The tenure of incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State ends on January 26, 2020. In view of that, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the governorship election on November 16, 2019.
According to the timetable, the notice of election is to be out on August 17, 2019, collection of forms CF001, CF002 by political parties at the INEC headquarters is scheduled for August 18 while conduct of party primaries including resolution of disputes arising from the primaries have been scheduled between August 18 and September 5.
Commencement of campaigns by political parties is scheduled for August 18 while the last day for campaigns is November 14.
Though the election comes up in November, intrigues and permutations among political gladiators are already high.
A lot of underground consultations with party delegates and other stakeholders are ongoing ahead of the primaries which would determine the flag bearers of the various political parties.
Some campaign posters, billboards and banners have started springing up in Lokoja, the state capital and other parts of the state, especially within the strongholds of the various gladiators.
Yahaya Bello, who has declared interest to seek a second term under the platform of the APC, will be slugging it out with other contenders at the primaries and perhaps, at the main election if he succeeds in picking his party’s ticket.
However, the immediate hurdle before the governor is how to secure the party ticket, given that some gladiators have indicated interest in it, amid concerns about alleged moves by some forces at the national leadership of the party to deny him the ticket.
Those jostling to wrestle the ticket from Bello include a former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Jibrin Usman (rtd), a former Director General of Nigerian Space Agency, Prof Seidu Mohammed Ogah, a brother of late Abubakar Audu, Prince Yahaya Audu and a sports administrator, Sani Lulu.
Ahead of the primaries, one major issue dominating the political space in the state is the modalities to be adopted in the conduct of the primaries of the APC. While the APC executives and some party stakeholders who are believed to be loyal to the governor have agreed to adopt indirect primary, other stakeholders, particularly the other aspirants and their supporters, want the direct primary method where all party members would decide who becomes the party’s flag bearer.
Their argument is that the indirect primary method would give the governor an “undue advantage” over other aspirants.
But Bello has said he is not perturbed by whatever method adopted, saying he is confident of clinching the party’s ticket at the end of the day.
The governor while addressing State House correspondents in Abuja recently, said, “I am the governor today and Insha Allah, l will return as governor for another four years after the November 16 election. As for the ticket, the analogy is that the tenant cannot send the landlord out of his house. So, APC in Kogi State was rebuilt by me, after the good job done by our late leader, Prince Abubakar Audu”.
In an effort to brighten his chances at the primaries and perhaps gain more grounds ahead of the main election, the governor recently embarked on some reconciliatory moves with some estranged stakeholders in the party.
He was also at the Aso Villa recently with some traditional rulers from the state who told President Muhammadu Buhari that they were in support of Bello’s second term bid.
Should Bello succeed in picking the APC ticket, his major opponent would arguarbly be whoever emerges flag bearer of the main opposition PDP. No fewer than 30 aspirants are seeking to fly the PDP flag in the election.
Among the motley crowd of aspirants in the PDP are a former governor, Capt. Idris Wada, his brother, Engr. Musa Wada, Senator Dino Melaye, security expert, Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh, a businessman and son of former governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Idris, a Quantity Surveyor, Aminu Suleiman, a former Deputy Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly , Emma Omebije, a former Commissioner for Health and erstwhile President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Idris Omede, another former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Aliyu Aku and a former bank executive, Dr Victor Alewo Adoji.
The permutation is that the PDP will pick its flag bearer from Kogi East Senatorial District (Igalaland) which has the largest voting population in the state.
Bello, who is of the minority from Kogi Central Senatorial District, might be facing a fierce contest and no doubt, needs to work harder to emerge victorious at the poll if he eventually picks the APC ticket.
The majority Igala, who lost the grip of power in the state after many years of political dominance following the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu who was already coasting home to victory in the November 2015 governorship election, are said to be doing all they can to retake power.
It will however not be a tea party to wrestle power from Bello who will be leveraging on the power of incumbency, financial muscle, retinue of political appointees, support groups, state/National Assembly lawmakers and other political stakeholders who would be working to brighten his chances.
The outcome of the last election in which the APC won the presidential election, clinched seven of the nine House of Reps seats, two of the three senate seats and won all the 25 state assembly seats, may have given some ray of hope to the governor.
But that notwithstanding, one major factor that will determine his chances is his ability to handle the thorny issue of workers’ salaries and pensioners who are currently being owed some arrears.
His leadership style and overall performance in terms of providing the needed socio-economic and infrastructure development during his first term would go a long way in determining his chances. In the final analysis, the power to decide who becomes the next governor of Kogi State after the November 16 election ultimately lies with the people.