WHO WINS KOGI GUBER RACE?
Except for some last minute change of logistic arrangements by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the stage is now set for the Kogi State governorship election holding on December 3. Kogi State is one of the five states in the country where election did not hold in April because of the judgment of the Supreme Court which gave tenure elongation to their respective governors.
The states are Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Cross River States. In the prelude to the last general elections, the governors had approached judiciary seeking correct determination of their tenures following their victory in the rerun elections in their states. And in response to their joint suit, the apex court granted them tenure extension depending on when each of them took a fresh oath of office.
According to the electoral time table released by the INEC, the tenure of Idris Ibrahim of Kogi State ends on December 3, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa (January 14, 2012), Bayelsa's Sylva (February 11, 2012), Wamako of Sokoto (March 10, 2012) and Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers State (April 14, 2012).
Preparatory to the coming poll in Kogi, the INEC has listed 19 candidates as eligible contestants in the election. Also, as part of logistic arrangements to guarantee a hitch-free poll, the commission disclosed that 4,444 voting units had been certified to cater for eligible voters. In the same vein, sensitization and enlightenment campaigns are equally billed to commence any time from now. The list of candidates as cleared by the electoral umpire includes: Ambo Fred, (JP), Friday Odia, (Accord), Prince Abubakar Audu (ACN), Ahmadu Ibrahim (ALP), Elder Ubolo Itodo Okpanachi (ANPP), Rev. Prof. Yusufu Ameh Obajeh, (APGA) and Ocholi Enojo James (SAN), (CPC).
Others are: Mrs Bola Esther Awe, (CPP), Chief (Mrs) Aisha Abubakar, Ibrahim U.A. Tanko (Labour), Mohammed Danjuma Ali (ND) and Mohammed I. Dangana (NDP).
The rest are Gowon Usman Egbunu, (NTP), Aboh Adejoh Samuel (PAC), Elegbe Amos (PDC), Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada (PDP), Deacon Joseph Onimisi Adigbo (PPA), Gideon Enema Ojata (PPN), Lawal Itopa Lamidi, (SDMP) and Abubakar Aliu Gomiwa Bala, (UNPP).
Unwieldy as the list of political parties fielding candidates in the coming election appears to be, many political pundits believe that the contest is largely going to be a straight fight between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Others are seen as mere pretenders. The fortune of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) which ordinarily should have been another formidable contender in the race has been on a declining trend since it lost the state to the PDP in the 2003 general elections, while leadership crisis has continued to threaten its very existence at the national level.
In terms of numerical strength, popularity and geographical spread, the PDP is obviously a party to beat in this election. Apart from controlling overwhelming majority of legislators in the state and National Assembly, it also has a firm grip of local government administration in the state. In the state House of Assembly, 16 lawmakers out of 21 members belong to the PDP. And of the lot in the National Assembly, only two seats are for the opposition. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and its ACN counterpart clinches on to one slot each in the House of Representatives. The rest are for the PDP.
With such a formidable structure, one can predictably assume that the election would be an easy walkover for the party. But with the scenario that is now currently playing out in the state between the supporters of the winner of the January governorship primary, Jibrin Isah Echocho, and the group loyal to the new governorship flag bearer, Captain Idris Ichalla Wada, victory appears to be too dicey for the party. Rather, it is at a crossroads on how to forge a common unity against the opposition in the poll. The intrigue that led to the sudden emergence of Wada is already history. But the loud disquiet within the party is already giving the stakeholders headache. All efforts made so far to achieve elusive peace in the party have been to no avail.
Wada is believed to be an in-law of Governor Idris. He was deliberately propped up to fly the banner of the party by the governor following the intervening court judgment which postponed the election till December 3. But like the proverbial bird that perched on the rope, neither the governor's camp nor Echocho's faction has enjoyed the much desired peace since the crisis of confidence crept into the party. On one hand, many supporters of the party are unhappy with the sudden emergence of Wada as their candidate, even though, for all righteousness, they are trying to play along.
A chieftain of the PDP in the state and one time Military Governor of old Oyo State and Minister of Police Affairs under the immediate past administration of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier Gen David Jemibewon, couldn't indeed, hide his emotion while expressing his deep reservation for the process that threw up Wada as the party's standard bearer in an interview with Sunday Sun. He said, 'I am in PDP. And when you want certain things to happen in a particular but did not and you have not backed out from an organization you profess to belong to, even when you are not happy, you don't want to be labelled as a saboteur.
That is to say when you are faced with a situation you can't change, you can only hope that through God's intervention, one time, one day, things would go right. It is on the basis of this that certain people even when they are not happy, they still go along. So, I am in PDP and PDP has come up with a candidate. How the candidate emerged might not have been the best. But having settled for a candidate, as a loyal party member, I cannot in the circumstance vote for a party that opposes my party.'
Thus, while some supporters of the party have tacitly agreed to play along for the sake of peace and party discipline, Echocho's camp has vowed not to let go. His Media Consultant, Phrank Shaibu, in a recent statement said the battle line had been drawn with the decision of his boss to wrestle his mandate at the Abuja High Court.
'We wish to state quite frankly that Alhaji Jibrin Isah Echocho is not emotionally disturbed; he is not physically worried and not socially destabilised. We, therefore, call on all our supporters in every nook and cranny of Kogi State to be steadfast since the process to reclaim our stolen mandate has been stepped up by the case at the Federal High Court, Abuja', he said.
So, just as the people are anxiously waiting for the D-day, the fate of the party's candidate is still hanging in the balance until the outcome of the fresh legal drama that is about unraveling at the High Court. Whichever way it goes, only genuine reconciliation between the two warring groups can save the PDP from losing Kogi State to the opposition. And the possibility of achieving a quick resolution of the crisis before the poll is far remote for now as neither of the two sides is ready for any compromise that would change the statusquo. Rather, each is jealously guiding its position.
In the meantime, while the outcome of the suit is still being awaited, optimism is very high within Echocho's camp, believing that their candidate would win the litigation battle. Shaibu, exuding confidence in the capacity of his boss to win the election if his mandate is eventually authenticated by the judiciary said in an interview that, 'Even if we get the verdict at 2:00 am on the 3rd of December and the people of Kogi are aware that Jibrin has once again been authenticated by court of competent jurisdiction, they will go all out to vote for him.'
With this scenario, the ACN might be the ultimate beneficiary of the crisis in the PDP. Although the party is just beginning to make an inroad into Kogi State, the popularity of its candidate, Audu Abubakar, could do the magic. Abubakar was once the governor of the state. One was during the botched Third Republic on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the other was on the ticket of the ANPP between 1998 and 2003. In 2007, he made another attempt to stage a comeback using the same platform. But he lost out to the incumbent Governor Idris. With his formidable political structure, there is the feeling in some quarters that he could possibly spring forth surprises, especially if the PDP fails to put its house in order.
Nonetheless, in the opinion of Jemibewon, victory is sure for the PDP, as according to him, Wada/Awonoyi ticket still remains the best among other contenders. 'Even with the reservation I made, the governorship candidate of my party and his running mate constitute a very good team. The governorship candidate is a captain, a pilot of an airline. While a man can fool around on the ground, he cannot fool around in the air, which means the man must be intelligent, calculative and patient. His running mate is an architect. An architect is not just only building, he also designs. So, an architect is a man who is patient, painstaking and intelligent. When you have these two combinations, then, there is hope for those of us who come from there. And I am sure they are not likely to dash our hope. Based on the quality that I associate with these team put forward by the PDP, no other party can produce or has produced that same quality.'
For those on the other side of the divide, it is either the party settles for Echocho as its candidate or risks losing the state to the opposition. As Shaibu said in an interview with Sunday Sun, 'It is a simple calculation. The people have told the governor that the PDP will lose Kogi State. It is either that the people have Echocho who is younger and vibrant, educated and exposed or they return Abubakar Audu who will come and spend mandatory four years and then return to the trenches early enough.'