 local government areas of the state.
Besides, he is younger brother to a former governor and a son-in-law to another former governor. It has been said that Wada would most likely enjoy the support of these former governors in the forthcoming election.
The PDP standard-bearer is also said to be having a strong grassroots support base and financial wherewithal to prosecute his governorship ambition. Wada is most likely to pick his running mate from Kogi West Senatorial District, a decision many said would be an added advantage for him in terms of political support from that district.
But party watchers said one of the weaknesses of Wada is the fact that he is viewed as a greenhorn in politics, having spent most of his life in the maritime sector. Many people are of the view that he has not acquired enough experience in public service and governance to compete in the race.
Another odd against him is that he would most likely secure fewer votes within the Kogi Central Senatorial district, given the fact that one of their own is in the governorship race.
Some of the aggrieved aspirants in the primary election are also believed to be capable of constituting an odd against him, if he is unable to reconcile with them.
With regard to Governor Bello, analysts believe that he will do everything possible to retain the seat. He is also considered to be a tactician, who is always ahead of his opponents, based on his antecedents since 2016 and subsequent emergence as the APC candidate, despite several efforts to stop him.
Also, it has been pointed out that the APC cannot afford to lose Kogi State, so as to balance the equation between the ruling party and the main opposition party. Bello is believed to have the financial power to execute his ambition. More so, the Ebira appear to be ready to support their own, by voting for Bello come November 16.
According to another major politician who eyed the governorship seat, Senator Smart Adeyemi, the emergence of Bello was the best option for the party. Adeyemi, the APC senatorial candidate for Kogi West in the last general election, it was not surprising that Bello won with the primary with a huge margin.
“Governor Bello will win the governorship election in the same manner he won the primary. Winning elections is not an internet affairs, but acceptability by the people, based on convictions by stakeholders across the political entity. Governor Bello is a man of covenant with God. Such people will not be confronted by men with mere wisdom. Winning the November poll has become simpler, with the governor holding the flag of the party, in view of his sterling first-term performance,” he said.
Bello will also the support of the two senators, seven House of Representatives members, 25 members of the state House of Assembly, commissioners and all the political appointees from the various districts who would be ready to work at grassroots level for the victory of the APC.
Besides, Bello appears to have made great inroads into Igalaland through the influence of his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, coupled with the goodwill he enjoys from the traditional institution in Igalaland.
He will also be counting on his kinsmen from Kogi Central Senatorial district.
In the area of his achievements, Bello has embarked on various projects in the state such as the Ome Rice Farm. He is believed to have achieved in the areas of security, electricity provision, road construction, health, education, rural water supply, youth empowerment and employment and civil service reforms.
Also, he is credited with the completion of Diagnosis Medical Centre with equipment. The project is awaiting inauguration. He is also building Kogi Hotels which is almost completed, among other projects.
But in terms of his weaknesses, people are of the view that with the untold hardship foisted on them and their family members by the administration led by Bello, the election period might be the time to pay back.
As of today, Bello has been able to address the issue of unpaid salaries and pensions to great extent. The negative perception formed over time by the state’s workforce and generality of the people on the issue of payment of salaries could be one of his Achilles’ heels in the forthcoming election.
Apart from this, he is of the minority Ebira ethnic group and would be facing the PDP candidate who is from the majority Igala ethnic group. This is more so that the Igala, who lost grip of power in 2015, following the death of the late Audu, are now determined to have it back.
Picking his running mate from Kogi-East, it was learnt, might be another setback for Bello. According to political observers, an average Igala person would prefer to vote for an Igala governorship candidate, rather than go for deputy governor.
APC makes peace moves
Meanwhile, the NWC of the APC has called all the aggrieved members to a round table. National chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, invited the governor and other aspirants to see how the situation could be resolved for the success of the party in the coming election to be assured.
There is no doubt that the November 16 governorship election in Kogi will be mother of all battles between the APC and PDP on the one hand and the Ebira, Okun and Igala people on the other.