By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
With the general election over, all eyes are now being shifted to Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states, whose governorship polls are expected respectively to come up later this year.
In Kogi State, the storm is already gathering and there are serious levels of scheming, permutations and manipulation on who will succeed Governor Yahaya Bello whose second term will officially terminate by Jan 14, 2024.
With the conclusion of parties primaries in Kogi State ahead of the November 11 gubernatorial election, political actors are already warming up for what is expected to be fiercely contested gubernatorial poll.
Although several of the political parties are still lodged in internal wrangling and disputes emanating from the conduct of their gubernatorial primaries, however, the gubernatorial candidates are already preparing for the launch of campaigns in the state, which is expected to begin in July, in line with the 2022 amended Electoral Act.
For many, this year’s gubernatorial poll in Kogi would be keenly contested and a departure from the past where, only the candidates of the two dominant political parties in the country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) where competitive.
Observers say that the birth of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and the growing popularity of the party in Northern Nigeria is healthy for democracy, while offering an alternative platform for Kogites.
In recent months, the NNPP has been building structures across Kogi State, especially in Kogi East.
Political analysts say the NNPP has become a third force of some sort that could spring surprise in the gubernatorial poll, if right decisions are taken by its leaders, while also putting its house in order ahead of the November poll.
For many the gubernatorial election this time around would not be an easy ride for the APC.
In the last eight years, Governor Bello’s administration has received knocks for poor performance; many indigenes of the state say he has failed to fulfil his campaign promises and performed below expectations despite the resources of the state.
In the last eight years, the APC, the state and the governor appear to have accumulated varied reputations, all of which were unified by the presumed desire for economic growth yet limited by the disconnections between the people’s expectations and the democratic dividends delivered.
Although Bello has successfully chosen his successor, Usman Ododo who hails from the same Kogi Central with him, but there are criticisms that other zones should have been be given a chance to rule the state instead.
Governor Bello was hell-bent in producing his successor within the rank of his cabinet members and his trusted aides who will carry on with his projects.
This may not have been a serious issue to contend with within the fold of the ruling party but for the fact that Governor Bello’s rigid insistence that his successor will not only come out from his cabinet but also from his own central senatorial district.
This stance, it is gathered, has caused a serious stir within the APC in the state which has now been fragmented and divided into different factions with each working at crossroads.
Before the 2015 governorship election in the state, there were cries of marginalisation and injustice on the part of other senatorial districts, the Kogi west who are mainly the Okun- Youruba speaking tribes and the Kogi East mainly the Igala.
This it was gathered was why the Kogi West axis of the APC teamed up in 2015 in the party primary to support Yahaya Bello who is an Ebira man and who was seen as the youngest and most energetic among the aspirants, a development that made him to be the runner up to Abubakar Audu.
In recent years there have been increased agitations from Kogi East, that they should be given a chance to rule the state, which is seen in mostly all the political parties choosing their gubernatorial candidates from the zone
Many people say that Kogi State has made little progress in the last eight years and is not where it should be, such that there is increased yearning among Kogites for change of narrative and new direction for the state going forward.
However, the general filling among some sections of indigenes in the state, is that the NNPP could offer that alternative platform that can take Kogi to its desired position if given the opportunity to rule the state.
The optimism is born out of the fact that the NNPP is one of the fastest growing political parties in Nigeria, especially in the North West, where it won the gubernatorial election in Kano State, while also winning national and state legislatures seats in other states in the North.
Perhaps, a major factor that may work in favour of the party is the emergence of its gubernatorial candidate from Kogi East, with the possibility of a deputy from Kogi West.
Observers say what can boost the chances of the NNPP gubernatorial candidate, Mubarak Abuche Musa would be if he can work with other party leaders across the state to run a robust campaign that can help increase the popularity of the NNPP and wide acceptance.
Some have suggested that since Mubarak hails from Kogi east, his running mate should be chosen from Kogi West, to boost his chances because of the clamour for rotational government in the state.
Although the task before NNPP may not look easy knowing that the two dominant parties, the PDP and APC are well established in the state, especially with the APC with incumbency power and state resources at its disposal.
Ladipo Jhonson, spokesperson for the Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso presidential campaign for the 2023 poll, says the large number of people who showed interest in becoming the party’s gubernatorial candidate is a clear testimony of the growing popularity of the NPP in Kogi State.
Ladipo said the party had mapped out strategies and plans to aid its victory in the Kogi gubernatorial poll, stressing that the APC’s failure in the state in the last eight years was an opportunity for other parties to capitalize on.
“Kwankwaso has a decent structure in Kogi State, for the fact that you had eleven people contesting for the gubernatorial
ticket means they party is on ground.
“But I can assure you that the NNPP has a good chance now that the governor brought someone from his senatorial district and Igala.
“Kwankwaso has a descent structure in Kogi, but we have mapped out what plans to aid our candidate victory.
“The immediate task for us now; is to unite everyone after the primary and work collectively. We are happy that everyone have decided to come together and work for the party after the primary without much bitterness”, Jhonson said.
Similarly, Mustapha Akeem, a chieftain of the NNPP in Kogi State, said the last eight years of the Bello’s administration had taken the state backward, stressing that the people are yearning for change.
He said the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Mubarak, had the capacity to transform the state and fight poverty if given the chance to rule by indigenes.
According to him, “We are hopeful that this election would not be like the previous ones, because our people have suffered so much in the last eight years, and can’t wait to see this administration come to and end.
“There is nothing on ground across Kogi, there is poverty and hunger in the land, go round and see. But it is an opportunity for us to correct the wrongs when we come in.
“I am sure with the conclusion of the gubernatorial primary, we would put our house in order before the campaigns begin and prepare to win this election.
“Bello’s decision to take APC’s candidate from his constituency would be his greatest undoing, and we would capitalize on that”.