Kogi Guber: Wada, Audu slug it out at the poll today

Wada&AuduAfter months of po­litical permutations and weeks of intense campaigns, two top contenders for the Lugard Government House, Lokoja, Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Gover­nor Idris Wada of the Peo­ples Democratic Party (PDP) will today test their strength at the governorship election holding across the state.

Wada, the incumbent gover­nor, is seeking a second term in office while Audu, a former governor of the state between 1999 and 2003, is keen to return to office.

No doubt, the poll presents a titanic battle as the people of Kogi State will elect a governor from among the 22 candidates fielded by the political parties after months of primary elec­tion and campaigns. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that time. The pri­mary election, which produced the candidates, has come and gone and now the electoral um­pire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is ready for the poll. Because of the titanic nature of the contest, the Federal Government has al­ready deployed detachments of military personnel, the police, DSS operatives and other law enforcement agencies across major cities and volatile spots in the state.

There have been serious skilled political movements, some devious and deceptive to gain advantages. There have also been controlled change of course by some parties, realign­ments with former ideological opponents, alteration of tactics to fit different circumstances, readjustments and manipula­tions of former political calcu­lations so that permutations are correctly oriented and tenuous and strategic risks taken on the part of some candidates and their political parties.

By now, the hands behind such schemes and what they hope to profit by them are ob­vious. But, on their part, op­ponents of these designs have sworn to fight the spoilers to a finish on election day. In which case, we would most certainly witness neck and neck scores especially between the candi­dates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peo­ples Democratic Party (PDP). On what note the election would wind up is most uncer­tain. What is certain is that as the promised battle between the two foremost candidates, Abubakar Audu of the APC and Captain Idris Wada of the PDP rages, Kogi State is once more racing to another fierce contest after the one between Ibrahim Idris and Audu in 2003 and 2007.

As it is now in Kogi State, the battle is clearly between Audu of the APC and the in­cumbent governor, Wada who is flying the PDP flag in the election. The status of these two contestants attracts oppos­ing emotions in equal measure, men seen in the same breath as devils and saints, men of com­passion and of wickedness, lov­ers of their state and destroyers of it, friends to be heard and enemies to be avoided. When it comes to the two contestants, no two Kogites are agreed on any issue. What is consistent in their assessment is Wada’s incredible ability to confound and Audu’s gift to act out of turn. Nevertheless, both men have taken time and resilience to get to the final stage of the governorship election. For four years, Audu ruled the state and for four years ending January 27, 2016, Wada will rule.

In the early stages, specifi­cally, before the election that threw up Muhammadu Buhari as President, it was thought that the reality of Wada’s second term bid consisted in the sus­tenance of the status quo. That reality soon turned to another dream with the sweeping of the Senatorial, House of Represen­tatives and state Assembly polls by the APC. There are signs that the gradual process by which PDP goes out of reckoning are alight with fireworks from the APC. It looks an extinction of self and ego through pretended display of courage and boldness by the current party in power in the state. And the facts of the losses to the APC by most PDP states are not any different in the political calculation. Politi­cal giants of the PDP in the state have also crashed to the extent that out of the nine House of Representatives seats won by the PDP in 2011, six of them have now been won by the APC. The three senatorial seats also won by the PDP in the 2011 poll were also won during the last election by the APC.

With the record above, it would be a surprise if Governor Wada could swing the winning streak in favour of his party. In fact, Wada, by the victory of the APC in six of the nine House of Representatives seats that PDP controlled and the three senato­rial seats has been told that he is no longer a factor in the politics of the state. Worst still, most of his cronies and allies like for­mer PDP Chairman, Ahmadu Ali, Smart Adeyemi and Tunde Ogbeha failed to deliver their local councils and wards during the last general elections. There is even a deadlier blow to Wa­da’s return bid as all the chair­men and councillors of the 21 dissolved councils are now be­hind Audu.

The loss of six of the House of Representatives and three sena­torial seats to the APC is a verita­ble justification of the method of calculation, using symbolic log­ic that the times have changed for the current government led by Wada. Now also, many ob­servers of Kogi politics have concluded that the majority of Kogi voters are changing their attitudes and loyalties, all in the quest for a new political dispen­sation in the state.

However, although the anxi­ety is almost tangible, It is more of an edge-of-the-seat stuff unlike the situation before the presidential poll. Traditional­ly, Kogi State has been a PDP state since 2003 when Ibrahim Idris, a governorship candidate of the PDP defeated the then ANPP-led government of Abu­bakar Audu. The Presidential and National Assembly polls which turned off from the nor­mal course in terms of votes scored and the winners may not have changed the calculations on ground many months after. Nevertheless, the outcome of the last presidential poll which bandwagon effect is likely to impact beyond that which is immediately apparent, would pull the rug off the feet of the PDP in some local councils.

It is seeming to be true that the support of the people for Audu may be based on the poor handling of political squabbles in the party which has led to the defection of chieftains of the party. This is no longer open to doubts. If the APC repeats its winning streak in the last gen­eral poll on Saturday, the gover­norship seat will elude the PDP.

As Wada’s hope for anoth­er shot at the Lugard House seems to recede even more, the agitations for it are, paradoxi­cally, getting more strident and ominous. What appears more troubling is that the options for Wada are getting fewer and fewer by the day. For Wada and his supporters, the only option now appears the currying of sympathy, using the bail-out fund. That may well be so. Yet, the government has had to go back on its words on salaries of teachers and local government staff and in the process eroding its credibility by literarily hold­ing the opposition party respon­sible for its inability to access the fund.

Very few people gave Wada much chance when he recent­ly cried foul over the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s failure to release the bail-out fund. The reasons were obvious. Wada’s Kogi State, like some others, never reacted to the cries of teachers and local council staff salaries, allowances and arrears before the promise of a bail-out. And many knew Wada had something up his sleeve after winning the election.

The reluctance of teachers coupled with subsequent meet­ings with Wada’s henchmen which results always irked offi­cials of the NUT and NULGE members in the state kept them at bay. Not even the razzmatazz at campaigns would swing his image round as far as the NUT and NULGE officials are con­cerned. But nothing, perhaps, speaks more eloquently of Wada’s dwindling electoral for­tunes than government’s silence on why it has all along refused to pay teachers their salaries and arrears.

An analysis of the strengths of the candidates along the lines of senatorial districts reveals that Audu is likely to have an edge in the eastern senatorial district where both flagbear­ers hail from. For instance, of the nine local councils in the zone, pundits say Audu is like­ly to win five, namely Ankpa, Ofu Olamaboro, Idah , Dekina while Wada is likely to win in Igalamela/odolu, Bassa, Ibaji and Omala. Apart from Kab­ba-Bunu, Yagba West and Yag­ba East where Wada seems to enjoy high popularity, he is a leper in Lokoja, Kotonkarfi, Mopa-muro and Ijumu local councils. And he did have a feel of this political outcasting during one of his campaigns when some of the youths open­ly displayed Audu’s posters. The central senatorial district is believed to be the deciding factor.

However, pundits say there may be apathy on the part of the electorate in this axis which comprises the Ebira ethnic group. Some of them were dis­enchanted over claims that the Ebiras were played out during the APC primary election. Con­sequently, Audu may lose some votes from Ebira land follow­ing threats that they would vote one of their own, Enesi Ozigi of the Progressive People Al­liance or Philip Salawu of the Labour Party. Wada is likely to have huge votes in Okene, Ogori-magongo and Okehi while Audu may also have sub­stantial votes in Adavi and Aja­okuta local councils.

Judging by the comparison being drawn between his ad­ministration and that of Wada, Audu may not be a spent force after all. If the campaigns by Audu’s Rasputins are to be be­lieved, the former governor’s tenancy of Lord Lugard House once more may not look like a mid-summer’s night dream. Feelers from other Audu’s asso­ciates give that indication. Audu is being credited with the estab­lishment of the state university, the state polytechnic, Radio Kogi, among other achieve­ments, during his tenure.

In that case, the people of Kogi may not have seen the last of the man they voted against in 2003. Clearly, Audu is well on his way to a comeback on a well-appointed route even after unpalatable tales that tend to re­duce his image in the last few years. -The Sun

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