How Ex-Kogi Gov Ibrahim Idris Lost His Political Capital (1)

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Political capital is a metaphor used in political theory to conceptualize the accumulation of resources and power built through relationships, trust, goodwill, and influence between politicians or parties and other stakeholders, such as constituents.

It is a fact that the second executive governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris (Ibro) was not part of the movement that birthed Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state in 1998 when the likes of Dr. Stephen Achema, Alhaji Sule Iyagi, Dr Farouk Abdulaziz, Senator A.T Ahmed, Chief P.S. Achimugu, Senator Sunday Awoniyi, Major General David Jemibewon, Prince Olusola Akanmode and a host of others joined forces together with other notable politicians across the country form a formidable party.

When PDP fell into opposition in Kogi state between 1999 and 2003, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris was not part of the opposition struggle to move the state into ‘mainstream politics’. Notable among the opposition figures in the state then was Senator Tunde Ogbeha, Senator AT Ahmed, Senator Ahmadu Ali and others. Other notable politicians like Senator Alex Kadri, who was elected on the platform of defunct All Peoples Party (APP), joined them in the struggle to claim Lugard House.

However, in the course of campaign for PDP governorship ticket, a ‘dark horse’ emerged candidate of the party, after a run-off. A little known Alhaji Ibrahim Idris came from the blues to reaped where others sowed. Despite the shock, leaders of the party resolved to support him wholeheartedly and he defeated an incumbent Governor, Prince Abubakar Audu of ANPP, in the 2003 gubernatorial polls.

Ibro held sway at the Lugard House as Governor for almost nine years. Within this period, he was able to reduce the influence of the founding fathers of the party and built the PDP structure around himself.

As his tenure moves towards expiration, the succession battle began with a horde of aspirants showing interest in the party’s sole ticket. Ibro notoriously promised to support each of the aspirants as they seek his blessing individually. However, on the eve of January 2011 PDP governorship primaries, Ibro summoned his key men and directed that they all vote for his anointed candidate, a former Executive Director at defunct Afribank, Alhaji Jibrin Isa Echocho. Through an artificial lights out at the township stadium venue of the primaries, Ibro’s anointed emerged. Events of that night reminds one of what happened at the confluence stadium last year during the vexatious PDP primaries that Ibro and his son, who was an aspirant in the contest, are challenging vigorously in court.

This cunning political strategy comes with advantages and disadvantages in equal measure. Deceiving all aspirants to believe they have your support while you secretly plot their downfall to favour your anointed candidate will likely guarantee victory but undermines the needed loyalty when the game is over. This is one area where our dear former governor initiated his eventual loss of political capital.

Ibro succeeded in installing a successor after almost nine years in office as governor but his joy was shortlived as he began a steady ride into political wilderness shortly after.

After leaving office in 2012, Ibro assumed leadership of the PDP in Kogi state. His position was unchallenged being a former governor. Older members of the party accepted him as leader. The party, despite being the ruling party in the state and in Aso Rock, began to disintegrate under his leadership. Between 2012 and 2015, PDP lost major leaders to opposition parties. Even before APC took over government at the centre in 2015.

Under Ibro’s leadership, PDP lost a former Speaker of the state assembly, Rt Hon. Abdullahi Bello, Dino Melaye (who returned to PDP in 2018), Adinoyi Onukaba Ojo, Senator Salihu Ohize, Senator Abdulrahman Ohiare, a former acting Governor of the state, Asiwaju Clarence Olafemi, a former member House of Representatives, Hon. Positive Ihiabe, a former chairman of Dekina local government, Hon. Benjamin Ikani Okolo, a former Deputy Speaker in the state assembly, Rt Hon Hassan Abdullahi Baiwa and a host of others.

While still holding sway as ruling party in the state and federal government, PDP was on a downward spiral just as Ibro’s political fortunes dwindled.

In the second part of this treatise, I will dwell on political events, decisions and shenanigans that led to Ibro’s loss of political capital and the redemptive option.

– Olalekan Abidemi writes from Lokoja, Kogi State.

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