At the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders meeting preceding the party’s primaries ahead of the local government election in Kogi State, scheduled for May 4, the state governor, Idris Wada, pronounced that he had no anointed candidates in the 21 council areas and 239 wards of the state.
“The electorate should be allowed to choose who they want to represent them both at the ward and council levels. I have no anointed candidate. It is not in my character to anoint anybody for election. I believe in due process, justice and fairness. The will of the people should prevail. Grassroots is the foundation of our party. As leaders, we should respect the wishes of our people,” the governor had said.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, representing Kogi West Senatorial District, had applauded the governor for his stand, describing it as a departure from the past. Adeyemi, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said: “If all leaders behave like Wada, democracy would be the best form of government. Essentially, the electorate would reap bountifully from the dividends of democracy. We have a democrat as governor, inasmuch as you allow the people to choose their representatives, elections would always be free and fair. We are now moving from an old order to a new order.”
However, the words of the two leaders appeared short of soothing some party faithful who cried out alleging imposition of candidates by government officials who, they claimed, preferred their own men to the people’s choices in the primaries of the party. Findings indicated that such developments resulted in riots as the exercise became violent in different parts of the state.
In lbaji Local Government Area, some people allegedly burned down the secretariat to protest the outcome of the exercise, which produced David Ogu. In Yagba West Local Government, the party’s chairman in the area, Ayo Alabi, as well as his secretary, Idowu Afolabi, sustained machete injuries as aggrieved party members opted for weapons to settle scores with perceived ‘erring’ stakeholders.
In Ogori Magongo Local Government Area, the battle was between the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Olagbemiro Jegede, and a member of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Gabriel Daudu. The duo’s battle for the control of the area had split the PDP in the area in two factions, which eventually found a good ground to do battle in the primaries.
Casualties were recorded on each side – many people were wounded and vehicles were damaged.
In Ajaokuta Local Government Area, it was protest galore between supporters of Hon. Sadiq Mohammed and the leadership of the PDP in the state. Mohammed’s faction had accused the party’s hierarchy in the state of giving patronage to those who had defected to the party only recently at the expense of old members. The faction alleged that election materials were given to supporters of the rival Moses Okino group.
In Lokoja, the Senator Tunde Ogbeha group, believed to hold the ace in the politics of the area, boycotted the primaries due to what it described as irreconcilable differences among camps within the party. Besides, the spokesman of the group, Chief James Katungwo, said that the two representatives of Lokoja in the House of Assembly, Suleiman Babadoko and Idris Shehu, had alleged that materials meant for the exercise were hijacked by hoodlums.
In Ijumu Local Government Area, the exercise was delayed due to a court order which restrained the party from using the list of delegates from last year’s PDP council congress. However, when the order was lifted, it was another supremacy battle between Hon. Biodun Ojo and Senator Smart Adeyemi’s political platforms. But it took the initiative of Adeyemi to resolve the crisis before the primaries could be conducted even though to the annoyance of the other group. The situation was like that all over the state during the PDP primaries.
However, not only did other parties in the state – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) – record peaceful primaries, but they also benefited from the fallouts of the ruling party’s exercise. Some aggrieved members have elected to pitch tent with certain opposition parties with some of them already in possession of tickets they could not have secured if they had remained in PDP.
Surprisingly, Governor Wada maintained his neutrality stand as he ordered fresh primaries in Olamaboro and Bassa local government areas following complains that candidates declared as winners were favoured by the government. However, the same set of winners emerged again from the fresh primaries.
In the aftermath of the primaries, some candidates shifted the battle to the law courts. Councillorship aspirants from Omala Local Government Area have taken the Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission (KOSIEC) to court, arguing that its chairman, Abraham Olaniran, is a card-carrying member of the PDP and had once contested the House of Assembly primaries in Kabba/Bunu Constituency.
The aspirants, Akpa Salisu, Amodu Abdul Omada, Joseph Achimugu and three others, through their counsel, J.U. Usman, asked the court to stop KOSIEC from conducting election for the chairmanship and councillorship positions in Omala Local Government Area come May 4.
A chairmanship aspirant in Ogori-Magongo Local Government Area, Mr Auru Ojo, has also instituted a legal action against the PDP and KOSIEC on the grounds that the party failed to conduct primaries in the local government, an action which, he said, amounted to illegality and a breach of his rights.
Fears that the local government election may not hold as scheduled, given the numerous court cases against the KOSIEC were, however, allayed by the judgment of a high court in Koton which dismissed the application for an interlocutory injunction. The judge, Justice Alaba Omolaye Ajileye, stated that the court could not grant a late application, coming on the eve of the election, as enormous resources had already been committed to the project.
Opposition parties in the state have alleged collusion by the PDP and the electoral body to rig the election with the ACN warning the ruling party not to subvert the wishes of the electorate. The state chairman of the ACN, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, in a statement in Lokoja, declared that the state would be made ungovernable if the PDP believed it could remain perpetually in power.
Ametuo said presently, there was no intention of going to court to challenge the outcome of the May 4 election, as any part of the state where the process was rigged would simply be made ungovernable as seeking legal redress would not change anything in the long run. However, Governor Wada described those planning to disrupt the election as risking the wrath of the law, warning them to drop such plans.
The stage seems set for the epic battle next Saturday, given the certainty somewhat that the election will hold and the assurance of the electoral body of its readiness to conduct an election free of hitches. Political watchers are of the opinion that the PDP will carry the day in spite of the disagreements that arose from its primaries. They believe that the only area with the possibility of an upset is Lokoja, where the ACN has conceded to CPC to present the chairmanship candidate in the spirit of merger. There are also indications that the CPC candidate, Alhaji Haruna Isah, may eventually enjoy the support of the Ogbeha group, which is said to still be undecided as to where to pitch its tent for the election.
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