By Wale Ibrahim in Lokoja
Now that Kogi East Senatorial District with the major ethnic group (Igala) in Kogi State is without a major position in both the state and federal levels, the 2019 Kogi governorship election may have become animated as an ethnic affair. If the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) settle for Governor Yahaya Bello, an Igbira man, as it is turning out to be, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may eventually go for a candidate from Kogi East (Igala land).
The key offices and its distribution weighs heavily against the Igala, the majority ethnic group in the state, at the moment. For instance, the Chief Justice of the State, Nasir Ajanah, is from Kogi Central. The Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Mr. Matthew Kolawole, is from Kogi West. Governor Bello is from Kogi Central, while the Minister from Kogi State, Mrs Ramatu Tijjani, is from Kogi West. There is no one from Kogi East occupying any of those positions.
As it stands, any party that fields a candidate from Kogi East (Igala land) may have edge at the poll. According to a reliable source, as a result, the PDP has already resolved to choose an Igala as candidate for the governorship election.
The APC is well aware of the numerical strength of Kogi East and may do the same. Giving Yahaya Bello the ticket may spell doom for the party and it is not a risk the party is willing to take. While Bello is from a minority ethnic group, his performance in office has not helped matters.
A political analyst from Kogi, Enejo Shuaibu, said, “Bello did not do well in his first term. The issue of owing salaries and making the state uncomfortable for anyone who opposes him are his major obstacles. Just take a look at what he is doing to his deputy, Simon Achuba.
“As I speak with you, there are many people in Bello’s camp working against him getting the party’s ticket. They have decided to put the party ahead of Bello. It is very simple. If Bello’s manages to emerge as APC candidate, PDP will win Kogi State,” he said.
Some of the major aspirants from Igala land were not cleared to contest. Namely: A former Chief of Naval Staff, Usam Jibrin and Mohammed Audu, son of Prince Abubakar Audu.
This report takes a look at the strength and weaknesses of the major contenders from Igala land in the APC who want to replace Bello.
Sani Lulu is a former chairman of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). This is the first time he is aspiring to be governor. He has friends in the presidency and it is also believed in many quarters that he is the candidate of Kaduna State governor Mallam Nasir el’Rufai. His major problem is that he has no structure in the state.
Another problem for him is that in 2010, after he was impeached as the NFF chairman, Lulu was invited by the EFCC for fraud of N1.3 billion. Although he won the case at the appeal court, those who know President Muhammadu Buhari very well say he would not support anyone who has been associated with EFCC in the past.
Yahaya Audu’s major strength is that the late Prince Abubakar Audu was his brother. It would be recalled that when Audu died in 2015 during the governorship election, some stakeholders of the party, based on sympathy were of the view that Mohammed Audu should replace his father as the APC candidate.
Audu’s brother is hoping that the same sentiment plays out again. Apart from being the brother of the late politician, he does not boast of any other notable credential.
Yakubu Mohammed is a founder of Newswatch Magazine and a former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was also the national editor of MKO Abiola’s Concord Newspaper in the early 80’s.
He was one of the pillars behind the creation of Kogi State in 1991.
Mohammed’s advantage is that unlike the other aspirants, he has been a card carrying member of the All Progressives Congress, APC since it was formed in 2013 and he contested in the 2015 primary election of the party.
President Muhammadu Buhari won Kogi for this first time in 2015 and Yakubu Mohammed was one of those who made it possible. He also boasts of a clean track record.
His fan-base goes beyond Kogi East, as he has supporters in Kogi West and Kogi Central. If given the ticket, it would be a problem for PDP.
His main challenge is that he is not as financially buoyant as other contestants. However, some analysts believe that it would not be a problem if he has people to sponsor him.
It would be recalled that the first time the party at the centre (PDP) handed the governorship ticket to aspirant from a minority ethnic group in Kogi State in 1999, it lost to All Nigeria’s Peoples Party ANPP with Prince Abubakar Audu as candidate mainly because he was from Igala land. PDP was able to defeat Audu in 2003 by fielding Ibrahim Idris from Igala land.