Kogi: 13 Aspirants, 1 Ticket

Prince Uche Secondus, PDP National Chairman

About 2,300 State Delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP) will converge in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, to elect its flag bearer among 13 aspirants for the November 16th governorship election.

By Richard Elesho

Since 1999 when the military paved way for the return of democracy, Kogi has been more of a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) state. The state was first controlled by the All People’s Party (APP) through Prince Abubakar Audu who lost his second term bid in 2003 to PDP’s Ibrahim Idris. From that time till the next 12 years, the PDP was firmly in control of the state.

In 2015 however, Audu who ran on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), secured a second tenure. Sadly, he died before he could exercise the mandate, but the party awarded the votes to Yahaya Bello, his runner-up in the primaries. Since that dramatic defeat four years ago, the PDP has been mourning its loss and strategizing for a more positive fate. Ancient political structures are being reawakened and old associations being renewed in an effort to put its house in order.

For the forthcoming governorship election, the party parades 13 aspirants jostling for its ticket. The aspirant’s pack is a colourful blend of who is who in Kogi politics. In the ring are a former governor, his brother, a Senator, son of a former governor, a woman, a security consultant, real estate actors and others.

To make the selection process less rancorous, the party on Monday, 19 Aug screened and gave all 13 aspirants clean bill of health to participate in its primaries slated for Tuesday, 3rd September. The party has also decided on its traditional method of Indirect Primaries, where about 2,300 delegates will choose the candidate among the aspirants.

The governorship hopefuls include Captain Idris Ichalla Wada, Senator Dino Melaiye, Abubakar Ibrahim, Engr. Musa Wada and Grace Adejoh. Others are Dr. Joe Erico Ameh, Aminu Abubakar Suleiman, Emmanuel Omebije, and Dr Victor Adoji. The rest are Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi, Bayo Averehi Adombayin, Mohammed Shuaibu Tetes and Haruna Kabiru Saraha,

All aspirants have been going round the State holding meetings and consulting with the delegates. Here are the chances of both contenders and pretenders in the race.

Who takes the PDP ticket?

Capt. Idris Wada:
He is an aviator and immediate past Governor who lost his bid for second term to the late Audu in controversial circumstances. Wada is gentle, forthright and prudent in the management of resources. His commitment to economic transformation and staff welfare when he was Governor, are things that still count for him in his current outing. His supporters say in spite of the dwindling allocations to the state in his days, his performance was far better than that of the incumbent Governor Bello, his successor. As Bello is almost certain to secure his party nomination, not a few persons are rooting for Wada’s return.

Idris Wada

The clamour for power shift is also in his favour. Wada, a native of Odu Ogboyaga in Dekina Local Government in Kogi East has been assuring that once he completes his second and final tenure, he will ensure his successor comes from Kogi West. This is good music to delegates from the area. It is also being rumoured that he and Melaye, an aspirant from the zone, may be working together. In addition, some of his appointees and people he touched as governor are said to have keyed into his second term bid.

Wada himself has been talking tough. “We will continue with the transformation agenda for the state using our blue print. Under me power shift will be realised…this is the only fair and reasonable thing to do…. For those planning to use violence to rig the election, it won’t be business as usual. We will resist them…”

Wada’s March to second term is not going to be on a platter of gold. First, he is not in the best of terms with his predecessor and friend, Ibrahim Idris on whose back and structure he rode to Lugard House in his first trial. It is doubtful if Wada is strong enough to successfully withstand the onslaught of that structure. In addition, many accuse him of not doing enough in his first term. Finally, the aviator’s younger brother, Musa, is also struggling for the party ticket. This gives a picture of a ‘house divided against itself’. All said, Wada has good chances of securing the party ticket.

Senator Dino Melaye:
He is a second term Senator representing Kogi West in the upper legislative chamber. Perceived to be courageous and outspoken, Melaye is notorious for his abrasive and comical style. The lawmaker from Aiyetoro in Ijumu Local Government area of Kogi West is well known across the state and even beyond. He is particularly loved by Kogi civil servants who see him as a sympathiser of the down trodden and a lone voice against injustice.

Senator Melaye:

He is colourful and knows how to strike the right tunes with the public. His perception as the under dog in his running battle with Bello and the establishment in Kogi over his calls on the governor to pay their salaries, contributed greatly to his second term victory. Even strident efforts by the establishment to recall the Senator failed on arrival.
As Dino is the only aspirant from his Senatorial District, he is calculating on having bulk support of the about 800 delegates from the zone and complementing it with those he will have from his supporters in other zones to clinch the ticket.

Things may not be that rosy, though. The Senator is still facing some backlash at home over the way he snatched the PDP Senatorial ticket from other aspirants on his return from the APC. Other aspirants were disqualified by the Screening Committee to pave way for his emergence unopposed. ” He has not even stayed six months in his current term and he is coming again. Is he the only one there? He should go and keep his job…” Said a party chieftain from his zone who preferred not to be named.

He has other worries. In the areas of empowerment and servicing his followers, he is rated low. Beyond his waning profile at home, he is viewed outside as a mirthful character with a bag load of pranks. The senator does not have the structure that can win a state-wide delegates election. There are unconfirmed reports that he is in alliance with another aspirant from the East. The recent nullification of his election into the Senate by the National Assembly Election Tribunal in Lokoja, is sure to constitute a distraction from his present fancy. His chances are very low.

Dr. Victor Alewoh Adojih:

Witty and astute banker turned politician, Adojih rose to be Head of Corporate Communications at Zenith Bank before joining full time politics. His bid to represent Kogi East in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly was not successful. After loosing the PDP ticket in shady circumstances, he flew the flag of the African Democratic Congress, ADC at the election. He was clearly the leading candidate until election day when a combination of state machinery and political violence overwhelmed him.

Victor Adoji

He is very popular among his Igala/Basa brothers, but not well known in other zones. He has age and a deep pocket on his side. His late entry into the gubernatorial race may affect his chances. Looks like a future governor.

Abubakar Ibrahim:
Soft spoken and calm, he hails from Icheke in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi East. He holds degrees in Agriculture, Management and Diplomacy. He has demonstrated tact and deep understanding of the nuances of Kogi politics during his wide consultations on his governorship ambition. His businessman father Alhaji Ibrahim Idris was former two term governor of the State.

Abubakar seemed to have acquired relevant preparations in character, learning and administration. AbuIbro as he is fondly called, is coming clean without baggage of corruption and other acts that run foul of the law and which easily ensnare seekers of public office in the state. He is also backed by the Nigerian constitution.

Abubakar’s Ibrahim

He has other things going for him. His father’s formidable political structure has been revived to ease his passage. Former political appointees in his father’s administration and those he has touched one way or the other are said to have keyed into the aspiration. Several charitable activities have also preceded his foray into politics. The aspirant has built commendable followership through a foundation that helps indegent families with school fees and medical bills. For them it is reward time.

Abubakar is however assailed by one permanent drawback. Those who don’t want him, do so primarily because of his paternity. They argue that as his father was a former governor, it is inappropriate for the son to aspire to the same office. Ironically, many of his supporters also do so for the legacies left behind by his Ex-governor father. They hope the 51-year old will surpass his father in public office.

Abubakar’s aspiration is very popular in the West and Central Senatorial Districts where he may steal the show from his opponents. He has no small opposition among his Igala kinsmen, who canvass that since his father was a governor who left office eight years ago, Abubakar’s aspiration would truncate their local arrangement for power rotation among the three Federal Constituencies in the zone to the exclusion of other Senatorial Zones.

Head or tail, Abubakar a Miner with other business interests in the vast regions of hospitality, farming and oil and gas is rated high in the contest. He is in fact, the man to beat, all things being equal.

Musa Wada:

He an engineer by training and former staff of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) where he retired as a Director. Rated for his analytical skills and suave nature, Wada is younger brother of Capt. Wada. The retired engineer has not been loud in his campaigns, but he has stayed in touch with the delegates on the field.

His relationship with Capt. Wada is taking enormous toll on his campaign. With the two brothers unable to harmonise their aspirations and both of them making waves, not a few analysts posit that their success is jeorpadised.

Grace Adejoh:

She hails from Anyigba in Dekina Local Government of Kogi East. She is the only female aspirant in the party. The Chemist and international Consultant has great ideas of how to transform Kogi from her travails and backwardness to a front line state. She said she would harness the 28 solid mineral in the state, which she poetically described as ‘sleeping beauties’ and its tourism potentials for economic development.

Grace Adejoh, Kogi PDP Governorship aspirant

Adejoh who has been combing the state in consultation has received some acceptance especially among women. It is however to be seen how she will corner the medal from her 12 male opponents.

Dr. Joe Erico Ameh:
Born in 1966, Ameh is from Otutekpe-Okpo in Olamaboro Local Government, Kogi East. He is a security consultant and PhD holder in Liberal and Criminology Studies. He was the first aspirant to buy Nomination and Expression of Interest forms once they went on sale. He parades a rich experience in personnel and security management. He says he has what it takes to lead the Kogi economy out of the woods and has been busy trying to build a solid structure.
The local arrangement for power rotation in his zone does not favour him. He is in contention.

AVM Saliu Atawodi:
Born in 1952, the Retired Air Vice Marshal hails from Idah. He is a philanthropist and believes in building people. He is not a stranger to political contest. In 2015 he made waves especially on the social media when he threw his hat into governorship ring under the APC platform. He did not go far on that occasion. This may not be radically different.

Aminu Abubakar Suleiman:
Well read and deeply intelligent, Aminu holds a Master Degree in Project Management from Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. He is also an Alumni of University of Bauchi and University of Nottingham. He is the Director and Team Leader at Premium Project Infrastructure Limited (PPIL) and a World Bank Consultant on civil works in Nigeria.

Aminu Abubakar Suleiman

A native of Idah, Aminu displays more average understanding of Kogi issues. His billboards dot the landscape as he embarks  on vigorous consultations  and building the needed structure on his ambition. He is favoured by the controversial local arrangement for power rotation in Kogi East.
He is an aspirant to watch.

Emmanuel Ogbe Omebije:
A trained Surveyor turned politician, he hails from Dekina. He was two term member Kogi State House of Assembly and former Deputy Speaker. He represented Okura State Constituency during which he impacted positively on his Constituents. His bid to move to the House of Representatives in 2015 failed. A large crowd accompanied him to Wadata Plaza August 31 when he obtained his governorship nomination and expression of interest forms.
He is not well known outside his immediate Constituency. Analysts don’t give him a chance in his current labours.

Bayo Averehi Adombayin:
Little known Averehi hails from Okene Local Government. He is the only aspirant from Kogi Central Senatorial Zone. He promised to turn Kogi around within a short time if he is elected. His expectation of bulk vote from the central may be a mirage.

Kabiru Haruna Saraha:
He is an Abuja based businessman and hails from Idah. The property developer is Chief Executive of Saraha Homes in the nation’s capital. He runs a foundation that helps the poor.

The local zoning arrangement in Kogi East favours him as he is from the same zone with late Audu. He has a big financial chest, but he is little known in other parts of the State. His campaigns have been haphazard. Not in contention.

Mohammed Shuaibu Tetes:
He is from Dekina. His political outings have been sluggish. Not in contention.

As matters stand, the contest is likely to be reduced to a two horse race between Abubakar Ibrahim and Idris Wada. In fact, it will be an upset if a third Force emerges. But this is politics, where nothing is iron cast.