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Kogi 2011: Who holds the ace?
As the clock ticks towards 2011 elections, politicians in Kogi State are oiling their machineries to kick-start the race for the forthcoming elections. Johnson Babajide analyses the forces and faces that are likely to shape the politics of the state in 2011.
The race for 2011 elections has begun in the Kogi State, as aspirants to elective offices have gone beyond consultations and have presented their letters of intent to their respective party secretariats. Posters of various kinds and colours have dotted the major streets of both villages and towns across the state.
It is equally interesting to note that many aspirants have their posters pasted on trees along the highways, a situation which indicates that not only the residents of the state are being informed of their political aspirations, but also motorists traversing across the state. Thus, preparations for the state elections have indeed intensified.
A trip along Lokoja-Abuja highway, Lokoja-Ankpa, Lokoja–Okene and Lokoja Kabba and other routes would surely signal to the point that political activities have begun in earnest, as every available spots in the state are dotted with posters of many politicians.
In the state, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could be said to be comfortable since there is hardly any opposition party. Almost all the political bigwigs in the state politics are now members of the ruling party, a situation some people believe to be a relief to the trouble spots of Kogi Central Senatorial District which was, in the past, predominantly the Action Congress’s (AC)’s domain.
The recent return of the strong members of the AC in the state to the the PDP rendered the opposition in the state ineffective and threw the former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, into a political oblivion.
Audu is the only strong politician in the state who has refused to pitch his tent with the ruling party. While many viewed this as a welcome development which could save the state from political upheavals in the coming general election, some people, however, frowned on its implications in governance, describing it as an invitation to a dictatorial government.
Political analysts still hold the opinion of having a peaceful election as a result of the one party system in the state. But a clergy had warned that there could be blood berth in the state, unless politicians forgo their primordial interest, but collectively work towards the general interest of the people of the state.
Prophet Babatunde Oyidi, who came from Lagos to deliver the message of God to the people of the state, a few months ago, explained that all the atrocities of Kogi politicians would be unveiled, as many desperate politicians, who had, in the past, used fellow human beings as sacrifice with the intent of actualising their political aims, would be exposed, while supporters of desperate politicians would also be at one another’s throats. Therefore, a bloody clash in the state may be inevitable. According to him, the only way this can be avertedis for these politicians to eschew political rivalry and for religious leaders to intercede.
Howbeit, there are clues already that the political terrain in the state may not be at ease during the forthcoming elections, if the brewing internal crisis in the PDP over the second term is anything to go by. In addition, the issue of power shift is another factor which would shape the politics of the state in the 2011 elections.
Two senatorial districts in the state, West and Central flanks, had, over the years, clamoured for power rotation, accusing the Kogi East Senatorial District of the political domination. But there is no clue whether the zone has accepted to concede power, despite the promise of the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris of supporting power rotation, there are no indications that the deprived zones may have the slot in the forthcoming coming election.
First, the prophet had declared that the cap he saw was not different from the usual one been worn by the Igalas on the governorship seat. People from the East Senatorial zone are already jostling for the plum seat. Already, the district has an arrangement different from the calculation of the rest of the people of the state. According to the arrangement, until power rotate among the three zones of the senatorial flanks, that is, Idah, Ankpa and Dekina, no part of the state, at least for now, could taste the state’s most exalted seat. Idah and Ankpa have already had their turns, while it is the turn of Dekina to produce the next governor.
Even if the Kogi East zone is set to relinquish power, the crisis of mistrust ravaging the political ranks of Western Senatorial zone could caused the area the plum seat, despite frantic efforts of the former military governor of old Oyo State, Major-General David Jembewon, to bring all the factional parties together.
But the West Senatorial District seems to have a bright chance of clinching the slot, if the agenda of General Jembewon is faithfully pursued as politicians from the Central zone seemed to have slowed down in the struggle for power shift, having exhaused their resources and energy in the 2007 governorship race. What is left for the West zone is to dialogue with the Central and East in order to secure the seat. But with the recent unfolding events in the state, the realisation of this dream may continue to elude the area unless there is a drastic change of attitude among Okun politicians.
Be that as it may, no fewer than 25 people, cutting across the three senatorial districts, have signified interest to succeed Governor Ibrahim Idris in 2011/2012 (the tenure case in court).
However, the state PDP chairman, Honourable Hassan Salawu, told the Nigerian Tribune that only ten governorship aspirants have, so far, submitted their letters of intent to the state party secretariat, an indication that many are still awaiting when the final whistle will be blown to kick-start their ambition.
Among these are serious-minded aspirants as well as nominal aspirants who, on the surface, declare interest through the posters in order to have a platform to bargain when the chips are down.
Chief Abiodun Ojo is a former Commissioner for Finance and presently Commissioner for Agriculture in the state.
According to information gathered, he had, since 2003, the ambition of occupying the number one seat of the state. He hails from Ijumu Local Government Area of the state. With the demise of the Kabba-born architect, Stephen Olorunfemi, Ojo has tactically assumed the political landlord of the Okun speaking area.
It was, in fact, said in some quarters that Senator Smart Adeyemi rode on his back to become a member of the Senate in 2007 and that the appointment of Chief Clarence Olafemi as the Speaker of the state House of Assembly was hatched and executed by him, while 95 per cent of political appointees in the present administration was equally facilitated by him.
Though some of his opponents claimed that he is too stingy to successfully prosecute his ambition, his close associate, Mr Ade Bada, while he debunked this allegation, explained that Ojo’s real ambition is to succeed his master and added that people misconstrued his economic wisdom for stinginess.
Chief Akanmode is the former Deputy Chief of Staff in the presidency. He also hails from Ijumu Local Government Area. He is no doubt an asset to any political party. He has an intimidating CV, which many have to struggle to equal.
He had served in the civil service and rose to become State Secretary to the Government. Prior to his defection to AC, Akanmode was a force to be reckoned with in the state politics. Those who spoke about the aspirant said that he remained a non-Igala man who could be widely accepted across the state. He was said to have touched many lives.
However, his defection became his albatross, as his opponents wasted no time to inquire which house could he have returned to, if his plan, when in AC, to tear the PDP to pieces had succeeded?
Chief Clarence Olafemi is the current Speaker of the state House of Assembly. A first class graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, he can be said to be the oldest governorship aspirant in the state, having contested for the position in the old Kwara State. But through providence, he became the acting governor of the state, when the Appeal Court in Abuja annulled the election of Governor Idris.
Olafemi, whose popularity increased as a result of his down-to-earth nature and loyalty to his party, became a household name through his appellation ‘Obembe.’ The name derives from his generous nature. He is also eyeing the governorship seat in 2011, relying on his acceptance during his days as acting governor.
Alhaji Abdulrazaq Kutepa is a philanthropist who believes in the emancipation of the masses. he has donated classrooms to many schools and a laboratory science for his alma mater. He once collaborated with the state government to bring in foreign medical personnel to Lokoja to give free medical services to the people. He is from a minority area in Kogi West Senatorial zone.
Alhaji Musa Ahmadu, the present Secretary to the State Government (SSG), has been described as a quiet and disciplined man, who abhors corruption.
Ahmadu seemed not to have departed from this line of honourand it has been said that his opponents do ask where he will get money to prosecute the 2011 governorship election in the state.
Another aspirant is the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo, who once presided over the affairs of Nigeria Bar Association, Ojo is from Kogi West, yearning to have the slot in the coming election.
If the permutations of those who believed that those who live outside the state are mostly favoured, then, the legal luminary may have a chance to clinch the ticket.
But he has to contend with the political structures of Ojo and Akanmode.
In Kogi East, many aspirants are also jostling for the plum seat. Most of these aspirants are from Dekina axis.
Among those who have signified interest included Chief Yakubu Mohammed, a successful journalist and director of Newswatch magazine.
Given his experience and exposure, the erudite journalist has what it takes to lead the state, if he clinches the seat. But he also belongs to the league of Kogites in diasporas who were always invited to serve their people.
Apart from Dekina, where he hails from, and the popularity he enjoys through his profession, he is not a force to be reckoned with in the state polity.
Also, Dr Sani Teidi was an accountant-general in the state and presently, a director at federal pension office in Abuja.
According to the information gathered, the man, who worked under Prince Audu Abubakar-led administration, may have the support of his people who benefit from his benevolence.
Also in contention is senator Nicholas Ugbane who also hails from Dekina axis. Ugbane is a serving senator who was said to have assisted many people from his area. But he will have to contend with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) case over the rural electrification project.
Senator Alex Kadir also hails from Dekina axis and had contested the governorship primary in 2003, but lost to the incumbent governor. Kadiri has the clout and political will to prosecute governorship election, but the fear in some quarters is that he may be forced to marry an Igala lady so as to have a leeway in his dream.
It would be recalled that his marriage to an Igbo lady was used against him in 2003 by his opponents who claimed not to be comfortable with a non indigene first lady.
In Kogi Central, the only visible aspirant is the deputy governor of the state, Chief Philip Salawu. He has been a loyal deputy to his principal. This attribute has sustained him, in spite of great opposition from his people.
His chances are quite slim because he is said that he could not command any support from his senatorial zone. It would also be recalled that his voter’s card was torn to pieces in his presence during the rerun governorship election in 2008.