Thursday, June 20, 2019 6:59 am
By Rashidi Idoko
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy two decades ago, Kogi State has acquired a notoriety for creating upheavels in the nation’s otherwise serene political landscape.. The state is not new to birthing akward political experiences. It was the first to have a Governor removed by judicial Fiat; first to have two men sworn in to the office of Governor in a day; the first to have a Governorship candidate die on the verge of victory, while counting of votes was ongoing; the first to have a supplementary Governor who has behaved every inch like a capone since assuming office; in fact the first without a Deputy Governor; It is perhaps the only state in the federation where workers can be owed as much as 38 months without raising a hoot and with the debtor chief executive still bragging of winning reelection, willy nilly and weather people like it or not.
Another season for Kogi governorship election is here and those conversant with the myriad ironies are warming up to grand entertainment in the absurd. It is promising to be a lively expectation. Already, new records in how not to be elderly and statesmanly are being set. Just at the weekend, a group that goes by the name Kogi East Elders Council, KEEC, ostensibly in an effort to present a common front for the Igala in the governorship race, forayed into unfamiliar terrain and shot herself pointedly in the heart. It has since been rushed to intensive care where experts are still working round the clock to save her life. She may require an extirpation of her neurosis.
The group under the chairmanship of Sen. Ahmadu Ali, a retired Colonel of the Nigerian Army and former National Chairman of People’s Democratic Party, PDP saddled herself with the onerous task of screening aspirants from the zone with a view to reducing their number and boosting the zone’s chances of winning the race.
The group commissioned a committee headed by Sule Iyaji, a former Deputy Governor of Benue State to screen the aspirants and reduce their number. The committee had representatives from each of the nine local governments in Kogi East, women groups, Ukomu Igala, Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA), Ojuju Agbadufu and two representatives each from both PDP and APC.
There are scores of people from the zone across party lines prospecting for the number one office in the land. In pursuit of her task therefore, the committee barred most of the aspirants from contesting. It cleared six aspirants, three each from PDP and APC respectively.
According to the result of screening signed by the nineteen selected leaders, one aspirant was chosen to contend for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) tickets in each of the three Federal constituencies in Kogi East senatorial district.
Prince Mohammed Audu, son of a former Governor of the state, late Prince Abubakar Audu, was endorsed for the APC ticket in Idah Federal constituency. Other aspirants endorsed for the sole APC ticket are Professor Seidu Onalo Ogah (Ankpa) and Admiral Jirbin Oyibe Usman (Dekina/Bassa).
For the Peoples Democratic Party, the elders anointed former President Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Idris Omede (Dekina/Bassa), Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh (Ankpa) and Elder Ubolo Okpanachi (Idah).
Front line aspirants who lost out in the screening included Capt. Idris Wada, his brother Engr. Musa Wada, former banker Dr. Victor Adoji, Abubakar Ibrahim son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris, Sen. Alex Kadiri, former Deputy Speaker Omebije and another former Deputy Speaker Ali Akuh.
Since her decisions were made public with little or nothing about the parameters that guided her steps, not a few of the unfavoured aspirants and their supporters have cried blue murder. The issue has also thrown up several questions about its motiff and modus operandi or the lack thereof.
People have raised questions about where the Ali group earned her enormous powers, trespassing into the territories of different political parties. Certainly such groups are unknown to the framers of the Nigerian constitution. If the powers derived from tradition and morality as being canvassed in some quarters, then such will have no recognition in politics. Afterall, that “there is no morality in politics” is an agelong dictum.
But let us even leave the committee in her borrowed traditional cum moral robes and pretend she commands some authority. Many of the aspirants claimed they were never invited nor did they ever attend its sittings. If the hero of the June 12 crisis, the late MKO Abiola was right in his assertion that “you can not shave a man’s head in his absence,” then it was procedurally wrong not to have invited the aspirants for discussions before applying the sledge hammer. It is obviously against the principles of fair hearing and repugnant to natural Justice for the committee to carry out her assignment with military gusto. The only excuse for this will be if she was working to a predetermined answer.
It has been argued that the committee was founded on the jaded principles of rotational governorship. Proponents of this school of thought seek to give every interest in a political deliniation a sense of belonging and equality. This is said to be reason the Ali group did not endorse more than One aspirant per federal constituency in each of the two major political parties.
The committee’s decision to limit her assignment to only two political parties is intriguing. There are 91 political parties in the country, out of which not less than 20 sponsored candidates for the last general election in the State. Certainly, there are Igala aspirants for the governorship election outside the two major parties in the zone. What is their fate? Even more confusing is the double standard with which she seemed to have pursued her self imposed mandate. In one breath she endorsed the aspiration of son of a former governor. In another, she denied son of another former goveernor, the much needed endorsement. It also outrightly refused to endorse the Wada brothers.
The idea of streaming down aspirants to a particular zone, in a multiplex democracy is a charade carried too far. In the logic of this elderly ‘wisemen’, what is supposed to be the collective patrimony of all Kogi sons and daughters is reserved for only their blue blooded Igala brethren. They have exclusive right to leadership while the other races, namely Egbira, Okun, Ogori, Kakanda, and Oworo from old kwara and their less fortunate kinsmen from old Benue, Bassa and Ibaji are doomed to perpetual followership, if not servitude and second hand citizenry. It ought not to be so.
If Pa. Ali and his gang were altruistic or guided by patriotic instincts, they would have seen that the other group in the Kogi matrimony are not less human. They have the right to aspire to the number One seat in the land. In fact, they deserve and demand as of right the support of Pa. Ali and his cotravellers, towards this lofty scheme.
It is either we are wholistic about rotation or we dicard it altogether as strange to our culture. There can be no half measures. The Governorship race is open and should remain open to all irrespective of tongue, Creed, class and parentage. What is Paramount and should guide our search for the next Kogi Governor are the innate qualities of the emisary and not where he or she comes from or whose son or daughter he or she is.
KEEC embarked on a similar mission in 2002/03 when she endorsed Sen. Alex Kadiri for the Kogi governorship race. It ended in a delusion of grandeur. This is not faring any better. Kogi belongs to all, and must be for all
Idoko, an indigene of Kogi State lives in Abuja.