OLUGBENGA SALAMI writes on the yearnings of the majority of the people of Kogi State for both geographical and generational power shift
Come November 21, 2015, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC will conduct another governorship election in Kogi State. In the last few months, politicians in the state, especially those with interest to contest in the race have embarked on underground campaigns, and now, they are everywhere soliciting for the votes of the electorate.
The aspirants, from major political parties like the All Progressives Congress, APC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Labour Party, LP; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, etc, have since been touring the length and breadth of the state consulting and seeking support from party and community leaders as well as other stakeholders in order to actualise their ambition of occupying the Lugard.
The thing that gladdens the hearts of many stakeholders about the forthcoming election is the fact that they have seen the need to elect a young and vibrant person as the next governor and they have elevated this to the front burner of discussions.
Unlike in the past where PDP will have gotten much attention of the politicians and stakeholders, the victory of the APC at the national level seem to have swayed the myriads of aspirants to the APC. The expectations are that the APC will produce the next governor of the state.
As at the last count, no fewer than 22 members of the party have indicated interest to contest the governorship election and gone a step further by purchasing the nomination and expression of interest forms. The party’s primary electionhas been fixed for between August 25 and September 15.
Among those interested in flying the APC’s flag during the election are former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu, Yahaya Bello, Olusola George Olumoroti, Salihu Atawodi, Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane, Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, Habeeb Yaqeen, James Ocholi, Alex Usman Kadiri, Aliyu Zakari Jiya, Rotimi Yaqub Obadofin, Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, Lanre Ipinmisho, Suleiman Baba Ali, and some others.
Though PDP stakeholders have endorsed the incumbent governor, Captain Idris Wada as their candidate for the November election, few other members of the party have kicked against such decision, saying there should be a level playing ground for all interested aspirants to avoid division among the members.
Top contenders among the APC aspirants include Abubakar Audu, a former governor of the state and leader of the party in the state. The 68-year-old and former Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in the old Benue State has been governor of the state at two different times.
Aliyu Zakari Jiya is a pharmacist by training. He contested the 2011 governorship election under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Another aspirant is Alex Kadiri, a former senator and governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP from Kogi East, who defected to the APC prior to the last general election.
Olusola George Olumoroti, a trained engineer from Kabba in Kogi West is also one of the top contenders for the APC governorship ticket from the zone. Also, Lanre Ipinmisho, a former Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA is one of the six top contenders for the APC governorship ticket from Kogi West.
Nicholas Ugbane was elected Senator on the platform of the defunct ANPP in 2003 to represent Kogi East in the Senate. He was re-elected in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. The 62-year-old banker is also one of the PDP chieftains, who defected to the APC recently. James Ocholi is another strong contender for the APC governorship ticket from Kogi East. The 55-year-old Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a former governorship aspirant on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC in the state.
Nurudeen Abatemi–Usman is the immediate past Senator representing Kogi Central, a former member of PDP who contested the position again in the last election on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA after he failed to secure the ticket of his former party, the PDP. Another contestant from Kogi Central, Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo is successful media guru of international repute, a playwright and university don. He’s a former Senior Special Adviser on Media to the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
Rotimi Yaqub Obadofin is from Ayegunle-Gbede and a former governorship candidate in the state on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD in 2007. The aspirant is also a former National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, unionist.
On the other hand, Yahaya Bello, a 40-year-old business man and politician is from Kogi Central, a zone which is greatly favoured by those clamouring for power rotation. This factor may swing the balance in favour of the aspirant apart from his growing popularity across the state, especially among the youths.
Bello, who is the youngest of all the aspirants, has been endorsed by some groups, such as the Kogi New Agenda for Change 2015 and Kogi APC Youth Arise Movement. Surprisingly, though from the central senatorial district, he seems to be enjoying a growing support from the West and East. This may largely be due to his age and posture of a generational shift leader for all rather than sectional.
Going by the clamouring for a young and vibrant man to be governor of the state come November, PDP has even been advised to field young candidate in the coming governorship election if it must redeem its image after losing the 2015 election.
Being in close proximity to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Kogi is the only state in Nigeria which shares a boundary with 10 other states. And for this and other reasons, Bello said the state had no reason to be listed among poor states in the country.
He lamented that “Kogi State, despite being one of the most naturally endowed states in Nigeria, remains one of the poorest”, adding that “the deplorable state of development in the state can be squarely blamed on mismanagement and bad governance by the current and past administrations”.
Bello has therefore promised to lead the state away from the shackles of poverty, underdevelopment and dependence on federal allocations, to an economically viable state if voted into office during the forthcoming election. The aspirant maintained that he has the capacity to transform the state’s economic fortunes through major sectors of the economy if elected as governor.
“Those who know me know that I have the requisite qualities to lead Kogi State. I am a simple man. One who believes in the rule of law, fairness and equal treatment of my fellow man. I want to lead Kogi State because it deserves a governor who has a well thought-out and structured developmental roadmap for the state.
“The era of paying lip service to development is over. Now we must walk the talk. We must be ready to back up our words with action. Now we must take our destinies into our hands. The choice is ours. We must choose wisely”, he said.
The governorship aspirant assured that the debt burden and poor leadership in the current administration would not stop him from partnering with relevant stakeholders and development agencies within and outside Nigeria to make Kogi one of the most developed states in the country.
According to the Okene-born politician, “governance is about service delivery. It is about putting the people first. It is about the formulation and execution programmes and policies that have direct impact on improving the welfare of the people. It is about accountability and fiscal responsibility. It is about transparency.
“While the current democratic dispensation has lasted for 16 years, in the last 12 years, Kogi State has witnessed a plethora of unkept promises and dismal performance due to the gross ineptitude and fiscal irresponsibility of the current PDP government in the state”, he said.
Bello, a former staff of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) therefore pointed out that, “What we need now in Kogi State are not more electoral promises. What we need is a visionary leader; someone who understands what governance is and has the political will to change the fortunes of the indigenes”.
He said the state could not afford to be left behind in the wind of change that is sweeping across Nigeria especially with the long touted and elusive dividends of democracy that are finally being enjoyed by Nigerians.
Kogi State, located in the central region of Nigeria, is also known as Confluence State because the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue is in Lokoja. The city served as the first administrative capital of Nigeria.
Kogi, which was created on August 28, 1991 by the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, from parts of old Kwara and Benue states, comprises three main ethnic groups-Ebira, Igala and Okun. It also has other minorities like Bassa, a small fraction of Nupe; Oworo and Ogori people which are Yoruba groups; Eggan and Gbagi, among others. The state presently has 21 local government areas.