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Kogi guber election: After primaries, shape of things to come

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Natasha Akpoti

The emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello as the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Kogi State governorship election come November 16, may not have surprised many, as the indirect primary election mode adopted by the APC favours the incumbent. However, the emergence of Engineer Musa Wada as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the other hand, jolted many watchers of political developments in the state, as he was not seen to be the favourite.

Nobody seemed to have noticed him, as all attention were on the immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada; son of former governor Ibrahim Idris, who has been the major godfather of the party in the state and Senator Dino Melaye.

At the primary election the permutation on who may clinch the PDP ticket revolved around the trio, even up to the point of sorting of the ballot papers.

Hence, the emergence of Engineer Musa Wada, younger brother of former governor Wada may have changed the political equation for the November election.

While the APC created many enemies for itself by disqualifying 12 of the 16 aspirants who paid over N22m for the nomination and expression of interest forms, the PDP provided a level playing field by clearing all its 16 aspirants to contest the primary.

The aspirants who were disqualified after payment of over N22m have not been taking the matter lightly, as they have promised to work against the party during the election proper.

They had earlier disagreed on the indirect mode of primary election adopted by the party, which they said gave undue advantage to the incumbent governor, as they perceived it to be akin to giving him an automatic ticket. They even warned that the party may be reenacting the scenario that played out in Zamfara and Rivers State, where the APC lost out, just like in Bauchi and Adamawa.

This development has placed the APC at some disadvantage against the PDP that has shown more tact in handling the affairs leading up to its primary, before the unfortunate attack that almost marred the exercise. Observers have blamed the PDP for allowing its primary election to linger into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, which gave room for the attack by unknown thugs that came shooting sporadically, leading to injuries and suspicion. The violence happened while the ballot papers were being sorted.

The odds for the PDP in that incidence is the fact that many of the aspirants have since disagreed with the emergence of Engineer Wada, saying though he was leading, the process was inconclusive as over 200 ballot papers were said to be missing. Eight of the ten ballot boxes had been sorted before the incidence.

How the party manages the controversy through appeals and genuine appeasement with the aggrieved aspirants will determine its fate in the election proper.

Family Ties
Though the son of the former governor, Abubakar Idris came second, which ordinarily should be a big blow on his waning strengthen as the godfather of Kogi PDP, the victory of Engineer Wada is another consolation because he is married to his daughter.

Idris supported his son, Abubakar, and many had worried that giving the ticket to his son would have amounted to giving the father a third term after his own nine years.

While Idris’s son, Abubakar was supported by his father, Idris’s daughter Asmau Ibrahim Idris and two sons, Suleiman Idris and Mohammed Idris supported her husband, Engr Musa Wada. These are all members of the former governors immediate family. 

The former governor Wada has since congratulated his brother Musa Wada and asked his supporters to join hands and ensure his victory.

Political History
The political history of the state is another factor that may determine which of the two major parties will carry the day come November 16. For instance, former governor Ibrahim Idris spent nine years in office. Captain Idris Wada, drafted by Idris after dumping Senator Jibrin Isah Echocho, who was earlier favoured, was governor for four years.

Wada, who took over from Idris remained loyal to him and never saw the need to consolidate his stronghold, as he felt politics was not a do or die affair. He lost his reelection bid in 2015 but thought there was still work to do to salvage the state.

For many Kogites, he was the best man for the job going by his previous performance. However, his undoing was his gentle approach to governance, as he did not believe in do or die.

Governor Yahaya Bello on his part mounted the saddle by accident or divine providence, more or less. However, opponents and many kogites have described his performance as lacklustre. His poor handling of the civil service screening that lasted for almost three years without positive result is one of his undoings.

Despite admitting that the screening uncovered thousands of ghost workers, the wage bill kept rising while workers and pensioners were hardly paid their salaries, with backlogs running into 20 months and in some cases more than 30 months.

Many of the civil servants have lost their lives, especially those with one ailment or the other, who could no longer afford their medications. There were even cases of some who committed suicide over the humiliation inflicted by non- payment of their entitlements. These negative narratives may work against the ruling party, as many citizens will wish that APC did not have another term.

KOGI EAST (Igala), from creation, has been ruling the state as if it was their birthright, which did not go down well with the people of Kogi Central and West senatorial districts. Hence the agitation for power shift continued to dominate the political space until the death of former governor Abubakar Audu, paving way for Kogi Central to have one of their own as governor.

For the Igalas, the last four years have been like hell, as they have practically become irrelevant as a result of that tragedy of 2015.

They have not been visible at the state and national levels. This has been bothering the average Igala, who seems to be playing the third fiddle. The deputy that was supposed to be their consolation has been at loggerheads with the Governor, leading to fresh threats to impeach him. Therefore, for the Igalas the November election is payback time for them take over the leadership of the state.

In terms of voter strength, Kogi East is put at almost 60% of the population of the state. They have always been the decider of who wins elections when elections were conducted without violence.

Kogi Central, on the other hand, would feel that no matter how poorly their son has performed, it is their turn and they have to ensure he is re-elected. They have not forgotten so soon how the Igalas have dominated them for years.

For Kogi West, they would prefer to go with the Igalas after having experienced the style of the leadership of Kogi Central. They will tell you things were not as bad as they are now, even though they were at the forefront of the agitation for power shift. For them, the Igalas have been their traditional allies.

Influence Of Incumbency
FOR the APC, the incumbency factor will be put to good use, as the Governor is himself the chief security officer, having at his disposal the state security apparatus. So far, he has not hesitated to deploy it against opponents. Observers add that the fact that the government at the centre is also APC could facilitate matters in favour of Bello.

In the 2015 governorship election, the PDP was the party in power when N50.8N was approved as the bailout, but the APC Federal Government refused to release the funds for fear it could be diverted to prosecute the election. However, just as the 2019 election draws near, the last tranche of the bailout was released to Governor Yahaya Bello, which he has utilized to bridge the gap of unpaid salaries to gain some political traction.

Another factor that may work for or against either of the two parties is the use of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or scare voters away in zones where perceived opponents hold sway. That was the case in the last elections when state machinery plus thuggery was deployed and deaths were recorded.

Vote buying has also become entrenched and the poverty in the state will assist those who have money to buy votes. During the primaries, lots of money allegedly exchanged hands, as reportedly got as much as N350, 000 each. Some went home with motorcycles.


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