Group Politics Editor, FRANCIS AGBO writes on last Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State and how the battle was won and lost.
The victory of Retired Captain Idris Wada in last Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State was expected. The standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was indeed the anointed one promoted by the incumbent governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. Not because he is the best or the most experienced of the lot but observers believe Wada won because of the formidable PDP platform on which he rode to victory. But his emergence was not devoid of high-wire politics. Wada is seen by many in Dekina Local Government Area where he hails from as a supplanter having replaced Alhaji Jibrin Isa (aka Echocho) as flag-bearer. Echocho enlisted the support of Senate President David Mark but failed to make Idris have a change of mind.
Echocho’s sin was that he is perceived to be too close to Prince Abubakar Audu, Idris’ sworn enemy. Idris’ supporters also alleged that Echocho was planning to probe Idris if he eventually won the elections. He is currently at the Federal High Court, Abuja challenging Wada’s emergence. He wants the court to recognise him as the authentic candidate of the party having won the party’s primary election in January this year. Echocho and the opposition did all they could to stop Wada but failed woefully.
In fact, the media were awash with advertorials giving Wada away as a man that is mentally deranged and unfit to govern Kogi. But Wada was simply unstoppable.
The governor- elect told Leadership that he was attracted to the race by the Transformation Agenda of the federal government.
Prof Shamsudeen Amali, the returning officer for the election presented the results yesterday in Lokoja at the collation centre amid tight security. He said Wada polled 300,372 votes to floor his closest rival, Prince Abubakar Audu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who had 159,913 votes. The scores show a difference of 140, 459 votes between the PDP that came first and second- placed ACN. Elder Ubolo Okpanachi of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) scored 9,642 votes to clinch the third position while his Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) c, Chief James Ocholi nicked 5,724 votes. In all, 19 political parties fielded candidates for the election. Amali who is the current Vice Chancellor of Nasarawa State University, Keffi disclosed that 484,160 valid votes were cast during the election while 34,781 were invalids. He said 1,325,272 voters were registered in the state. The returning officer commended the people of the state for their maturity which according to him led to the peaceful conduct of the exercise.
Meanwhile Wada has expressed gratitude to God Almighty for emerging victorious in the keenly contested contest. While congratulating other contestants for putting up a good fight, he enjoined them to join hands with him to move the state forward. He promised to lay emphasis on agriculture, education and tourism.
Mark was the first prominent Nigerian to congratulate Wada for what he described as a well deserved victory but urged him to embark on proper reconciliation. ‘‘Your election is a manifestation of the peoples acceptance of the party and your candidature. It is therefore incumbent on you to bring everybody on board …’’ Mark said. The Senate President however enjoined losers to accept the outcome of the election. The PDP also congratulated the governor-elect.
But the chief strategist to Prince Audu, Hon. Dino Melaye disagreed with the No 3 citizen. He accused INEC of conniving with PDP to issue duplicate result sheets, with same serial numbers which were entered in all the local government areas of the state.
He pointed out that the result announced by the electoral umpire was never the true reflection of the wishes of the people of the state, majority of whom he stressed voted for Audu because ‘‘they wanted a change.’’ He assured that his boss will seek redress in the court.
Melaye posed: ‘‘I floored the director general of Wada’s campaign organisation, Prince Olusola Akanmode and General David Jemibewon in their enclaves. So how did the ruling party win the election in the same place?
However, the special adviser to Governor Idris on Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Adamu Zakari told LEADERSHIP in an interview that the victory of Wada was expected.
He attributed the success of the party to the unprecedented achievements of his boss in the past eight years.
Why The Opposition Lost
Fresh facts have emerged as to why the opposition lost the Kogi elections. The PDP has a deep wallet with the incumbent giving a matching order to all government functionaries to deliver their polling units to Wada. Lokoja residents say the governor rushed some of his projects in the headquarters as a strategy to sell the candidature of Wada to them. Some of the projects were strategically commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan few days before the elections.
On election day, PDP polling agents were allegedly paid N50, 000 while the highest the ACN could muster was between the range of N10, 000 and N15,000. The CPC and ANPP paid their agents between N2, 000 and N5,000. One of the agents told Leadership that the PDP were well motivated to protect their votes and such was not the case with many agents of the opposition parties. In fact some of the opposition parties could not afford to pay their agents. What appeared to be the icing on the cake for PDP was the materials and money the party shared to the electorate a day before election. A source said the money did a lot of magic for the ruling party because ‘‘many people are poor and they needed the cash to survive and to survive meant that they must vote for PDP.’’
Aside financial constraint, Leadership gathered that the opposition lost because it failed to forge a common political ground. The opposition went into the polls with its rank broken. ‘‘If the CPC, ANPP, PPA and the others parties that went to the poll had queued behind Audu for example, the story would have been different,’’ an angry ACN youth leader said.
The influence of the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan can not be insulated from the success of the party. Jonathan reportedly reconciled Wada with prominent members of the party like General Tunde Ogbeya and Senator Smart Adeyemi. Though Echocho had asked his supporters to support Audu but unknown to him, the arrow had already left the bow.
Leadership learnt that the national leader of ACN, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and ACN governors funded Audu’s election. Tinubu worked very hard to deliver Audu by personally traversing round Kogi to meet with opinion leaders and chiefs on the need to return Audu to Lugard House he vacated in 2003 but was overpowered by the PDP arsenal. One other crucial factor that worked against Audu was that many see him as old win in a new bottle. Not a few persons expected him to mentor a younger person to take over the leadership of the opposition from him. Those who belong to this school of thought say he should have borrowed a leaf from Chief Segun Osoba who was governor at the same time with Audu but groomed the incumbent governor of Ogun State, Chief Ibukunle Amosun.