KOGI 2015: Intrigues That Produced Abubakar Audu As APC Candidate
The major issue before the primary election was that of power shift from the Igala speaking Kogi East senatorial zone to either Kogi West or Kogi Central. The Igalas have been at the driver’s seat since the creation of the state, even as expectations were rife that the APC would tilt the power equation this time around.
Despite contesting against 28 others, Audu clinched the ticket with 1109 votes ahead of his closest rival, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who scored 703 votes. Senator in the 7th National Assembly, representing Kogi central senatorial district, Mr. Nurudeen Obatemi, polled 400 votes to come third.
Prior to the primary, leaders of the West and Central senatorial districts engaged the aspirant’s from the two zones in marathon meetings aimed at producing a consensus candidate, so as not to split their votes and thereby ensuring that power shift was actualised.
With about 15 contenders from Kogi East, the believe was that it was going to be really an uphill task for Audu to win. The keenly contested election brought to play regional politics with the three senatorial districts voting according to their regions, but Audu, relying on his ANPP structure was able to pull votes from across the divides.
His kinsmen, who split the votes, despite the solidarity from the Kogi West, may have disappointed Bello, who would have pulled the surprise victory for power shift.
Experienced Audu coasted home to victory with a margin of 406 votes between him and his closest rival. His victory was not without underground maneuvers, as he was able to convince delegates from the nine local government areas of Kogi East to queue behind him. Delegates from the zone had earlier endorsed Audu as their sole candidate. The delegates were seen filing into the Lokoja residence of the former governor, where they entered into a closed door meeting a day to the election.
A source, close to the stakeholders, indicated that the delegates decided to back Audu after prolong hours of consultation. His endorsement, however, might not be unconnected with the realisation by the other 15 APC aspirants from Kogi East that they had little chance against him. The former governor’s residence was a beehive of activities, even as rumour of gang-up by other aspirants made the rounds. True to type, the delegates delivered their votes based on the agreement at that meeting and Audu carried the day.
The APC candidate in his acceptance speech, however, praised Alhaji Bello for his spirit of sportsmanship and his doggedness in the contest. He quickly embraced and interacted with Bello, who he said impressed him a lot.
The duo were seen sitting together even when other aspirants had left the venue. “I say with him, after four years I can go and rest,” Audu said of his rival. “As far as we are concerned in this contest no loser and no winner no vanquished.
“This is a very minor thing let us not think that the primary is the end. To unseat a sitting government is serious business, but with the cooperation of all and sundry we shall win,” Audu said.
Bello, who spoke on behalf of other contestants, said they wanted a generational change, but since the leader has won, they would wait for the next four years.
According to him, “It is a great concern we craved for generational change today under our great party and under a transparent and very free and very fair process we have a winner of the contest.” By the special grace of God we shall work in harmony in APC because it is a great party we shall continue to be together to ensure that victory is ours on the 21st of November this year. “We wish that our leader would carry all of us along and together we shall send PDP out of Kogi.”
In a swift reaction the publicity secretary of the PDP Bode Ogunmola said Audu is a soft ground for PDP’s victory because the election would be a walk over for the PDP.
More details, however, emerged after the election on how the former governor, Audu emerged as the gubernatorial candidate at the party’s primary.
It was alleged that one of the aspirants, Barrister Tunde Irukera, the purportedly preferred candidate who had the backing of the Presidency, was prevailed upon to withdraw from the race at the last minute.
It was alleged that the forces working for Audu were behind Irukera’s exit, as this freed more votes for Audu in the east and ensured the votes from the west and central were shared amongst the other aspirants from those regions.
Before the primaries, there were speculations that Gamji was brought in by Senator Mohammed Ohiare (representing Kogi central), with the encouragement from Audu, who felt threatened by the growing profile of Bello as an aspirant. An APC stalwart, who spoke in confidence, said Gamji joined the race just two weeks to the primaries, not to win, but to destabilise the central zone and provide an easy ride for Audu. It was also alleged that Gamji remains a stalwart of the PDP, as he had not officially decamped from the party.
“Ohiare and Gamji successfully played the Audu game. Ohiare, in connivance with Audu, brought in Gamji, a PDP member to cause confusion in the central zone and deny the zone the APC ticket.” The source added that it was clear that Bello was the only threat to Audu and they needed to break his growing influence and make things easy for the former governor.
Another source said that Ohiare had always been an Audu man and was actually working for him. “Senator Ohiare worked for Audu and was only pretending to be backing Gamji. It was pure politics of deceit he played there. The intention of the Ohiare group was never about him, but Audu.”
Sources indicated that Ohiare and Ohize believe when power shift becomes reality they should have the first shot at the coveted number one position. So, they felt their future was not secure if they fail to stop Bello.
That aside, playing the Audu conspiracy, Ohiare was actually on a revenge mission, having been enlisted by the late father of Gamji, Alhaji Abu Inihaya, in 2007, into the governorship race against former Governor Ibrahim Idris on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Ohiare, who was also a sitting senator at that time, allegedly sold most of his landed properties to prosecute the election, which he lost to Idris. He might have only paid back Gamji for what he termed sins of his father and at the same time, stopping Bello, who his camp considered too audacious. Ohiare’s camp and by extension, Senator Ohize, are afraid to allow the younger generation of leaders to take over, especially those they may consider too independent minded.
Ohiare, however, had indicated that he would have saved the situation if the aspirants from Kogi Central had listened to him. He noted that those blackmailing him that he surreptitiously worked for Audu were not in the know of what happened. “It is quite unfortunate that in politics, the greatest weapon to use against your opponent is blackmail; I occupy the highest political office in the Central zone, which of course, I will forever be grateful to my people for, hence, I could not have done that,” Ohiare said. He added that he would have contested for governorship as part of the Ebira agenda, but that “having considered climate of things”, he retreated to enable him midwife the agenda to a conclusion. He noted that they were able to convince the aspirants from the western senatorial district to step down, while his kinsmen refused all entreaties.
He added that he had to close ties with Senator Ohize, whom he had been at loggerheads with for quite some time, for political reasons, stressing that they analysed all the contestants, in conjunction with other stakeholders, to arrive at picking Alhaji Abubakar Sanusi as the preferred person to fly the flag. He further stated that delegates from Western zone, much of where victory would have come, already accepted Sanusi’s candidature. He described him as a notable philanthropist, whose pedigree transcended others, in terms of commitment to the cause of Ebira land