The governorship election, billed to come up later this year is already being conducted in Kogi State. The recent endorsements that have been flowing the way of incumbent Governor Idris Wada from the Youths in the state, the market men and women and recently the PDP Elders Forum have not only stirred the people in the state to political discussion of an election that is still five months away in November, but so too have the National Assembly induced crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
At Forum, media interaction and on the pages of newspapers and literally speaking where two or three people are gathered in the state, the matter dominates discussions. This is even as the parties are yet to elect/ select candidates who will fly their flags at the concluded polls! In the cacophony of voices, incumbent governor, Capt. Idris Wada presumably of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is whimsically painted fighting the battle of his life against yet to be identified candidates of other parties, notably the All Progressive Congress, APC, Labour Party, LP/ Accord Party, AP.
Following outcome of the general elections, which held earlier this year, in which the APC recorded a strong showing against the ruling PDP, the party has literally become the bride of politicians in the state Before the March/ April elections the PDP controlled all but two members of the 25-man House of Assembly, all but one National Assembly seats and in fact, all political office holders except for four councillors in the 21 Local Government Councils in the State.
But things have changed. From its near zero level presence the APC won the Presidential election, the three Senate seats, Six out of Nine House of Representatives and Eleven House of Assembly seats in the State. As at the last count, the APC therefore has more than twenty politicians jostling for its governorship ticket in the State. They include Senator Alex Kadiri, former Governor Abubakar Audu, Bello Yahaya, Femi Olumoroti, Nda Dichie, Rotimi Obadofin among others. Among the lot however, Audu who doubles as state party leader is highly favored to pick the ticket.
A third leg of the unfolding scenario is an aggrieved member of the PDP, Jubrin Isah Echocho. The former banker is said to still be bitter over the way and manner he lost the PDP ticket to Wada in 2011. Although he is yet to formally leave the PDP, his campaign billboards, which have been erected all over the State, are mute about his party. He is said to be contemplating between running on the platform of Accord Party, AP or Labour Party, LP.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is yet to come out with guidelines on the Kogi governorship poll. But whenever the election may hold, political pundits are in agreement that no one can snatch the PDP ticket from Wada, if he is interested in a second term. To be sure, the governor’s foot soldiers are all over the state spreading and strengthening his already formidable support base. But, the discussants are polarized into two schools of thought, namely those who think Wada cannot win reelection and those who think he can.
The argument of the anti- Wada forces is stereotype and centres around four points.
1.That the APC is the party to beat in the state.
2. That what is left of the PDP in the state is bifurcated, with Jubrin Isah aka Echocho, a former governorship flag bearer of the party leading a splinter group.
3. That Wada has fallen apart with his friend and immediate past Governor of the State, Ibrahim Idris, on whose back he rode to Lugard House.
4. They accuse Wada of poor performance in office.
5. That the opposition APC is better coordinated and more determined and that as a way of getting even with Wada who he has serially accused of robbing him of the PDP ticket, Echocho may in fact join forces with them to wrestle power from the PDP.
A combination of these factors, these analysts concur make Wada an easy prey to defeat. But, investigations conducted by this reporter suggest that the election is likely going to be very tough for the governor in view of the poor performance of the ruling PDP in the last general elections in the state which seems to have won the heart of the electorates in favour of the opposition APC but the on-going strategies the incumbent Governor Idris Wada is putting in place may bail him out in his determined zeal to retain Kogi as PDP state.
Since his assumption of office more than three years ago, the governor has never hidden his desire to achieve unity and cohesion among members of the PDP in the state. Soon after his victory at the party primary and the Dec. 3rd election the then candidate and governor elect embarked on a mission to reconcile all aggrieved aspirants and members of the party. Series of meetings were held and most party members embraced the olive branch. Again in the aftermath of the litany of cases instituted to challenge the legitimacy of his election, the governor invited his accusers to come on board and join in the urgent task of transforming Kogi State.
The peace move yielded tremendous benefits. It is to the credit of the efforts that all the gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the party including respected businessman Abdul- Razaq Isah Kutepa have remained on board. However, in the realignments before the general elections, some members of the party, mainly supporters of Echocho joined the APC. It is note worthy that Echocho himself is yet to formalize his departure. Similarly, Wada’s style brought some converts into the PDP fold. Many of his fellow candidates in the 2012 poll have decamped to the PDP. Those who abandoned their parties for the shade of the umbrella include Aisha Emeje-Audu of Justice Party JP and Deacon Obolo Opanachi of the All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP.
A chieftain of the PDP who spoke on condition of anonymity exhumed confidence about the party’s strength. “The PDP is a big family that has all the internal mechanisms of resolving its problems…with the outcome of the Assembly election returning majority of the deaths to the PDP, our party is still very strong.” The rumored misunderstanding between Wada and his predecessor seem to stand truth on its head.
Contrary to the rumour, this paper’s findings show that there is no love lost between the two friends. Both leaders exchange regular visits and occasionally attend public functions together. In fact only last week, the former governor, Ibrahim Idris told everyone who cared to listen that there was no vacancy in Lugard House, meaning that he was in support of Wada’s second term ambition The level of sanity and confidence brought into the conduct of government business in the Confluence State coupled with the Transformation Agenda of the Wada administration have endeared the governor to the citizenry. Supporters of the governor hang the blame of low performance on the door step of paucity of funds and low federal allocation to the state.
They therefore contend that the administration has performed well within the limit of available resources. This group point to the completion of projects the Wada administration inherited from its predecessor. The projects include an Olympic sized Confluence Stadium, greater Lokoja Water scheme, 100 room Confluence Beach Hotel extension, and State Secretariat Phase II.
They also point to the transformation agenda in agriculture and infrastructure development as unassailable evidences of performance. Other projects initiated and that are on-going include New Kogi hotel, Ganaja- Otokiti bye pass, Zango- Otokiti Road, Post Flood Estate, Five Bond Estate, Kogi House in Abuja and Drainage of major roads in Lokoja. But by far the most sterling achievement of the Governor is the maintenance of peace and order in the state and regular payment of salaries. However,the opposition APC is certainly not as strong as it’s promoters would have made readers believe. In fighting and struggle for control of the party’s soul is its major threat.
Presently, members are in disarray over who will fly its flag in the governorship poll. The current national crisis facing the party over the election of principal officers in the National Assembly has made people to question the capacity of APC to deliver the goodies based on its philosophy odf change. While the APC is in that distraction, the Governor took a major step to strengthen its hold on the grass roots. Recently he appointed Sixty-three Senior Special Assistants and posted three to each of the Twenty-one Local Governments as supervisors. The PDP’s profile as a grassroots party gives it a head start in the governorship election. The current resolve by the Kogi PDP Elders in favour of Governor Idris Wada to fly the Party’s flag in the up coming governorship race, indicates the seriousness and planned strategy of the party to over come possible crisis that could mar its successful primaries which could subsequently lead to its woeful defeat at the general election as experienced recently.