By Demola Olarewaju
Kogi is in the news these days because of the forthcoming elections – the first since the PDP suffered what Bode George calls ‘a bloody nose’ from the APC in the presidential elections. A defeat in Kogi would surely mean more than a bloody nose like BG euphemistically called it but it will in no way signal the end of PDP as a political party in Nigeria. I for one had looked forward to further defeats for the PDP in coming elections mainly because to me, the party keeps acting as if it is merely on electoral vacation and the APC will dutifully hand over power at the Federal level back to it in 2019. Elders like Chief Bode George with his ‘just a bloody nose’ commentary are guilty of this reluctance to reform but that is a matter for another day.
APC’s choice of Abubakar Audu as its gubernatorial candidate however jolted me back into party loyalty: PDP may have a lifeline here and despite the choice of Hon. James Faleke as his running mate, the PDP still has a fighting chance in Kogi. When against social media consensus I felt PDP was wrong to have supported Bukola Saraki to become the Senate President, I had Kogi in mind. Saraki as Senate President would fight tooth and nail to ensure that APC snatches Kogi from PDP and ensure that the entire North-Central is in the hands of the APC. If PDP hopes to break APC’s northern solidarity, the North-Central is a good place to start but those permutations now look dim.
Regardless of the bleak situation I just painted and as I earlier pointed out, Audu’s choice may be to PDP’s advantage. Audu is from the majority Igala stock, just like incumbent governor Idris Wada and Jibrin Isah Echocho – the latter two are set to slug it out at the gubernatorial primaries later today and while hoping the most popular candidate (not always the best in a democracy) wins, I think it will be politically disastrous for PDP to sacrifice an incumbent for any other candidate.
In 2003 Anambra state, Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s performance was not only woeful but dangerous: the NBA chairman of Anambra Barnabas Igwe and his wife were murdered in cold blood with three out of every five fingers pointing at His Excellency. Odera as he was fondly called (Anambra politicians love nicknames) was not granted the gubernatorial ticket of his party PDP and he consequently defected to the Alliance for Democracy. PDP lost Anambra and apart from Andy Uba’s short stint before being ousted by the court, PDP has never come near that seat of power again.
There are mainly two approaches to politics and I play both well at different times. The first is an ideal approach of letting things be as we wish while the second is the realistic approach of ‘what is’. An example may be that one wishes politics would be less about which tribe someone comes from or what religion they practice but to hold on to this in a reality that is largely tribalistic and religious is foolish; so, I speak here not for ideals but for reality. Seeing PDP has a fighting chance in Kogi against Abubakar Audu, I cannot imagine how Echocho would come up against him. Audu’s reputation as governor was considered very arrogant, especially to the Okun and the Ebiras but his financial war chest is one that Echocho can only match with the full backing of billionaire businessman Jide Omokore. Omokore however has one foot already in the APC camp and may either play both sides or simply withdraw support from Echocho and give full backing to Audu.
With Kogi West (Okun) and Kogi Central (Ebira) most likely out of contention save for Labour Party’s Dr. Phillip Salawu and Banjo Amoto Moses (PDP aspirant) from Kogi Central, the Igalas will likely field candidates against each other but may depend on swing votes from outside Kogi East for victory. Even if Wada and Audu are evenly matched in Kogi East, Kogi Central (which gave President Buhari his highest votes from the three senatorial districts) may be more crucial to the eventual winner. James Faleke is from Kogi West while Senator Smart Adeyemi who is a staunch Echocho supporter may affect Wada’s chances in the zone but Wada’s power of incumbency and name recognition still put him ahead of Echocho in any permutation.
If the argument is that PDP cannot sell Wada to the electorate, how will Echocho divorce himself from Wada of PDP’s successes or failures? I know for sure that Kogi state has largely remained unchanged after many years of inception but Wada has managed to record a number of successes and won confidence from other zones in the state outside his own Igala. Audu’s main argument against Echocho would be inexperience – one thing he cannot accuse Wada of. Furthermore, if Echocho loses the ticket to Wada and defects, the effect on PDP will not be as calamitous as if Wada loses the ticket and decides to remain in the party but stays aloof.
Of course the silliness playing out on social media over both PDP candidates is very disappointing and immature – if Echocho or Wada or even Amoto emerges today, anyone who claims loyalty to PDP should support whoever emerges even if it looks like they will not win. My more ideological friends are firmly behind Echocho which appeals to my ideals. Realistically though, Wada has the best chance of winning for PDP, not Echocho. Both sides must however drop this idea of ‘if my candidate doesn’t emerge, PDP will lose Kogi’. For me and some others, PDP lost Kogi on March 28 when APC swept the polls and also again in June when Bukola Saraki emerged as Senate President. If PDP will, however, have a fighting chance or hope, sticking with the incumbent Capt. Idris Wada is its best bet but all efforts must be made to ensure that Echocho does not leave the party when Wada picks the ticket.
OFF THE CUFF
- Governor Al-Makura’s road recklessness is an issue that goes beyond party politics and calls attention to the arrogance of leadership. The National Human Rights Commission says it’s looking into the matter and we will wait for the outcome.
Have a great week, no matter what.