The agreement of the National Working Committee, NWC of the All Progressive Congress, APC, with the party’s stakeholders in Kogi to use indirect primary to chose the governorship candidate for the November 16 poll has continued to raise dust.
Judging from the past, each governorship election in Kogi has always proved to be a different ball game.
The victories recorded by the APC in the last elections notwithstanding, the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello, will be up against history. To begin with, no non-Igala has ever won Kogi governorship election since creation of the state in 1991. The Igala-dominated Kogi East Senatorial District is reputed to account for 52 per cent of the state’s voting strength.
Bello, an Ebira from Kogi Central was governor by accident, occasioned by Abubakar Audu’s death; a condition the NWC of the ruling APC is weighing – either to back the governor or choose an Igala candidate.
Currently, Bello is fighting for the APC ticket with many aspirants, majority of whom are from the Igala-dominated Kogi East.
Former NASDRA Director General, Prof. Seidu Ogah; former NFF President, Sani Lulu; immediate Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Usman Jubril; and son of former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, Mohammed Audu, are the most talked about aspirants in the zone.
In Kogi west, the Director General, Consumer Protection Council, Barrister Tunde Irukera is in the race too.
While all the other aspirants want direct primaries, only Bello opted for indirect. With the NWC choice of Indirect, Bello seems to be having the upper hand with the other aspirants appearing to make Bello their common enemy. All of them seem interested in him not getting the ticket than concentrating on how they can succeed at the primaries. For now, all other aspirants have reached out to one or two persons at the nation level to pursue their aspirations.
Despite getting the party to accept his choice of primary, the governor still faces another litmus test, which has to do with with his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, whom he desires as running mate for the poll.
Onoja, Christian, Igala from Olamaboro council area of Kogi East seems to have courted more enemies for Bello’s administration than the governor himself. The claim of Bello’s Chief of Staff being in charge of government has been rife. Onoja has continued to enjoy limelight. He makes policy statements and has a retinue of aides. No government programme, poster or billboard is complete without Onoja’s picture adorning it. He seems to have much influence on the governor and is said to be nursing the ambition of replacing Bello as governor in 2023. The governor goes by the security name of White Lion, Onoja is also addressed as the White Oracle.
While the governor was moving around to woo National leader Bola Tinubu and others for the ticket, Onoja was busy talking tough in the state. Many had begged the governor to call Onoja to order but that seems not to have yielded positive result. Many in the state are in a raging battle with Bello because of his CoS. Many party members, appointees and stakeholders are hell bent on not working for Bello’s second term unless he did away with his Chief of Staff.
That seems to be the governor’s headache. To start with, Bello had once averred that Onoja was the one who saw the ‘vision’ of him becoming a governor, he was the same person that put machinery in motion for the actualization of his ambition. Onoja helped put the governor’s first men in place, he also championed the breaking of the ranks of the Igala people that made the APC win the axis in the last general election. Onoja may be scheming for 2023 but he remains loyal, trusted and the best strategist for the governor. If Bello picked the APC ticket, he may not make wave in the East without Onoja, who hails from the axis. Going with Onoja or doing away with him is a running headache for the governor.
The game of other aspirants
The other aspirants are bent on ensuring that Bello did not return in addition to pursuing their aspirations. While Jubril Usman is said to have latched onto the rivalry between Bello and James Faleke to gain favour from Tinubu’s camp; Sani Lulu is being backed by Nasir el -Rufai; Seidu Ogah is the option for the APC Women leader, Salamatu Baiwa; and Muhammed Audu is riding on the goodwill of the late Prince Abubakar Audu.
Admiral Usman is the most talked about among the aspirants. He enjoys much support on the social media. He has the goodwill of Igala people having attracted the Navy Secondary school in Okura and the Naval Base in Idah, all in his senatorial axis. Said to enjoy the backing of Asiwaju Tinubu, it is to be seen if these factors will work in his favour.
The former NASDRA DG is a first termer in the race. He is being backed by the National Women Leader of the party, who is said to be pressing for support through the First Lady, Aisha Buhari. To sail through, Seidu has to build a strong base in the state and woo party leaders and faithful.
Currently, Lulu is said to be enjoying El -Rufai’s backing. The Kaduna State governor was once Bello’s best ally among the governors. No one knows why or when their relationship went sour. But it is obvious that Bello is no longer in El – Rufai’s good books else he won’t need to be running after Tinubu to curry favour as he had done in past couple of months.
But for Lulu, aside the endorsement from the Kogi East Elders Council who picked him ahead of other aspirants in APC, he has been operating in the Diaspora and needs to do more at home.
Those who thought that Muhammed would enjoy the support of Faleke to curry Tinubu’s camp support were surprised, when the latter settled for Usman. Faleke ran a joint ticket with Muhammed’s father, Late Prince Abubakar Audu who died at the edge of victory in the 2015 governorship election.
Muhammed was said to have fallen apart with Faleke because of his governorship ambition.
Muhammed is rich haven’t inherited his father’s chain of businesses but he still has a family affair to resolve. His younger brother, Mona Audu is said he is in the race. His uncle, Yahaya Audu has also indicated interest. However, last week, the Audu family endorsed Muhammed and asked the others to drop their ambitions. However, Mona is insisting on running claiming that most members of the family are backing him.
For now, Irukera is the only Kogi West aspirant in the race. Tactful, intelligent, resourceful and a good administrator, Irukera, needs more than good personality to go far.