As the clock ticks to the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, MUHAMMAD BASHIR x-rays the crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and its likely effect on the party’s chances during the poll
Until the primaries of the various political parties, political pundits have narrowed the governorship contest in Kogi State to a two-horse race. To them, the election would be between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At some point in the state, many have opined that the APC-led government will come to an end after the November election. The belief then was that the PDP was waiting in the wings to take over Lugard House, the seat of Kogi State government.
Events after the various primaries of the various political parties, has however demonstrated clearly in perspective their readiness for the November showdown.
For many political and observers of Kogi State politics, this may not be pleasing to those looking forward to a PDP victory to say that the Kogi State APC won the governorship election expected to hold in November on the 3rd of September, 2019, the day the PDP primaries was conducted.
Except for those who do not understand the issues, analysts make their permutations, but in truth, the APC, with the recent gale of defection to its fold, will no doubt dance to victory.
The PDP which is generally considered to be the party to give the ruling APC a fight for its money, is embroiled in internal squabbles since after its primary election conducted by the Adamawa State governor, Umaru Fintiri.
The primary produced Engr Musa Wada, who people considered as a dark horse, owning to the fact that he was the least expected aspirant to have emerged as the candidate of the opposition party candidate.
Before the party’s primary election, three aspirants – former Governor Idris Wada, Senator Dino Melaye and Abubakar Ibrahim Idris (eldest son of ex-Governor Idris), were seen as top contenders, until the party delegates threw many into shock by endorsing the under-dog, Musa Wada as their candidate.
However, the process did not go without protest as one of the aspirants, Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, is currently in court challenging the outcome of the primary.
He is praying the court to declare him winner, since the primary committee could not account for the missing 247 votes, which he claimed to be an addition to the votes he scored. Wada polled 248 votes, while Idris scored 210 votes.
Besides the fallout of the governorship primary, another factor that might work against the party on November 16 is the continuous defection of its members to the ruling APC.
Former acting governor of the state and the campaign Director General of Abubakar Idris, Chief Clarence Olafemi, is among chieftains of the PDP already on their way to the APC.
Olafemi, in a recent statement, said the PDP have never been fair to him hence his defection to the ruling APC is a possibility.
Although the opposition party is making frantic efforts to reconcile its aggrieved members, many in the state, are however displeased that those seeking to rally support for the APC at the moment were the same people responsible for the violence that rocked the PDP’s governorship primary all in a desperate attempt to fly the partys flag at all cost, not minding who gets killed.
Prominent among the aggrieved members of include former governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, Senator Dino Melaye, Chief Abiodun Ojo and host of others.
But, ex-Governor Idris, while reacting to the rumour of his plan to dump the party, told New Telegraph in a telephone interview that that the report is baseless.
According to him, “I built this house (PDP) to whatever it is today. So, how can I leave the house I built to another person’s house, it is not possible. I am a member of PDP and I will remain one.”
But even as PDP leaders in the state try to put their house in order ahead of the election, they have a daunting task unseating Governor Yahaya Bello, who emerged as governor of the state in 2016 by what many have described as divine arrangement.
He legally and by the APC-led federal government arrangement inherited the votes of late Prince Abubakar Audu, who was coasting to victory before his demise.
One thing led to another and Bello was sworn-in as governor to the surprise of many, but happily some sections of the West and Central senatorial district that have since the creation of the state prayed fervently for power rotation couldn’t hide their joy at the emergence of Bello as governor.
The early days of Bello’s administration was no doubt challenging, going by the way he came into office and his efforts to secure legitimacy. There were several legal battles. Negative reports over a civil service screening that was meant to ascertain the real and genuine work force of the state.
At some point, Kogi State was always in the news over non-payment of salaries, a challenge that has since been overcome by Bello’s administration.
Bello also had to grapple with how to secure a second term ticket which hitherto had heated the Kogi polity like never before. The state literally moved to Abuja, with the APC National Secretariat serving as the battle ground.
But like a chicken that has come home to roost, Governor Bello defeated 11 other aspirants to emerge the APC flag bearer for the November governorship poll.
Although some were skeptical of what Bello’s chances in the election would be, the picture became clear when PDP conducted its own primary election to elect its candidate.
To the latter set of analysts, the outcome of the opposition party’s nomination process showed that it has surrendered to the APC even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blows the whistle for the contest as it completely erased the political goodwill and strength left of the PDP in the state.
To these analysts, except for those who still live in a world of illusion, the PDP centre, certainly can no longer hold. Mass defection has hit the party. The internal crisis that has torn the party apart can be seen with the naked eyes.
What is left of the PDP is the carcass of a once mighty giant that has by the action and desperation of some younger elements within its fold, put the party only on paper as a major opposition, but in truth, a divided house.
Many analysts say with the current infighting tearing the party apart, it would amount to another wonder of the world for the PDP to turn the table in its favour weeks to the November governorship poll.
While the APC is on a daily basis receiving returning members, with several others defecting from the PDP, the PDP is obviously not finding its feet despite the reconciliation mechanism that the party has put in place, which many analysts described as mere window dressing given that it only amounts to scratching the surface of the problem.
For a major opposition party in the State, the PDP is going into the Kogi governorship with a divided house. For a party that lacks the control of the centre and is not having any control of the institutions that is involved in the conduct of elections, the view of most people in Kogi State is that only a miracle would avert a catastrophic defeat for the party.
Asides resources at the disposal of the APC, the ruling party can boast of a formidable structure in the state, with a sitting governor, nine National Assembly and 25 state lawmakers as well being in charge of all council administrations.
Even civil servants who would have served as the PDP’s power base being a critical segment of Kogi politics, may have been decimated with their salaries now paid till date.
The belief in the state at the moment is that the PDP cannot in any way claim a match to the APC, which explains why many see the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State as a no contest. Those who hold this view say the poll is a battle that seems to have been won on the drawing board.
For Governor Bello, he is coming into the governorship election with a hundred per cent control of the central senatorial district. Irrespective of who anyone is working for in the district, what matters to the people of the area is their son getting a second term as governor of the state irrespective of the reservation some people from the area may have of Bello.
Similarly, the nomination of Chief Edward Onoja as Bello’s running mate has no doubt further tightened the noose of victory for the APC.
Onoja is from the Eastern Senatorial district. He is in charge and in firm political control of the area. The area had looked forward to using the 2019 poll to regain power with the voting population they have. But the failure of one of Igala aspirants in the APC to pick the guber ticket and the emergence of Onoja as Governor Bello’s running mate has further changed the conservative thinking of the people Kogi East Senatorial District.
Similarly, with some young and vibrant politicians from the Eastern district having tested the pecks of political office, they are sure not going to trade uncertainty for certainty, thus having a deputy governor now and what will follow in the coming years with Onoja in 2023 is upper most on the minds of majority of easterners to work for an APC victory.
Certainly, violence and show of force would be the expectations in the East during the November election with the APC sure to have an upper hand, but the wise political actors would thread with caution in order not be casualties as head or tail, the APC will have a better showing.
To the APC camp, the PDP is unlikely to win in any local government area in the state if the two main parties square up against each other on the strength of men, funding and institutions that control elections.
Another area of interest in the forthcoming November election would be Kogi West Senatorial District as the people of the area remain dynamic in their voting pattern.
They are however faced with a herculean task this time around to deliver for APC and ask for power in 2023. This strategy has therefore made the area to be on its toes. Already, aggrieved members of the APC, who left the party, are returning, while many from the PDP are moving into the APC in droves.
For some like Senator Dino Melaye, who declined to be the Director General of the PDP Campaign Organisation, this is not a good time for the PDP. Melaye is said to have been sacrificed to pick at all cost, a PDP flag bearer.
Unfortunately, even when the 247 missing votes that disappeared were found and added to the earlier 70 votes allocated Melaye, he has refused to be pacified. But, unlike Melaye, Olafemi and several others are threatening to dump the PDP.
For now, November is but a few weeks away, but like the proverbial saying that says that the morning shows how good the day would be, the belief most political quarters in Kogi State is that safe to say that any complacency, the APC is as good as to have won the November governorship poll, following the outcome of PDP’s September 3, primary, when the PDP floundered a golden opportunity.
But the optimism in the APC camp, notwithstanding, it is said that every day comes with a new opportunity in politics. This means that the opposition party could equally spring a surprise as politics is a game of the possible.