TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center


By Paul Egbita
Listen to article

With nearly 19 gubernatorial candidates from political parties of different hues and colors as divergent as the color of the rainbows cleared to contest the December 3, 20011 elections in Kogi state, the coast is cleared for a political turn around in the direction of governance of the state. The Kogi election will provide lessons to other gubernatorial elections scheduled to follow in other states early next year by showcasing how a ruling party can be defeated or not.

Despite the deluge of political parties that have lined up for the race, the contest will come down to a straight fight between Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and People's Democratic Party (PDP) for a number of reasons—the personalities involved and the political party structures that are on the ground. Come to think about the fact that majority of the parties on cue to contest the election can hardly spend enough for local commercials and organizations. Outside press releases and staccato media events that show them to exist, even their flag bearers know that their efforts are geared towards personal recognition and possible post election appointments.

At stake in the Kogi state election is the determination of ACN to breakthrough in the middle belt as they move on to other parts of the country to become a truly national party and a veritable alternative to PDP control. Having accomplished same feat in the south west of the country in the last elections, the ACN is embolden to wrestle Kogi state and that is why the candidacy of Prince Abubakar Audu becomes a trophy that the party wants to use in the show down with PDP as the ruling party in the state.

Prince Abubakar Audu the flag bearer for ACN is a mercurial politician with name recognition that borders on patency to the Lugard House. Having been elected and governed Kogi state twice, Audu has a mythical following in the state. He has never given up on governing the state again since his last election defeat by the incumbent governor. But Audu's antecedent as a governor portrays a man with imperial bearing to leadership. He demands total obedience and absolute loyalty that is akin to cult followership by all citizens of the state regardless of their status. To his credit, Audu is a developmental oriented person way back when he was a commissioner in Benue state before Kogi state was created. Audu's professional acumen as a banker gave him lots of advantage at mobilizing resources to achieve his developmental agendas at any cost to the state government. While these qualities make Audu electable as the next governor of the state, they don't make him unbeatable.

The PDP candidate for Kogi State government house is another Idris but with Wada as the last name. Captain Idris Wada is rated as a successful businessman and a retired commercial airline pilot. By winning his party's primary election in the face of a stiff opposition from many versatile and known political actors in the state, Captain Wada has demonstrated that he is adept at grassroot politics. Wada has the state government and the army of PDP foot soldiers to get him to Lugard House and thus perpetuate PDP reign in the state for at least four more years.

The two gubernatorial gladiators are coming from distinct professional backgrounds adjacent to each other, but they are both from the same eastern flank of the state for geographical location. Can Captain Wada the pilot fly Kogi state to new heights of development when elected or Prince Audu the resource mobilizer blaze new developmental trails when elected?

Politics in an evolving democratic society like Nigeria often devolve around personalities and the political party machinery on the ground in the absence of core ideological pursuit as it is the case in many advanced democracies in other parts of the world. A peep into the manifesto and programs of all the registered political parties in Nigeria shows the similarity of the same promises and objectives: provision of roads, education, health facilities, water and lately what has become a cliché—the dividend of democracy (only God know what that entails). Promises that appeal to the emotion and felt needs of the electorates who in most cases do not believe them because they have been long done by similar promises in the past after each election.

The psychology of a typical voter in Nigeria is not that complex to unravel because it is implicit on the personal benefits that the individual derives from the election and of cause, the safety of that individual incase the individual voted for a failed candidate. This allows for such questions as –is he/she from my place, what is my benefit for voting for the candidate, will my vote make any difference, will I be the only one in the camp of my candidate, and finally, will they be retribution from the winning party if the candidate of my choice loses. Safety becomes paramount to the voter because the outcome of the elections may just be a sham.

The PDP Advantage:
It is the ruling party in both the state and at the Federal level. The party has unlimited resources and formidable structures on the ground to eke out a win in December. The incumbent governor is a strong supporter of Captain Wada and will pull every rope to lob the candidate to Lugard House. The nature of our developing democracy is such that it is winner take all, so it is never comfortable to be in the opposition when the chips are down. It is on the basis of this that the bitterness and acrimony that resulted from the last primary in the PDP camp which otherwise would have been a disadvantage will turn to their gain because they will mend fences and coalesced behind candidate Wada for other appointments and contracts from both the state and federal governments. Politicians are adept at their games at horse-trading. Only political neophytes will stick to an uncompromising ground and lose everything.

PDP will win in the December election because of Yomi Awoniyi as Captain Wada's running mate. Awoniyi is the scion of Sunday Awoniyi the legendary and beloved Sunday Awoniyi of the old political order powered by the late Sardauna of Sokoto of the defunct Northern Nigeria. The late Sunday Awoniyi is the father of Yomi and until his death a couple of years ago, the leader of the Arewa consultative group. Name recognition as mantra of political dynasty is a winning combination in politics anywhere, any day. The Americans have their Kennedy and Bush, the Indians their Ghandi and Pakistan their Bhuto. The selection or election of Yomi Awoniyi who comes from the western part of Kogi state was a master stroke by PDP to counter any advantage that ACN may have in that geographical zone of the state. It is a formidable counter force that will prove unassailable to the opposition party.

PDP will win the December election because the opposition party will underrate the incumbent governor to their own peril. Despite the much maligning of governor Idris and his government for different reasons, the governor has a high voltage political clout in the state. If you doubt this then go and read about how his switching of support to both Isah Jibrin and Idris Wada determined their fate in the party's gubernatorial primary outcomes. The tendency to cast governor Idris as a cerebral, detached and just a “carpenter” has always been the undoing in the opposition camp. The governor is more a thorough bred politician and master of political nuances of Kogi state than many accord him. A look at the list of candidates and their resumes that governor Idris defeated to clinched PDP primary in his first foray into politics underscores the best in any professional calling that can be produced anywhere in the world. Despite the ambivalent to the governors performance in the state so far, (which of course is similar to others in power in the country today) governor Idris is in firm control of his party machinery in the state to deliver for Captain Wada. Don't underrate Idris Ibrahim, the sitting governor's political clout.

The over-arching PDP advantage in the next election is the presentation of Captain Wada as a fresh candidate free of prediction but full of expectation because he has never held any political or civil appointment in the state. He represents a fresh breath of leadership that the people can bet on. His candidacy will spare PDP any protest vote that would have been delivered against the performance of the present governor who is no longer running for the office due to term limit.

The ACN Headache:
The adoption of Prince Audu Abubakar as the party's flag bearer. The Audu Abubakar brand is staled, atavistic and out of synch with Kogi state electorates due to the many baggage of his first and second opportunity to rule as governor of the state. The bitter experience of months of unpaid salary to civil servants during Audu era remains fresh in memory and so was his monarchical approach to leadership. As governor of Kogi state, Audu spared no one, including traditional rulers to prostrate and role on their bellies before they can be given audience. Audu's megalomaniac self indulgence as a potentate when he was governing Kogi state remains a festering anachronistic counter force to democracy.

As a politician and governor of Kogi state, Audu is a known quantity, so can a leopard change his skin? The Bible even asks a similar question if an Ethiopian can change his skin. The answer in the case of Audu is obvious. The ACN with Audu Abubakar as candidate has an unsteady structure in Kogi state because the decamping of Audu from ANPP fragmented the party structure. Audu did not decamp to ACN with his traditional All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP) base intact and his entrance into ACN as a corollary also factionalized the party base in Kogi state.

The ACN calculation based on the fact that Kogi West is a soft-spot owing to the ethnic affinity of the Okun speaking people and their Yoruba kins of the West who form the bastion of ACN as a party is a soft sell that would have given the party a good grounding in the state. But this calculation failed to take account of the level of political consciousness and high level educational accomplishment of the Okun people which is second to none in the whole of Nigeria. The Okun people were the most spited by Audu's twice governorship of Kogi state. The people have not so easily forgotten the persecution they suffered as the “Jews” of Kogi state. Audu's promise of one term governorship this time around as a sale pitch to the much avowed power shift in the state is a ruse. In politics no promise is sacrosanct because of many intervening variables and time which involves without anyone's control. A one term governorship in Lugard House is a single barrel solution to the contentious issue of power shift in Kogi state. The solution to power shift in the state transcends that and this will be the subject of another article another day because that is my domain of interest as some one who genuinely believe that it is the right thing to do.

ACN as a party has all it takes to win in Kogi state as a progressive party if they had chosen a fresh candidate to fly their banner instead of ex-governor Audu who is one politician recycled too many. Why the ACN made that choice still baffle pundits who believe it amounts to pandering to primordial proclivity to capture power in the state just for the sake of power. Didn't ACN know Audu's past as a governor, who ruled Kogi state under a cloud of impunity that weighed heavily on thugry and intimidation? Till this day, many believe that his perennial quest to govern the state again is to draw vengeance on his political foes and possibly exile them from the state. Such a climate will turn the state into a violent empire.

The candidacy of Prince Audu Abubakar is a double jeopardy of headache and liability that ACN will doom ACN quest for electoral victory in Kogi state. Audu's candidacy will not fly against Captain Idris Wada who, as the candidate of PDP represents the freshness that Lugard House nay—Kogi state looks to welcome after the December 3, 20011 election. The only game changer will be the voting pattern of Kogi central electorates and even at that, the PDP has an edge based on elected officials from that part of the state at both the state and national levels.

Paul Egbita
Washington DC

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Paul Egbita and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."