No fewer than 28 aspirants are warming up for Kogi State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primaries scheduled for Lokoja, the state capital, on Saturday.
Kogi State is a unique state. Ethnicity plays a big role in deciding who takes the driver’s seat. That is why politicians from Central and West senatorial districts are championing the agitation for power shift. The clamour underscores their protest against perceived exclusion from political control. But, Kogi East, which accounts for 54 per cent of the state’s population, has described the claim as frivolous. According to the stakeholders from the zone, the claim is devoid of rationality and tantamount to twisting the truth to win emotional support for their cause.
Ahead of the primaries, many Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains have defected to the APC. Their defection followed the defeat of the PDP during the last parliamentary elections. Many stakeholders have also alleged that the governor, Captain Idris Wada, has performed poorly. But, the governor has refuted the claim, saying that he has lived up to expectation.
No fewer than 28 aspirants are struggling for the ticket. They purchased nomination forms, following the release of the election time table for by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Thus, it is a crowded race for the Lugard House. According to observers, the APC primaries will decide the future of the party and the second term ambition of Governor Wada.
The aspirants include Prince Abubakar Audu, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, Alhaji Sueiman Baba Ali, Dr. Tim Diche, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Hon. Clarence Olafemi, and George Olumoroti, an engineer. Others are Alhaji Ado Gamji, Babatunde Irukera, Chief Lanre Ipinmisho, Mallam Yakuku Mohammed, Senator Alex Kadiri, Aliyu Jiya, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Gen. Salihu Atawodi, and Mr. Rotimi Obadofin.
He is the first elected governor of the state. He ruled the state twice, but under different constitutions. Audu ruled between 1992 and 1993 on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and between 1999 and 2003 as a chieftain of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). According to the 1999 Constitution, he is entitled to a second term. Audu worked assiduously for the development of the state. But, in the last 12 years, the state, which is blessed with natural endowment and human capital, has been a shadow of itself. When the former governor picked his nomination form, he promised to restore the pride of the state by putting in place first class infrastructure and attract more investments. Many people believe that he is competent. During his first term, he facilitated the take-off of the Obajana Cement factory.
Audu is Kogi APC leader. He worked hard to deliver the state to President Buhari in the last election. According to his supporters, his frustration with the state of affairs motivated him to enter the race. His performances in office between1999-2003 remained his biggest selling point, Last week, many stakeholders from 21 local governments endorsed him in Lokoja.
Another key factor that may work in favour of the Igala prince is the failure of aspirants from the west and central districts to produce a consensus candidate.
The APC leadership may have tacitly endorsed him. Last week, a top chieftain said: ”no coach changes a winning captain in the middle of a match.” His dynamism and experience in politics and business, his formidable structure and followership are great assets.
He hails from a reputable political family, his father having served as the deputy governor of Kwara State in the Second Republic. Between 2011 and 2015, he represented Kogi Central on the platform of the PDP. Abatemi-Usman is sociable, amiable and easy-going. But, he is not perceived as a formidable candidate. Many believed that he won the senatorial election in 2011 as a compromise candidate, following a major disagreement that threatened to tear the party apart in the zone. One major setback for the former legislator is that he recently defected to the APC. There is no evidence that he has the backing of his district. During the week, the district endorsed Gamji, an oil magnet and philanthropist, as a consensus candidate. Abatemi-Usman cried foul, saying that the move was not popular. His supporters, who are agitating for power shift, however, believe that he has a chance.
Baba Ali was a commissioner in the defunct Audu administration. Many were surprised when he picked the nomination form because they thought that he was working for his former boss. A party chieftain said his approach and divided loyalty may have struck a wrong chord in the political leaders. But, his supporters believe otherwise. According to them, he has the right under the constitution to run.
A party source said that party leaders would have supported Ali for parliamentary ambition, if he had indicated his interest. That, to them, would have groomed him for the number one seat. The feeling is that he may not be able to withstand the arsenal of his uncle, Audu, at the primaries. Besides, foes have made efforts to blackmail him by boxing him into an identity crisis. Ali has not done much to effectively dispel the rumour that his father is from Bida, Niger State, and only his mother hails from Kogi. In 1999, some people protested against his nomination for a position in the State Executive Council, based on his identity. Another factor that may work against him is lack of financial muscle and limited political experience.
But, party members said that he is a likeable personality and hardworking politician who has shunned avarice. Politically, he is very promising. A source said that he may step down for Audu.
He is an economist and a risk manager. He is a former local government chairman. Diche failed in his bid to represent his constituency in the House of Representatives before dumping the PDP. According to sources, he relies on the goodwill of his former colleagues. However, this is debatable. Many former council chairmen who left the PDP for the APC appear to be working for Audu. If Diche fails to get the ticket, it will not draw the curtain on his political career. He may be a candidate for the future.
Bello is a graduate of Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the Chairman of Kogi Youth Arise Forum. He has a huge financial war chest and connection with big party wigs. But, to his surprise, the party leaders refused to endorse him. Instead, the leaders, led by, Senator Ohiare picked Sanusi as a consensus candidate. Bello’s popularity is restricted to his district. He needs to extend his tentacles to other zones. Only central senatorial districts. A source said that he may dump the APC for the Accord, if he fails to get the ticket. But, his supporters said the rumour is baseless.
Olafemi, fondly called Obembe by admirers, is one of the popular politicians from Okun. In the House of Assembly, he was a star legislator. He was the Minority Leader, and later, the Speaker. He was also the Acting Governor. He is a respected gladiator from Kogi West. Olafemi is very close to the PDP chieftain, Jibrin Isah Echocho, who is running for governor. Many PDP chieftains have penciled down his name as the running mate before he dumped the party. Therefore, he has more political enemies in the PDP. They believe he has destroyed their plan to pull the rug off the governor’s feet.
Olafemi faces some odds at the primary election, despite his popularity. He hails from Mopa Moro, a small local government. He is very popular at home. Yet, he failed to emerge as the consensus candidate of the marginalised Okun. Other aspirants do not see him as the arrowhead of the minority Yoruba, which is always fighting for relevance. However, he may emerge as the APC running mate.
Olumoroti is a mechanical engineering graduate of Yaba College of Technology. He holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Calabar. He has many things going for him. He has the experience, energy and money. He is young and promising. The Kabba-born politician worked with Exxon/Mobil in Lagos. He is without any dent.
He is a new comer into the political arena. Two weeks ago, he picked his nomination form. But, to the surprise of other aspirants, he emerged as the consensus candidate of the Central District. His rivals are bitter. Thus, they have resorted to blackmail. His endorsement has implications. If he fails to get the ticket, the leaders may tip him for running mate.
He is a prince from Egbe. The son of the Elegbe of Egbeland, Yagba West Local Council, entered the race few weeks ago. His posters are attractive. But, no major stakeholder is associated with his aspiration. He told reporters in Lokoja that power should shift to foster equity and justice. He described himself as the man whom the cap fits. But, he has a bright prospect in politics. Many youths see him as a man of the future.