Family ties, others shape Kogi PDP guber primaries’ contest
All is set for the Kogi State chapter of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to elect its standard-bearer for the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
Barring any unforeseen hitches, the party’s candidate will emerge tomorrow from the exercise billed for the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, the state capital.
The contest for PDP’s ticket comes as a tight one that is hard to predict. It is one characterised by rivals with family ties. Interestingly, it is a contest among a former governor, a former governor’s son, a former governor’s in-law, and a former governor’s brother.
However, amidst the anxiety, the process so far has been devoid of acrimony and crisis. A seating senator, Dino Melaye, currently locked in a legal battle to retain his seat, is also on the roll call of aspirants to watch in the contest of the main opposition party in Kogi State.
The aspirants were penultimate week screened by a committee headed by the Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, at Legacy House, PDP presidential campaign office in Maitama, Abuja. The 13 aspirants cleared to feature in the election include immediate past governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada, his younger brother and an engineer with Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Dr. Musa Wada, son of a former governor of the state, Alhaji Abubakar Idris, Senator Melaye, a security consultant, Dr. Joe Erico Ameh and quantity surveyor and businessman, Suleiman Aminu.
Other contestants for the coveted PDP ticket are former deputy speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Emmanuel Omebije, Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi (rtd), a former state house of Assembly aspirant and the only woman in the race, Mrs. Grace Adejoh, Kabiru Haruna, Mohammed Adah, Dr. Victor Adoji, and Mr. Bayo Averehi.
The eventual winner will square up with the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello, candidate of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Natasha Akpoti of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the election.
It would be recalled that Bello had last Thursday emerged APC’s flagbearer after a dramatic contest for the party’s ticket that saw notable opponents of the governor disqualified by the Senator Hope Uzodinma-led APC screening committee. 12 aspirants were earlier screened out of the primary for offenses bordering on the double declaration of age, non-commitment to party and non-attachment of relevant documents to their nomination forms. Eventually, six more aspirants were cleared, one in the final 12 hours to the election.
The APC primary was largely adjudged a no-contest as the incumbent Governor Bello won the primaries by a landslide, polling 3,091 votes to defeat the runner-up, Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, who polled a distant 109 votes. A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdullahi Baiwa, who came third, polled 44 votes. Seven other aspirants polled between 10 and zero votes.
This is as the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has affirmed the candidature of Akpoti for the November 16, Kogi State gubernatorial election. An Ebira, from Kogi Central Senatorial District with Governor Bello, was the Senate’s flagbearer of the SDP on the February 23, 2019, National Assembly election.
During an indirect primary election adopted by the party on Thursday, August 29, Akpoti secured the party’s mandate with a total of 751 votes with 11 invalid votes from 856 SDP delegates from across the 21 local government areas, who participated in SDP’s primaries, chaired by a national officer of the party, Benson Ogbona.
Unlike APC’s primaries, characterised by the disqualification of aspirants, protests, and litigations resulting in last-minute court orders and the intervention of the party’s appeal committee, which later cleared more aspirants, the atmosphere in PDP has been relatively calm.
Meanwhile, Kogi People’s Democratic Party Vanguard for Internal Democracy (VID) at the weekend called on the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to disregard the alarm of an implosion raised by an interest group over the chances of some aspirants in the scheduled gubernatorial primaries. The group’s position is contained in a statement signed by its coordinator, James Audu.
An interest group in the party Kogi PDP Concerned Professionals had, in a statement, advised the NWC to persuade three leading aspirants to withdraw from the race because of their personal bickering and in order to pave the way for less popular aspirants. The leading aspirants the group wants out of contest are ex-governor Idris Wada, his younger brother Musa Wada and Abubakar Ibrahim, son of the former governor, Ibrahim Idris.
But in a swift reaction, VID cautioned against forcing aspirants to withdraw from competition all because of alleged personal scuffles. The group noted that such extreme measures would kill the mechanism for internal democracy and amount to impunity.
“What our party should encourage is healthy competition to strengthen internal democracy and not impunity as being canvassed by the alarmists,” VID’s statement read. “So long as an aspirant is legally qualified and is morally fit to contest and has been cleared to contest an election by the appropriate Screening Committee, his fate can only be decided by the delegates. Not wolf criers. The position being canvassed by them is strange to our party. It is not known to the Nigerian constitution and the Electoral Act.
“What should be paramount to our party members, delegates, and leaders should be how to make the electoral process flawless and credible. Not how to swim in murky waters. The NWC should work at committing all aspirants, whether leading or fringe, to queuing behind the party’s flag after primaries. This is possible. Anyone afraid of healthy contest should withdraw from the race or switch support to a leading candidate instead of heating up the atmosphere. No underdog should dream of snatching victory from the rear using below the belt tactics. It won’t work.”
In his reaction, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the constitution of the PDP forbids any member of the NWC, including the national chairman, from interfering with the process. Ologbondiyan directed dissenting groups over the party’s upcoming primary election in Kogi and Bayelsa States to go back to their respective states and iron out their differences.
According to the immediate deputy governor oft he states to Capt. Wada, Yomi Awoniyi, told The Guardian, all hands are on deck to ensure that the main opposition party remains united after the primaries, irrespective of the winner.
“Between 2015 and now, PDP has learned a lot of lessons and a lot of kudos to our national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. The PDP is doing things radically different from how it used to be in the past. I think it takes a dose of defeat to let realities set in. As you can see, the party is more transparent in its processes.
“If you recall the presidential primaries in Port Harcourt that threw up His Excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as our flagbearer, I think it is probably the best primaries we have held. Everybody thought hell was going to break, at the end of the day it went well. The party has promised that the same thing will be replicated both in Kogi and Bayelsa. So, the party has learned a lot. Imposition is gradually fizzling out of our party. You have to go and test your popularity with the party faithful. That goes a very long way to douse the angst and the anger that come with past processes. So, PDP is on the march and you can even see the manifestation of PDP’s resurgence with the number of states that PDP won during the March 2019 elections”.
There are fears of a possible backlash that might follow the primary election, especially with aspirants who have family ties being unable to step down for one another. Immediate past governorship of the state Captain Wada and his younger brother Musa Wada are in the race for the PDP ticket; Suleiman Idris, a son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris is supporting Engr Musa Wada despite that his older brother, Abubakar Idris, is also in the race. A situation where former Governor Ibrahim Idris and Capt. Wada is not on the same page going into the September 3 primary election to pick the party’s candidate, despite that Idris influenced Wada’s emergence as his successor in 2012 is not only tricky but suggests that things have soured between the two men.
Notwithstanding, Awoniyi said all is well with the party ahead of the election.
In his words: “On the face of things, anyone who says I can see where they are coming from but I will tell you, the type of camaraderie that is exhibited when the aspirants come together puts paid to that type of belief. It is quite clear to PDP members that at the end of the day we are not fools; we are members of the same family jostling for the same position. So that at the end of the primaries, we go out to contest against the person that we think is our real opponent. Therefore thus far, the primaries are not as bitter as they appear. The aspirants talk to themselves and at the end of the day, I am sure that provided that the process is free and fair, you will be surprised that the contestants will come together.
“You just mentioned about three aspirants. We have about 10 other aspirants. So, I don’t see that as a major issue. At the end of the day, all families will still go home and resolve; friends will still find common ground. As regards Capt. Wada and His Excellency Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, they are still friends. I know that Capt. Wada is a regular visitor to Alhaji Ibrahim Idris’ house. Look, these elders are leaders; they know when to draw the lines. A friendship that has been on for over 40 years cannot be extinguished on the altar of political exigencies. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris is the leader of PDP in Kogi State. I believe his desire is to see that PDP returns to power and I can assure you from everything that I have heard from him, from his allies, supporters and even from his son who is an aspirant, he has pledged to support whoever wins.”
On the chances of his former boss, the former deputy governor opined that in an advanced democracy, Capt. Wada deserves the right of first refusal in the race for PDP’s ticket.
“In a more advanced democracy, Capt. Wada should have been given something akin to the right of first refusal, but our democracy is still growing. Based on the guidelines of the party and the constitution of Nigeria, everybody has a right to throw his hat in the ring. So, there is absolutely no wrong in what is happening. We have 13 aspirants; this has come down from about 24 at some stage. Some of the aspirants have collapsed their ambition and joined Capt. Wada. Some have just decided not to pursue their ambition.
“So by and large, the simple answer to your question is, I frankly believe that Capt. Wada should have been given a second shot, particularly when the people are talking about the shortcomings of this present administration. It is against the backdrop of the Wada administration that this comparison is being made. If you talk about salaries being owed to the tune of 10 months, 20 months, depending on who you are talking with, it is against the backdrop that Capt. Wada was owing only two months. So, it is this type of comparison that puts this present government in a bad light. Therefore it behooves upon a sophisticated electorate to try and bring a performer back to contest against a non-performer.”