In Kogi State today, the election of the next governor is about the most topical subject. The political atmosphere is in a state of frenzy as the debate rages on who should be next governor of the state. The choice the people have is between the old brigade politicians who are desperately warming up for the race or new and unsoiled hands pleading to be given the opportunity. The two dominant political parties – the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have been very busy doing their internal due diligence on the candidates, taking into account the new national attitude of intolerance for corruption and corrupt politicians.
The race is mainly going to be between the APC which won the majority votes in the March 28, 2015 presidential election in the state and the PDP which is today a house divided against itself in Kogi State. Both parties have same categories of contenders, that is, the good and electable candidates as well as the bad and difficult-to-market ones. In the PDP, the contest is between the incumbent governor, Captain Idris Wada and his arch rival, Echocho. There are other new comers who are yet to make public declaration of their aspiration. But the PDP ticket is not as highly prized as that of the APC which is today the most popular political party in the country and in the state.
The reason is not far-fetched. The party’s leadership of the state since2003 when its gubernatorial candidate, Ibrahim Idris, defeated Abubakar Audu of the now defunct All Peoples Party to take over as governor has not been impressive in terms of the delivery of democratic dividends. There are no tangible and enduring legacies to show for the eight years that the administration was in office. That image of the party and its leaders is not even helped by the performances of the incumbent Governor Wada largely seen as a disaster.
This opinion is very prevalent and popular in the entire state, even among members of the PDP. In fact, the dominant feeling in the Kogi State chapter of the PDP today is that Wada is a political liability and should not fly the PDP flag in the November governorship election. The scenario in the state APC is slightly different. The only link between the party and past political leadership in the state is Abubakar Audu who is remembered and acknowledged for establishing the state university.
He is widely respected in the state for that singular achievement but despised for his style of administration which was an embodiment of intolerance and contempt for alternative viewpoint. While he was in the saddle, the elite in the state were completely sidelined and the larger group of ordinary people reduced to mere worshippers of the feudal throne into which he had turned the governorship seat in the state into.
It is for this reason that most of the people of Kogi State are not excited by his decision to seek a fresh mandate to return to the seat he lost in 2003. It is also part of the reason many other credible aspirants from the APC are out in search of the party’s ticket for the election. Foremost among such contestants are Yakubu Mohammed and Barrister Ocholi. Both men are already out in the field consulting the stakeholders in the politics of the state on their aspiration.
In the past one month, Yakubu Mohammed, a foremost Nigerian journalist who played a critical role in the agitation that eventually led to the creation of Kogi State in 1991, has criss-crossed the state to solicit the support of the people for his candidacy. One of the primary ports of call for him recently was the APC secretariat in Lokoja, Kogi State, where he met and spoke with party officials. He was accompanied by thousands of supporters who drove in a long convoy from Anyigba on the one hour journey to the Kogi State capital city.
They were received by Mr Shaibu Osune, deputy state chairman of APC on behalf of the state chairman who was away in Abuja on a party engagement. The main focus of Mohammed’s speech at the event was the need for honest and purposeful service by elected public officials. This, he said, was his reason for being in the race. Mohammed drew attention to the fact that Kogi is the least developed in terms of infrastructure among states created with it at the same time, and this includes Kebbi which he visited recently.
He assured party officials that he had done a lot of work on the needs of the state and would be very happy to have the opportunity to help re-build the state. “I have spent many years writing about what I believe should be the appropriate approach to governance. It is now time for me to put all of those ideas into practice and I will be grateful to have that opportunity from APC to do that for our state”, he said.
The event gradually turned into an interactive session with many people speaking and praising the decision of Mohammed to contest. Osune said Mohammed had very credible public service credentials and the state would be lucky to have him as governor. He advised him to tour the state and sell his credentials to all stakeholders. “This state executive welcomes you into the race for the governorship. My advice is that you take the message concerning your aspiration to the delegates who will eventually decide who gets the ticket,” he said.
This is not Mohammed’s first attempt to govern the state. He contested for the PDP ticket in 2011 but lost to the web of political intrigues that came into play. The incumbent governor of the state then suddenly withdrew his support for Mohammed in favour of Wada, the present governor. He was denied. But as he has repeatedly said everywhere he has been to present himself for the purpose of the next election, he’s not discouraged by what happened in 2011. “I’m happy that our people have discovered that the choice they made in 2011 was a big mistake.
The facts are there for us all to see. But the time to correct that mistake is also now here”, he said and urged delegates to the party congress not to make the mistake of choosing the wrong persons this time round. The APC is the most popular political party in Kogi State as of today. It has the potentials to win the governorship seat in the November election. What may rob it of victory is the fielding of a wrong candidate.
The fear is that Prince Audu who is both the leader of the party in the state and a governorship aspirant may force himself on the party. If that happens, then APC should kiss the governorship seat in Kogi State goodbye, at least for now. The reason is the unwritten agreement in all the senatorial zones in the state not to accept re-circled political leaders, particularly when they had failed in the past.
Audu’s case is not only that of under-performance while he was governor. It has more to do with his not so friendly disposition to the elite and even the poor in the state when he was governor of the state. It also has a lot to do with the series of corruption cases in court against him. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been after him since he left office over allegations of fraud he committed as governor.
For the APC that has produced Muhammadu Buhari, a man reputed for his anti-corruption stance as president, there should be no room for men and women of questionable integrity. That is the reason the party should not allow persons standing trial for corruption to even vie for any political office until they have been discharged and acquitted of charges against them.
-By Jibril Akubo