As Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State concludes his first term in office, the battle for his job may have picked up in earnest as top contenders in the All Progressives Congress slug it out, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The tenure of the current Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada is bid to come to an end on January 27, 2016. But ahead of this winding up, the people are already warming up to go to the polls on November of this year to elect the next occupant of the Lugard House in Lokoja for the next four years. Kogi, alongside Edo, Ondo, Bayelsa, Anambra and Ekiti, fell from the list of states whose handover dates are May 29 every four years consequent upon a Supreme Court ruling from a prolonged litigation of election petitions.
The court in the now popular case between Peter Obi and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held that a governor’s tenure starts from the date he was sworn in. As expected, politicians have been declaring their intentions to contest the number one seat in the state and have, at the same time, been jostling and trying to outwit one another to win the gubernatorial tickets of their various political parties. The primary elections have been fixed for between August 25 and September 15 by INEC.
Although there are many other parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), expected to field candidates for the election, who picks the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the issue now in Kogi’s election.
Abubakar Audu was the first governor of the state and leader of the APC in the state. The 68-year-old and former Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in the old Benue State has been governor of the state at two different times. He was defeated by a relatively hitherto unknown Ibrahim Idris in 2003, when he wanted to return to the Lugard House. But Audu continued to contest subsequent governorship elections and had always lost.
Some political pundits have attributed his losses at the polls to arrogance and highhandedness – attributes he allegedly displayed while in office as governor. However, if the criteria for winning the party’s ticket would be based on achievements, then it stands to reason that Audu has no rival in this contest. This is because his days in office were believed to have witnessed massive transformation and landmark achievements in the state which are yet to be surpassed by any other governor after him.
But Audu’s greatest undoing which may affect his chances is his alleged cases of corruption yet to be decided by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Another factor that may affect his chances is the agitation for power shift from Kogi East (where Audu hails from) which has been ruling the state since its creation in 1991.
Yahaya Bello is popularly known and called “Fair Plus”, the name of his transport company. The 40-year-old business man and politician is from Kogi Central, a zone which is greatly favoured by those clamouring for power rotation. This factor may swing the balance in favour of the aspirant.
Although he is coming into the political scene for the first time, Yahaya is considered a dark horse because of his seriousness in the project and growing popularity across the state, especially among the youths.
Considered the youngest of all the aspirants, he has been endorsed by some groups, such as the Kogi New Agenda for Change 2015 and Kogi APC Youth Arise movement. Surprisingly, though from the central senatorial district, he seems to be enjoying a growing support from the West and East. This may largely be due to his age and posture of a generational leader for all rather than sectional.
Aliyu Zakari Jiya
A pharmacist by training, Aliyu Zakari Jiya is a founding member, Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDA) and also secretary, Movement for the Restoration of Democracy; Secretary, Action Congress of Democrats (ACD). He joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) under which platform he contested the 2011 governorship in the state but lost. He has remained in opposition throughout his political life. He is a founding member of the APC.
Habeeb Yaqeen is a former university don from Ijumu in Kogi West. As a contender from a zone that alleged to have been marginalised by successive administrations, he has promised to ensure equitable distribution of resources if he wins the ticket and eventually gets elected.
James Ocholi is another strong contender for the APC governorship ticket from the eastern flank of the state. The 55-year-old Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a former governorship aspirant on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the state. Ocholi is one of the few contestants shortlisted by the Network for Change and Good Governance (NCGG) as “most credible” among all the contestants across the party lines.
Senator Dino Melaye is a former member of the House of Representatives and currently a senator representing Kogi West in the Senate on the platform of the APC. Melaye won the hearts of many Nigerians as a result of the strong anti-corruption campaign he had spearheaded in the past. He is a strong contender for the ticket but his role in the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President of the 8th senate which obviously did not go down well with the party leadership may affect his chances. Many analysts believe that another factor that may affect his chances is what they termed as his gra-gra (abrasive) demeanour to issues.
Salihu Atawodi is retired Air Vice Marshal in the Nigerian Air Force. He is one of the former PDP stalwarts, who defected to the APC shortly before the general election. Born in 1952, Atawodi is a graduate of the Air War College, Karachi, Pakistan. He rose to the highest rank of Air Marshal. Atawodi is a contender to beat in this contest.
Suleiman Baba Ali
The Lokoja–born Baba Ali was a Commissioner for Health in Kogi State from 1999 to 2003 and the CEO of Team Nigeria to the Algiers 2007 All African Games. He is set to battle his former boss, Abubakar, to clinch the ticket. In his opinion, the former governor should drop his governorship aspiration and act like a leader of the party in the state that he is.
Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo
Another contestant from Kogi Central, Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo is a successful media guru of international repute, a playwright and university don. The former Senior Special Adviser on Media to the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar said his entry into the governorship race of Kogi State is to better the lives of the people of the state.
Lanre Ipinmisho is one of the six top contenders for the APC governorship ticket from the Western zone of the state. The aspiration of the former Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has received a boost with his endorsement by a group known as the Okun Progressive Union.
Deen, as he is popularly called, is the immediate past Senator representing Kogi Central. He contested the position again in the last election on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) after he failed to secure the ticket of his former party, the PDP. Though he was not of the APC then, he openly endorsed and campaigned for General Muhammadu Buhari for President. The former Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs eventually joined the APC and he is one of the four top contenders from Kogi Central.
Rotimi Yaqub Obadofin
A former governorship candidate in the state on the platform of the Allliance for Democracy (AD) in 2007, the Ayegunle Gbede-born politician is also a former Senate President, National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS). He has embarked on massive campaign and mobilisation for the party ticket.
Alex Usman Kadiri
Alex Kadiri is a former senator and governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP. He is one of the former PDP stalwarts, who defected to the APC prior to the last general election. He is one of the top contenders for the party’s governorship ticket from the eastern flank.
Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane
Nicholas Ugbane was elected Senator on the platform of the defunct ANPP in 2003 to represent Kogi East in the Senate. He was re-elected in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. The 62-year-old banker is also one of the PDP chieftains, who defected to the APC recently. As Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC and Power at different times, he was alleged to have been involved in some corrupt practices and subsequently arrested. He later released by the EFCC.
Olusola George Olumoroti
A trained engineer, George Olumoroti was born in Kabba in Kogi West. He is one of the top contenders for the APC governorship ticket from the zone. He is expected to slug it out with other contestants from the zone and from the state as a whole.