By Favour Alilu
Now that Kogi East Senatorial District with the major ethnic group (Igala) in Kogi State is without a major position in governance, the 2019 Kogi governorship election has become an ethnic affair as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Party APC, may settle for candidates from Kogi East (Igala land).
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 Yahaya 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) will be the favorite to win the election.
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.
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.
Usman Jibrin is a former Chief of Naval Staff who has done well in his field. He is one of the prominent men from Kogi East who is jostling to replace Bello.
He was said to have influenced the establishment of the Navy Command at Banda, Lokoja and Navy Secondary School, Okura, Kogi State.
However one of his challenges is the President Muhammadu Buhari factor. While it is believed in many quarters that he has the support of the national women leader of the APC, Hajia Salamatu Bewa, his role in 2015 against Buhari is making it difficult for her to sell him to the president.
Jibrin was one of the security chiefs with the likes of Col. Sambo Dasuki and Alex Badeh who worked round the clock to stop Buhari from becoming president in 2015.
He was also hunted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC a few years ago for alleged diversion of N62.8billion belonging to the Navy.
Jibrin denied the allegations and blamed it on cabals who are out to tarnish his image.
Sani Lulu is a former chairman of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). Like Jibrin, 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.
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.
His main challenge is that he is not as financially buoyant as other contestants.
However, some analysts believe that that would not be a problem if he has people to sponsor him.
Mohammed Audu’s major strength is that he is the son of late Prince Abubakar Audu one of the best governors of the state in terms of infrastructural development. 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 son is hoping that the same sentiment plays out again. Apart from being the son of the late politician, he does not boast of any other notable credential. Another problem for him is that he is not the only Audu in the race as his brother and uncle are also in it. Before the declaration of his siblings, he was tipped to be one of those who would give Bello a tough time. Now that two other Audus are also in the race, political analysts no longer take his aspiration very serious.
Seidu Ogah is DG of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). He is contesting for the governorship position for the first time. Like Sani Lulu, Ogah is a novice in Kogi politics without a structure.
It has also been gathered according to a reliable source that the people of Kogi East accuse of him of collecting money from his people before employing them at NASRDA.
It would be recalled that the first time the party at the center (PDP) handed the governorship ticket a candidate 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.