The ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Kogi State is presently in a bad shape.
Though top party leaders, including the state governor, Idris Wada, are putting up a façade that all is well, not a few of them are reportedly concerned of what has become of the party, which has become a shadow of itself 12 years after it gained control of the state from the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003.
The immediate former governor, Ibrahim Idris of the PDP, had defeated ANPP’s Abubakar Audu, whose Achilles-heels despite his modest success in infrastructural development, was his fall-out with civil servants, teachers and key stakeholders in the state.
And for eight years, Idris ruled the state before handing over to Wada in 2012.
No sooner had Wada become the new occupier of the Kogi Government House than he fell out with his predecessor over issues not unconnected to the running of the state and control of party apparatus.
For about four years now, several efforts by influential elders in the state to wade into the feud proved futile as the two erstwhile political associates have refused to sheathe sword.
Perhaps in protest against his alleged marginalisation in the affairs of the party, Idris has, in the last three years, completely distanced himself from PDP, a fact that is not lost in the national headquarters and the Presidency, which sources revealed have also made entreaties to him without much success.
The former governor’s disenchantment with Wada, according to sources, may have also accounted for his conspicuous absence at some of the rallies held by the party in the state and at the zonal level.
But Idris recently denied it all, insisting that all is well between him and Wada. He also dismissed rumours of his likely defection to the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), saying, “I remain a staunch member and leader of the PDP. It is very ridiculous for me to leave a house that I built to become a tenant in another person’s house. I have not left and there is no basis for me to consider leaving the PDP.”
He continued: “Nothing has happened to warrant my defection to the opposition. Elders of our party are working very hard to ensure the victory of the party in the March 28 and April 11 elections.”
Wada losing grip
While the incumbent governor may have succeeded in putting his predecessor in check, his grip of the party in the state appears to be waning every passing day.
With unconfirmed reports of the governor’s ill health gaining ground all over the state, many critics have also labeled him as an ‘absentee governor’ who practically spends the better part of his time in Abuja, which was his base before his election.
His alleged poor performance, say sources, has also swayed public opinion heavily against the governor and his party.
One PDP chieftain who is unimpressed with Wada’s alleged abysmal performance in office so far is a former governorship aspirant of the party, Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo.
In a recent interview in which he took the governor to the cleaners, he said, “The governor leaves in Abuja and visits Lokoja once or twice a week. The state capital, Lokoja, is getting dirtier by the day. It looks like a glorified village. Yet, state resources are being looted or misappropriated. The governor and his wife are often the first to show up at IBB Golf Course in Abuja in the morning. There is no one in charge of Kogi.
“It is obvious that Wada was not prepared for the office. He is totally clueless. This is why the national leadership of our party must intervene and ensure that Wada does not return to office at the end of his current four-year tenure in January 2016.”
Gale of defections
In recent times, Kogi PDP has suffered from a mass exodus of many of its prominent members to rival parties, with the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), as the biggest beneficiary.
The list of defectors include a former governorship aspirant, Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi, former Accountant General of the state, Ubolo Okpanachi, and former state chairman of PDP, Barrister Dangana Ocheja.
Other chieftains of the PDP that have joined APC included Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Samson Ihiabe and former Executive Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, Sani Ogu, two former Speakers of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Abdullahi Bello and Asiwaju Clarence Olafemi, to mention but a few.
Within the top echelon of Kogi PDP, there are fears that the party’s fate in yesterday’s presidential election and the 2016 governorship election is hanging in the balance.
Adinoyi Ojo also shared in this notion. His words: “The people of Kogi State are disenchanted and disillusioned with the Governor Idris Wada-led administration. They are not happy about the low standard of governance in the state. The defections in the party amount to a vote of no confidence on the government.
“Nothing is happening in the state; salaries are not being paid as and when due. The public education system has almost collapsed. Kogi State roads are the worst in the country. Even the road leading to Government House in Lokoja is full of potholes.”
Speaking further on the way forward, the former journalist-turned-politician was of the opinion that for PDP to regain its lost glory in the state, Wada must be asked to step aside once his first term is over.
He argued, “Some of us will be happier if he leaves much earlier. He is killing the PDP by his lack of leadership and poor performance. When those of us in Kogi Elders Forum sent open letters to the president and the National Chairman of the party two years ago about the situation in the state and the need to halt the party’s hemorrhaging, nothing was done about it.
“Our predictions have come to pass. The PDP is in its death throes in Kogi. If there is an election now and the PDP fields Wada, our party will lose woefully to the APC even if the APC fields a goat. It is that bad. Ask anyone on the streets of Lokoja, Kabba and Idah. This government is very unpopular.
“Wada must not return in 2016. The party should pick a dynamic, competent and visionary person to lead it to victory. The national leadership of the PDP made a mistake in 2011 by allowing former governor Ibrahim Idris to impose on the party someone who was not a card carrying member of our party.
“Ibrahim Idris ruined and vandalised the state for nine years and when it was time to go, he brought his brother-in-law to come and complete the wrecking of the state and end the reign of the PDP.”
The big poser remains: Can the Kogi PDP regain its groove with Wada still in charge? Only time would provide the answer.