As political parties prepare for their primaries ahead of the November 16, 2019 Governorship Election in Kogi State, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports on the major aspirants for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party and the issues that may determine who would emerge the party’s candidate.
All is set for the governorship primaries in Kogi State. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable has stipulated that the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms for party primaries in the state would commence on Monday, June 24 and end on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
So, by Wednesday, July 24, 2019, when the purchase and submission of the forms officially ended, The Nation learnt that not less than 12 aspirants from the PDP picked the nomination and expression of interest forms for the governorship ticket in Kogi.
The aspirants that picked the forms included the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye; Dr. Joseph Ameh; Abubakar Suleiman, Grace Adejo and Mr. Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former governor of the state, Idris Ibrahim. Others are Air Vice-Marshal Salia Atawodi (retd.); Dr. Victor Adoji, Bayo Averehi, Bayo Agberedi and Mohammed Shaibu.
When PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, visited the state during the recently conducted State Congress Election, he told journalists in Lokoja that his party “would not tolerate electoral violence before, during and after the elections.” Warning stakeholders against actions that would hurt the people’s resolve to decide their leaders, Ologbondiyan, who described his party as popular enough to dethrone the ruling All Progressives Congress, said PDP would hold INEC by its promise to conduct a free and fair governorship election in the state. “The people are resolute in the determination to elect a governor that will serve them.
“They are tired of hunger, arson and violence resulting from bad governance and want a leader that will give them a better life,” he said.
One of the factors that seems to favour PDP in the forthcoming primary election is the comparative unity it enjoys as against the open opposition within the ruling APC. This unity and peace within the opposition PDP was further accentuated by peaceful atmosphere that punctuated its recently conducted state congress elections. In that election, supervised by the former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s state chairman, Sam Uhuoto, retained his seat without any rancor. He polled 1,478 votes to defeat his closest rival, Mohammed Omuya, who scored 270. Also, other principal officials like Sam Abenemi and Faruk Yahaya emerged unopposed as Deputy Chairman and Secretary, respectively. Anoze Osheyiza, an Ibira, who lives in Lokoja, told The Nation that PDP stands a good chance in the forthcoming election if it continued with the spirit that guided its recent state congress. “That congress gave PDP better hope than what is happening in the state chapter of the ruling APC. Members and the public here in Kogi believe that if the governorship primary election is also credible, peaceful and fair, the party will contest the governorship election as a united strong contender and may even win the election,” he said.
Given the caliber of the aspirants, especially their solid political background; the experience some of them have and the belief by many that PDP is a major platform in the forthcoming governorship election, it has been observed that the race for the party’s ticket is poised to be hot.
Aspirants like Capt. Idris Wada, a former governor, Senator Dino Melaye and Abubakar Idris, the son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris, amongst others, are believed to have strong background or experience that cannot be wished away.
Other aspirants seeking to fly the party’s flag include Dr. Joseph Ameh; Abubakar Suleiman, Grace Adejo; Air Vice-Marshal Salia Atawodi (retd.); Dr. Victor Adoji, Bayo Averehi, Bayo Agberedi and Mohammed Shaibu.
A retired pilot, Capt. Idris Wada, is a former governor of Kogi State on the platform of People’s Democratic Party. He lost re-election and was succeeded by Yahaya Bello on January 27, 2016. As would be expected, his ambition to return to the Lugard House is generating interest and attention.
There is no doubt that as a former governor of the same state, Wada has concrete experience. He is expected to understand the affairs of the state, including the political intricacies and peculiarities of the Kogi electorate. Perhaps, based on these, sources said Wada is highly favoured in the state for the job.
His supporters also 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.
Given that he continues to say that he never lost election to Bello but that he was rigged out, many believe it would be exciting to see a rematch between the two.
When he picked his nomination and expression of interest forms for the November 16 governorship election in the state, he told newsmen that the election was an opportunity for Kogi people to compare where he left the state and its present condition, and see if they were better off now.
Harping on what observers said is his comparative advantage, Wada said the state needed an experienced hand to govern it and not a greenhorn running the state presently.
“Let me say that this next election of November 16 is critical to the survival of Kogi State. Kogi was on a part of progress at the time I left.
“If I had spent four more years with the kind of money that is coming into the hand of the present governor, the state would have become a state that we will all be proud of.
“Kogi is right now like in quicks and the more you wriggle out, the more you sink.
“So, if you bring greenhorn who have no experience, who has no proper working of Kogi, he will spend about two years trying to find his feet.
“If I move into the Kogi governor’s office today, I know where I left the state; I will study where it is and I will start steering the ship of the state right away because we don’t want Kogi to collapse. I am in the re-election bid to pull Kogi out of its “present mess,” he said, adding, “When I was the governor, I was paying salary almost 25th of every month; now we are hearing story of people not paid for 39 months,” he said he added value to the state through infrastructural projects, including rural electrification for more than 400 communities.
“Unfortunately, since I left even projects that I have done to 90 percent completion, have been abandoned by the succeeding administration.
“The projects that were at 60 percent are still where they were when I left office.
“The prevailing hunger and poverty, you can feel it when you enter Kogi, the booming life of our people has disappeared,” he alleged.
He identified insecurity and poverty eradication as some of the areas he would pay attention to if voted as governor. “We will bring in young people; we will have extension farmers fielding into a larger farm with processing industry that will lift all the people out of poverty.
“While I was there, we had a programme called Youth and Advancement Programme for Kogi people. We were able to recruit over 120, 000 youths,” he said.
Some observers of the politics of PDP in Kogi State, are of the view that Wada may be a major aspirant to beat, but his major challenge seems to be the primary election in the state. “If he wins PDP ticket, he may prove to be a difficult candidate to beat, but majority of PDP youths here feel the party may need a youth just in case Governor Bello takes APC ticket. This may work against Wada,” said Keyinde Adeyinka from Kabba.
As the son of former Governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Idris, a businessman, is understandably considered another major aspirant.
Although his critics have accused his father of planning to impose him on the party, an allegation the older Idris once denied and followed up by threatening to resign his position as the leader of the party in the state, the younger Idris’ ambition, according his supporters is being pushed mainly by youths within the party.
Given his father’s influence, insiders said he cannot be a pushover in the primary election, but if he wins the party’s ticket on the strength of his father’s political machinery, it remains to be seen if PDP will bank on that to win the governorship election.
Dino Melaye, the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, is perhaps the most intriguing governorship aspirant on the Kogi PDP ticket. Not a few observers were shocked 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 captivating to see Dino fight the electoral contest with Bello.
In his usual vocal manner, Melaye, when he picked the forms, boasted that he would kick out APC, rebuild and refocus the economy of the state if given the mandate.
He described himself as the most experienced and qualified person for the job, adding that the PDP would dislodge the APC in the state because the state governor, Yahaya Bello did not perform. “I am here to fix Kogi; we will bring back hope and unity among the people of Kogi State. We have passion for the people. “It’s not my ambition but the ambition of the people. The governor has not completed any single project in the state. We are ready to rebuild the state,” he said.
Another aspirant that picked his forms early in July, who some sources described as another major contestant, is Abubakar Suleiman. While picking the forms in Abuja headquarters of the party, Suleiman had told journalists that he is in the race because “Kogi is in dire need of change in leadership.” According to him, things have deteriorated in the three-and-half years that Governor Yahaya Bello has been in the saddle.
He lamented what he described as the poor state of infrastructure and economy in the state, saying that workers have been reduced to beggars while victimization and intimidation of the people had become the order of the day.
On his mission, Suleiman said, “I have a priority policy document that I have worked on, which includes: social infrastructure, fundamentals of government, physical responsibility and economic development.
“The policies are intertwined. For example economic development includes job creation; empowerment is related to physical infrastructure. My social infrastructure plans include health, schools and roads. All these will be given serious consideration”.
Even before he obtained his nomination documents for the Kogi governorship race, Dr. Joseph Ameh, a United-States trained security expert and founder of Real Strikers Security Services Limited, was described as a frontline aspirant by PDP stakeholders in the state.
A grassroots aspirant, he has, according to some sources traversed the state’s local communities in his bid to market his aspiration. As the National Coordinator of Professionals for Atiku Abubakar, during the campaigns, many believe he is well connected in the party. It remains to be seen how far he can go.
Given the calibre of the aspirants seeking to fly PDP’s flag, observers said electorate’s attention seems to be more focused on the party. This is because everyone seems to believe that the quality of the governorship election in the state would depend mainly on the outcome of PDP primary and who eventually emerged its candidate.
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