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Kogi: Race To Lugard House Gathers Momentum

Peterclaver Egbochue writes on the governorship race in Kogi State as more aspirants declare interest

With five months to the Governorship election in Kogi State, a number of aspirants have joined the race for Governor Idris Wada’s job. Although, Governor Wada has not publicly declared his interest to run for a second term even with calls from various quarters urging him to declare interest, keen political watchers say his body language has expressly shown that he would run.

However, feelers from the state indicate that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the state appears to be skeptical about Wada’s candidacy considering the fact that the party did not do well in the last general elections with the governor loosing even his ward to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

While some people including the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Hassan Salau, appears comfortable with Wada running for a second term, some elders of the party seem quite skeptical and would instead prefer another candidate to fly the party’s flag. Wada, who hails from Dekina Local Government Area, lost the member of the House of Representatives representing Dekina/Bassa Federal Constituency and the two members of the state House of Assembly to APC. His inability to deliver the state to PDP and even his own local government to his party has further strengthened the argument of those rooting for his replacement.

It has been argued that the defeat of PDP In both presidential and national assembly elections in the state could be attributed to the mass exodus of prominent politicians from the party, following the inability of the National Working Committee (NWC) and party elders to address the crucial issues raised by Kogi Elders in their petition to the party. There is also a group of party leaders in the state who believe that if PDP field Wada as its candidate in the next governorship election, the party would lose the state to the opposition.

However, at a public function recently, the state chairman of the party was said to have given the governor a pat on the back and declared support for his aspiration to become the governor of the state for another term. But the challenge facing the party at the moment is its apparent inability to get a candidate that would be a good match to whoever may emerge from APC, especially as rumour has it that the first executive governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, is still interested in contesting the governorship position.

Others who have indicated interest in the race include, Prince Audu Abubakar, former governor of the state, Mr. Jibrin Isah Echecho, a businessman cum politician, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Hassan Idris, Isah Kutepa, a businessman, Alhaji Hussein Idris Kashim and a few others.

There are speculations that Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West Senatorial District may have perfected plans to join the governorship race. At the moment the APC is said to have about 20 aspirants gunning for the party’s ticket. According to sources, Senator Melaye is consulting with stakeholders from Okun region of the state on plans for the Yoruba’s in the state to produce the next governor.

At a public event recently in the state, Senator Melaye was said to have disclosed of Yorubas’ preparedness to take over power in the state, stressing that the wind of change would not spare anyone in the state who opposes the change. The senator pointed out that the Okun (Yoruba) people are the most deprived of all ethnic groups that make up Kogi State, saying, however, that the time of change was around the corner when his people would hit the political map of the state. “The Okun people will soon take over at the Lugard House.

It is a project God has done,” he stressed. It was gathered that traditional rulers in the state had initiated a move to produce a consensus candidate from the region. “Senator Melaye has indicted interest in the governorship race, and he has started talking to leaders and politicians from the West senatorial district on the need to have a united Candidate for the APC primary, I think he’s perfecting his strategies before officially declaring his interest for the governorship,” the source said.

Prince Abubakar Audu

Prince Audu was the first Executive Governor of Kogi State, believed to have done well in his tenure. Prince Audu completed several landmark projects within four years which observers believe would give him an edge over other aspirants. They include: the five star Confluence Beach Hotel, 250 units Housing Estate, a Sport Complex, a Specialist Eye Hospital and 25 other medical Institutions. Others are: a Special Government Girls Secondary School on Student exchange programme, 350 borehole schemes, 300 kilometers of township roads, the procurement of 100 transit buses and completion of 40 rural electrification projects. However, Audu’s greatest undoing is said to be his pride. As a sitting Governor, he was roundly defeated in 2003 when he sought re-election by a virtually unknown businessman; Ibrahim Idris. Audu’s defeat was not because the populace had any faith in the winner of that election, but because citizens were tired of his pride, arrogance, and high handedness. One of the most noticeable and uncontested sign of Audu’s pride, was the renaming of the Kogi State University after himself, and the rechristening of same as Prince Abubakar Audu University which was Governor Idris restored to Kogi State University. There were many allegations of misappropriation of public funds against him too. These observers argue would work against him should his party consider him for the ticket. However, a group known as Kogi Restoration Group has endorsed Prince Audu, to fly the party’s flag in the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Chairman of the group, Mr. Segun Abereoran, advised key stakeholders in the party to throw their weight behind the aspiration of Audu so as to allow him finish the good work he started when he presided over the affairs of the state from 1999 to 2003.

Alhaji Isah Kutepa

Kutepa was a frontline governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP in 2011before defecting to the APC. He was said to have worked assiduously for the victory of the APC against the ruling party in the state. A source told The UNION that the businessman cum politician just did his registration, but he has been supporting the party in a manner that puts him at a vantage position to go for any political office of his choice. “The former gubernatorial aspirant on PDP platform has been supporting the party, besides, he financed the party in the last general election and people tend to say look, why don’t you aspire for governorship of Kogi state on APC, and I think that is what convinced him now”, the source said. It is also believed that he has a deep pocket to match the incumbent governor should he declare to run.

Alhaji Yahaya Bello

Bello is a businessman cum politician who has indicated interest in the governorship race under the platform of the APC. He noted that his involvement in the race was to create wealth and change the state of Kogi from the current economic quagmire. Bello described as ‘’absurd’’, the recent announcement by the state governor, Idris Wada, to slash salaries of workers by 40 per cent. He, therefore, said that ‘’change’’ as APC’s slogan was needed more in Kogi ‘’because the state is literally backward’’. Speaking in Abuja recently, the governorship aspirant said, “I will tell you that Kogi State has no reason to be a poor state. It has no reason to be where it is now considering the natural and human resources that we have. “Remember, it is the only state that is bordering eight states including the Federal Capital Territory. So, there are a lot of avenues to tap resources and be self-sustaining. We shouldn’t depend on the Federation Account; we shouldn’t. “And, if we must, with good management of what is even coming from the federation account, if there is transparency and accountability, we have no reason to be owing salary, not to talk of slashing it.’’ Bello expressed confidence that his party was 100 per cent sure of taking over governance of the state from the ruling PDP next year. “It is going to be a landslide; everybody has seen the performance of the present administration and just like everyone yearned for change, Kogi state deserves more than change. Surely, it is going to be a landslide. Starting from the person we are going to have at the head, everybody already knows him to be a performer, a disciplinarian. So, Nigerians shouldn’t expect less than performance and good governance in the state,’’ Bello said.

Alhaji Hussein Idris Kashim

Kashim is a real estate developer and an entertainment guru who has declared interest in the governorship of the state on the platform of APC. He is seen as a grass root politician, who cut his political teeth under the tutelage of late strongman of Kogi politics, Dr. Steven Achema, Kassim. In a recent interview, Kashim disclosed that his vision for the state as a governor would be to create an enabling environment for good governance to thrive. His words, “My first 100 days in office will not be about construction but I will convoke different town hall meetings through which the people of the state can make inputs into our programmes for the state. We will bring in credible stakeholders who mean well for the state. These town hall meetings will produce a working document that will be acted upon. Also, at the end of every month, we shall document and release to the public what the government has been able to do for that month. “There are many things in Kogi State that are very viable apart from the mineral deposit. For instance, Lokoja is a transit town with thousands of travellers stopping over in the course of their trips. We need to make something reasonable out of that. “The state is home to so many tourists attraction that we can capitalise on and turn to sources of revenue. All the colonial relics in the state are just wasting away instead of the successive governments to turn them into gold mines. We are going to take advantage of them. We will brand tourists attractions like the confluence and other places and make them attractive to people within and outside the country. “Another aspect is that all the filling stations in the Northern part of the country today go to the Southern part of the country to get fuel supply; but we are as the bridge between the North and the South, with certain individuals from the state who have made so much money from the sector, should be able to tap from it. What stops a responsible government from inviting somebody like Chief Jide Omokore to come and invest in a tank farm in the state? “Give him free land and he will bring added prosperity through job creation and revenue to the government. What goes to the South every day is N300 million. In a month, you have N9 billion. If he is paying 20 percent to government, you know what translates to. “It is a major problem for governors to be dependent on what comes from the federation account. Some of us who are entrepreneurs have been able to build wealth from the streets and we know what it means to create wealth. The problem is not that some of our leaders do not know what to do but they believe if they do the right thing, it will give financial freedom to people who may turn around to question their authority. It is like a popular saying in my place, “leave them hungry and they will do whatever you say”. As the governorship race gathers momentum, political watchers posit that given the overwhelming victory of the APC in the last general election in the state, the incumbent governor would definitely have a tough contest.

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