Kogi 2019: Intrigues as Interests Fight Over Bello’s Seat

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Insider observers of the ongoing initial grassroots mobilisation for the November 16, 2019 Governorship Election in Kogi State confirmed during the week that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remain the leading political parties to watch. Aside from the two, however, they said other parties that may be considered strong in the race for Lugard House include Social Democratic Party (SDP), Accord Party, (AP), Young Progressives Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), African Democratic Congress (ADC), and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).

Though APC and PDP appear to be the strongest political parties in the race today, it was observed that supporters of the ruling APC seem more worried because of the ongoing internal crisis in the state chapter of the party. The inability of the two warring factions in the state to resolve their differences, according to some concerned insiders, seems to have given the opposition PDP some edge. For example, The Nation gathered during the week that some supporters of Governor Yahaya Bello, whose aspiration to get a return APC ticket is being challenged by powerful political forces, are considering an alternative platform for Bello, if APC finally denies him the ticket.

Informed analysts said if it comes to this, the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State would be most intriguing. A source close to Lugard House however told The Nation on Friday that desperate last minutes efforts are currently being made to avoid such extreme development, as it is feared that it may not be in the interest of either the ruling party or the incumbent governor.

As the top secret negotiations are ongoing, the list of aspirants for the plum seat is increasing by the day both in APC and in PDP. They include:

IN APC, ITS BELLO VS OTHERS 

Yahaya Bello

Ordinarily, Yahaya Bello, as the incumbent governor, should be considered the leading aspirant for the forthcoming elections on the platform of All Progressives Congress. But his aspiration is being challenged vehemently by fellow party leaders, some of who threaten that the ruling APC will loss Kogi State if it dares give its ticket to the governor.

The campaign against Bello, even amongst fellow APC leaders, is now a public matter as some leaders today openly accuse the governor of non-performance among other alleged offences. It would be recalled that a major division within the Kogi APC, which led to emergence of what is unconventionally tagged as ‘two factions’, has remained irreconcilable for over three years, leading to an awkward situation where the factional Ametuo-led executive committee controls the party in the state, while Governor Bello controls the state government. Efforts to reconcile the two had remained unsuccessful. Although the governor and his men allegedly remained aloof to pleas to reconcile with the party leadership in the state and beyond, we learnt that with the forthcoming governorship election and the increased calls by his opponents to deny him return ticket, the embattled governor may have opened up fresh channels to ease the tension. Although the son of the late Audu reportedly denied holding reconciliation meetings with Bello, insiders said the governor may have resolved to reach out to the Audu/Faleke faction in search of peace. This notwithstanding, it seems the governor’s political ‘enemies’ with APC have only remained in the increase.

One of the latest opponents of Bello’s candidacy, for example, is the Kogi State Forum of Aspirants, a group which met in Abuja recently and advised the National Secretariat of APC not to issue the governorship ticket of the party to Governor Yahaya Bello “if APC wants to retain Kogi in the forthcoming governorship election in November.”

In a two-page communique, which was signed by Mr. Ben Adaji and Mr. Anthony Odana, Chairman and Secretary respectively of the Communiqué-drafting Committee of the group, they said “that the forum unanimously rejects the candidature of Governor Yahaya Bello to run for the second term due to bad leadership and non-performance.”

They also threatened that giving the governorship ticket to Bello “would be tantamount to losing Kogi State to the opposition,” adding that at the end of their meeting, “Alhaji Yahaya Audu was unanimously endorsed by the forum to contest the forthcoming governorship election in the state.”

Given this kind of open opposition, observers say Bello’s ambition is still facing a major threat as he seems transfixed in-between what a commentator described as “the power of incumbency and angry APC revolutionists who insist he has not performed well enough.” Citing alleged disregard to workers’ welfare and downsizing of the workforce and non-payment of salary, Bello’s bitterest critics, including members of Audu/Faleke faction, insist he should not be given APC’s ticket for re-election.

But his supporters said he has performed creditably well. According to them, his criticism can be traced to Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman’s alleged decision to dump the governor for another candidate.

Perhaps to substantiate their claims, elected lawmakers and the state and many other stakeholders have recently endorsed the aspiration of the governor.

Among those that recently endorsed Bello for a second term are two senators-elect, Jibril Isah Echocho (Kogi East) and Yakubu Oseni (Kogi Central), seven House of Reps members-elect and 25 elected members of the Kogi State House of Assembly.

During his official declaration for second term, Bello had said he decided to join the race after consultations with APC leadership, both at the national and state levels, and following “pressure from the state people to seek re-election.”

The criticisms notwithstanding, Bello remains the frontrunner in the governorship contest and it seems if he succeeds in settling the in-house misunderstanding and emerges the authentic APC candidate, he would be the candidate to beat.

Aside Bello and Yahaya Audu, whose rating in the race has further grown following the recent endorsements, other powerful aspirants on the ticket of APC include, Jibrin Usman, a former Nigeria Chief of Naval Staff who served under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and Babatunde Irukera, a lawyer and current Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Believed to be highly connected in the top leadership of APC today, Irukera, before his appointment as DG of CPC, was a Senior Partner at Simmons Cooper Partners, a law firm, where Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was a co-partner. His experience in Kogi politics includes his powerful campaigns during the 2015 governorship primaries. There is speculation that with aspirants like these, Governor Bello may indeed have tough time securing the ticket.

Heavyweights vie for PDP ticket

As is the case in APC, the race for the governorship ticket of the PDP is also hot. As at the time of this report, the list of aspirants has continued to grow by the day. PDP aspirants already known include Capt. Idris Wada, a former governor and his brother, Engr. Musa Wada; the son of former governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Idris and  Patrick Ademu Akpa, a retired Major-General. Akpa’s ambition, which has been a subject of speculation for months, was only made public at the tail end of this week.

Others, whose names have been mentioned over PDP’s governorship ticket, include Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh, Prof. Seidu Ogar, Hon. Emma Omebije, Dr. Idris Omede and Hon. Aliyu Aku.

Though the number of PDP aspirants has continued to rise, our investigation shows that Abubakar Wada, Ibrahim Idris and Dino Melaye may be currently leading in the race.

Idris Wada

Retired pilot, Capt. Idris Wada, a former governor of Kogi State on the platform of People’s Democratic Party, who lost re-election and was succeeded by Yahaya Bello on January 27, 2016 is back in the race for the plum seat in Lugard House. Considered as very experienced and understanding of the state affairs, sources said Wada is highly favoured in the state for the job.

His supporters said what may advance his acceptability is the wide perception that he is not corrupt. If this perception is not punctured and if he wins the PDP ticket, Wada will be a powerful candidate in the race.

Abubakar Idris

Another powerful PDP aspirant is Abubakar Idris, a businessman and son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris.

Although his critics have accused his father of planning to impose him on the party, an allegation the older Idris has denied and followed up by threatening to resign his position as the leader of the party in the state, sources said he has continued to receive endorsement and support of youths across the state. How far such acceptance will go in securing the ticket and winning the election remains to be seen.

Dino Melaye

Controversial reelected Senator, Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, shocked some observers when he declared interest to contest for the PDP governorship ticket.

Besides the issue of zoning, which insiders said may make PDP to consider his zone if Governor Bello finally secures APC ticket, observers said it would be both dramatic and intriguing to see Dino fight the electoral contest with Bello.

It is this kind of conjecture that has made Melaye’s aspiration more interesting to analysts than it would have ordinarily been.

Although the governorship election is still five months away, observers said the caliber of aspirants and the issues in the ruling APC have combined to make the forthcoming contest a matter of general interest. Observers are keen to see how APC will manage its internal problems and retain the state or how PDP will take advantage of the crisis to regain the state it lost in 2015. For the two political parties, the stake is really high.

Credits: Sam Egburonu | The Nation


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