PDP’s Kogi, Bayelsa primaries as litmus test for Nov 16 polls

On Tuesday, delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will elect its governorship candidates in Kogi and Bayelsa states through its primaries billed for November 16, 2019. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU in this report takes a look at the party’s challenges ahead of the polls.

13 aspirants passed screening in Kogi

In Kogi state, 12 male aspirants conveniently splashed N21 million each and it was not difficult for a female to also spend N1 million, all in a bid to secure the ticket of the opposition party, PDP, for the November 16 governorship election.

The aspirants before the screening  are senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye; a one-term governor, Capt. Idris Wada, Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former governor of the state, Idris Ibrahim. Others are Bayo Averehi, Mohammed Shaibu, Dr. Victor Adoji,  Bayo Agberedi, Air Vice Marshal Salia Atawodi (retd.), Dr Joseph Ameh; Grace Adejo, Abubakar Suleiman, Hon. Emmanuel Omebije and Engr. Musa Wada.

Interestingly, the screening committee that was chaired by Governor of Taraba state, Dirus Ishaku, gave the 13 aspirants a green card and cleared them to participate in Tuesday’s primary election. However, pundits have described the screening as the “money magic screening,” saying there was no way any aspirant who paid N21 million for the expression of interest and nomination forms would be screened out.

The issues

In Kogi state, many people are interested in the PDP ticket; so, there are many interests. This may not be far from the allegation that the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello has in the last four years failed to make any meaningful impact, so they want is job. Notable among the major contenders for PDP ticket are the senator representing Kogi-west, Dino Melaye; a one-term governor, Capt. Idris Wada, Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former Governor Idris Ibrahim.

Political observers are of the view what follows after the primaries will, to a large extent, be determined by these three aspirants alongside a former PDP national chairman, Chief Amadu Ali, and another former Governor Ibrahim. So, the unity of the party after the primaries will determine its performance in the November 16 governorship election.

Ologbondiyan’s message to Bello

Meanwhile, the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, has advised Governor Bello to start preparing his hand-over notes, stressing that “whoever emerges in Tuesday’s primary election will defeat the incumbent who is likely going to be the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”

He said, “In Kogi state, the PDP will remove Yahaya Bello as a united political party. And there is no division in the PDP Kogi state. What is happening is a normal democratic order, where interests contend, it’s normal.

“Whoever the PDP in Kogi elects as their candidate in governorship election will surely defeat democratically Governor Yahaya Bello. So, the people have been energised in the state. They have seen suicide, they have seen none payment of salaries, they have seen a government that works for four years and yet they have no single project. They have seen looting; as such the people themselves are ready to vote out Governor Yahaya Bello.”

On possibility of vote-buying, Ologbondiyan said, “For outsiders who do not understand the character of Kogi people, this could mean something. The people of Kogi state are already fed up with Yahaya Bello. We are talking about a governor who couldn’t pay pension running to years. Some of our parents in Kogi state are being owed to the tune of 39 months’ pension; as we speak, there are arrears of salaries that have not been touched, people have been sacked for no just reasons from their places of work, the economy of the state has nosedived because civil servants who are supposed to ginger the economy of the state are not paid. The PDP will provide a better alternative to Yahaya Bello, so naturally the people of Kogi state will vote for PDP.

“And Kogi people for your information cannot be bought with money. They are not goods on the shelves that Governor Yahaya Bello will just wakes up and say if I pay this amount I will win. Don’t also forget that Kogi state has history of changing their governors at their convenience. In 2003, the late Prince Abubakar Audu was voted out of office because of non-payment of salary. So, the people of Kogi state have a natural way of determining who has done well and failed them and they will naturally replace anyone who has failed them.”

Bayelsa’s 21 aspirants battle-ready

Like in Kogi, the oil-rich Bayelsa state has 21 aspirants who picked the party’s expression of interest and nomination forms for the PDP tickets. Interestingly, all the aspirants were declared qualified by a screening committee chaired by the governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde.

The aspirants are the chairman of Bayelsa Board of Internal Revenue, Ayawei Nimbofa; a former cabinet member in the state, Reuben Okoya; and an ex-militant leader, Great MacIver, the incumbent deputy governor of the state, Gboribiogha Jonah, a businessman, Kenebi Okoko, former commissioner for works and transportation in the state, Franklin Osaisai, Benson Agadaga, and a former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, senator representing Bayelsa Central, Douye Diri, chief of staff to Governor Dickson, Talford Ongolo, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kemela Okara, Boladei Igali, and Fred Agbedi.

Dickson’s group takes on Jonathan

The Bayelsa state governor,  Seriake Dickson, who doubles as the  chairman PDP governors forum, has tactically limited the search of his successor to members of political family known as the Restoration Group as against the interest of the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and announced aspirants former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe. The contest in Bayelsa is obviously between men that are loyal to the former president and the members of governor’s restoration group.

It is not clear who the party is supporting, but they are allegation that the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, was playing and protecting the interest of the governor. To corroborate this, was the allegation by the Alaibe’s campaign organisation that Secondus and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) deliberately allowed most of the brothers, sisters, nephews, cousins, and relations of the Restoration Team aspirants to be in the composition of the returning and electoral officers in today’s primary election.

PDP on Bayelsa primaries

Reacting to the speculations, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says it’s not manipulating its primaries for the selection of its candidate in Bayelsa state.

Its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the allegations as “false, misleading and calculated attempt to cause confusion” among the members of the party in the state ahead of the poll, and advised the aspirants and party members to disregard “such dangerous and damaging rumours.”

According to him, “the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is very procedural and we won’t allow the party to be stampeded into taking actions that will negate the principles of our party as a democratic party.”

Ologbondiyan said, “The process is on and the party has not reached any conclusion in respect to issues raised concerning those elected into office, either as chairmen or councillors in Bayelsa state. The party is still holding meetings in respect of this based on a petition received from one of the aspirants on the matter.

“It is absolutely misplaced for anybody or any group of people to come together and say that the party has taken a decision and also make allegations that the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had played a role in whatever form in that process.

“On the issue of Bayelsa, the state is a traditional home of the PDP, we are in democracy so APC has right to run an election, but there is no way that the people seeing what is happening in Nigeria today across states and FCT, looking at the massive failure of the APC and its government, seeing the way they have reduced Nigerians to beggars will now begin to gravitate towards APC, Bayesians will not do that.”

He said, “Democracy can only thrive in an environment where peaceful conduction of election is allowed. So, what we are saying is that the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has the ample opportunity to conduct an election that will be clean, clear, and credible and that will be generally acceptable to the majority of Nigerians. Anything outside of that, he will not only diminish INEC, but that institution.”

Expert on results of the primaries

A political analyst, Ibrahim Muhammed, says the Kogi and Bayelsa states’ elections are important for the PDP to win, but the outcome of its primary elections in these states will determine its successes in the November 16 poll.

He said, “The two states are important for the PDP. Bayelsa has been a PDP state since the return of democracy; so, the party will want to maintain its dominance in the South-south, while Kogi was a PDP state in the past. So, the party will also want to do everything possible to make more inroads in the North-central.

“However, the party needs to be careful not to run into crisis with the number of aspirants in these two states. About 12 aspirants in Kogi state and over 20 in Bayelsa state, and almost all these aspirants are not pushovers. So, the party needs to be careful. It must ensure that the primary elections in these two states are free, fair, and credible to all. So, the process must be transparent.

“The part must also put in place functional mechanism to address any fallout that may follow these primaries, failure to appeal to aggrieved aspirants after the primary will likely lead to mass abandonment of the party or passive role of critical stakeholders in the November 16 elections. If the party failed to manage the victory and lost well, the APC may benefit from it.”

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