Kogi Politics: Issues and Facts - By Dr. Ajiboye Gabriel
The dateline is December 3, 2011; this is authentic because the Independent National Electoral Commission said so. I recall that I quivered with mixed feelings because I was somewhat taken by surprise. But it was not just that, the ambivalent nature of Kogi
politics is the main reason. The politics of Kogi state is not one you can explain in a hurry because many variables take centre stage. The Igalas, Okuns and Ebiras are the three major actors.
As a fall back, Kogi State is structured along three Senatorial Districts; Kogi East (Igala), Kogi West (Okun) and Kogi Central (Ebira). The Igalas are the dominant ethnic group and as such have been ruling the state since inception. The PDP gubernatorial primaries almost altered this tradition, but Jibrin Isah an Igala, carried the day but with the introduction of a new political variable. He picked an Okun in Clarence Olafemi as his running mate. This was not the case in time past. But Abubakar Audu, also an Igala of the ANPP stuck to the status quo by picking an Ebira in Moses Wokili as his running mate. It seemed a two way battle between Jibrin Isah alias EchoCho (PDP) and Abubakar Audu alias Aduoja (ANPP). But it was not to be as a result of the one year extension granted by the court.
So many thoughts have been expressed as regards these two candidates for inexplicable reasons that at some point it was rumored that Jibrin Isah of the PDP is challenging his 'master' Abubakar Audu. This is quite contentious because Jibrin Isah has been a technocrat all the while and as a fact, in 1992, while Abubakar Audu held sway as the first democratically elected Governor of Kogi State, Jibrin Isah was a deputy manager in a bank. This was 19 years ago.
In essence, Abubakar Audu was governor of Kogi State 19 years ago with the likes of Michael Otedola of Lagos State, Ogbonnaya Onu of Abia State, Chukwuemeka Eziefe of Anambra State, Okewesilieze Nwodo of Enugu State, Rufus Ada George of Rivers State and John Odigie Oyegun of Edo State to mention but a few. All in the class of 1992 governors have grown into elder statesmen but for Abubakar Audu of Kogi State.
The class of 1999 governors also had Abubakar Audu in attendance as he was again elected alongside George Akume of Benue State, Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, Peter Odili of Rivers State, Adamu Aliero of Kebbi State, Adamu Muazu of Bauchi State and Abubakar Habu Hashidu of Gombe State to mention but a few. And again members of this class have left the governorship race behind for the upcoming generation, but for Abubakar Audu again. This is just one angle to the dynamism of Kogi politics. The general feeling towards Abubakar Audu's candidature is that of a man suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because in Kogi State, the people are desirous of change, and this is where the PDP got it right in the concluded gubernatorial primaries that produced Jibrin Isah, a philanthropist and technocrat. This is against the ANPP, now supposedly ACN/ANPP that produced the 'almighty' Abubakar Audu as its standard bearer.
Elders in Kogi State were quick to tell all that cared to listen that Abubakar Audu won in 1999 because the PDP fielded a candidate outside the wishes of the majority, who preferred Steven Achema of blessed memory. This fact was known to Abubakar Audu, but he sought re-election in 2003 and the end results have been: defeat in 2003, resounding defeat in 2007 and astonishing defeat in 2008. Hence the one year extension granted the administration of Governor Ibrahim Idris. And now, Abubakar Audu has once again signified interest in the race to govern the state. This will make a record breaking 6 appearances in 20 years of the existence of Kogi State. The question is when will he outgrow his quest to govern Kogi State, Just like other governors of the class of 1992 and 1999?
I predict a roller coaster ride for the Jibrin Isah because as it stands, the ANPP in the state described Abubakar Audu's departure to the ACN as a 'big blessing' and have vowed to field a gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming elections. And also Professor Yusuf Obaje, the ACN gubernatorial candidate and other party faithful have vowed to resist any move by Abubakar Audu to become the standard bearer of the party come December 3, 2011. But there is more than meets the eyes on why the leadership of ACN welcomed Abubakar Audu into their fold despites glaring disadvantages.
To some, it was a good political move, but again I reasoned that typical of the ACN that took advantage of crisis within the ruling party in south-western states to coast home to victory, might be the underlying reason. This is what the PDP has to think about carefully. PDP chieftains in the state have to close their ranks and rally support behind its gubernatorial candidate Jibrin Isah.
Justifying their support for Jibrin Isah, a chieftain of the PDP in Kabba, Kogi West Chief Oloruntoba David, stated recently that, allowing a minority from Kogi West to pick the ticket of the PDP will amount to selling the birth right of the Okun Yoruba's who constitute over 75% of the population of the people of Kogi West . 'Though the PDP is not contemplating another primary election, In the event of another primary election, the Okun Yoruba's are eminently qualified to contest as we parade a good number of educated minds right from our days in Northern Nigeria. So allowing a minority with dual origin to represent the West senatorial District will mean that the Okuns will not have a Governor, Deputy Governor ,SSG or Speaker of the House of Assembly' he said.
And if I must confess, Jibrin Isah's credentials are intimidating. He is a first class graduate of Economics from Bayero University Kano. He has a master's degree in Economics with specialization in Capital Market from the University of Lagos, an M.Phil in Petroleum and Energy from University of Ibadan and MBA in Marketing from University of Nigeria. But nobody can really tell what Abubakar Audu's educational qualifications are. The closest to the guess is O' Level and A' Level in Royal Society of Arts and Crafts and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries.
In conclusion, the fact that Jibrin Isah is from Dekina Local Government Area is a big plus for the PDP because Dekina has the highest number of registered voters in the state. Another plus is that Jibrin Isah re-jigged the political hierarchy by picking an Okun as his running mate and it sparked enthusiasm in Kogi West (Okuns). The implication of this move is that the political hierarchy accepted the change by conceding the speakership of the House of Assembly to the Ebiras of the Kogi Central. But will Abubakar Audu retreat to pick an Okun as running mate to reflect the present realities? Some rumoured that he might gun for Dino Melaye, his erstwhile campaign director to checkmate Jibrin Isah's towering advantages in terms of educational qualification and pedigree. But as at the last check, Dino Melaye is 'supposedly' in the ANPP and no match in all ramifications to Jibrin Isah. In all, I think Jibrin Isah will carry the day because his candidature has sparked enthusiasm in the three senatorial districts. But the PDP needs to get its acts right because the effect of the incursion of the ACN might become too glaring sooner than we expect.
Besides, PDP stands a good stead to manage minimal crises with the sustenance of the Jibrin Isah / Clarence Olafemi ticket than the magnitude of problems that may arise as a result of the complete abandonment of the duo for a fresh team, for the result of the later will lead to self denial on the part of the party.
A word is enough!
Dr. Ajiboye Gabriel
Facilitator, Kabba Study Group.