The many of opponents of governor idris wada By AvantGarde
In the lead-up to the November 21, 2015 gubernatorial election in Kogi State, it is a matter of not a little irony that the greatest opponent of the incumbent Governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada is himself! Type the Governor’s name in a Google search bar and the suggested results are invariably ”Gov Idris Wada’s health”, Gov Idris state of health”, ”Wada’s mental health” and so on. It does not take any political observer much to surmise that Governor Idris Wada’s health is a political sword of Damocles dangling over his re-election bid. Wittingly or unwittingly, Governor Wada by his continued silence over the true state of his health has succeeded in supplying the much needed ammunition to his political opponents and traducers.
In our peculiar political system where the affairs of governments are oft cloaked in secrecy, rumour-mongering has become the primary source of information for the public, and this is where Governor Wada has played into the hands of his opponents. Ever since his controversial emergence as the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] gubernatorial candidate in the December 2011 election, rumours has been swirling over the state of his health with some particularly harsh critics going as far as saying the Governor had spent time in a mental institution! Recently, some PDP stakeholders from Kogi State under the aegis of ‘PDP Concerned Group’ petitioned the Party urging it not to field Governor Idris Wada as the Party’s candidate in the November 21 poll. Their reason was Governor Wada’s suspect mental health. Many analysts in Kogi State posit that the failure of the Governor’s media machinery to put paid to this rumours by coming clean on the Governor’s true physical and mental condition right from inception has now led to it constituting the single biggest obstacle to his second term ambition.
Another daunting opponent standing between Governor Idris Wada and re-election is his perceived non-performance. In almost all indices of social, economic and infrastructural development, Kogi State occupies the base position among the comity of States in the Nigerian Federation. Although this is not wholly a fault of the Wada administration alone, but a cumulative effect of the series of insipid political leadership that has characterized the State since its creation by the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime in 1991; critics of the Wada Administration nevertheless hold this against him and his re -election bid. Kogi State under Governor Wada according to some analysts has experienced negative development with nothing to show despite the huge sums received monthly from the Federation Account and the State’s share in oil ‘windfalls’ courtesy of the Excess Crude Account (ECA)
Under Governor Idris Wada, the State has earned in the past 3 years (2012-2014) the sum of N240billion as revenues from both the Federation Account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Despite this huge sum, Kogi state continues to wallow in underdevelopment even as Governor Idris Wada admitted recently in Dekina during a UN-Habitat Consultative Meeting that Kogi State needs about N210billion for its overall development. In defence of the Wada administration, it is noteworthy that out of the N80billion monthly revenue accruing to the state, 80-90% of this figure is used for recurrent expenditure. The remaining N5billion or less is but a drop in ocean when it comes to developing Kogi State.
For an Administration that rank among its flagship achievement the construction of over 700km of road networks throughout Kogi State, critics are quick to point out the dilapidated and pot-hole ridden state of majority of roads in the State as evidence that this ‘achievement’ only exists in the bogus imagination of the Governor’s media spin-masters. Also, the 20,000-hectares Pilot Rice Farm initiated by the Wada Administration as part of its strategies to make Kogi State a net exporter of rice and engender agricultural self-reliance is dismissed by Wada’s critics as cosmetic at best. The increase in Kogi State Internally Generated Revenue from N200million monthly in 2011 to about N500million presently, achieved through the administration’s reorganization of the State’s Board of Internal Revenue; does not seem enough for critics of Wada’s government who claim that Kogi State that has the Ajaokuta Steel Company, Ajaokuta, National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe; and the Obajana Cement Company, Obajana should under a more prudent fiscal leadership, be able to generate twice this amount as monthly IGR.
Captain Idris Wada’s failure to use his administration to address the widely-held notion of an ‘Igala Agenda’ of domination especially in the Kogi State Civil Service is another hurdle standing in his way as he bids to return to the Lugard House. Kogi State is divided into three senatorial districts. Kogi East is the most populous comprising the Igalas, Bassa, and other ethnic minorities. Kogi West comprises the Okuns, Oworo, Nupe and Ebira-Koto amongst others. Kogi Central is the last senatorial district and comprises Ebira-Okene, Ajaokuta and Ogori-Magongo. Since the creation of the State, political power has been the exclusive preserve of the Igalas of Kogi East, where the incumbent Governor hails from. Out of a workforce of about 18, 650 in the State Civil Service, Kogi East accounts for 10, 393; following at a distant second is Kogi West with 4,977 while Kogi Central is at the rear with a paltry 3,280. From the foregoing, it is clear that Kogi East has a clear advantage over the two other districts combined. According to critics of the Wada administration, the Governor instead of taking proactive measures to address this imbalance in the State Civil Service composition has rather exacerbated the situation by placing an embargo on recruitment thereby sustaining the status quo. The Wada Administration has been accused of failing to run a fair, just and equitable government where no part of Kogi State has an undue advantage over the other. Incontrovertible facts on the ground tend to support this claim: of the 32 Permanent Secretaries in the State, 75% are from Captain Wada’s Kogi East, with Kogi West and Central sharing the remaining 12.5% respectively. Appointments into the State Executive Council, Boards and Agencies have followed the same pattern. This perceived marginalization of Kogi West and Central districts is the main reason for the now deafening calls for ‘power shift’ in the State in the countdown to the November 21 election.
In the distribution of projects, the Wada-led government faces another stiff opponent as accusation of bias once again rears its head. According to statistics released by the Wada Administration itself, Kogi State government have so far spent a total sum of N64.5billion on the construction of 747.6 Kilometers of roads in the three districts in the past three years. A breakdown of this amount shows that Kogi East accounted for N39.3billion, Kogi West N21.9billion, and Kogi Central with N3.3billion. As usual, Kogi East accounts for the lion share in terms of kilometers of road constructed, with the two remaining districts picking up the crumbs. This has been the pattern of projects distribution in the Wada administration, according to his critics.
Allegations of financial recklessness and outright corruption have also been leveled against the Wada Administration. The Governor has been accused by his critics of allowing widespread corruption to thrive in the State by providing cover for officials of his administration engaged in corrupt practices. A particular case was the 2012 flood disaster that affected some states in Nigeria, including Kogi State; which resulted in the loss of lives and properties running into billions of Naira. In a rare instance of prompt response to natural disaster, the Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Flood Relief Fund to alleviate and cushion the effects for the victims in Kogi and other flood-hit States in the Country. Critics accused the Wada Administration of embezzling the State’s share of the flood relief package to the exclusion of the actual victims of the flood disaster. While officials of the State government pocketed huge amounts from the Flood Relief Fund, the victims were paid paltry sums as compensation, as low as N3000 in some cases.
The Administration’s management of the State and Local Governments Joint Account is another instance of officially sanctioned corruption and financial profligacy that Governor Wada’s critics are wont to point gleefully at. They allege that under the directives of the Governor, numerous illegal deductions and withdrawals are made from the State’s Joint Account to the extent that most of the 21 Local Government Councils are currently unable to meet their financial obligations, especially in the payment of staff salaries. They also allege that Governor Idris Wada placed his henchmen as Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) in the Local Councils to supervise and perpetuate the unwholesome financial practices. For the past year and a half now, those Local Government Councils that are able to pay staff salaries from their severely reduced monthly allocations can only pay percentages (between 30-60%) of salaries to their staff. these are the lucky ones. Some Local Government Councils owe salary arrears upward of 7-8 months.
Finally, the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 28 Presidential election which signaled the end of the PDP’s 16-year stranglehold on power in Nigeria, has in more ways than one tilted the electoral balance in favour of Governor Wada’s opponents in the APC and other political parties. With the absence of the PDP at the helms of the Federal Government, the traditional political leverages hitherto available to it during elections has been severely crippled, if not totally removed. In fact, Governor Idris Wada is fighting the battle of his political life in order to secure his party’s ticket for the November 21 Poll. Whereas in the lead-up to the 2011 gubernatorial election he had the backing of his predecessor and brother -in-law, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris; as well as the well oiled machinery and influence of a then PDP-controlled Federal Government at his disposal, Captain Idris Wada will be going into the PDP State Primaries in August 2015 with not but a little trepidation at the prospect of failing to even cross the first hurdle of clinching his party’s governorship ticket.
AvantGarde is a Political Relationship Management and Public Affairs Analysis Firm in Abuja. Follow on Twitter @dinstots