The Kogi State November 21 governorship election has gathered the required steam, as the gladiators are putting final touches to their strategies in order to shine at the polls. LABARAN TIJANI x-rays how the election may pan out and why
ALTHOUGH the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) said 22 political parties are fielding candidates for the said election, to the people in the confluence area, known today as Kogi State, the contest is virtually between the PDP’s candidate, Governor Idris Wada, and the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Governor Wada have not been resting on their oars since the contest started gathering momentum, in the bid to ward off the challenge of the rival parties, particular, the APC, and retain Kogi State as one of the PDP controlled states.
On a face value, one may tend to say the forthcoming governorship election is a hard nut to crack for the ruling PDP administration in the state, but the kernel of the matter remains that the necessary factors that have been giving victory for the party are still intact and playing its usual scripts, as the election draws closer.
For instance, the coalition of “Generals” that led to “mass movement” which truncated the ambition of the same Prince Audu in 2003 in his bid to make history as the first Nigerian to be sworn-in thrice as governor of a state are back on the field with more fire power.
The “Generals” are referred to both retired military officers and political juggernauts in Kogi State who, in no short supply, anchored the “tsunami” that brought Audu down from the corridors of power in 2003, as an incumbent governor then. This time around, the story is a bit different as Audu is not the incumbent now. But “Generals” that have come together once again have resolved that “Audu must be stopped from claiming the third victory that he sought and failed to achieve in 2003”.
Prominent on the roll call of the “Generals” who stopped Audu in 2003 is Brigadier General Tunde Ogbeha, (rtd) who is now the Director-General of the Wada Campaign Organisation.
The Brigadier-General, was one time military governor of Akwa Ibom and Edo States, and two-time Senator for Kogi West Senatorial District. The essence of Ogbeha’s ‘return’ will be appreciated by consummate followers of the political events preceding the 2003 governorship election over his role that culminated in the famous ouster of Prince Audu, in the election then.
Senator Ogbeha was not alone in that battlefield. He had with him Prince Olusola Akanmode, a one-time Permanent Secretary
Kogi State Secretary to the State Government, SSG, and later Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President, as well as the late Senator Ahmed Tijani Ahmed, the iconic political leader of Ebira politics. Others included General David Jemibewon, military governor of the Old Western State and Police Affairs Minister in the first coming of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Chief of Army Staff, General Salihu Ibrahim, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isaac Alfa, one-time Federal Commissioner for Education and later, National Chairman of the PDP, Colonel Ahmadu Ali and General Yusuf Amuda. With these political gladiators still in the fore front of the assault squad of Governor Idris Wada, coupled with the total commitment of the immediate past governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris to the PDP project, the party may spring surprise and call the bluff of the bookmakers who see no light for the PDP in the coming governorship election
And with the new breed generals on the scene in the mould of Musa Ahmadu, the former SSG of the state, former Minister of State for Health, Chief Gabriel Aduku, former Deputy Governor of old Benue State, Alhaji Sule Iyaji, PDP state Women Leader, Olori Margaret Orebiyi, former Auditor-General of Kogi State, Hajia Ladi Ibrahim, another former member of House of Representatives and former Commissioner for Finance, Chief Abiodun Ojo and three other former SSGs, namely: Chief Patrick Adaba, Alhaji Aliyu Omeiza Salami and Chief Sola Ojo, PDP looks set to retain its seat.
Also, Chief Sam Ola Akande who also was Deputy Governor to Audu, during his first rule between 1991 and 1993 is also queued in the anti-Audu build up ahead of the November poll. Audu’s running mate in the 2011 gubernatorial election when he ran on the platform of the defunct ACN, Barr Henry Ojuola is also singing another tune against Audu. There are also pioneer chairman of PDP in the state
Dr Kayode Ige, Senator Atai Idoko (Kogi East), Hon TJ Yusuf, member, House of Representatives for Kabba/ Bunu/Ijumu Constituency and Hon Sunday Karimi (Yagba Federal Constituency); Special Adviser to the Governor on Pension matters, Alhaji Ado Shuaibu, the Galadima of Lokoja, Chief James Katugwa and billionaire owner of Waltersmith Petroman Oil, Abdulrazaq Kutepa, Lagos-based highbrow Management Consultant Otunba Funsho Owoyemi and Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi. The list is endless. With these elders, stakeholders and heavy weight politicians still in charge of the PDP affairs, the news making the rounds of defection from the party may not create any negative impact in the party.
“Those decamping to the rival APC are chaffs in the PDP whose presence or not add nothing to the fate of the party. Those that matter in Kogi politics are still with us”, a chieftain of PDP recently boasted.
Senator Ogbeha said the state is predominately a PDP state, saying that despite the effect of “change” in last general election in the country, the PDP won 15 out of the 25 constituencies, 200 out of 239 councilors, including 20 of 21 elected council chairmen in the state. According to him, these results reveal how the PDP is structurally rooted at the grass roots level of the state and which cannot be changed over night by the so called “change slogan”.
Senator Ogbeha summarized the issues in the current battle against Audu in a recent interview, thus: “If you look at the two candidates, you will know who is coming back to rescue or coming back to loot. We have had a taste of the APC candidate and we know that Kogi state is still battling to get some of our funds that are supposed to have been missing under his watch. That is not the case with Wada. So, we are bringing to the people of Kogi, honesty, transparency, prudence, humility and above all the fear of God. All these characteristics I have mentioned, you cannot find in the candidate of APC”, he said.
With the issue of those that matters in Kogi politics still in the PDP, the choice of Hon James Abiodun Faleke, a serving member of the House of Representatives for Ikeja, Lagos Federal Constituency as running mate of Prince Abubakar Audu is raising dust among the elite and stakeholders who felt somebody is out to mortgage the future of the state to an outsider. Again, Ogbeha threw more light on the grouse of the Kogi elite against the Audu candidature. “Again, we don’t want Kogi to be up for sale to somebody outside Kogi. We are in Kogi to work for Kogi. We cannot entrust our destiny to somebody outside Kogi or at the end of the day, you will find that Kogi starts paying some tollgates or some toll fees to some political godfathers that we don’t know, as we heard is happening in other places. Whatever it is, as the saying goes, the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know.
“We know Wada, we know his capability. We know what he can do but we don’t know what somebody who is outside the state can do. Is he going to sell off our state, sell off our resources? Somebody from outside? No, and I’m sure Kogites will not allow that”.
While some APC members applauded the choice of Faleke who originally hails from Ekinrin Adde, in Ijumu local government area in Kogi West axis of the state, some members are divided over the expediency and propriety of the choice of who some describe as a ‘virtual foreigner’.