Less than two months to the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are perfecting plans to oust each other. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU takes a look at chances of each party in the coming polls
The decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to hold governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, simultaneously on November 16, 2019, has made both states centre of political activities with the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gearing up for epic battle in both states. While the PDP is in the opposition in Kogi state and challenging the incumbent governor the state Governor Yahaya Bello, the APC is in the opposition in Bayelsa state and seeking to take over the reign of power from the PDP following the completion of the second term of the incumbent governor of the state, Seriake Dickson, who was elected on the platform of the PDP. Both parties recently concluded the party primaries electing flag bearers for the polls setting the stage for these epic battles.
Bello’s chances of re-election
The incumbent governor of Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello won the APC governorship primary election in his bid to secure a second term in office. Bello’s closest rival, Babatunde Irukera, polled 109 votes against the incumbent governor’s 3,091 votes.
This is perhaps the first political battle for the man who became governor in 2015 on a platter of gold following the sudden death of the APC’s governorship candidate in the race Prince Audu Abubakar, a former governor of the state. Notably, analysts have expressed reservation over Bello’s chances at re-election. They perceive the governor as carrying some baggage that may work against him at the polls.
This school of thought see many odds against Bello. The way the governor has managed the state in the last four years, they insist would no doubt impact greatly on his chances in the November 16 poll.
While a few pundits that are familiar with Kogi politics observed that the power of incumbency, federal might, and the recent bailout fund approved by President Muhammadu Buhari may strengthen and enhance the embattled governor’s chances, however, others insist that it would not make much difference.
For them, beyond latching on to power of incumbency and federal might, there was an urgent need for the governor to ensure that all the aggrieved members of his party are pacified so the party can go to the polls with a common front.
Onoja as running mate
Interestingly, after his emergence, many expected that Bello would have picked or would allow some of the aspirants who lost at the primary election to recommend the running mate. However, to the surprise of most party faithful the governor picked his friend and Chief of Staff Edward Onoja as his running mate.
Onoja, a trained banker, is not just the most influential appointee in Bello’s cabinet, but he is unarguably the most influential politician in Kogi east, a senatorial district that largely determines who gets what in any political contest in the state. However, whether Onoja’s popularity and influences would amount to victory in an election is a different kettle of fish entirely as some of the issues that would play out in the November 16 governorship election appears to be beyond any individual.
Analysts are also of the view that even though Onoja hails from Kogi East, his standing with the most populous senatorial district would go a long way in determining if they want their son to be a running mate or governorship candidate, who stands a chance to be elected governor.
This is as the chief of staff has been accused of being part of all anti-people policies of the Bello-led administration in the last four years.
Wada as the dark horse
Notably, the candidate of the PDP the forthcoming polls was not considered one of the frontline contenders at the party primary election. Engineer Musa Wada’s victory in a contest that involved a former governor, Captain Idris Wada; a serving Senator Dino Melaye, who represents Kogi West in the National Assembly; and son of the former governor, Ibrahim Idris; among other, took many unawares.
However, in a political upset, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, trained engineer, polled 748 votes to beat 12 other aspirants with former governor’s son polling the second highest votes with 710 votes, while former governor came third with 345.
Wada, who hails from Igala in Kogi East, is an in-law to former Governor Ibrahim Idris, and a brother to former Governor Idris Wada. His victory and emergence as the PDP flag bearer enforced the saying that no one is an underdog in a free, fair, and credible election.
Reacting to his victory at the PDP primary election and his chances in the November 16 governorship poll, Sulieman Abubakar stated that anyone or party that does not see Wada as a contender certainly does not understand the Kogi state politics.
“Engineer Musa Wada is a beginner, is a novice, is a walkover, he’s structural defective in Kogi East politics, this and that, some of these new direction sycophants on social space called supporters are not good students of history in Kogi politics.
“Was Alhaji Ibrahim Idris not a novice and a beginner in 2003 when he defeated the late Almighty Prince Abubakar Audu? Was governor Yahaya Bello not a novice and a beginner in 2015 when he gave late Prince Abubakar Audu a run for his money and fame in 2015 primary election that saw him come second and as fate will have it, he become a governor?
“Engineer Wada defeated a former governor with structure; defeated a son of a former governor and a political godfather; defeated a two-time member House of Representatives and two-time Senator to clinch the party’s ticket. With all these some people still think he does not stand any chance in the November 16 poll. His chances are as bright as a star,” he maintained.
Bracing for battle
In an attempt to pacify the aggrieved, PDP leadership requested all aspirants in the just concluded primary election to recommend names of party faithful to be considered as running mate and the party decided on Hon. Samuel Bamidele Aro, a member of the House of Representatives, who Blueprint Weekend investigation revealed was the choice most of the aspirants.
Pundits have, however, said that the ability of Wada and PDP to foster peace between the Wadas, the former governors, Ibrahim and Idris would go a long way in determining the success in the November 16 governorship election.
APC’s battle to win Bayelsa with Lyon
The contest for the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa state was largely between former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; a former member of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Council Engineer Preye Aganaba and Chief David Lyon.
Interestingly, Lyon polled 42,138 votes to defeat Diseye Poweigha, who came second with 1,533 votes while Maureen Etebu got 964 votes. Also, Ebitimi Amgbare polled 633 votes and while Lokpobiri got 571 votes and Aganaba got 354 votes. However, this outcome of the primary election didn’t go down well with Lokpobiri who is contesting Lyon’s victory at the primary.
For political analysts, the division among supporters of the APC in Bayelsa along three lines of former Governor Timipre Sylva, Lokpobiri, and Aganaba. They argued that the ability of the APC leadership to resolve the issues, coupled with the federal might, and the financial influence of its candidate and its running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, would determine whether the party would make an inroad in the South-south.
PDP battles to retain Bayelsa with Diri
It was victory for Governor Seriake Dickson’s Restoration Group against former President Goodluck Jonathan at the PDP primary election with the emergence of Senator Douye Diri, the governor’s anointed candidate.
Diri polled 561 votes to win the governorship ticket of the PDP in the state, while former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs Timi Alaibe, who is said to be President Jonathans preferred candidate, came second with 365 votes. Interestingly, since his emergence there has been a cold war between the two camps. The situation is said to have deteriorated to the extent that Alibe, reportedly, contemplated defection.
The situation is also said to have been compounded by the choice of running mate, which assumed a dangerous dimension following the alleged insistence of the state Governor Dickson to zone the slot to the Western Senatorial District where he comes from. The move is aimed at paving the way for the incumbent senator representing the zone Senator Lawrence Erwujakpor to emerge as the running mate so as to prepare the ground for the realization of his senatorial ambition after the election. Analysts have, however, cautioned that if the situation was not resolved it may affect the party’s chances at the poll.
PDP will regret choice of candidate
Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Timi Frank has said PDP would lose the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa state for “choosing to field a weak candidate.”
Frank in a recent press statement noted that the APC’s candidate was better placed to win the election in view of the fact that the PDP had curiously chosen to field a weak candidate against the APC flag-bearer.
The statement read in part, “APC will win the forth-coming governorship election in Bayelsa state, seeing the weak candidate Dickson (Governor Seriake) and the PDP have chosen as flag-bearer.
“It is not my wish for the APC to win the forthcoming Bayelsa governorship election in November as I am not a member of the APC neither am I a supporter of the party, but from the look of things, the choice made by Dickson and the PDP is not inspiring. Actually, it’s disappointing.
“I want to remind those that are surprised that this was the same position I took against my former party, the APC, in 2015 when the former governor and now the Minister of State for Petroleum Chief Timipre Sylva was nominated. He lost the election. History is about to repeat itself albeit in PDP because it is making the same mistake that the APC made in 2015. Therefore, the handpicked PDP’s candidate will lose the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa state.
“To prove my point, it would be recalled that there was neither excitement nor jubilation from Bayelsans after the ‘arrangee’ primaries that produced the PDP’s candidate. The adhoc congress already programmed him to win; Bayelsans and PDP know that there was no congress in Bayelsa as it was programmed in a way to favour him. PDP will regret its action as it will son boomerang against them.
“Bayelsans had looked forward to a formidable candidate in the person of Chief Timi Alaibe but some powerful forces from the PDP’s NWC and Governor Dickson traded Timi Alaibe for a weak candidate for selfish reasons to enable the APC to take over the governorship of Bayelsa state. I am pained to see that Bayelsans will have no choice than to vote for APC which has a better candidate.
“Bayelsans should hold Dickson and PDP’s NWC responsible for the imminent APC’s victory in the state. I would have loved the PDP’s candidate to win as he is from my constituency but it is not feasible as this is a man that lost his local government during the last election.”