...Only Buhari can save him now – party chieftain
By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State will find re-election very difficult. The first hurdle for him would be to secure the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC for the governorship race.The governorship elections across the country, was an eye opener for the APC and they may not be willing to take any chance in the Kogi governorship election which will take place before the end of the year.
The governorship results were quite different from the results of the February 23, Presidential election.
Some states went the same way. Oyo State governorship election went the same way with the presidential election. While the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP AtikuAbubakar defeated his main opponent, President MuhammaduBuhari of the All Progressives Congress APC, in Oyo State, the same feat was achieved by the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Oyo State, SeyiMakinde who defeated his closest rival, BayoAdelabu of the APC.
In Bauchi State, while Buhari defeated Atiku in the presidential election, APC governor, MuhammedAbubakar was not able to repeat that success in the election as he lost to PDP’s Bala Mohammed.
The performance of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, a stronghold of the APC in the just concluded elections has also become a source of worry for the party.
While the APC won the presidential election in Kano State convincingly, the party was unable to repeat that feat in the governorship race. Political analysts are of the view that residents of Kano voted along personality lines rather than party lines. They considered the candidates in the presidential and governorship elections respectively.
The APC presidential candidate was Buhari. That of the PDP was Atiku. When it comes to the presidential election, Kano has been a stronghold of Buhari since he started running in 2003. He has never lost Kano. February 23, was no different as he defeated his closest rival, Atiku with a wide margin. It was clear that Buhari is a darling to the people of Kano.
Two weeks later, it became a different tale for the APC during the governorship election. Many people of Kano decided to vote the PDP governorship candidate Abba Yusuf.The reason is not farfetched. Last year, a video of Ganduje allegedly receiving kickback from contractors trended on social media.
Many thought that it would rub off onBuhari and affect his chances of winning Kano. That had no effect, as the love for Buhari could be seen from the results.
However, Ganduje does not have the same love from the streets. Before the election was declared inconclusive, it looked like he was not going to win as he was trailing behind. It took voter intimidation for Ganduje to reverse it.
In Kano, Buhari polled 1,464,768 (78.9%), while Atiku scored 391,593 (21.1%). The difference was 1,073,175.In the governorship election in the same state, PDP won with a margin of 8,982. Ganduje got a total of 1,033,695 against Abba Yusuf of the PDP who got 1,024,713 votes.
In Kogi State Buhari got 285,894 votes while Atiku got 218,207 votes. Some stalwarts of the APC are of the view that if Buhari could defeat Atiku with that kind of margin in Kano and for the APC to almost lose the governorship election, then there is little hope that APC would be able to defeat the PDP with Bello as candidate.
Ganduje who is not from a minority ethnic group in Kano, is said to be unpopular in the state just because of how is being perceived. Bello is even more unpopular in Kogi. Bello comes from Kogi Central. He is the first Ebira man to be governor Kogi since Nigerian became a democratic country in 1999. He became governor by chance.
The manner in which he emerged as governor left a sour taste in the mouths of many of his adversaries. Till date, many of them still feel the taste. They are aggrieved with Bello and he has not done much to appease most of them.
In 1999, PDP which was the ruling party fielded a candidate from Okun land. While All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, ANPP fielded Prince AbubakarAudu from Igala land who easily defeated the candidate of the PDP.
In 2003, the PDP picked Ibrahim Idris, an hotelier, who had no prior interest in politics. With him being an Igala man, they were able to defeat Audu.
The PDP has resolved to use the same strategy this year. They are not considering anyone who is not Igala. Even within the Igalas, they are looking at Dekina Local government. Before Wada emerged as governor in 2012, no one from that local government had governed Kogi. As a result, stakeholders from the East zoned the governorship position to this local government area.
Wada who is from Dekina also fancies his chance to pick the PDP ticket. As far as the PDP is concerned, it is a Dekina affair because that is the arrangement of Kogi East stakeholders. All those who have indicated interest under the PDP are from Dekina.
Most political analysts are of the view that the only way for victory for the APC is for the party to field someone from Igala land and also from Dekina who would be able to rival PDP’s candidate.
What are Bello’s chances some people may ask?
The reality is that he has a very slim chance. His attitude and the fact that he is from a minority ethnic group has not helped him. He has burnt his bridges in just three years. The people’s major grouse with Bello is that he has failed to pay worker’s salary in the state despite receiving bailout funds from the federal government.
“It would take a miracle for him to emerge victorious. I don’t think that’s a risk APC is willing to take,” said Unekwu Danlamin, a resident of Lokoja.
According to a reliable source, Bello is hoping for Buhari to influence the election. It is one of the reasons he spends most of his weekends in Abuja. He has also visited the Villa more than any other governor in Nigeria.When Buhari returned from the United Kingdom last year, Bello declared a public Holiday in Kogi State to celebrate his return. Many felt that he went overboard with that.
He has also been present at the airport whenever Buhari returns from his trip abroad. Last year, Yusuf Buhari, the son of the president had an accident and was flown to Germany for treatment. When he returned to Nigeria in March, Bello who has become a regular face at the Presidential Villa went to receive him at the NnamdiAzikiwe Airport in Abuja and accompanied him to Aso Rock to meet the president. That act by the governor got many Nigerians furious, especially residents of Kogi State.
Bello, it was gathered by this newspaper, also has the ears of the first lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari. The national women leader of the APC, HajiaSalamatuBewa is also on the side of Bello.On the other hand, the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole is well aware of Bello’s lapses and weaknesses. He is also aware of the peculiarities of Kogi politics.
A former aide to APC national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who pleaded for anonymity, said there are plans to deny Bello the party’s governorship ticket.
“Apart from Oshiomhole, Tinubu is also not willing to lose Kogi and they are already holding talks on replacing Bello with someone acceptable, a man with a clean track record that could easily be sold to the electorate. That would be a lot easy for the party going into race than a Bello option,” he said. He made it clear that “they are looking for someone from the eastern part of the state.”
He however noted that the only thing that may hamper this plan is if Buhari interferes. He continued: “If Tinubu and Oshiomhole are allowed to run the show, be rest assured that Bello will not return.”
At the time of filing this report, efforts to reach Kingsley Fanwo, the Chief Press Secretary failed. Phone calls were also put to Governor Bello’s Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja to get his reaction, but he did not respond.