Kogi Governorship Election: Fierce Battle For The Soul of Lugard House

…27 Aspirants Jostle For APC Ticket

Gov. Idris Wada
Gov. Idris Wada
Ahead of the November 21 governorship election in Kogi State, political gladiators and their supporters have hit the ground running in earnest to see who occupies the state’s seat of power, popularly known as Lugard House.
The race for the number one seat in the state will unarguably be intriguing, fierce, interesting and competitive at the same time, given the plethora of aspirants who have already thrown their hats into the ring.
At the moment, an overwhelming 27 aspirants are jostling to become the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at its primaries scheduled for August 29.
In the same vein, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state is also putting its acts together and strategizing to ensure power is not wrestled from it by the APC.
However, the National Organising Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha had assured that the party would not impose any candidate and that credible people would be appointed to conduct the party’s primaries.
“Kogi State is PDP and we are ready to retain the state. We have found it necessary to conduct free, fair and credible primaries. We appeal to all, especially our teeming supporters in Kogi, to go about the primaries in peaceful manner,” he said.
According to Mustapha, the party has fixed August 17 to 24 for the sales and return of nomination forms while screening would take place on August 27.
Sources within the PDP believe the incumbent governor Captain Idris Wada might still be nominated as the party bearer due to the fact that not many people have indicated interest to run on the party’s platform.
As a result, more attention is mainly on the All Progressives Congress which has to do a painstaking sifting in order to prune the number drastically before the primaries.
APC aspirants undergoing screening ahead of the party primaries include former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, Barrister James Ocholi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane, Mr Sani Halilu Shuaibu, Alhaji Suleiman Baba Ali, Air Vice Marshall Salifu Atawodi, Mr Muhammad Abdullahi, Senator Nuruddeen Abatemi-Usman and Hajiya Hadiza Ibrahim.
Others include veteran journalist, Mr Yakubu Muhammad, former Kogi acting governor, Chief Clarence Olafemi, Mr Suleiman Ejeh Abutu, Mr Sunday Ejibo, Otunba Suleiman Lanre Ipinmisho, and Dr. Tim Nda Diche.
Also in the race include a seasoned banker, Mr Habeeb Abdullahi Yakeen, Prince Rotimi Yakub Obadofin, Mr Babatunde Irukera, Mr Olusola Oluwaranti, Dr Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, Pharmacist Aliyu Zakari, Senator Alex Usman Kadiri, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Umar, Mr Idris Hussein Kashim and Dr. Sanusi Abubakar.
The victory recorded by the All Progressives Congress in the last general election especially clinching the three senatorial, six House of Representatives and eleven House of Assembly seats in the state and the massive votes recorded for President Muhammadu Buhari on March 28, has possibly spurred many of the aspirants to seek the APC flag.
Out of the overwhelming crowd of aspirants struggling for the APC governorship ticket, some are seen by observers as strong contenders while others are viewed as “spoilers,” “pretenders and jokers” in the race.
It is believed that in the final analysis, the battle would be between whoever emerged as the flag bearers of the PDP and the APC.
The primary election which is the only established process of selecting party’s standard bearer from the pool of aspirants will eventually separate the ‘men’ from the ‘boys.’
Unlike the general elections, where the electorates would decide who wins, it is purely the prerogative of party delegates to decide who eventually flies the party’s flag in the main election.
As such, factors such as ability of aspirants to woo majority of delegates through lobbying and consultations are key factors as to who emerges victorious at the end of the day.
With the look of things, regional and ethnic factors as well as financial muscles will likely play significant role as to who emerges victorious at the end of the day.
Ahead of the APC primaries, pundits believe that the former two-term governor of the state, Prince Audu remains a key figure among the aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket. This is given the fact that Audu has been a strong stakeholder of the party in the state over the years and believed to be wielding strong influence on the party structure in the state.
Besides, Audu’s performance during his terms in office appears to be one of the factors he is leveraging upon ahead of the party primaries and the election proper.
Observers however said that the entrance of many aspirants from Kogi East Senatorial District where Audu hails from with each of the aspirants frantically wooing delegates to their sides portend tough challenge for Audu’s governorship ambition.
A great number of the aspirants have equally been doing their underground consultations ahead of the primaries and should not be taken for granted.
From the body language of most of the aspirants, it appears they are bent on going into the race headlong and this implies that the primaries will be fiercely competitive.
Nevertheless, one burning issue that is dominating the Kogi political landscape ahead of the primaries is that of agitation for power shift by people from the Central and West Senatorial districts of the state.
However, if the power-shift agitation is anything to go by, that might be another factor that could alter the political equation of the state ahead of the governorship poll.
For a long time, the people of Kogi Central (Ebira) and Kogi West (Okun) have been alleging marginalization in governance of the state and had been clamouring to have the power transferred to them by their Kogi East (Igala) brothers.
The agitation which has been on for a long time now appears to be gaining more momentum this time around with the reported emergence of a convergence group Kogi West and Central Coalition for Justice and Fairness.
The group headed by former minister of health, Professor Eyitayo Lambo recently endorsed one of the aspirants, Alhaji Suleiman Baba Ali as the consensus candidate to fly the APC ticket for both zones.
The group was said to have taken the decision in Lokoja, the state capital after reportedly scrutinising other 16 aspirants from the Central and West zones.
But the purported endorsement of Baba Ali by the coalition has been generating some controversies from other aspirants from the zones who said they were not part of such decision.
Reacting, former Kogi State acting governor and an aspirant for the APC gubernatorial ticket, Chief Clarence Olafemi said he was not part of the said endorsement and that he remained firm in the race.
He debunked his purported agreement to step down or be running mate to another aspirant and called on his supporters and party members to ignore such rumour.
Another APC gubernatorial aspirant from the Zone, Prince Rotimi Yaqub Obadofin also dissociated himself from news making the rounds that he has stepped down based on the said consensus agreement.
“What kind of mischief is that? I was never at any meeting with anyone, so where did that rumour come from? I have my party nomination form, so who is afraid. Our people should simply ignore them,” he said.
Other aspirants from the zones have equally distanced themselves from the purported endorsement of a consensus candidate, thus leaving the contest widely opened to all aspirants that have indicated interests for the APC ticket.
Former governor Audu appears to have cashed on the issue of power shift by the two zones to engender some political supports from West and Central senatorial districts.
He told a gathering in Lokoja recently during his official declaration that he would ensure power rotation to both zones if given the opportunity to serve the people again.
Audu observed that the clamour for power shift by the people of Central and West Senatorial districts has been on for long adding such agitation can best be actualised through negotiations and inputs from the three senatorial districts.
“We are all brothers and sisters, the only way to foster unity and true love among ourselves is when the power goes round the state. The Igala, Ebira and Okun by history belong to old Kabba province and as such whatever we have in the state should be shared down to the minorities. That is the only way we can live peacefully and harmoniously in Kogi State,” Audu said.
The PDP State Publicity Secretary, Bode Ogunmola said the idea of power shift in the state was a good one but pointed out that the approach to such agitation by some of the proponents was wrong.
“This cut and nail approach whereby anytime election was coming up, people will shout power shift, power rotation and as soon as elections are over they will go to sleep. It is not going to work that way. Let us sit down as stakeholders and agree on a template for power rotation,” he said.
However, from all indications, the political palpitations in Kogi State ahead of the governorship primaries and the election proper are no doubt very high and no one can tell for sure how it would go.

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