The setback suffered by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Kogi state in the 2015 general elections is a huge shock to the party as it was the first of its kind since the PDP took the bastion of leadership of the state in 2003. But the party is putting behind it the losses and forging ahead while the national body is being torn apart. Reports OYIBO SALIHU
The APC Presidential candidate, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) polled 264,851 votes to defeat PDP’s President Goodluck Jonathan who got 149,987 votes. The APC also won all the three Senate seats and six out of the nine House of Reps seats, while PDP managed to get three.
The woeful outcome of the March 28 polls was a reversal of the trend of elections in the state since 2003 when PDP, at various elections, dominated winning the three senatorial slots and virtually all nine House of Representatives seats with the exception of one in 2003 and two federal seats in 2011.
The PDP also has 20 of the 25 state House of Assembly seats in the outgoing legislature.
The reversed trend jolted the PDP family. The APC celebrated its victories in anticipation of more victories to come. Many APC supporters, relying on the pockets of defections witnessed in the state in the run up to the 2015 general elections, when two former speakers led PDP defectors to APC in January, had hoped for a chance to level up with the PDP. Not even the best optimists in the opposition camp expected the almost total sweep that the APC had at the March 28 polls. The shock was real.
Immediately after the Presidential Election, observers began to ask if the PDP would recover at the House of Assembly election. The recovery rate of the ruling PDP seems instant. The leadership and followers quickly withdrew to the drawing board. And two weeks later, the PDP turned the tables against the APC, winning majority of the seats in the state House of Assembly polls. It won 12 of the 25 seats, the APC got seven seats and the remaining six were declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
State Chairman of the party, Hassan Salau quickly reacted boasting that the State PDP has ‘bounced back.’
Salau’s statement has generated debate on whether or not the PDP has actually bounced back.
The joy of the PDP was cut short when results of the six inclusive constituencies were announced. The party won two out of the six re-run election bringing its total number of seats to 14 as against APC’s 11.
Two out of the four they lost were from the governor’s base in Dekina 1 and Dekina 11. With that, the joy of holding comfortably to the House of Assemble was eroded as it failed to get its expected 17 seats needed to have two-third majority in the House.
Political observers are of the view that the only way to know if the PDP has bounced back will be at the governorship election later in the year.
Some political analysts are predicting that subsequent elections will not be the same for APC. To them, the pattern the March 28 polls followed would not be continuing as the APC would have to contend with PDP’s strength at the grass-roots
The onus is on the PDP not to gloss over the outcome of the March 28 elections. Instead the party should focus on the state assembly polls, where it was obvious that the local content took precedence over the Buhari Tsunami.
However, the two parties are believed to have a 50-50 chance of dominating the politics of the state as of now. The APC now has the national strength but the PDP still controls the state till 2016 and controls the grass-roots (local governments).
Currently, PDP and APC are arch rivals ahead of the next governorship election in the State. The first term tenure of the incumbent Governor Idris Wada ends on January 27, 2016. Based on the current strengths of the two parties, the governorship polls provide a level playing field for one to prove its superiority over the other. It is left to be seen if the opposition will bring PDP’s 13-year dominance over Kogi state to a halt.
Incidentally, PDP took the leadership from the opposition in 2003, when Alhaji Ibrahim Idris defeated the then incumbent, Prince Abubakar Audu of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP. Ironically, Audu is still a factor in the current governorship race. He is the undisputed leader of APC in the state.
His Lokoja residence hosts APC meetings where all the decisions and strategies were mapped out in the run up to the 2015 elections.
But Audu’s undying governorship ambition will play a huge role in the determination of the governorship election. This is because of the many tendencies involved in the formation of the present day APC. There are many factors involved; those who came into the fold from the defunct ANPP, ACN and defectors from PDP.
Audu decided recently to throw his hat into the ring once again. It would be recalled he has expressed intention since the creation of the state in 1991, it is feared that it would be difficult for any other aspirants in the APC to stop him. Audu was governor between 1991 and 1992 during the aborted Third Republic. He was re-elected governor in 1999 and ruled until his loss to Idris in 2003. In a recent interview with Blueprint he disclosed why he wants to return as Kogi governor and said the APC will give the PDP a good fight.
Interestingly strong interests in APC are clamouring for a young, vibrant candidate.