As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries for the Kogi state governorship poll scheduled to hold on September 03, this year, draw nearer, Abdulrahman Zakariyau in this analysis takes a look at the party, its 12 aspirants’ chances and challenges.
Kogi state was carved out of Benue and Kwara states in August 1991. Since its creation, the state has had six democratically elected governors. Out of those six, the then National Republican Convention (NRC) produced one – that is the late Prince Audu Abubakar (1992 – 1993). However, with the return of democracy in 1999, Abubakar was re-elected on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) between 1999 and 2003; he was succeeded by Ibrahim Idris who was in charge of the state from 2003 to 2008. Also, Clarence Olafemi was the acting governor between February 2008 and March 2008, after the removal of Idris and his deputy and the deputy governor. Interestingly, Idris was re-elected and was the governor between March 2008 and 2011.
Interestingly, his anointed candidate, Captain Idris Wada, succeeded him serving between 2012 and 2016, when the incumbent, Governor Yahaya Bello, was divinely sworn into office. Cumulatively, the PDP has spent more time, 13 years, governing the state than any other party. Perhaps, this was why the state is usually referred to as a PDP state and why the party attracted these numbers of aspirants scrambling for the part’s ticket.
Surprisingly, in a state where millions are living in poverty and with many infrastructure deficits, over 11 male aspirants find it convenient to splash N21 million each, and making difficult for female aspirants even as one spent N1 million, all in a bid to secure the party’s ticket for the November 16 election. From these aspirants who said they paid the money to save their people, the party made N232 million.
The aspirants are senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye; a one-term governor, Captain Idris Wada, Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former governor of the state, Idris Ibrahim. Others are Bayo Averehi, Mohammed Shaibu, Dr. Victor Adoji, Bayo Agberedi, Air Vice Marshal Salia Atawodi (retd.), Dr Joseph Ameh; Grace Adejo, Abubakar Suleiman and Engr. Musa Wada.
Eleven of the aspirants are from the same Senatorial district, that is Kogi-east, the Senatorial district that always determines who governs the state. While one, Senator Dino, is the only one from Kogi-west, a politically disadvantage Senatorial district in Kogi politics.
Indirect primaries, the challenge
Historically, 12 aspirants are the highest number of aspirants that have picked the party’s forms to seek its ticket for the election, thus making the primaries a make- or-mar event for the party.
Recently, the party’s national publicity secretary, who is incidentally from Kogi state, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party’s indirect primaries “will be free, fair and credible.”
He said, “The aspirants and the delegates should conduct themselves within the rules of the party. The party will conduct clean, clear, free, fair and transparent primaries. Candidates and delegates are advised to abide by the rules of the party. We will adopt indirect primaries. Our primaries have always been indirect and delegate system. We have always used indirect system in our primary election via delegate.
“We have ad-hoc and statutory delegate-ship. That is our normal (mode of) primary and we will definitely maintain that. There is no decision to change the mode of primaries.”
However, a political analyst, Ibrahim Muhammed, in a chat with Blueprint Weekend, cautioned that what “matters most is how the primaries will be conducted and not the type.”
“PDP is known with indirect primary. This I believe is what they will use in Kogi state. But considering the number and caliber of the 12 aspirants who picked the party’s ticket what matters most is how the primary is conducted.
“If is free, fair and credible it will tell on the party’s performance. And if the primary is not credible it will also tell on the party’s performance. Therefore, it is important for the party to ensure that its primary is free, fair, credible and acceptable to all. A primary with these principles will certainly produce a credible and acceptable candidate.
“Also, everything depends on the party’s ability to manage the post-primary conflict, because with this number of aspirants certainly some will be aggrieved no matter how credible the process will be. So, PDP needs to manage it well, the party needs all of them and many more to win Kogi,” he said.
Wada, Dino, Ibrahim standing out
Of all the 12 aspirants, political analyst who is conversant with Kogi state politics insisted that former governor, Captain Idris Wada, Senator Dino Melaye and Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former governor of the state, Idris Ibrahim stand out. In other words one of them will likely clinch the party’s ticket.
According to pundits, Captain Wada as a former governor who also hails from Kogi-east that is considered an influential zone in Kogi state, stand a better chance because of the network of people he put in place while in charge. Wada argued that experience also stands him among other aspirants.
He said, “Many people who want to be governor have come out, experience is key. Kogi is right now like in quicksand, the more you wriggle out, the more you sink. So, if you bring greenhorn who has no experience, who has no proper working of Kogi state, he will spend about two years trying to find his feet. If I move into the Kogi state governor’s office today, I know where I left the state, I will study where it is and I will start driving the ship of the state right away. Because we don’t want Kogi to collapse, let us not experiment, go for the experience, go for capacity and I have demonstrated with many of the projects I did.”
Though chances are certainly bright in the race for the party’s ticket, according to political observers, winning the race is another thing considering how he allegedly underperformed during his first term.
As for Senator Dink Melaye, he his considered popular and love by Kogites, perhaps because of his constant criticism of the incumbent, Governor Yahaya Bello, who he supported to succeed.
According to Melaye, “My intention to run for Kogi state is not solely mine. It was borne out of agitation, clarion call, and passion from people of Kogi state. There may be a lot of unnecessary commentaries from people of inordinate ambition and capricious manifestations, but Dino Melaye is going to go all the hog. We are not just contesting the election, but we are going to win the primaries and eventually kick the APC out of power and recover our Kogi state by the grace of God.”
“The ambition is not but that of the people of Kogi state. There is the dire need to recover our state which has been completely battered, shattered and destroyed. Today, the magnitude and intensity of killings in Kogi state surpasses any other time in the history of our state. The insecurity in the state we have never experienced such. Unemployment is on the high side. Retrenchment, sack and non-payment of salaries and pension are now a tradition in Kogi state. The economy and the economic activities in Kogi state have completely depleted. I have heard the loud cry from the Almighty and he said who do I send and I said, send me,” he said.
Political observers have argued that no doubt Dino is popular, but winning a governorship election is another thing considering where his from. Also, many people don’t take him serious; some are of the view that his case will be worse than that of the incumbent if given the opportunity.
Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former Governor Ibrahim, also stands a chance. This is because he can always leverage on his father’s influence, after all politicians ride on somebody’s shoulders to get to power. Analysts also argued that being a son of a former governor is a blessing and also an issue that may affect his chances. On his part, Ibrahim said, “Being a child of a former governor doesn’t stop me from contesting an election because the constitution allows me to vote and be voted for. I have met the prerequisite in terms of education, being a Kogite and of age. I have all these to my kitty. I don’t need to be a former governor’s son to run for an election in Kogi State. Honestly, for those that think I am being imposed, if I would rephrase that question back to you, do I look like someone that can be imposed on people? The truth is most of the aspirants are feeling very jittery. I have not been found wanting, I have not had any issues with anyone. And nobody can concisely say that I have done this. So, my greatest crime now is being my father’s son.”
Continuing, he said, “I have always said may the best man win. It is not a do-or-die for me. If anyone happens to come and he is better than I am, so be it. All I am concerned about is having a Kogi state that works better than what it is right now. You are aware of non-payment of salaries. Kogi state is always in the front pages of some of the major dailies. Pensioners are also not being paid. There is also the issue of insecurity and unemployment. What I will do differently is that rather than engage the youths with arms, I will rather take them to the farms. I would rather encourage small-medium scale enterprise. I would rather pay my pensioners because they have worked for over 30 years in the civil service.”
Ahmadu Ali and Idris Ibrahim’s power tussle
This is another factor that will largely influence who wins the party’s ticket, how many aspirants will react after the primaries and to a large extent PDP’s chances in the November 16 election.
Ahmadu Ali, a former national chairman of the PDP, and Idris Ibrahim, a former governor, have both been in power tussle for quite a long time. The party and some leaders had made attempts to broker peace between the two, but they are still in the party like cat and rat, in a house. They both worked independently like sworn enemies. This affected the party’s chances in 2016 governorship election and during the last 2019 general elections.
Pundits are of the view that if these two fail to work together, the fall-out of the primaries election might overwhelm the party and affect its chances. After all, according to them, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
‘PDP stands a chance’
On his part, a political analyst, Jide Ojo, said the PDP with its 12 aspirants stand a chance of winning the November 16 election if its primaries are credible and the outcome is acceptable by all.
Ojo said, “The fact that PDP is having many aspirants is a good development and it shows the aspirants believe that the chances of the party on November 16, 2019, governorship election are very bright because you can’t part with N21 million which is not refundable when you are not sure that your party stands a good chance of winning. It shows that the PDP in the state is very vital and the party is hopeful that whoever they nominate at the end of the primary will stand a good chance of winning.
“Whether you have five or two hundred is about creating a level-playing field for all the aspirants. So, in as much as the party is able to conduct credible primaries, the outcome will be largely accepted. If the party does not have an anointed candidate, that they have decided to award the ticket of the party, then it should conduct a free and fair primary. What brings about fallout from party’s primaries because many of the aspirants, oftentimes, do not believe in the credibility of the primaries? So, to avoid crisis after the primaries, the party must not be perceived to have an anointed aspirant, must create a level-playing field to carry everyone along. The party should accord all aspirants of participating democracy by ensuring that the process and the outcome of the primaries are legitimate, credible. What happened in the other party in Zamfara and Rivers states was as a result of non-compliance with the legal provisions. So, if PDP ensures that every one of the aspirants is given equal opportunity to participate, then there will be no post-primary conflict.
“The party stands a better chance in the November 16 governorship election, anything can happen. People can engage in protest votes, there could be crisis within the ruling party which may lead to protest vote in favor of PDP. So, the ability of these politicians to take risk is proportional to their chances of winning.”