Ahead of the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, aspirants have continued with consultations and underground works to brighten their chances of clinching the party’s ticket.
No doubt, it is going to be a fierce contest between Governor Yahaya Bello and other contestants who are gunning for the highly coveted APC ticket.
At the moment, no fewer than eight aspirants have already picked the party’s nomination and expression of interest forms ahead of the primary election billed for August 29.
Amongst those who have bought the forms are Governor Yahaya Bello; a former director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Prof Seidu Mohammed Ogah; a sports administrator, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi; former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman; sons of the late former Governor Abubakar Audu; Mustapha Mona Audu and Mohammed Audu, as well as their uncle, Prince Yahaya Audu.
Daily Trust on Sunday also learnt that the Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, a lawyer, would likely pick his forms before the August 20 deadline.
The various aspirants and their supporters have been moving round the state, meeting with stakeholders to garner support ahead of the primary election.
Governor Yahaya Bello
Bello, the incumbent governor of the state, who hails from Okene in the central senatorial district, is seeking a second term to enable him consolidate on the gains he has recorded in his first tenure.
His emergence as governor of Kogi State after the demise of former Governor Audu, who was the candidate of the party in November 2015, has been described by many as divine.
Being a sitting governor, Bello has a number of factors that would likely work in his favour, just as there are equally odds against him.
Perhaps, the power of incumbency which Bello currently enjoys, coupled with his financial wherewithal, would give him some edge over others in the primary election.
Besides, as the leader of the party in the state, Bello is said to have a firm grip on its structures as presently constituted from the wards to the state level.
All the 25 members of the state House of Assembly and majority of the National Assembly members from the state are strong loyalists of the governor.
The implication of the foregoing, according to political pundits, is that the governor is most likely to pick the ticket if the APC goes ahead with the indirect mode of election already adopted for the primary.
Also, political appointees and aides of the governor are working for his victory.
But one major hurdle before the governor is the internal wrangling within the party over the mode of primary to be adopted, as well as the issue of leadership in the state.
While the governor is said to be favourably disposed to the indirect primary adopted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, other aspirants and stakeholders who are not comfortable with that decision have filed cases in court, which outcome might alter the political equation in the state.
Another odd is that the governor, being a minority from the central senatorial district of the state, would need to work harder to get the party’s flag, especially now that majority of the Igala who lost grip of power following the death of Audu, are desperately doing all they can to wrest power from him.
But the fact that the Igala have many aspirants going into the contest might be their undoing as their votes would be largely divided, thus giving Bello a better chance.
Although the governor has been able to address the knotty issue of unpaid workers’ salaries to a large extent, his alleged poor performance over the past three years and seven months could also be an albatross, according to pundits.
It is also said that some forces within the national leadership of the party might not be comfortable with the choice of Governor Bello.
Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman (retd), a former Chief of Naval Staff, hails from Dekina Local Government Area in the east senatorial district of the state. He is also believed to be one of the frontline contenders for the APC governorship ticket. He has been enjoying some goodwill from the people following his series of consultations and meetings.
As Chief of Naval Staff, Jibrin was able to attract naval bases, as well as a naval secondary school to the state, a development said to have endeared him to the people of the state.
Speaking recently on his ambition, Jibrin said he was in the race to rescue the people of Kogi from the hardship and suffering they were going through under the present administration in the state.
“I was resting when I received a distress call from my good people to rescue them from the mess in the state; if not, I have retired from active service, but not tired. This sad situation cannot continue. My people have suffered enough. So, I can categorically say that I am on a rescue mission,’’ he said.
Prof Seidu Mohammed Ogah
He hails from Omala Local Government Area of the state. The immediate past director-general of the NASRDA and seasoned expert in geographic information, remote sensing, space research and applications, said he would use his experience to turn the fortune of the state around for better.
“My ambition is to transform Kogi State into a model for others to copy. In other words, I am running for governorship because I believe I can add value to the governance of the state I love so much,’’ he said.
He is said to be making wide consultations with party stakeholders to garner more support ahead of the primary election.
Sani Lulu Abdullahi
Abdullahi is a former president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). He hails from Idah Local Government Area.
The seasoned sports administrator has expressed optimism that he would defeat Governor Bello at the primary election and pick the governorship ticket of the ruling APC.
Like other aspirants, he has been holding meetings and making consultations across the state regarding his aspiration.
Abdullahi said that going by his level of acceptance by the people, he would emerge victorious, especially since he has been tested in a leadership position.
“One important criterion to win election is not funding, it is your acceptance by people. At the NFF, I fought corruption. It is a plus for me. I delivered. If you don’t have money but have people, it will receive God’s blessing. President Muhammadu Buhari won elections without money,” he said.
He is a brother to the late former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu. He is said to be a strong brain behind some of the legacy projects and achievements recorded by the former governor while he was in office.
Although the 60-year-old United Kingdom-trained chartered accountant has not held any previous political position, he strongly believes he is the best for the governorship seat of the state.
He contested for the Kogi East senatorial ticket on the platform of the APC during the last general elections but couldn’t actualise that aspiration.
On why he wants to be governor, Yahaya said, “I want to say that Kogi State has arguably recorded the worst performance in terms of provision of infrastructure, welfare of workers and general governance in the present dispensation.
“I have the capacity to govern the state. I have an unwavering loyalty to the masses, which definitely guarantees a people-oriented and focused administration in the state,” he said.
He is said to be making consultations ahead of the party’s primary election, but one big challenge is the fact that two other members of the Audu family are slugging it out for the same ticket, thus making his chances slim.
He is the eldest son of the late former governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu. He hails from Ofu Local Government Area.
Although he has not held any political position, Mohammed said he had learned the ropes from his father and intends to surpass his achievements in the governance of the state.
He has been going round the state to meet relevant stakeholders ahead of the party’s primary.
Mohammed is advocating the adoption of direct primary for the governorship election to allow all aspirants test their popularity before the people.
Mustapha Mona Audu
Mona Audu has also boasted of wresting power from Governor Yahaya Bello come November 16. Mona, like Mohammed, has equally not held any political position, but he is very confident of defeating the incumbent governor.
In a recent interview, Mona said he preferred the indirect mode of primary and that he was sure of getting the ticket of the party against all odds.
He said he had been going to various parts of the state to consult with stakeholders and that responses had been encouraging.
Although there is still a cloud of uncertainty over the August 29 governorship primary date and the mode to be adopted because of the pending court cases, one thing that is, however, sure is that the primary election would be a fierce contest amongst the gladiators. Only time will tell who flies the party’s flag at the end of the day.