Friday, August 21, 2015 10:08 am
The All Progressives Congress, APC has cleared 28 aspirants for contest in its primary scheduled for 29 August where the party’s candidate for the November 21 Kogi State gubernatorial polls will be selected. But apart from the unwieldy number of aspirants, the primary is also being conducted against the background of demands for power shift in the state and vaulting ambition of former Governor Abubakar Audu to return as governor.
With about N150 million in its kitty earned from the 28 aspirants jostling to fly its flag in the 20 November, 2015 Kogi State gubernatorial polls, the All Progressives Congress, APC should literarily be walking on air. And Osita Izunaso, the National Organising Secretary of the party was indeed happy when he presented clearance certificates to the 28 aspirants who each paid N5.5 million to buy the nomination forms at the Wuse 2, Abuja national secretariat of APC on Monday.
“I am glad to note that the 28 of you are qualified to contest the election. What that means is that one of you will emerge the next governor of Kogi State. During the last elections, you proved your capability in Kogi State. In fact, it will be out of the ordinary if we don’t win the next election in Kogi State,” Izunaso said as he presented certificates to all the 28 candidates.
The APC Organising Secretary however quickly tempered his optimism of victory with realization that the many aspiring gubernatorial cooks may indeed spoil the expected broil of victory for APC. As Izunaso informed the aspirants, the party itself had realized that allowing all the 28 aspirants to go for the party’s primary without any form of leash on their ambitions may signify danger for APC even before the election.
Thus, just like it did before the primary for its presidential elections late last year, the party demanded that all the 28 aspirants for the governorship ticket should sign an undertaking to abide by the outcome of the party’s primary scheduled to hold in Lokoja, Kogi state capital. “That undertaking was what saw us through. Immediately after the primary, all the aspirants embraced the winner and then agreed to work together. That was the first step that guaranteed us that victory during the general elections of March 28,” Izunaso said while reminding the aspirants that the party had conducted similar exercise ahead of the party’s presidential primary in December 2014.
“Today, the National Chairman and indeed, the National Working Committee have approved that all the 28 aspirants signed an undertaking with the party. It is not compulsory, it is optional; it is in your own interest. If you want to sign, please sign, if you don’t want to sign, tell us that you don’t want to sign. This undertaking is intended to put our aspirants in check,” the National Organising Secretary added.
Though he said the signing of the undertaking is optional, it was learnt that all the aspirants signed the document which, among others compelled them to accept the outcome of the primary election and actively support whoever emerges as winner.
APC, the beautiful bride
The Peoples Democratic Party has produced the governor of Kogi State since 2003 when Alhaji Ibrahim Idris defeated the then Governor Abubakar Audu of the defunct All Nigeria’s Peoples Party. The prospect that just like with Audu then, the incumbent Idris Wada could also be denied the second term brightened with the performance of APC in the 28 March presidential and National Assembly elections. The PDP had been winning the three senatorial seats, the nine House of Representatives seat and 20 of the 25 State House of Assembly seats since 2003.
But in the 2015 polls, the APC won all the three senatorial seats as well as six federal constituency seats while PDP won three.
APC recorded a reversal of fortune in the State House of Assembly election held two weeks after as PDP won 15 state constituency seats against the seven seats won by it. Yet, members of APC who claimed they were rigged out of the State House of Assembly polls believe that the results of the 28 March election are enough indications that APC is now the party to beat in Kogi State and that all things being equal, the party will produce the next occupant of Kogi State Governor’s office, popularly referred to as the Lugard House.
Their optimism has also been buoyed by the anger among the people of the State over many have described as the lackluster performance of the incumbent governor, especially nonpayment of salaries and allowances which was believed to be a key factor in the defeat suffered by the PDP in the National Assembly and presidential polls.
Obviously, this is what has turned the APC gubernatorial ticket to a coveted item among Kogi State politicians and hence, the high number of aspirants jostling for it.
A Gang up against Audu
Ironically, Audu who was dethroned by the PDP in 2003 is leading the pack of the 28 aspirants jostling to replace Wada, the incumbent governor of the party at Lugard House in the November election. The other aspirants include Alhaji Yahaya Bello; Senator Alex Usman Kadiri; Hussein Idris Kashim; Alh. Sanusi Abubakar Aliyu (Gamji); Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane; Sani Halilu Shuaibu; Suleman Baba Ali; AVM Saliu Atawodi; Muhammad Abdullahi; Senator Nuruddeen Abatemi Usman; the only female contestant, Princess Hadiza Ibrahim; Yakubu Mohammed, a former acting governor of the state, Hon. Clarence Olafemi; and Suleiman Ejeh Abutu.
The others are Sunday Ejibo; Otunba Suleman Lanre Ipinmisho; Dr. Tim Nda Diche; Habeeb Abdullahi Yakeen; Rotimi Yakub Obadofin; Babatunde Irukera; Ocholi Enojoh James; Aliyu Zakari Jiya; Olushola George Olumoroti; and Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo. Audu had also served as the governor of Kogi State from January 1992 to November 1993.
To signify his position as a leading and the most experienced among the aspirants, Audu had described his fellow contestants as ‘school leavers’ in a chat with journalists after he obtained his nomination form some weeks ago. Sources told this magazine that the chance of the former Governor emerging as the gubernatorial candidate is brightened by the fact that members of executives of the Kogi chapter of APC are his loyalists.
Indeed, the former Governor had always boasted that he built up the APC in Kogi State as he has always been in opposition while most of the other aspirants just decamped from the PDP.
Supporters of Audu have continue to tout his achievements like the establishment of the State University, Polytechnic, housing development and construction of inter township roads among others, which according to them have not been equaled by his successors as reasons why the former Governor should be allowed to occupy the governorship seat for another four years.
But if there is any aspirant who all the other aspirants will, if possible, prevent from participating in the gubernatorial primaries, it is Audu. For one, most of the aspirants believe that the former Governor has had his time in governing Kogi State and should allow others to try their hands on the job.
Audu case is also not helped by the fact that he is still being tried by the EFCC on corrupt allegation related to mismanagement of funds during his first time in office. Other aspirants are already playing this fact as one of the reasons the APC which was elected into office on its strong anti corruption stance should not allow the former governor fly its flag in the impending election.
The Clamour for Power Shift to East, Central Kogi
This aside, Audu’s ambition also run against the grain of clamour for shift of power away from the Igala’s Kogi East part of the State. The Igalas have produced all the governors that have presided over Kogi State since it was created and the two other senatorial districts of the state- Central and West are insisting that it is time to change the trend.
Indeed, some prominent leaders of the two district under the umbrella of Kogi West and Central Coalition For Justice, Equity and Fairplay had some weeks ago met Audu to facilitate rotation of power to other part of the state by foregoing his ambition. They elders had appealed to Audu to step down and allow a candidate from the either West or Central to pick the party ticket in the interest of equity and justice, a proposal which they said would also brighten the chances of APC winning the gubernatorial ticket.
Among the 28 aspirants, those from Kogi Central are former Managing Director, Daily Times of Nigeria Plc, Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo; immediate past senator representing Kogi Central, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi and businessman and former employee of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Aspirants from the Kogi West include former Speaker and acting governor, Chief Clarence Olafemi; former Director-General, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Alhaji Lanre Ipinmisho; former Group General Manager, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Dr. Habeeb Yekeen; petroleum engineer and businessman, Olusola Olumoroti; prominent member of the defunct NADECO, Rotimi Yaqub Obadofin and Alhaji Suleiman Baba Ali, a former commissioner.
However, when Audu rebuffed the entreaties of the elders, they send a nine man delegation from the two zones to meet with the APC national leadership some weeks ago. The delegation which included heavyweights like former Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Prof Yusuf Aliu , former Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC Dr. Tom Adaba, President, Okun Development Association (ODA), Ambassador Babatunde Paul Fadumiyo; President, Ebira Peoples’ Association (EPA), Dr. Abdul Rahman Adeiza among others presented a four page document tagged “Request For APC To Recognise The Right Of The People of Central And West Senatorial Districts of Kogi State to Produce the Candidate of APC In the 2015 Gubernatorial Election,’ to John Oyegun, the APC National Chairman during the visit.
The group had in the document noted that except for the military administration which governed between August 27, 1991 and January 2, 1992, and subsequently between November 1993 and May 1999, all elected Kogi State governors have come from Kogi East.
They also alleged in the document that all the Igala governors have ensured the marginalization of other parts of the State by ensuring that about 70 per cent of appointments and 80 per cent of expenditure goes to Kogi East.
The group thereby described the scenario in Kogi State as a form of “quasi-enslavement of West and Central zones,” by the Igalas. To further convince APC of capacity of aspirants from any of the two zones to deliver the State for the party in the gubernatorial elections, the elders noted that the West and Central polled a total of 227,896 votes (representing 55 per cent of total votes cast, while Kogi East had 186,997 votes (45 per cent of total votes cast) in the last presidential election.
But Oyegun had counseled the elders that their desire can best be realized if they enter with a strong an alliance of the two deprived zones and consensus on a mutually acceptable candidate to be fielded against the candidate from the East.
However, with over 10 aspirants from the two zones getting set to battle for the APC gubernatorial ticket in the primary scheduled for next week, Oyegun’s advice seemed to have been jettisoned. As it is, analysts said Audu who had consistently derisively accused most of the other aspirants of being sponsored by the PDP with N10 million to buy form and contest against remains the man to beat in the 29 August, gubernatorial APC primary.