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Drumbeats of power shift light up Kogi guber poll

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Drumbeats of power shift light up Kogi guber poll

By Ralph Omololu Agbana, Lokoja


SINCE the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made public the December 3 date for governorship election in Kogi State, intrigues upon intrigues have continued to play out at regular intervals.
But of all the issues that are coming into play, ahead of the gubernatorial election, that of power shift has consigned others to the back seat and taken over as the dominant issue.

Right now, contending forces jostling for the plum job within most parties are mainly from Kogi West and Kogi Central Senatorial Districts. But the pronouncement by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that it would not conduct fresh primary election, but “will abide by the last exercise, held in January” which produced Alhaji Jibrin Isah as its candidate, is causing disquiet within the ranks of the party in the West and Central Senatorial Districts, as they saw a fresh primary opportunity as an avenue to re-launch their bid for power.

Although, the pronouncement, which was made by the party’s Legal Adviser in the state, Mr. Ada Mohammed has been overruled by the party National Legal Adviser, Olusola Oke, he was, however, indefinite on the true situation of things, even though he maintained that the party’s national leadership was yet to decide on what to do about the Kogi impasse.

The same issue is raising serious concerns within the ranks of the major opposition, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which is parading a total of five aspirants, three of them being from Igala Land. They are a former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu, former Accountant General of the state, Mr. Ubolo Opanachi and former Chaplain, Aso Rock Villa, Prof Yusuf Obaje. The others are George Olusola Olumoroti, a Senior Executive of Mobil Producing and Mr. Rotimi Obadofin, an activist. The ACN hopefuls from Kogi West are insistent on shifting power to their domain.

Other than Isah, other governorship aspirants in the PDP are oil mogul and philanthropist, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Kutepa, former Managing Director, Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN), Dr Adinoyi Onukaba-Ojo, former Military Administrator of Oyo State, Colonel Ahmed Usman (rtd), Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Air Vice Marshal Salihu Atawodi (rtd), acting Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aron Baba, former Chairman, Bassa Local Council, Mr. Tim Diche, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Newswatch Communications, Alhaji Yakubu Muhammed, Mr. Bob Alfa and Mr. David Lawal. Of the 11 aspirants in contention for the PDP ticket, only Kutepa is from Kogi West while two, Onukaba and Lawal are from Kogi Central. The other aspirants all hail Kogi East.   
For the people of Central and West Senatorial Districts, the rescheduled election has filled them with the hope that they were on the verge of actualising their dream of power shift, considering the fact that the Eastern zone has ruled the state since its creation in 1991.

Though, quite a number of aspirants ventured into the race to pick the PDP ticket during the January primary election, Kutepa remain one man, who drew the state nearest to changing the political paradigm.  He finished as runner up in the controversial January primary.

Although, the PDP national leadership had annulled the January primary on the grounds that it was fraught with irregularities and ordered a rerun, the leadership later reversed the order and went ahead to endorse Isah’s candidature. Consequently, Kutepa went to court to protest the failure to hold a rerun, but he lost at the lower court.

Reconciliatory meetings aimed at dousing the tension raised by the conflicting order from the PDP national secretariat and the resultant court action had barely commenced when the Appeal Court judgment came elongating the tenure of the outgoing Governor, Ibrahim Idris.  Kutepa and his supporters thus saw in the rescheduled primary another opportunity to set the record straight. Because of this, is widely perceived that any fresh primary would be a straight fight between Kutepa and Isah.  
But it was alleged that Idris might have settled for his kinsman and in-law Isah. He is also alleged to be wooing the three Senators, seven PDP members of the House of Representatives; the 21 PDP state House of Assembly members and local council party chairmen all in his bid to frustrate the conduct of fresh primaries in the state and instead root for an affirmation primary election.

The plot, a source revealed would include getting the the affected political office holders to ensure that only Isah’s  loyalists are handpicked as the three delegates from the electoral wards level to calm the waters and pave way for a smooth sail of Isah’s affirmation.

“Having realized the legal implications of not conducting a new primary, they came to the conclusion that the way out was to hold an affirmative primary election, and the only way to do that is to make sure that they control the majority of the delegates. But, it is not as simple as that, as the other aspirants have their own strategies too,” said the source.  

The source added that the plot would be a hard sell for the political office holders especially in Kogi West and Central, who have already endorsed Kutepa as a consensus candidate. “It is a departure from the January scenario when about 13 aspirants ran from West and Central. Also, leaders from core-Yoruba speaking area, who led the anti-PDP protest votes in April have thrown their weight behind Kutepa,” said the source.
Corroborating the source, Otunba Funsho Owoyemi, a prominent Okun leader and PDP financier based in Lagos told The Guardian that the decision to back Kutepa was because of the variables, which he said positioned him as the best choice for the minorities.

According to him, “Our desire to have a minority person like Kutepa emerge as the next governor of Kogi State is like a religion. We consider Kutepa number one in ranking among all the aspirants. That is why we are aligning with him…we came to the realisation that the Igala’s, with their prolonged rule and dominance, are on the verge of consigning the people of Okun Land to extinction and it was time to return to the status quo ante. Kutepa exemplifies a unifying factor that can solidify the conglomeration of diverse minority tribes in the state.”

“Kutepa does not belong to any of the three majority ethnic groups. He was born in Lokoja, in the minority axis of Kogi West; he had his origin in Bassa, another core-minority group in Kogi East. He speaks Yoruba fluently. As a core minority, he cultivated the new spirit of bonding among the minorities, which is what has been lacking in their quest for power shift. He is also a bridge across all the barriers, so he has no reason not to be fair to all. His performance in the January primary, when he needed just a few votes to make history was the therapy the so-called minorities needed to regain their voice. With one voice, elders from West and Central bonded under the auspices of Equity and Peace Contact Group (EPCG) and picked Kutepa as the consensus candidate of the two zones. It was the first of its kind since 1991 when the Okun (Yoruba), alongside Lokoja/Kogi and Ebira was excised from the old Kwara State and merged with the Igala/Bassa from old Benue State to form the present day Kogi State.
“This partly explains why somebody is afraid of a fresh primary election, without which PDP will be walking a tight rope into the general election. Don’t forget that the resultant effects of the refusal to entrench internal democracy in the PDP in January led to the lost of Mopa-Muro, Yagba West/East and Ijumu State Constituencies and Yagba and Lokoja/Kotonkarfe Federal   Constituencies to the opposition during the April poll...”

Secretary General of Okun Youth Initiative (OYI), Comrade Jude Ogunjobi, added: “Another important issue is that the outcome of the previous primary, which some quarters are clamoring that should be made sacrosanct, was vehemently protested by practically all aspirants in the race, hence, the need for the parties involved to allow a level playing ground for all aspirants to Lugard House, PDP in particular. It would be better for the PDP and those in the saddle to do a little introspection and save the party from themselves.”

Another group, the Coalition of Okun and Ebira Youths (COEY), while adopting Kutepa as their consensus candidate shortly after its members conferred with the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, said they came to a conclusion that it was time for the Igala’s in Kogi East to allow other senatorial districts to taste power after ruling the state from creation in 1991.
COEY spokesman, Comrade Alex Babalola Omojarabi, described the current moves by Igala aspirants to succeed their kinsman, and outgoing Idris, as “insensitive and a disrespect for the feelings and aspirations of their compatriots in the West of the Niger ”.

He added, “PDP, ACN or CPC is not a religion. But Power shift to us is a religion. We don’t mind sponsoring our candidate in another party should the PDP shut their doors against power shift. We are not politicians but a group of like minds out to advance equity and justice in the power sharing formula among the component units of Kogi State in the best interest of the hallowed unity of her people.”

“The multi-ethnic nature of Kogi State has more advantages than disadvantages, if only we can bring our various qualities together to build a great state. That is why we are here saying Kutepa, with his minority disposition stands as a bridge to bring all our people together. It is about mutual confidence; it is about seeing power as a tool for equitable development, unity and progress, good leadership and not where one comes from. Poverty in Okunland does not have a different colour from poverty across various sections of the state. We are trying to build a state, where the birthplace of anyone, should not debar them from aspiring to any position, unless they were incapable.”
“After wide consultations and studying the mood of the state, we came to the irresistible conclusion that the Igala people have had enough of power, having ruled the state from inception in 1991. They are our brothers, we are not fighting them, we only felt that they should allow other parts of the state to also taste power because the state belongs to all of us. We also feel that the issue of governance has to be addressed because Kogi State has been coming last in everything in Nigeria be it development, economy, sports or culture under the prolonged Igala leaderships. Our roads, for example, in Kogi West are death traps and haven for armed robbers and rapists. So what we are saying is let another tribe taste power. And we are going about it democratically, under free and fair processes.”

The need for the PDP to put its house in order is even heightened by the gradual build-up of the opposition parties. Audu of recent led a merger of ANPP with the ACN, on whose platform he is now running. His calculation is obviously that if the PDP does not allow power shift, he being an Igala man would slug it out with any of his Igala kinsman from the East Senatorial District and capitalise on the disaffection that would have been created in the West and Central Senatorial Districts. He has only one term of four years to spend in office having ruled the state between 2003 and 2007. The mainstay of his campaign has been that, though he is an Igala, if the minorities vote him for, he would be the last Igala ruler and would handover to someone either from the West or Central Senatorial District in four years time.

Mr Baba, the state Commissioner for Information, however assured that Idris would not do anything outside the precepts of the national guidelines of the PDP, saying, “My principal is a beneficiary of the Appeal Court judgment, which elongated his tenure, so I assume that there was no vacancy at the time of the January primary, therefore there must be fresh primaries. - Nigerian news, political news, politicians, naija, Nigeria, West Africa

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Updated 8 Years ago

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