For better or for worse, the reality is getting more glaring as Kogi State gubernatorial election draws nearer.
For the first time since the creation of the state, the Igala political fortune seems to be threatened by numerous factors which have come to define the forthcoming election in the state.
The renewal of ethno-political realignment in the state coupled with the abysmal performance of the current Wada administration amongst other factors, have combined to send strong signal that the fortune of Igala political dynasty cum hegemony is under threaten.
The Buhari Factor
It is a truism that politics and election in kogi state has always been characterized by acrimony, manipulation and impunity. Available facts show that the state is severely hit by the 16 years of PDP mis-governance despite the availability of huge human and material resources. The reason for this undesirable experience in the state is not far-fetched. Perpetual bad leadership that evolves from fraudulent elections in the past and ethnic struggle have been identified as the major factors for this mess.
Even with the state’s proximity to the federal capital territory, Abuja, being one of the closest, it seems almost perpetually backward in terms of development.
This is against the backdrop of the reality that the state ought to benefit from its closeness to the federal government by enjoying rapid economic development, but unfortunately, the reverse has been the case.
Indeed, the government at the center had always sought to influence the elections of top political office holders in the state without recourse to imbalance in the political structure and bad governance. This has been the case since 2003 until the recent political development that even changed the structure at the center.
Before then, the federal government has always influenced the state politics as evident in the 2012 political activities, which led to the former governor of the state, Ibrahim Idris turning power over to Idris Ichala Wada as governor.
But, with President Muhammadu Buhari at the center, the hitherto existing culture of political rascality, election manipulation, injustice and impunity in the state are likely to take flight. It is therefore, generally agreed that the forthcoming election in the state would serve as a litmus test for the President Buhari/APC change mantra. If the Buhari factor finds expression in state’s election, even as governor Idris Wada recently admitted that the APC Presidency could influence the way the pendulum would swing, the future of the current regime is indeed bleak.
Governor Wada’s Abysmal Performance
And of course, there is no way the current clamour for change in the state can easily be subdued in the forthcoming election as it may turn out to be a replication of the just concluded presidential election. As a matter of fact, it is safe to infer that just like former President Goodluck Jonathan, governor Wada appeared not to have prepared for the governance, save for the usual political manipulations by politicians from the eastern senatorial district. For that reason, Wada turned out to be a clueless governor who, since he assumed office in 2012 after surviving several court cases, has been churning out policies and programmes that are anti-people: the worst among the 36 states of the federation. There has been no visible development in the state rather, he continued to drag the state down the pit of poverty, misery, infrastructural decay, debt accumulation, corruption, political instability and general loss of morality. Instead of addressing the decade old institutionalized oppression, subjugation of certain sections of the state by evolving an equitable and inclusive developmental master plan for the state, he decided to put in place the existing status quo by appropriating all the most important appointive positions to his ethnic/political dynasty and awarding several contracts to the people from his district.
It bares repeating that about four years after he became the governor, the state has remained in deep mess even as civil servants are being starved to death; major roads in and across the state, including the state capital, are in deplorable conditions; no drinkable water. There are, in addition, high rate of unemployment, crimes and perpetual state of insecurity amongst others.
To cover up his four years administrative misfortune, the governor recently initiated another deceitful campaign for his re-election bid. A few months to election with several debt burdens, he recently awarded a multi million naira road project in his eastern senatorial district and promised to award same in other two senatorial districts in due course. This has proven his disdain for other parts of the state and represents one out of other notable failure of his administration. And this would contribute in no small measure to send him and his PDP out of the Lugard House come November.
It is obvious that PDP politicians specialise in monetized politics, which they call “stomach infrastructure” even as they lack internal democracy or democratic ethics. They have been out manipulating the party’s primary to secure Wada/Awoniyi ticket but that indeed has already guaranteed their humiliating defeat at polls by a credible candidate that may eventually emerge from a free and fair convention of the opposition APC.
Ethno-Political re-alignment in the State
It has been acknowledged that there has been institutionalized oppression, subjugation and marginalization of Central and West senatorial districts by Igala ethnic group since the state was created. This is despite the recent review which showed that the Igala alone used to corner about 90% of the state’s revenue while they contribute less than 10% to the state internal generated revenue.
Because of this glaring cheating, high ranking professionals, academics, civil servants, politicians and civil society organizations came together from the two oppressed and subjugated sections to form a coalition, tagged Kogi Central And West Peace Forum, for Equity and Justice, with a view to fight for justice, equity, transparent and good governance.
As a matter of fact, just like the political merger in recently concluded general elections, several attempts in the past to form a vibrant front to confront the perceived ethnic hegemonistic posture of eastern senatorial district had failed. But the recent re-alignment appears to be more realistic and may eventually yield useful result. Unlike the previous ones, the current coalition is made up of people with high and outstanding pedigree that cut across all fields of human endeavours. Among them are Professors, Doctors, veteran media managers, retired military generals, high ranking politicians and elder statesmen.
In its recent statement, the Forum vowed to resist any attempt by the two major political parties (APC and PDP) in the state to field candidates from the eastern senatorial district. It added that if such thing happened, the group would have no option than to float a new party that would be supported by the two marginalized sections of the state to fight for their right. The group however advised the two major political parties to beam their searchlight for credible candidates from the central or west senatorial districts.
The efforts of this group thus far, if sustained without sentiment, would go a long way in providing a viable ground for emergence of credible candidates from the two opposing parties (APC and PDP) and in the end, the conduct of a violence free election in the state.
The search for credible candidate amongst APC
Indeed, Buhari victory in recent presidential election has thought a lesson on the importance of fielding credible candidates for election in a competitive electoral process. It showed that having in place a vibrant political party with well articulated party programs are not enough for the party to emerge victorious. Fielding of credible candidates that are accepted by majority of the masses has always turned out to be the magic.
Even though PDP has been searching in vain to locate the sources of its unfortunate defeat at the just concluded elections, political observers and analysts have attributed the political tsunami that nearly annihilate the largest political party in Africa to lack of credible candidates and or lack of internal democracy. Fielding credible candidates therefore, remains the best criteria for any party to emerge victorious in a segmented society with competitive electoral politics.
And, as APC has cleared all the 27 candidates aspiring for the party’s governorship flag, the need for the party to provide a level playing ground for all the candidates and ensure that a free and fair primary is conducted became indispensable.
The dark spots on Audu’s political influence in the state and the question of his credibility
The political merger of the defunct four political parties that saw the formation of the current APC appears to have boosted former governor Abubakar Audu’s political influence in the state. After successive merger of the parties in 2013, it was alleged that the Audu tried to hijack it for his governorship ambition in the state but later triggered intensive leadership crisis in the party. In spite of the assurances by the APC national leaders that the crisis was long resolved, it is obvious that the party is still contending with the same crisis, as Abubakar Audu continues to parade himself as the sole candidate. It is instructive however that the party national leadership has vigorously debunked his claim and described it as baseless.
However, those that have been following the political trend in the state since Abubakar Audu left office in 2003 would acknowledge the decline of his political influence. The Prince was first thrown into political wilderness when his successor (political rival), Ibrahim Idris, accused him of financial misappropriation during his stewardship and was eventually arrested and humiliated by EFCC. Since then, he has been battling to regain his lost position but has been outrightly rejected at the polls thrice by the three senatorial districts with distinct reasons.
The political gladiators from his eastern senatorial district where his political rival, Ibrahim Idris who humiliated him also hailed from, has been, and still see him as a threat to their political fortune in the state and afraid of his possible revenge if he manages to regain power. Hence, they are working hard to frustrate his governorship ambition.
This is even as the central senatorial district, which would always remember Audu’s ethno-centric tendencies during his stewardship, will rather prefer Idris Wada to him. The later is generally perceived in the central part of the state as a betrayal of trust as well as the architect of the current lopsided political structure in the state.
And, the western senatorial district also has its own grouses against Audu’s leadership style which they still characterized as being spendthrift, ostentatious and high degree of ethno-centric tendencies among other factors.
However, though Audu is occupying a prime position in the state opposition APC as leader and chieftain of the party but the above numerous dark spots on his personality raise a big credibility question mark on his democratic credential which may eventually foreclose his re-election bid at the forthcoming party’s primary. It is noteworthy therefore that, if his party leaders turn blind eyes to the above facts and allowed him to emerge through fraudulent mean then, they should prepare for their outright defeat by other party. And if by such act of commission, the PDP that has been rejected in almost 19 northern states wins the election, it would be a shame on APC. It may affect its success at the center in the future polls.
Those factors enumerated herein are a few that have created a module of tough decisions that currently confront the Igala political godfathers and for the first time, threaten the decade old political hegemony in the state.
As we anxiously await the major political parties’ primaries, whose outcomes would give more insight on the political direction of the state, the pendulum in the governance of the state is expected to swing to the party that does it right this time.
Deen Adavize, is a Political analyst and ICT expert. He writes from Umuahia, Abia State.