#KogiGovRace: Between APC’s Audu & PDP elders

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Kogi has come alive again. Political activities have peaked ahead of the governorship election in the state. An array of aspirants has indicated interest to contest for the diadem on the platform of different political parties over the past weeks. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is leading the pack, with 15 aspirants throwing their hats in the race for Lugard House. Analysts posit that the number is likely to increase as the contest date draws closer.

Unlike the APC, the would-be aspirants on the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform seem to be cautious in coming forward. So far, only two aspirants, Mohammed Jibril and Mohammed Ali have braved the odds by making their intention public, while the incumbent, Idris Wada has kept sealed lips on a possible return.

However, the recent endorsement by the revered Kogi PDP Elders Council of the governor for another term in office has opened the lid of the so far hushed ambition. And understandably, the action of the PDP Elders Council, peopled by the hitherto deciders of the power equation in the state, has drawn the ire of the opposition APC and some power shift progenitors.  The elders who endorsed Wada include former PDP national chairman, Senator Ahmadu Ali, ex-governor Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, one time chief of army staff, General Salihu Ibrahim (rtd), former minister of police affairs, Gen David Jemibewon (rtd), Senator Tunde Ogbeha, former deputy chief of staff in the presidency, Prince Olushola Akanmode, former deputy governors, Chief Sam Akande and Chief Patrick Adaba and a one-time deputy governor of old Benue State, Alhaji Sule Iyaji.

Others are Amb. Usman Bello, Arc Gabriel Aduku, Prof Olu Akerejola, Dr (Mrs.) Grace Gunwa, Hajiya Ladi Ibrahim, Alhaji Abdullahi Ohioma, Chief Joe Agada and former SSG, Chief Shola Ojo among others.

Ali, Ogbeha, Jemibewon and a few others unseated Prince Audu and ensured that he never tasted power again for 12 years running. In his stead, a rather obscure Ibrahim Idris was foisted on the state in a move analysts believe was aimed at ridiculing Audu out of power at all cost. The elders frustrated the prince’s every move to return through elections. However, he succeeded in invalidating Ibrahim Idris at the tribunal on October 10, 2007 and the appeal court in February 2008, but that was how far Audu could go since he lost power in 2003 as his ultimate dream of returning to Lugard House was never realised.

Fortune, however, seems to have smile on Audu during the March 28 presidential and National Assembly elections when the Buhari tsunami swept across the state. APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari did not only defeat former president Goodluck Jonathan, the party also won six federal constituency seats against PDP’s three. And as the leader of the APC in the state, Audu naturally takes credit for the party’s feat in that election. The party, as it were, has now become synonymous with him and he sees this as an opportunity to re-launch his ambition of returning to the hot seat.

The Prince has since stepped out for the race, but standing between him and his ambition are an army of other contenders among his own party men and, of course those of the ruling PDP in the state.

Analysts believe that the greatest threat to the former governor’s ambition lies within his party. Apart from the array of aspirants he has to contend with, internal wrangling, occasioned by the outcome of the last primaries, has split the party into various camps, with some openly challenging his claim to its leadership. Vocal among these groups are the All Progressives Elders Vanguard and All Progressives Stakeholders, which separately petitioned the national leadership, accusing Audu for the party’s dismal performance at the state assembly election in the state.

In what analysts said was a turnaround from the March 28 elections, the PDP defeated the APC in the April 11 state assembly election, winning 14 seats against 11. The stakeholders and the vanguard blamed the sudden downturn on Audu and called not only for his removal as a leader, but a total over hauling of the party ahead of the governorship election. The agitation for his removal as the party’s leader, along with the executive of the party, intensified following his open declaration to contest for the governorship seat in the coming election.

Ahmed Kokori, the leader of Kogi APC stakeholders, at a press conference recently in Abuja, warned the national leadership on the consequence of ignoring the group’s request, that the former governor should shelve his ambition and allow internal democracy to prevail in the party.

“We are advising the national secretariat not to field the former governor as its governorship candidate, as doing so will have a disastrous consequence on the party during the election.

“The former governor has become a liability politically, and he is responsible for the party’s misfortune during the state assembly election in the state,” he alleged.

The former governor did not take the growing threat lightly. As a counter to the opposing side, his loyalists are singing themselves hoarse on the desirability of the return of their man back to the Lugard House and how he was instrumental to the success of the party in the state.

However, despite the opposition against his emergence within his party, analysts believe that the former governor is highly favoured to pick the party’s ticket, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

They point at his closeness to those that matter at the national secretariat of the party to buttress this assertion. They argued that such closeness was responsible for the inability of the national leadership to take a decisive action on the petitions of the opposing groups accusing the former governor of acts that were detrimental to the party’s success in the state.

Kokori averred that the national secretariat had not been forthcoming, even when the findings of its committee set up to look into their complaints indicted Audu.

As it stands, it is difficult for the party to foreclose the possibility of a primary election to decide who flies its flag in the coming election. But observers feel that an APC primary is likely to throw up Audu. They predicted that such move will likely pitch him against Wada in the end, and by extension, the state power brokers who, despite the change within the nation’s political firmament, occasioned by the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, have preferred to drown with the PDP. And with their alleged endorsement of Wada recently, the stage is now set for another epic battle with the Prince and them.

A source believes their recent action was as a result of Audu’s insistence of gunning again for the governorship. “He should have just remained in the background and supported another aspirant for the position. There is no how the Elders Council will allow him emerge,” he noted.

The leaders, while reportedly announcing their endorsement of Capt. Idris Wada, described him as a viable flag-bearer within the rank of the PDP that can guarantee success for the party in the next election.

Other reasons adduced by the elders to have informed their choice of Wada as the party’s preferred candidate include “the iconic projects” embarked upon by the administration, using the bond proceeds and assuring that the projects would, on completion, have a far-reaching impact on the lives of the people and ensure better living standard for citizens of the state, among others.

According to the elders, Wada’s completion of a second term would ensure completion of all ongoing projects across the three senatorial districts in the state.

Although media reports quoting sources close to some of the elders suggested that the alleged endorsement of the incumbent for another term was a hoax, the fact that the elders paid a courtesy was acknowledged.

Analysts also agreed that the elders would naturally support the incumbent, even without his endorsement against Audu in the election. However, they posited that Wada needs to do more, especially in the eastern senatorial district, where the APC sprang a surprise during the presidential and National Assembly elections. Both Audu and Wada are from the same zone. Although the former governor still enjoys immense goodwill among the people, the ambition of a personality like Senator Alex Kadiri, who defected to the APC before the general elections to also have a go at the state’s topmost seat, could affect his fortune in the area.

Written by Ahmed Tahir Ajobe

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