After 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