…Gov. Bello may decamp to Accord party
By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Since the announcement of the 2019 governorship election in Kogi State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, aspirants have been warming up for the top job. Although it is still too early to have all the names, a few prominent sons of the land have expressed interest. There are also those who have not been mentioned but speculations are rife that they will throw their hat in the ring soon.
While there are many political parties, as usual, the battle is set to be between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC. Aspirants have intensified their battle to unseat the current governor, Yahaya bello. No fewer than 10 aspirants across the two main parties have indicated interest for the plum job.
Last month, there were reports that Governor Bello would be replaced with another candidate by the APC and as a result, he ordered his aides to remove the flags of the APC from Lugard House in Lokoja. Reports also suggested that Bello would leave the ruling party for Accord Party if he does not get the party’s mandate for a second term.
BusinessHallmark gathered from a reliable source that Bello has been moving from pillar to post in order to convince stakeholders about his political clout. Two weeks ago he visited the home of a national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to pledge his support for Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who is in the race to become Speaker of the federal House of Representatives.
A top member of the APC in Kogi who does not want his name to be mentioned said, “Bello is just wasting his time. He is not sellable. There is no way we can market a product that is not marketable. Tinubu has his eyes on a credible candidate.”
While Bello has been using the 2019 general election as a reference point of how popular he is, the stakeholders are not buying that. To them, “Bello is a political liability.” He has fallen out with all those who would have helped him. If Bello had performed well, it would have been difficult for him to get the ticket given the fact that he is from a minority ethnic group. On top of that his performance has been criticized by most stakeholders. There is also the belief that Buhari defeating Atiku in Kogi is far different from what is to come in November”.
The APC candidates for various positions were more popular than their PDP counterparts. For instance, Jibrin Isah Echocho who was the candidate of the APC for Kogi East was far more popular than candidates of other parties. Buhari benefitted from Echocho’s popularity because most people who voted for Echocho voted for Buhari. It was APC all the way.
According to a reliable source, the APC has opted for a credible candidate from Kogi East (Igala speaking area). This is because the main opposition party has decided to settle for someone from the eastern part of the state – Jibrin Usman.
Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman is a retired naval officer. In fact, he was the Chief of Naval Staff under President Goodluck Jonathan. He is one of the prominent men from Kogi East who is jostling to replace Bello. Since he got wind of the information that Bello’s position may be vacant, he declared his interest. He has the credential to be governor of the state having risen to the highest position in the Nigerian Navy.
He was said to have influenced the establishment of the Navy Command at Banda, Lokoja and Navy Secondary School, Okura, Kogi State.
His detractors, however, argue that “he should not be given the party’s ticket because he benefitted from the proceeds of corruption under the Jonathan-led administration.” It would be recalled that he was picked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside seven officers and five businessmen for alleged diversion of N62.8billion belonging to the Navy. The fraud occurred between 2013 and 2015 when Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin was the Chief of Naval Staff, BusinessHallmark learnt.
Jibrin denied the allegations and blamed it on cabals who were out to tarnish his image. Time will tell if that would make any impact on his ambition.
Barrister Abdullahi Haruna who hails from Dekina Local Government Area of the state (Kogi East) was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during the reign of Prince Abubakar Audu. There are reports that he will run under the PDP. He was a close ally of the late Audu and the former governor had reportedly chosen him as his successor before his sudden death. Haruna currently manages one of the biggest law firms in Kaduna State.
He has the support of Audu’s family and supporters. But his major problem would be clinching the PDP ticket as he is a new comer in the party.
Another contender is Engr. Musa Wada who is the younger brother of the immediate past governor, Capt. Idris Wada. He is a director at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Engr Wada is a son-in-law to former governor Ibrahim Idris who happens to be the leader of the PDP and still a strong force to be reckoned with.
Before Idris opted for the senior Wada in 2011, it was gathered that he wanted Musa Wada who married one of his daughters to succeed him. He later changed his mind when stakeholders of the party warned him against turning the state into “a family affair.”
According to a reliable source, Idris prefers Musa Wada to Idris Wada and has started sponsoring groups to endorse his son-inlaw. Youth leaders and stakeholders of the PDP from across the seven local government of Kogi West have endorsed Engr. Wada as their preferred candidate for the 2019 Kogi governorship race.
According to the youth leaders, they resolved to support Mr. Musa Wada “after careful consideration and appraisal of the credentials, experience, age, credibility, integrity and public perception of all the aspirants.”
Part of the statement read: “Engr Wada is a resourceful and fine professional, an experienced and upright public servant who has put in over two and half decades into various public offices that makes him stand out among other aspirants. He is also a young man and enjoys wide public acceptability.”
Although, Capt Idris Wada has not declared openly for the race, political observers in the state say he might declare very soon based on his body language. He has been fully involved in all activities that have to do with the party at both the state and national level. He was in charge of the PDP delegates in the 2017 National Convention of the party in Abuja. It would be very difficult for anyone to beat him to the party’s ticket.
However, there are those who are of the view that if APC decides to field an Igala candidate with an unblemished track record, Wada would stand no chance. The people of the state voted him out because they felt he did not perform well. Today, they see Bello as a worse governor. His best bet would be for the APC to choose Bello. That way, the people may go for the lesser evil.
Erico Ameh is a staunch member of the PDP. He is a United-States trained security expert and founder of Real Strikers Security Services Limited. He has been assisting the party meet its financial obligations. Ahead of the February and March elections, he supported all PDP candidates in the National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections across the three senatorial districts.
He was also the National Coordinator of Professionals for Atiku and was involved in campaigns/rallies in several states. Aside that, when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came to the state for campaigns, Ameh mobilized PDP members in all 21 Local Government Areas, by providing transportation. His efforts for Atiku and other PDP candidates in Kogi may not be enough for him to clinch the party’s ticket due to some underlying factors.
Babatunde Irukera is a lawyer and currently the Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Before his appointment as DG of CPC, he was a senior partner at Simmons Cooper partners, a law firm, where Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo was a co-partner.
His has an outstanding record of advocacy and cases in favour of consumers. His experience ranges from being in-house counsel to General Counsel and advising senior government officials and key government institutions.
Irukera was believed to be Osinbajo’s candidate in 2015. Hours to the gubernatorial primary, he withdrew from the race. His withdrawal came as a shock to his supporters and the general public. It was learnt that his last minute withdrawal was after it had been agreed that James Faleke, another politician in Tinubu’s camp would be Audu’s running mate.
However, most political analysts from the state are not impressed with most of the names on display. One of them is Mr. Enejo Shuaibu Kogi, a Kogi based political analyst. In a chat with BusinessHallmark, he was of the view that, “It is the same old story. I am not impressed with most of the names that I have heard so far. If I am to pick one person, I will go with Babatunde Irukera. But the reality is that Irukera doesn’t stand a chance against a candidate from the east. I just hope in the coming weeks or months more credible aspirants, especially from Kogi East would show interest.
“Kogi can do better than all these people. We have selfless people from Kogi across the length and breadth of this country. Enough of people who just want to further enrich themselves and their cronies. Anyone who is suspected to have embezzled public funds in the past should not be given a chance. We need to get it right in 2019. Otherwise, the state will retrogress further,” he said.