Friday, November 20, 2015 4:51 pm
Big billboards and banners as well as vehicles emblazoned with the pictures of the two candidates and their deputies were virtually everywhere in Lokoja, the State capital when this magazine went round the old colonial trading port yesterday. While campaigns for the election officially ended on Thursday, according to electoral laws, discussions about the chances of the two leading candidates have continue to dominate the public space in Lokoja, the State capital.
APC’s chances in the election was further boosted on Wednesday when a former chairman of Kogi State PDP and 15 local government chairmen decamped to the party at the grand finale of its campaign rally attended by Vice President Yemi Osibajo who represented the president and other prominent members of the party. The PDP has tried to take the shine off that rally by pointing out what it thinks the absence of the President portrays of the APC candidate.
“Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State has applauded the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to stay away from the campaign of All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, saying the move has reinforced the belief of Kogi electorate about the seriousness of the current administration’s commitment to fight corruption,” Phrank Shaibu, the governor’s Chief Communications Manager said in a statement.
He added that Buhari’s refusal to identify with a tainted politician like Prince Abubakar will go a long way to send the right message to Nigerian youths that the current administration would not want to have anything to do with those who steal or mismanage public funds. Audu is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on corruption charges involving about N11bn allegedly committed as governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003.
Wada further advised the electorate in the state to send a clear message to the APC – through their votes on Saturday – that today’s Nigeria will not have a place for a party that celebrates grand larceny, corruption, greed and wastage of public funds. No doubt, the yet to be concluded corruption trial has constituted an albatross on Audu’s neck as it has become the chief cannon against him by the opposition.
But the former Governor had anchored his campaign for return to the Kogi State government House on his achievements when he governed the state between 1999 and 2003. The Ogbonicha Prince never fails to remind the crowd at his campaign rallies that he contributed to the socio-economic development of Kogi State with establishment of structures like 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. This is a claim which the PDP whose candidate has been portrayed as a non performer has not been able to counter effectively.
However, the absence of Buhari from the grand finale rally was also exciting to the opposition in many ways. For one, the personal presence of the President, sources told this magazine in Lokoja could have helped Audu, especially in Kogi Central, likely to be key to determining who wins the gubernatorial election. Buhari commanded cult following in the senatorial district and had always been voted for massively by the people of the area since he began contesting for the presidency in 2003.
The Senatorial district was also crucial to APC’s victory in Kogi State during the 2015 presidential elections. Yahyah Bello, popularly known as Fairplus, a transporter and business man from the district, was edged out in the battle for the APC senatorial ticket by Audu.
On his part, Audu has been trying to cash in on the huge following of Buhari through the inclusion of the picture of the President in his campaign posters. This magazine gathered that the people of the zone are still angry by the manner the popular 40 year old businessman lost the APC ticket to Audu and may not be willing to vote for the opposition party.
Rather, just like they have done in similar elections in the past, this magazine gathered in Lokoja that the people of central senatorial district may vote massively for a former deputy governor of Kogi, Mr Philip Salawu, the candidate of the Labour Party and one of their own.
This will no doubt constitute a setback for the APC team. Furthermore, this magazine investigation revealed that it is difficult to decide which of the two candidates will be victorious in Kogi East and West senatorial districts as the two contestants seemed to be running neck to neck in the area. The two deputy governors- James Faleke and Yomi Awoniyi of the APC and the PDP respectively are from the Kogi West. But the deputy governorship candidate of PDP is considered to be more rooted and it will be interesting to see how much votes he can pull for his principal.
Sources however told this magazine that Wada’s second term ambition may suffer jeopardy from local government workers and teachers who have gone without salaries in many parts of the state for many months now.
Apart from the focus on the two contestants, Saturday’s election will also be keenly monitored for several reasons. For one, it is the first major poll to be conducted under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and also the first by the new Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmud Yakubu. While his predecessor, Attahiru Jega was generally believed to have performed creditably in office, the Kogi elections will provide proof if Yakubu will follow the same path.