Sunday, August 25, 2019 7:06 pm
It is no longer news that Kogi State is in an election mode. Tenure of incumbent Governor Yahaya Belio comes to a close on January 27th next year and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has reeled out time line for the election of a new governor on November 16th. Without doubts, the election has been the most talked about issue in public and perhaps private discourses of late in the state. Subsequently, activities within political parties have been near hysteria as they prepare for primaries to decide on the candidates that will fly their respective flags.
About a score political parties are showing appearance in the state, but the governorship election is likely to be a two-horse race between only two of them, being the dominant. They are the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Both parties have picked dates for primaries. All things being equal, the APC will conduct the exercise on Thursday 29th August, while the PDP’s own will come up five days later on Tuesday, 3rd September. Here is a preview of the selection process of the parties, the aspirants and factors that will influence their chances in the primaries. We begin our analysis from the APC
The APC and it’s 16 aspirants
The ruling APC is on ground controlling all 25 members in the House of Assembly and 21 Local Governments. It is however entangled in crisis in the State. There are two main factions. One group is loyal to the governor while the other is loyal to late Abubakar Audu. There are sub-groups harboured in each of the main divisions.
The factionalisation has made the mode of primary to be adopted by the party rather uncertain. The governor’s group prefers delegates election or indirect primary and the party NWC once towed that line. The moment the NWC indicated it’s preference, the Audu group with majority of the aspirants protested to the party national Secretariat in Abuja calling for direct primaries. Spokesperson of the party, Lanre Isah-Onilu in a statement said the party will review the situation and make it’s decision known. That decision is still being awaited even as the matter has become a subject of litigation.
Exactly one week to the date set for the party’s primaries, the APC carried out screening exercise for it’s aspirants on Thursday 22 August. The Screening Committee which executed it’s assignment at the State Party Secretariat in Lokoja was headed by Sen. Hope Uzodinma. He disclosed that sixteen (16) people indicated interest in the top-most Kogi State job. As at the time of filling this report, the party is yet to release results of the screening and the committee members have since returned to Abuja.
The 15 aspirants that want to dislodge Yahaya Bello from his office include two women Hajiya Hadiza Iyoma Ibrahim and Mrs Blessing Ekele. Others are Admiral Usman Jibrin, Prof. Seidu Mohammed Ogah and three (3) sons of former Kogi State governor late Prince Abubakar Audu. They are Mohammed Onekwu Audu, Mustapha Mona Audu and Yahaya Odidi Audu. Others are Abdullahi Sani Lulu, Yakubu Mohammed, Babatunde Irukera, Hassan Bawa, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ademu Akpa, The rest are Engr. Danlami Umar Mohammed and Bashir Abubakar Gegu.
From findings made by TheNews in the Confluence State, the following are the Frontline aspirants and their chances.
Yahaya Adeiza Bello:
He is the current Governor battling for return ticket to run a second and final term. As the party leader in the state, his desire for the party ticket should have been for the asking- something close to an automatic ticket or offer of first rejection. But not in Kogi. Bello has been fighting the battle of his life in order to be flag-bearer of his party.
Young Bello arrived Lugard House January 2016 on the wings of popular support and hope. He has however lost much of that after over three years in the saddle. Poor handling of state matters, irregular salaries and low infrastructure development are factors militating against his second term ambition. Even at that, he remains the candidate to beat for the party ticket.
Structure for his own faction of the party is firmly in his control. He had almost single handedly picked the party Exco from the State to Ward levels. He also has tremendous if not overbearing influence over nearly all political office holders, both elected and appointed in the State. For instance, all the eleven but two National Assembly members from Kogi, all 25 House of Assembly members and all appointed 21 Local Government Administrators will stop at nothing to deliver the party ticket to their benefactor. With the resources at his disposal and the sentiment for power shift among minority groups in the state, he seems good to clinch the coveted ticket. Two issues however threaten his chances.
First is the mode of primary election. It is believed his group prefers indirect primaries, because most of the delegates would be his stooges and as such would have no scrupples handing him the ticket. However, because of his waning popularity, there are strong fears that the governor may not have a field day in a direct primary election. The second snag is the screening result. Allegations of double registration leveled against the governor by INEC and falsification of age are said to have been brought against him at the screening. If he is culpable, it may affect the outcome of the screening. Will he be cleared by the Screening Committee or not? That is the question on the mind of most observers in the state. If he is cleared, the odds favour him to pick the ticket.
Admiral Usman Jibrin:
Admiral Jibrin, born 1959 is former Chief of Naval Staff and a top contender for the APC ticket. He is from Okura in Dekina Local Government of Kogi East Senatorial zone. Since the death of Audu and the lackadaisical performance of Governor Bello who inherited his votes from another zone, Kogi East has been mourning the loss of power. Jibrin’s deep pockets and military background have greatly boosted his chances. Besides, a section of the Audu structure and factional leadership are said to be loyal to him.
The retired naval chief’s ambition has received commendable acceptability in the grassroots and among civil servants across the state. Loyalists of Bello and Jibrin have often created tension in the state. Jibrin said he will not surrender his mission to enthrone good governance in Kogi. James Faleke the House of Representatives member who was Audu’s running mate was said to be among his strong supporters.
Analysts opine that Jibrin’s structure may not be strong enough to wrestle power from Governor Bello. In addition the number of aspirants from his zone may affect his chances.
Prof. Seidu Mohammed Ogah:
The Professor of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System is immediate past Director General/Chief Executive of the National Space Research Development Agency, NASRDA. Born in 1960, he hails from Omala Local Government also in Kogi East Senatorial District. He brings to the table years of experience as a space scientist and an understanding of the level of infrastructure deficit in the state having once served as DG of the Directorate of Rural Development, DRD under Governor Ibrahim Idris.
He commands some followership.
He is however believed to be elitist and a bit far from the grassroots. He was a member of the PDP and may not have been fully accepted in the APC, where Bello has described him as a ‘tenant.’ Again, the large number of aspirants from his zone may cut down his chances.
Mohammed Onekwu Audu: Mohammed, a businessman and strategist is son of late Audu. He was Finance Director of his father’s campaign organization. Like his late father, he is vocal and colourful. He controls a section of the structure left by the departed former governor. He says he is in possession of how to defeat Bello and rescue the state from the ominous direction it is headed. He presents himself as the rallying point of the broken Audu political family. In spite of that, the division in the family is still festering.
Two of Muhammed’s brothers, Mustapha Mona Audu and Yahaya Odidi Audu are believed to be in the race as spoilers. Although, it is left to be seen how the division will shape outcome of the election, pundits prediction is that none of them may go far in the primaries.
Hajiya Rukaya Hadiza Ibrahim: Hajiya Ibrahim aka Hadiza Motors is a Lagos based socialite. She hails from Dekina and have been an active political participant in the State. She is banking on the support of her Igala kinsmen and the Kogi women population to realise her dream. She is popular in the East, but little is known of her in other parts of the State.
She is probably the youngest among those jostling for the APC ticket, still in her 30s. She is from Olamaboro Local Government and was once the APC Women Leader in the area. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, owns a restaurant among other businesses and runs a Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO. She enjoys commendable followership among women and youth demography.
Ekele contested the last House of Representatives election and lost. It is left to be seen how she will translate that loss to victory in her present political voyage.
Abdullahi Sani Lulu:
He is a familiar name in Nigerian football circle. A surveyor by training Lulu was Chairman of Nigeria Football Federation, where he carried out exploits. He is from Idah Local Government and one of the top contenders for the APC flag.
Lulu’s assets are his ability to turn situations around and charity. He is said to have empowered hundreds of people from across the state through bursary, scholarship and employments. He is from the same Federal Constituency with Audu. He is well known in all regions of the state. He may spring a surprise.
A veteran journalist and one of the founding members of old Newswatch magazine is from Dekina Local Government. He is unhappy that Kogi has become the centre of poverty and thuggery under Bello. He vowed to change the narratives once he becomes governor.
Muhammed’s aspiration is not new. In 2011 he had aspired to succeed former Governor Ibrahim Idris on the platform of PDP. His message has been well received by the people. But he requires a stronger
structure to drive his aspiration to fruition.
He is the DG/Chief Executive Officer Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC. He is a Prince from Egbe in Yagba West Local Government and the only strong person from Kogi West Senatorial District in the race for the APC ticket. Born in September 1968, he is a successful lawyer. He purchased the APC nomination and expression of interest forms only hours to it’s closure.
Irukera’s ambition to be governor preceds the current dispensation. He made waves in 2015 until the last minute when he announced he was stepping down for Audu. Since that time, he has remained in touch with the masses, quietly building and greasing his structure. He is calculating on harvesting massive votes from his Kogi West kiths and kin. Remnants from Audu’s camp and Kogi Central who still crave power shift but disapprove of Bello’s style see him as a credible alternative. His association with the APC national leader Bola Tinubu and connections in the presidency are factors that give him more advantages. His late entry into the race may hurt his chances. He is an aspirant to watch.
He is a member of the House of Representatives and immediate younger brother of APC National Women Leader, Hajia Bawa Salamatu. He was once Deputy Speaker, Kogi State House of Assenbly and may bring his various contacts to bear in his current desire. His aspiration is not very popular across the state.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Ademu Akpa:
Trained as a quantity surveyor, the retired Army General hails from Ankpa. He was a member of APC reconciliatory committee in the state. His ambition enjoys support from young professionals as he was said to have helped many indigenes of Kogi into the military. His foot soldiers are vigorously selling his candidature in party circles.
Engr. Danlami Umar Mohammed:
He is from the Eastern flank of the state. He was formerly of the SDP and a new member in APC. His aspiration is not likely to go far.
Bashir Abubakar Gegu:
An engineer by profession, he is a new decampee into the APC. He hails from Kotonkarfi Local Government and was PDP candidate in last year’s by-election for the replacement of a dead house of Representatives member for Lokoja-Koto Federal Constituency. Analysts say he is not in serious contention for the APC ticket.
As the aspirants are perfecting their strategies, the final decision on who takes the ticket, belongs to the electorate.