The governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi State, which held on August 29 at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, was unprecedented in the history of the state, given the array of contestants that jostled for the ticket.
There were a total of 28 aspirants cleared by the national headquarters of the party to take part in the keenly contested primaries. Each aspirant had paid N5.5 million to obtain the APC governorship form, thus enriching the coffers of the party to the tune of about N137 million. Kogi state has a total of 21 Local Government Areas, which implies that each LGA presented an aspirant while some others presented up to two or three aspirants for the contests. Curios enough, none of the aspirant was ready to step down for the other, except for Barrister Babatunde Irukera, who was said to have withdrawn in support of Alhaji Sanusi Abubakar candidature.
The gladiators that took part in the race included Prince Abubakar Audu, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Senator Abatemi Usman, Alhaji Sanusi Abubakar (Gamji), Senator Yahaya Ugbane, Clarence Obafemi, Sani Shu’aibu, Suleiman Baba Ali, Air Vice Marshal Atawodi Saliu, Hadiza Ibrahim, Abdullahi Suleiman and Yakubu Mohammed.
Others include Abutu Ejeh, Engr. Sunday Edibo, Otunba Suleiman Lanre, Dr Tim Nda Diche, Dr Yakeen Abdullahi, Rotimi Obadofin, Olusola Olumoroti, Adinoyi Onukaba Ojo, Aliyu Jiya, Alex Kadiri, Sadiq Adaba, Hussain Idris, Usman Mainyanga and Bar. James Ocholi (SAN).
The chairman of the Kogi APC Governorship Primaries and Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had set the stage for the contest when he read out the rules and numbers of accredited delegates for the congress. He said a total of 3,044 accredited delegates would take part in the primaries and that the contest would be transparent, free and fair, with the assurance that all contestants would be given level playing field.
El-Rufai urged the delegates to vote wisely, not on the basis of money, but their conscience. “We will not favour anyone. We will ensure a level-playing ground for all of you. This is the first governorship election to be conducted under the administration of President Buhari and we must vote wisely to ensure victory of the party,” he had said.
Governor El-Rufai gave each of the aspirant two minutes to talk to the delegates prior to the commencement of voting. After all the mouth-watering speeches from the aspirants it was now time for the delegates to speak, this time not with sweet sounding speeches but their votes.
Casting of votes began at about 10 pm and was concluded at about 3.00 am while sorting and counting followed until the results were announced at about 12 noon on Sunday.
While the sorting and counting was going on, it was obvious to aspirants the direction the victory was tilting to, thus, some of them, sensing obvious defeat, began to file out from venue of the congress before announcement of the results.
When the final results were declared, former two-term governor of Kogi state, Prince Abubakar Audu carried the day. Audu polled 1,109 votes to emerge victorious over 26 other contestants. Audu’s closest opponent, Alhaji Yahaya Bello from Kogi Central polled 703 votes in the keenly contested governorship primary which was adjudged free and fair. Results of other contestants in the governorship primary include Senator Nurudeen Abatemi Usman (400), Sanusi Abubakar (309), Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi (183), James Ocholi (90), Olusola Olumoroti (58), Suleiman Baba Ali (28), Rotimi Obadofin (16), Dr Tim Nda Diche (13) and Abdullahi Suleiman (11).
Former Kogi acting governor, Clarence Olafemi (7), Senator Yahaya Ugbane (8), Yakeen Abdullahi (8), Idris Danjuma (5), Yakubu Mohammed (4), Col. Ahmed Usman (6), Abutu Ejeh (2), Sunday Edibo (1), Sani Shu’aibu (1) and Alex Kadiri (1). Aspirants that scored no votes during the contest include Hussein Idris, Sadiq Adabara and Aliyu Jiya.
The Chairman of the Kogi APC governorship primary panel and governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai who declared results of the primary, expressed gratitude with the transparent and peaceful manner in which the election was conducted.
In his acceptance speech, Prince Abubakar Audu expressed gratitude to the APC Governorship Panel for a transparent election, assuring that he would carry all the other aspirants along to ensure their victory is sealed at the poll. Audu said his coming into the governorship race this time around was to rescue Kogi from its present backward state and restore it to its former glory.
“We are grateful with the transparent nature of the election; I have consulted with other contestants and they told me they are quite ok with the manner the contest was handled.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the outcome of the primary election ran contrary to the strategies of the Central and West Senatorial Districts, which had been formed a kind of alliance aimed at ensuring that the ticket was taken from any aspirant from Kogi East Senatorial District. Since the creation of the Kogi State in 1991, governors, except military administrators, had been produced by the Igala-speaking community in Kogi East. The APC candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, had ruled in two previous democratic dispensations, while Alhaji Idris Ibrahim from the same senatorial district ruled from 2003 to 2011. Captain Idris Wada took over from Alhaji Idris Ibrahim.
In an attempt to wrestle the APC ticket from Kogi East, all the aspirants from the West and Central Senatorial Districts, led by political heavyweights like Senator Salihu Ohize, Senator Dino Malaiye, Hon Clarence Olafemi, and Alhaji Sanusi Abubakar, were said to have come together to endorse the aspiration of Alhaji Sanusi Abubakar on account of his popularity, maturity and wide connections. Such qualification, it was believed, could be better used to spearhead a true power shift for the two senatorial districts. The concern of these politicians was that a state like Kogi is presently in dire straits and should not be left in the hands of a governor who has not enough private or public sectors experience to steer the ship of the state.
However, the emergence of Barrister Tunde Irukera, who was touted to have the support of elements from the Presidency, changed the game, but at a later meeting at in Indrinana Hotel, Lokoja, Barrister Irukera was convinced to step down for Alhaji Abubakar, which he agreed to do. But delegates from the Central Senatorial District felt that prevailing on Barrister Irukera to step down for Alhaji Abubakar was like short-changing the zone. The Central Senatorial District leaders found it impossible to convince the delegates to support Alhaji Abubakar, leading to the collapse of the deal between the Central and West Senatorial Districts to wrestle the ticket from the Kogi East. Apart from the collapse of the agreement, it was speculated that even frontline leaders from the West and Central District actually worked from Prince Audu, showing that they were not committed to the power shift the were clamouring for.
Despite the collapse of the deal between the West and Central Senatorial Districts, the fact that a new entrant into Kogi politics came fourth was a shock to many political watchers, and he’s perceived to be one of the politicians to watch in the state. For those who know him, Alhaji Abubakar, born in 1961 in Okene, has been involved in humanitarian activities, touching the lives of the less privileged. For almost 20 years now, his philanthropic gestures know no bound. He has helped to uplift the lives of the less privilege, orphans in our society. He is delivering a steady free eye treatment to over 20,000 people with sight challenges. He constructed, rehabilitate and provide medical facilities to General Hospital in Okene and Obangede. He provides electricity to some areas in Ebira land by donating transformers. He gave scholarship awards to indigent students. He empowered youth and women through his Gamji Group of Companies and Asmau Foundation. A graduate of Estate Management at Higher National Diploma Level (HND) from Kaduna Polytechnic, Alhaji Abubakar also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and management from the University of Abuja. In 1992, he floated Gamji Nigeria Company Ltd with its headquarters in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory
Analyst believe the dismal outing of some of the aspirants showed that they had not done enough to woo the support of the people. According to them, the dismal performance of prominent names such as Senator Yahaya Ugbane, Alex Kadiri, Clarence Olafemi and the likes during the congress was a challenge for them to go back to the drawing board and reinvigorate their political relevance in the state.
Another surprise outing came from the businessman-turn-politician, Alhaji Yahaya Bello (Fair Plus) at the poll has been the talk of the town. Pundits believe that having sprung such surprises in his first voyage into the murky waters of Kogi politics, Bello’s political future appeared promising if he would be a little patience and remained focus without jumping the gun.
Indeed, the APC governorship primary election revealed two politicians of the future – Alhaji Abubakar Sanusi and Alhaji Yahaya Bello.