Posted by By CHIDI OBINECHE on
The political scene of Kogi State since its creation 11 years ago is as turgid as it is interesting....
The political scene of Kogi State since its creation 11 years ago is as turgid as it is interesting. The atomistic configuration of many ethnic groups, the array of go=getting political titans, the immense political savvy, and its proximity to the nation’s seat of power are some of the aces that make it tick.
In 2003, the state was one of the few where an incumbent governor was upstaged with the rampaging torrents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But no sooner had the PDP nestled in with governor Idris Ibrahim (Ibro) at the helm, than an implosion within began to play out.
The cream of the political elite felt uneasy with him, as with his policies, and thus, the push to edge him out in 2007 has commenced in earnest.
In pursuit of this objective, former Chief of Air staff, Air Vice-Marshall Isaac Alfa, is leading the onslaught.
In an encounter with Daily Sun in Abuja, he said, “There was a group that I am a founding member. We call it the Unity Group. We started this group with Akanmode, A.T. Ahmed, Tunde Ogbeha, Alex Kadiri, and myself. If you know Kogi State very well, these five or six people I have mentioned are the major stakeholders as far as Kogi politics is concerned. We formed the group as a lobby or pressure group to advise the governor, but the people around him would not allow him to dialogue with us. But we had to drag ourselves to broker peace, but all appeals to the people fell on deaf ears.”
For Alfa, the problem with the state is the governor, who derives power by surrounding himself with uneducated people. With this albatross, he contends the governor has fallen short of the expectations of the people and should not be given a ticket for second term
Except for ex-governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State, all governors in the ruling PDP have always had a second tenure since 1999.
So, what gives him the confidence that “Ibro” will go? He says, “the party organ, the people that worked for him, all the promises that he made to them, he never fulfilled any of them. The civil servants, their arrears of salaries, promotion arrears and all other entitlements, he never paid. That is why it is a little bit easy for us to interact with them. Most of them who are there today, are there for what they will eat. If they come out and campaign against him, he will sack them. If the assurances the party executives are giving us are not political, we have a lot of hope that we are going to win.”
The retired air force chief takes a swipe at the opposition, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), concluding that it will pose no threat to his march to government house. Sensing that there are fifth columnists that are bent on derailing the march, he speaks of sensitisation drive of the people, especially the leaders on the need to maintain a common front within a larger PDP.
“In the first place, when we came in, the PDP was dead, under the government of Abubakar Audu, We did everything we could to revive it. So, we said, we could not come in, build the PDP, only to leave it for some other people. If the PDP goes down, we will also go down with it. If it goes up, we will go up with it. But they were not interested. That is why you are seeing many of them in the ACD. Those of them who do not have very strong principles, they have one leg in and one leg out. They fraternise and sponsor ACD, but they are in PDP.”
The winning edge in a politician is the sum total of the factors that combine positively in the quest for victory. For some, they are made by godfathers, while others simply ride the crest of popularity.
In the Kogi scenario today, Alfa thumps his chest on a number of factors. He believes he is backed by the cream of the political elites, and equally boasts of a good relationship with President Olusegun Obasanjo who he served as Chief of Air Staff, as well as the chairman of the party, Senator Ahmadu Ali, who is not only his kinsman, but also a distant relative.
His campaigns have come with much ease in all the senatorial zones, seemingly signaling a fait accompli in 2007.
He enthused: “I am a bit comfortable in the Western senatorial zone. I am okay in the Eastern senatorial zone. We are making headway to the Central senatorial zone. A. T. Ahmed was a lion in Kogi politics. Nobody can take that away from him. He was my friend and we had a pact with him. However, now that he has gone, we have started re-strategising.”
He sees the battle as a straight one between him and the incumbent. Again, he gives a rationale, “Out of the plethora of aspirants, at least for now, there are two major aspirants. Governor Idris Ibrahim and Air Marshal Alfa. Anybody can have his opinion. I don’t really care. Apart from the governor, I am the only one who has opened 21 offices in all the 21 local government areas of the state. Apart from the governor, I am the only one who is working with the party executives in all the local governments. I think the only problem I have is that of harnessing what I have and harmonizing them. So, I can say that if there is an election today, I will comfortably win.
Acting out the script of a veteran, Alfa has consulted widely. He believes that no politician can win in a state unless those in Abuja are comfortable with the person, although he fights shy to call it endorsement. But he has implicit confidence in his resume and his track records of achievements.
He anchors it this way: “The fear is that for somebody having reached the level I have reached, it may not be easy to play ball the way somebody that was picked from the gutters will. To me, that is a mistake because it is easier for you to deal with a person of integrity, an educated person, an intellectual and somebody who has been there before. My life has been about loyalty. So, we have been trying to sensitise them that we are the best.
“The national chairman is from my place, and I was one of those who supported his election. I have known him for a very long time. He is a very direct and very blunt person. The flaks he is receiving here and there, I consider, a misunderstanding of his character. It was on that basis that I led a group to go and see him at Wadata House, a few days ago. I just came back yesterday from his daughter’s wedding in Kaduna. He is important in this matter because that is his state, and it is his state that I am going to rule. It will be difficult for anybody to come from anywhere to impose a candidate in his state.
“The ultimate level is Mr. President As you know, I was one of the most loyal service chiefs to him when I was in office and it is actually because of him that I joined PDP. It will be unthinkable for me to venture into this without telling him. In 2001, when I went into politics, I went to him and requested for permission, and he told me to go and work hard on the primaries because the way things are going, it would be very difficult for them to do imposition, because imposition has given them problems in the past.
“In short, I have already gotten my clearance from him. We are in the process of consulting with the national officers, (of the PDP) so that they can give us the go-ahead.”
If re-election is based squarely on performance, then Alfa believes he would have a jolly ride to Lugard House to replace the incumbent. He scores him low on all spheres of governance, even accusing him of under-developing the state. But he is not unaware of the enormous war.
Chest available to the governor in the battle ahead, even accusing elbro’ of undercutting local governments ments giving them less than half of what they are entitled from the Federation Account.
“In Ankpa Local Government where I come from, he gives them about N30 million. This is a place that gets about N60 million. With all the goodwill and the efforts I have put in, this man can easily drop money and things could change, even though people know he is not performing well.”
It is because of this stultified development, according to him, that the president has shunned the state.
“We tried so much, about nine months ago to get him to visit the state. He said, okay, what project was he going to commission when he goes there. He asked how could he go to a place without commissioning even a single project?
“So, we went scouting around for a project the president will commission and believe me, until we got tired, we did not see any. What happened was that he did some projects in a very un-coordinated manner.”
The state has been ruled by Igala men, and one wonders why he, another Igala man is aspiring. He argues that Ibro is entitled to two terms, and it is his second term that he wants to complete for him.
He contends that power shift to the west and central zones are normal, which was the main reason he raised the issue when they put up the group. He suggests the assemblage of leaders of the state on a non-partisan level to nip in the bud, incidents of violence.
Nailing the coffin on the head, he declared that the west and central zones have come to realise that the only person who can remove Ibro must come from his area.
Kogi East constitutes 66 per cent of the population of the state, so that even if the PDP gives the ticket to somebody from the west or central, and another party puts somebody from the east, the coast will be clear for the person from the east.
The battle line is drawn and only a few months from now will make the difference.
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