November 21 has been slated by INEC as the date for the governorship election in Kogi state. Given the event of the last general elections where incumbency factor and godfatherism counted for less, the election promises to be a keenly contested one. In this piece by LABARAN TIJANI, he looks at the factors that may likely determine who emerges winner, especially the issue of the election being between veterans and emerging but strong young politicians
With the release of the time table for Kogi State governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political activities have started to gather the necessary steam in the state.
Before now, aspirants, especially in the All Progressives Congress, APC had been trooping to the party secretariat to jostle for the coveted position. The towns and cities in the confluence state have been flooded with various campaign slogans, and many of the aspirants’ posters dot everywhere in most of these cities in the state, making one statement or another.
It was noted that while political activities in the APC appear to be in full swing, that of the ruling party in the state, the People Democratic Party, is just trying to pick up, perhaps waiting for when the election gets closer. There was no sign of such activity in the other political parties, as what they referred to as their offices remain under lock and key in Lokoja.
Despite the existence of other parties, the November election is expected to be a straight fight between the ruling PDP and the APC.
In as much as one cannot wave off the campaign issues being peddled by these aspirants, the crux of the matter still remains the caliber of the people yearning to rule the state in the next dispensation. So, it’s immaterial whether there is lull, or not in the activity in any of the registered parties itching to take over the Lugard House, Lokoja, the point remains that the state is dire need of leadership.
No doubt, the state is endowed with abundance of qualified personnel that could make a choice of leadership a difficult task for the electorate, but the clarion call among various segments in the society is on having the best among the myriad of aspirants to lead the state, if the state must begin to harness its abundance potentials for the benefit of its people.
So far, those who have indicated interests across party lines can be categorized between the old veteran war horses and the emerging new breed of politicians.
Such names as Prince Abubakar Audu, a former two time governor of the state, Senator Alex Kadiri, Senator Yahaya Ugbane, Air Vice Marshal Salihu Atawodi, Professor Yusuf Obaje, Olushola Olumoriti and the incumbent governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada can be regarded as the veterans in the race.
Also, among the young generation politicians that are making waves currently include, Jibrin Echocho Isah, Prince Sanni Shaibu, Mohammed Ali, Barrister James Ocholi (SAN), Zakari Jiya, Yahaya Bello and Nda Dichie, Baba Ali and a host of others.
Though they are all qualified in their own rights, but what may have to count going into the election could be antecedents or pedigree in either public or private sector assignments all this while and how that has impacted positively on the lives of the indigenes of the state.
For instance, Prince Audu, or Governor Wada, the incumbent governor needs no introduction or campaign to the people of the state, as their strengths, weaknesses and capacity to develop Kogi are all well known to the voters. The admirers of Prince Audu would ever say, ‘his projects are still the only asset the state can boast of today’; just as his critics would say, “we have had enough of ‘an emperor’ who only values his personal ego than the people he leads. This group felt Prince Audu had contributed his quota and as such he should give way for younger generation to inject new blood to the system for the state to experience fresh air.
In the same vein, supporters of Governor Wada would say, ‘if not him, the state would have been littered with uncompleted projects, besides laying new foundation of development for the state to move to its next level’. Yet, his critics hold it that his time brought a lot of hardships to the people, stressing that ‘Captain Wada is merely groping in the dark, nothing to offer’. His critics associate his name with “hunger” in the land. No matter which way either of their critics and admirers may see them; Prince Audu and Governor Wada are regarded as huge frontrunners in the election.
Amidst the scramble for the top job in the state by these gladiators, the issue of power rotation is another contentious issue that may define the voting pattern. Other ethnic groups in the state are literarily up in arms against the Igala ethic group that has been ruling the state since creation. The argument of these people is that since the leadership of the state by Igala people has not translated into the development of the state, it is only natural that other ethnic groups be given a chance. This clamour is coming especially from the West and Central senatorial districts.
While some are clamouring for geographical power shift, others are baying for generational power shift. The youths in the state are most likely to pitch their tent with the emerging new crop of leaders who they believe are capable of taking the state to the next higher level. In the eyes of the apostles of ‘generational change of power,’ the likes of Echocho, Prince Sanni Shaibu, Baba Ali, Yahaya Bello, Barrister James ocholi are being tipped to be amply qualified take the reins of power.
This group feels that the state like many other states in the country needs this crop of young and vibrant politicians to make a mark in the state. According to those in this school of thought, these set of politicians have made their marks in their various chosen fields especially in the private sector and therefore are wont to bring such success to bear in the management of the affairs of the state.
They argue that the older generations with their conventional applications cannot carry the state out of the present economic quagmire. They added that their ideals, ideas, strategies or approach to the modern day issues lack the necessary bite that will stimulate the economy of a state, like kogi. “It takes modern generation leaders with digital brain to handle issues of the moment, to get the desired results”, Yusuf Ocholi, an apostle of generational change of power said.
While Echocho would have appeared to be the star in the group of six of new generation of leaders, his undoing was his inability to read political trends and effect a decision. It is said this singular act has affected his politics badly, adding that except a divine force, it may not be an easy task for him to get his political grooves back and be a strong contender in the race to rule the state. “This man waits too much on the fence before taking decisions. He failed to understand that the middle name of politics is risk”, one of his admirers, Yakubu Agama said. No matter which opinion one may hold, Echocho is still a factor in the clamour for generational change of power in the state.
Perhaps, in this group, the men to also watch in the race are Barrister James Ocholi, (SAN) and Prince Sanni Shaibu. Prince Shaibu, an Abuja based business magnet has been under pressure by some stakeholders to bring his winning streaks in the private business sector to bear in Kogi state. It is believed that with his international business links which many states have exploited and got out of their economic straits, the state would be better off with him on the saddle of leadership. Barrister Ocholi(SAN) is one new breed politician that his age falls within the scope of those yearning for generational change of power. He is said to always at home with his people; the grassroots people.
Besides Governor Wada and perhaps Mohammed Ali that are of PDP, the rest aspirants are members of the APC.
Since one element of politics is surprise, it may not be out of tune to see issue of personality and protest votes coming in to decide who eventually carries the day in the unfolding drama of the struggle to rule the state. And since INEC has opened the lid, the die is cast for the gladiators.