The contest appeared tough initially with contenders and a vast majority of their supporters turning the heat against the incumbent governor, Idris Wada, but alas the table turned, writes correspondent, Labaran Tijani, Lokoja.
The build up to D-day was massive and tension soaked. Armchair analysts, critics and rumour peddlers had a field day with different postulations.
But when the chips were finally down on September 14, the reality of the meaning of incumbency in politics dawned on all, proving some of the self acclaimed political pundits right or wrong.
That possibly was the case between Captain Idris Wada, the governor of kogi state and Jibrin Isah Echocho, former Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the defunct Afri Bank International that were locked in the epic battle for the ticket of People Democratic Party, PDP, for the November 21 governorship election in the state.
Acting in tandem with the electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had given all the political parties contesting the governorship election in Kogi state up to September 15 to submit their standard bearer for the said election. In compliance, the PDP national body fixed September 10 for their party primary election to pick their own flag bearer: it never held.
The forces of the incumbent governor, Idris Wada, who wanted to revalidate his mandate for the second term and those of Jibrin Isah who wanted to set in spanner into the arrangement, pitching the national body of the party against the state executive, including the stakeholders and elders of the party were at work.
In the confusion that followed, the party primary election had to be shifted to Monday 14 to allow the party handle the perceived grey areas.
It was said that some stakeholders had argued that the incumbent governor, Captain Wada had become a bad product they were finding difficult to sell to the electorates. They argued further that fielding Wada in the next gubernatorial election is synonymous with giving up the administration of the state to the rival party, All Progressive Congress, APC. The group was further alleged to have submitted that the party needs a fresh air for it to shine at the poll against a formidable opponent, like APC’s Abubakar Audu, the former governor of the state that is still enjoying a measure of followership in the state.
The likes of Ibrahim Idris, the immediate past governor of the state and Wada’s political godfather, Senator Ahmadu Ali, former National Chairman of the party, Senator Smart Adeyemi, one business mogul, Jide Omokere and others were pointed out as the arrow head of this move.
It was also gathered that in the meeting that held at Abuja with the stakeholders and Elders of the party, both Captain Wada and Echocho were said to have been given up to Sunday, a day preceding the rescheduled primary election to review their bid, a charge both refused.
The alleged protagonists of ‘Change Wada’ by all means debunked the allegations, saying, it was a product of rumour mills that remained baseless. For instance, Ibrahim Idris said there is no iota of truth in the said allegation, adding that he remains with Captain Idris Wada and working to make sure he emerges as the PDP candidate for the said election.
It’ was said as a head of the state stakeholders’ forum, the ex-governor had mobilised the elders of the party and have endorsed him, with the communiqué of resolution read out to all to that effect.
It was also gathered that Captain Wada would have been embarrassed at the party primary election which took place at the newly constructed Confluence Stadium, Lokoja if not the PDP governors’ forum that stood by him solidly. The source posited that a sizeable numbers of PDP governors gave him a leeway to victory by making sure that the list of the delegate congress election was accepted and used for the said party primary election.
An alleged harmonised list of delegates which would have turned the table against Captain Wada was said to have been abandoned by the PDP’s 5-man electoral panel headed by governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on the fact that majority of the names were not backed up by any congress election; which they said is against electoral Act.
Like the way Prince Abubakar Audu who emerged as the APC flag bearer in the same venue was received, the entry of Captain Idris Wada was heralded by thunderous ovation to the venue, Confluence stadium Lokoja. The manner governor Wada was received gave an impression that he will carry the day, especially as Echocho came into the arena earlier unnoticed by the delegates.
While the counting of ballot papers was in progress, and became clear that governor Wada has beaten the rest aspirants to it, Echocho got up and embraced the governor, saying, “You have won, congratulation”. This particular move by Echocho drew a loud applause, bringing the proceeding to a halt for few minutes.
Shortly, after the show of sportsmanship by Isah, he left the stadium before the counting of the votes ended, saying; he will still remain in the party despite the defeat.
He pledged to work with governor Wada to ensure that the party clinches victory at the polls.
“It is a clear battle, well fought battle. Wada has clearly won the contest. I will work with him. He is my brother. I still remain in the party”, he said.
In his post party primary election speech, Captain Wada, enjoined members of the party, including those that contested with him to join hands with him to move the state to the next level.
He said there is no cause to celebrate, adding, “No victor no vanquished” in the encounter, even as he stressed that the glory of it all is for God.
According to the chairman of the 5-man electoral committee, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi, the governor of Enugu state, Captain Wada scored 709 votes, while his closest rival, Echocho got 139 votes, saying, the third candidate Moses Amotuo got no votes.
The incumbent governor won 20 out of 21 local governments while his closest rival, Jibrin Isah, managed to win Yagba West council, with appreciable impact in Ibaji, Bassa, Ijumu and Yagba East council.
A total number of 864 delegates drawn from 21 councils, including statutory ones were accredited for the said election which took place at the newly built Confluence stadium, Lokoja last Monday with heavy presence of security operatives.