No fewer than 20 senatorial aspirants from the three senatorial districts of Kogi State have already picked their intent and nomination forms to contest for elections into the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). Other parties particularly the All Progressives Congress are also warming up to pick their candidates but PDP has a pre-eminent place in the state; it controls the governorship, the three senatorial seats and most of the House of Representatives slots. The political landscape in Kogi, which had been very silent for some time now, is gradually becoming charged as political gladiators, stakeholders as well as their footsoldiers have gone to work to strategize for the battle ahead in the three senatorial districts in the state. BAYO OYEWALE in Lokoja gives a low-down on the situation in each of the three districts…
In Kogi West, those eyeing the senatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party are the incumbent senator and former Nigeria Union of Journalists president Smart Adeyemi, former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman of Kogi State Security Fund, Hon. Tolorunju Joseph Faniyi, who has been consistently contesting for the seat since 2007 and a former member of then Kwara State House of Assembly who is also the Makama of Lokoja, Alhaji Ibrahim Alao.
However, the old rivalry between Senator Adeyemi and Chief Faniyi may have been rekindled following the adoption of the former two-time commissioner and former House of Representatives member between 2003 and 2007. Faniyi was said to have been adopted following the voluntary withdrawal of prominent journalist and former Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Tunde Olusunle, who was earlier unanimously endorsed by some stakeholders in Kogi West.
It was gathered that there was an unwritten agreement among the stakeholders that the seat would be rotated among the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district.
These are Lokoja/Kotonkarfe, Kabba/Bunu, Ijumu and Yagba Federal constituencies. Lokoja/Kotonkarfe represented by Major-General Tunde Ogbeha took the Senate slot between 1999 and 2007 while Kabba/Bunu, Ijumu presented the incumbent Senator Adeyemi who will complete his two terms in May 2015. Yagba constituency is expected to norminate a candidate to also serve for two terms following the unwritten agreement. However, some stakeholders from the three federal constituencies in the zone have endorsed the incumbent Senator Adeyemi to continue his work at the National Assembly following what they termed “creditable performance of the incumbent senator”. How achievable that would be is yet unclear, but many say Senator Adeyemi remains popular in the area and has the financial muscle to prosecute the senatorial battle.
The stakeholders in the senatorial district in a communique had declared that there was no vacancy in Kogi West Senatorial District because Adeyemi was representing the good people of the district effectively as he was also said to have helped youths from the zone with employment opportunities at the federal level and has also empowered women to be self reliant. Seven council chairmen in Kogi West also adopted Senator Adeyemi and picked the party’s expression of intent and nomination forms for him. The Spokesman of the Council Chairmen, Hon. Folorunsho Daniyan, who is the Chairman of Mopamuro Local government told journalists at the PDP Secretariat in Lokoja that the stakeholders and leaders of thought had put their heads together to pick the nomination form for the incumbent senator because he had done very well in the last eight years in the Senate with quality representation.
The Contentious Issue
But despite the rising popularity and acceptance of Senator Adeyemi, the contentious issue, which has been raging for quite some time now, has been revived again as some groups are saying that the senator has served two terms and it is now the turn of Yagba Federal Constituencyto produce the senator for Kogi West. Apparently dismayed by the third term ambition of Senator Adeyemi, the Kogi West PDP Leadership Forum had on Tuesday called on the party machinery to concede to the forum, the right to choose the district’s representatives based on established procedures and existing realities. The Forum made the call in a communique signed by Senator Ogbeha, Prince Olushola Akanmode, Chief Samuel Akande. The communique was read at a press conference at NUJ Press Centre, Lokoja by Chief Olusunle after a meeting. The communique stated that the Forum was committed to ensuring the victory of the party in the forthcoming election, saying that it deliberated on the strategies and approaches for the success of the party at its October 22 meeting.
The Forum reaffirmed its “unwavering commitment and support” for the second term bid of President Goodluck Jonathan and pointed out that the senatorial district recorded an average score of 95 per cent for the President in the 2011 election.
“We are prepared and determined to surpass this record in the forthcoming election. That is why we do not want anything that will cause discontent among our people. The spirit of the Kogi West Democratic Movement is that the senatorial seat will rotate between the three Federal Constituencies of Lokoja-Kotonkarfe, Kabba-Bunu-Ijumu and Yagba on an eight-year basis.”
The Forum said it was the turn of Yagba Constituency and the people in collaboration with Lokoja-Kotonkarfe Federal Constituency had selected Hon. Tolorunju Joseph Faniyi, a former member of the House of Representatives. It added that Kogi West Leaders and Stakeholders Forum met on November 14 and accepted the choice of Faniyi and commended the leadership of the Lokoja-Kogi (Koton Karfe) for their commitment to the enthronement of equity, justice and fairness.
“We appeal to the party at the state and national levels to ensure that nothing untoward happens to violate and distort the collective aspirations of our people as expressed at the Ward Congress”, it added.
Adeyemi Campaign Organisation: Those Moving Against Him Doing So for Selfish Reasons
Earlier on, the Smart Adeyemi Campaign Organization had challenged those against the senator’s third term in the Senate. While addressing the senator’s supporters in Lokoja, the Coordinator of Smart Adeyemi Campaign Organisation and Chairman of Mopamuro Local Government Area, Funsho Daniyan, said those calling on Senator Adeyemi not to seek another term were doing so for selfish reasons. Daniyan disclosed that Adeyemi had been in the vanguard in the fight against the oppression of the commonman around the country. “The Distinguished Senator has always said to be a senator is to be a Senator of the Federal Republic. Let us ask what those who are saying Senator Adeyemi should not return have done for Kogi State or for their localities.
“We do not want a reluctant candidate and even all those they have been trying to prop up have always said they are not willing. What they are doing is for selfish reasons, and we all know what Senator Smart Adeyemi has achieved for us all. They have nothing to offer and the people of Kogi West are not behind them,”Daniyan said.
*Senator Adeyemi’s Third Term Plan Rankles District. He remains the man to beat, though he has veteran aspirant Hon. Faniyi to Contend with
In Kogi Central Senatorial District,at least eight aspirants have picked PDP’s expression of intent and nomination forms to clinch the party’s senatorial ticket for the National Assembly seat. Like in other senatorial districts, politics and intrigues have come to play in the contest. Those jostling for the ticket are the incumbent Senator Nurudeen Usman Abatemi, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria’s running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu in the 2011 election, Hon. Moses Wokili, former House of Representatives member, Mr. A .K. Salihu, one-time gubernatorial aspirant in the state, Alhaji Deda Attah, Mr. A. Adoke and the incumbent Chairman of Okene Local government area, Hon. Ahmed Ogembe, who has been eyeing the seat since 2007.
Interestingly, Kogi Central has not voted for the same candidate into the Senate twice and this made it more dicey for incumbent Senator Abatemi who is contending with an array of aspirants from the senatorial district to succeed him in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Some said Senator Abatemi is at present nursing an illusion to go back to the Senate by picking the expression of intent and nomination form because, according to them, he is aware of the unwritten political arrangement, which has given rise to a situation that nobody from the senatorial district has done two terms in the Senate.
Another aspirant that is facing a Herculean task is the Chairman of Okene Council Ahmed Ogembe. Though an opinion poll had earlier favoured him because of his long ambition for the senatorial seat, it was, however, gathered that the recent encounter with the state governor, Captain Idris Wada, where the governor tongue-lashed all the serving local government council chairmen and threatened to audit their finances and sanction erring council bosses may have disorganised him. Governor Wada had urged the council bosses to resign if they want to contest. The threat of a probe and the governor’s challenge seem to be a major hurdle for him. This, it was learnt, has sent cold jitters down the spine of those eyeing the National Assembly seats among the council bosses.
However, the battle line has been drawn as various aspirants and stakeholders are working day and night to ensure that their aspirants pick the ticket.
*Senator Abatemi is fighting against the tide. Can he break the second term jinx facing senators from the zone?
The people of Kogi East Senatorial District could be rightly described as highly political and wide awake politically and perhaps this will make the PDP primaries in the area more interesting as a lot of salient issues are already coming to play. These include the incumbency factor, zoning arrangement, gender issue and many other factors, which are already generating controversies in recent times. Some school of thought have argued that those that have represented the district in last 15 years have not been able to attract Federal presence to Kogi East and that there is the need for re-orientation among the people to present a very vibrant candidate with intellectual capacity to attract dividends of democracy to the district as soon as possible.
Those in the race are the incumbent Senator Attai Aidoko, a member of SURE-P Committee and senatorial apirant in the 2011 elections, Hajia Halima Alfa, former governor and ex-senatorial aspirant, retired Air Vice Marshall Isaac Alfa, former senatorial aspirant, retired Captain Joe Agada, the former General Manager, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Abubarka (Railway) Ibrahim and Dr. Peters Ali. Also, the immediate-past governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris alias Ibro, has been linked with the race, but he is yet to come out openly. However, Governor Wada is said not to be favourably disposed to such an ambition of his predecessor. Meanwhile, as part of measures to havea rancour-free PDP primaries in the state, Governor Idris Wada has consistently advocated for a consensus candidate, noting, however, that where the stakeholders could not agree on consensus candidates, then primary election would be the next option to adopt, to say the least.
*It’s an open race, though Senator Aidoko seems highly favoured.