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After stormy primary Kogi PDP embraces reconciliation

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Sen. Dino Melaye. Photo: TWITTER/DINOMELAYE

• How Sam Aro Emerged As Wada’s Running Mate

The Tuesday, September 3 gubernatorial primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in kogi, where the opposition party elected its flag bearer for the November 16, 2019 election was dramatic, breathtaking.

Whereas the delegates’ congress held on schedule and scored high in planning and execution, the violence that ended the process left many gasping for answers.

The stampede caused by the invasion of the Lokoja Confluence Stadium venue of the primary was a spoiler.

From the morning of that Tuesday, everything started well. The race had 13 aspirants in contention for the PDP ticket. They included former governor, Capt. Idris Wada, his younger brother, Musa Wada, son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Idris and Senator Dino Melaye. Others were Aminu Abubakar Suleiman, Joe Erico Ameh, Mrs. Grace Adejoh, Muhamned Shuaibu Tettes, Victor Adoji, Salihu Atawodi, Emmanuel Omebije and Bayo Overehi.

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Whereas, prior to the commencement of the primaries, news broke that four of the 13 aspirants earlier cleared had stepped down to collapse their aspirations in support of former Governor Wada, but in the words of Governor Ahmed Fintiri of Adamawa State, chairman of the primary election committee, which presided over the congress, all 13 aspirants were recognised by his committee as participants.

According to him: “We have 13 aspirants for Kogi PDP governorship primary and no aspirant has signified their interest to step down. So, we have 13 agents representing all the 13 aspirants.”

Over 2,500 delegates from across the 21 local government areas who participated in the primary election conducted themselves well, as the arrangements from the state secretariat of the party located 500 meters away from the venue left no room for misconduct.

The accreditation of delegates was done at the party office, from where delegates marched one local government after the other to the venue. Vehicles were not allowed to convey the delegates, who had their passport photographs affixed to their tags.

The accreditation was followed by five minutes of address by the aspirants before the commencement of voting, which lasted till 11:30pm. Delegates were not allowed to remain at the venue after casting their votes. This would later turn a blessing as the crowd in the stadium had reduced drastically when the gun attacks came.

Sorting through eight of the 10 boxes of ballots had gone on smoothly, with two boxes remaining, around 2.00a.m. when suddenly, one of the floodlights from the rear side of the stadium went dim. Another light in the state box completely went off, leaving the VIPs in total darkness. It was initially thought to be due to technical errors in the power generator room.

Some unknown gunmen invaded the stadium and started shooting sporadically. Everyone, including reporters scampered, most crawled on their chests away from the centre circle of the football pitch through to the back exit gates. In attempts to repel the attackers, exchange of gunfire by the policemen deployed inside the stadium compounded the situation. In the end of the shootout, which lasted 20 minutes, one lifeless body later identified as a delegate from Kotonkarfe Local Council was recovered.

At the time of this report, there is yet no official statement by government and security agencies on the identities of the masterminds of the September 3 gun attack.

The state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello immediately urged security agencies to get to the root of the violence and ensure that the masterminds are punished in accordance with the law.

But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of being behind the attack. Ologbondiyan however said that the gunmen attack did not affect the process as accredited delegates had voted and balloting concluded before the attack.

Prior to the invasion of the venue by the hoodlums, it was obvious from the sorting of the ballots that two aspirants, Musa Wada and Abubakar Idris had taken a wide lead, with just two boxes to go. The security agents attached to Governor Fintiri however ensured that the remaining boxes were guarded into safety.

Fintiri later declared Musa Wada as the winner and standard bearer of the party for the November 16, 2019 governorship election. Wada polled 748 votes against the runner-up Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, who scored 710 votes.  Former Governor dris Wada scored 345 votes to come third, while Senator Dino Melaye came fourth with 70 votes. Abubakar Aminu Suleiman scored 55 votes, Victor Adoji 54 votes, Salihu Attawodi 11 votes, Joseph Erico Ameh 4 votes, Emmanuel Omebije 9 votes, Mohammed Shaibu Tetes 4 votes and Bayo Michael who scored 2 votes.

At the PDP national Secretariat in Abuja, on Friday September 6, the national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, presented Wada with the Certificate of Return, alongside the winner of the PDP primaries in Bayelsa state, Senator Diri Douye.

Secondus then urged the two candidates to immediately embark on intensive reconciliation to woo and enlist into their campaigns their co-aspirants at the recently concluded primaries in Lokoja and Yenagoa. Secondus spoke on the backdrop of petitions by two of Wada’s co-aspirants, Senator Melaye and Abubakar Idris. The duo, who came second and fourth had filed petitions with the PDP governorship election primaries appeal committee, disputing the authenticity of the results after the exercise in Kogi State.

Melaye’s grounds for rejecting the outcome of the election include; that the entire votes cast in his favour were not counted before gunmen disrupted the exercise.

Abubakar Idris, who lost to Wada by a slim margin of 30 votes said he could have won if the about 247 ballots allegedly unaccounted were included in the final results declared.

Meanwhile, the PDP candidate was said to have made some smart moves to reconcile with his co-aspirants. Signs of truce emerged when his elder brother, former Governor Idris Wada showed up at the Wadata Plaza venue of the presentation of Certificate of Return to the governorship candidates in Kogi and Bayelsa States. He subsequently paid senator Dino Melaye a visit at his residence, also in Abuja. Wada in his address after he was presented with the certificate assured that he would leave no stone unturned to reach out to his co-aspirants.  He said the presence of former Governor Wada at the ceremony was a positive sign the reconciliatory efforts had begun, saying particularly his relationship with Capt. Wada was that of blood which runs forever and cannot be extinguished by politics.

Melaye was said to have described Wada as electable and reliable upon the latter’s visit to his residence.

Part of the reconciliatory packages was asking the three aspirants in the order voting strength, Abubakar Idris, Idris Wada and Dino Melaye, respectively, to nominate a candidate each for the deputy governorship position. The three names were to be forwarded to Musa Wada to pick his choice of running mate.  The arrangement threw up former House of Representatives member, Yagba Federal Constituency, Hon Samuel Bamidele Aro, who was nominated by Idris Wada and Special Adviser on Special Duties to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Tunde Olusunle, nominated by Melaye.

Uche Secondus. Photo: Twitter/UcheSecondus

Abubakar Idris did not send a nominee, fuelling concerns that Abubakar, who is brother in-law to the PDP governorship candidate and his father, former Governor Ibrahim Idris were yet to be reconciled. In his place, the party however nominated Chief Sam Ranti Abenemi, a former Lokoja Local Council chairman to complete the list of three nominees. Picking one out of the three nominees was not a walk in the park. This is especially on the backdrop of Abubakar Idris’s refusal to nominate a candidate despite that he emerged as first runner-up. Not a few felt Idris deserves the right of first refusal in the nomination of a running mate. However, after four days of marathon meetings, including night meetings held variously at the national party secretariat, residence of Senator Tunde Ogbeha and at Vally-U Hotels all in Abuja, the party finally resolved on the nomination of Samuel Bamidele Aro as Wada’s running mate, last Sunday night. The names of Wada and Aro were submitted on Monday, September 9, on the eve of the deadline for submission of names of candidate as stipulated by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Aro, also an engineer, and petroleum marketer contested for the senate seat of Kogi West Senatorial District in 2015 on the Accord Party platform, which he lost to Melaye, then of APC. A grassroots mobiliser, Aro was a staunch backer of Governor Yahaya Bello in the Okun axis until the two friends parted ways. He has since returned to the PDP on whose platform he represented Yagba Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011. He however left behind in the APC a good number of his loyalists some of who are appointees in the Bello Administration.

Meanwhile, amidst reported threat by the Abubakar Idris camp to approach the court to challenge the party’s decision to pick Musa Wada as its candidate, the PDP governorship Election Appeal Committee, however dismissed the appeals filed by Senator Melaye and Abubakar Idris.

A source at the PDP National Secretariat disclosed that the Appeal Committee, headed by the national Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, discovered that some of the votes declared as lost during the attack at the venue of the primary by gun men, belonged to Senator Melaye, contrary to the 70 votes recorded in his favour by the electoral committee, but said it would not be enough to alter the outcome of the primary.

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In the case of Abubakar Idris, the committee noted that contrary to the aspirant’s claims that extraneous ballot papers were used at the primary, all the ballot papers used were serially numbered and the declaration made by the electoral committee were in accordance with the serial numbers contained on the ballot papers.

It is left to be seen how Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, a former governor of the state and state leader of the party responds to the reconciliatory moves after the issue of the running mate had been sorted without his input. Sources close to the septuagenarian politician have however ruled out the possibility of him working against the interest of the party in the general election. Another factor that may likely influence a change of heart is the family ties. The former governor’s first daughter, Asmau, is married to the PDP governorship candidate.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, speaking with The Guardian however described Engr. Musa Wada as the best thing to happen to the party and the people of Kogi State, especially at this time that the state is confronted by leadership problems.

According to him, “Engr. Musa Wada came at the right time in the life of our home state, Kogi, in the sense that he is coming with a clean slate. He has no baggage as far as the leadership problems in Kogi are concerned; ordinary members of the party made his choice possible in a transparent primary. He has been elected for a purpose by those who are seeking liberation from the shackles of Yahaya Bello’s government and as such I have no doubt in my mind that he will succeed in the general election and he will govern well.”

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