KOGI GUBER: A Conundrum, Self-inflicted
THE controversy surrounding the Kogi State governorship election of two Saturdays ago is still unraveling. By the time the high drama retires behind the curtains and a new government is formed, some would commend themselves for successfully staging another electoral wonder. It is another episode of ‘the more you look, the less you see’. Unless the main actors in the election confess their roles, those of us outside may never know the entire truth of what transpired. But as far as intrigues are concerned, they are never in short supply here.
The stakes for Kogi became very high after the 2015 general elections, which saw the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the once dominant player in the North Central crashing out in four states – Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa and Benue, and hanging loosely to the governorship in Kogi, after it suffered major defeat in the presidential and legislative Assembly. Were the governorship not staggered in the state, chances were that PDP was close to losing if that election had taken place in April. For the PDP, Kogi became its last bastion in the zone and if it must remain relevant in future contests, every effort was put into the race to ensure it retained Kogi. Whether the efforts were pragmatic enough is another matter.
For the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kogi was to be the icing on the cake after its victorious outing in March/April. It needed to prove the point that its recent electoral victory was no fluke, as well as, dominate the North Central. Bear in mind too that in 1999, Kogi belonged to the family of the party that is now in government at the centre. Kogi used to be an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) state originally, along with Kwara, but the PDP Tsumani captured it and retained it for eight years. 2015 therefore, was to be a year of rematch and the APC was not prepared to gamble. And that explained why it fielded the late Abubakar Audu, believing that he was the only one who could uproot the PDP from the state. Again, whether that was a smart choice is what many are trying to unravel.
Now there is a stalemate and the frontline parties are trapped. They will pay heavily in legal fees to unhook themselves from this confusion. But I insist it is self-inflicted.
The PDP suffered major losses in the North Central and elsewhere not so much, because of its failure to deliver democratic dividends, but more from its internecine wars. From what we have seen during elections so far, not up to a quarter of the population actually participate in the voting process. Minus those yet to attain voting age, majority of adults do not yet see the advantage in their voting power. The losses PDP suffered in Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and Kwara happened, because the party disobeyed its own rules of internal democracy. The PDP does not listen to those who do not have money to lobby for primaries.
Gov. Idris Wada is said to be very unpopular. Even though he is praised for being a gentleman, it was very clear that if the PDP insisted on fielding him for the governorship, it would record an undeniable loss. Kogi PDP had alternatives in a number of aspirants who could have matched Audu’s clannish grassroots populism, but the unrepentant characters in Wadata House would hear none of that. They believe it is haram to deny an underperforming incumbent the party’s flag, even when he is confirmed to be k-legged. Now Wada is asking to be rewarded with an election he was not primed to win, given his poor performance.
For the APC, it was greed that made it surrender the party’s guber ticket to Audu, a man that had earlier occupied government house two times, and one with a bad reputation, in addition to having a subsisting corruption case with the EFCC. In the first place, it was unbecoming of an APC that proclaims change to unabashedly surrender its tickets to men who can commandeer votes by hook and crook, but whose integrity quotient is abysmal. The capacity to win free and fair elections is good and inalienable, but without character, such effort does not profit the polity. That to me is what APC change should translate to, not doing things same old ways.
Kogi is APC’s first outing, in terms of presiding over and managing elections. And so far, it is a very poor outing. Which is why some of us keep asking the APC government to pronounce its policy on the review of the electoral processes. If it pretends that because it was awarded victory in April, therefore, all is well with the electoral system, the ruling party will be deceiving itself. What happened in March/April was a narrow win that could have gone either way. I dare to add that the APC won marginally, because those who have mastered the art of commandeering votes in the other party went on recess. Or, they were afraid of the possibility of a ferocious backlash as had been warned.
Therefore, this is the time to begin to build on what the former party left behind at INEC. There were reports of massive over-voting and underage voting in the last election, especially, in APC strongholds in the North. The card readers and data capture machines were not perfect. I expected the party in government to have carried out an audit of the last exercise before venturing to Kogi. INEC ought to have explained to Nigerians what remained of the infrastructure that was used to prosecute the 2015 general elections; what is serviceable and what is replaceable. It is not enough to appoint an INEC chair and expect him to perform magic in Kogi, using the limited template inherited from the previous regime.
When the current INEC chair, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, was screened at the National Assembly, he promised heaven on earth, but some who are familiar with the system just sneered. They know that when push comes to shove, the Professor would buckle. The man has questions to answer regarding INEC’s role in the Kogi logjam. Discerning onlookers are convinced that there was no reason to declare that election inconclusive. The APC was on the verge of winning and could have been so declared. Whatever number of votes that were voided, appear too marginal to affect the overall result of that election. It seems that that declaration of inconclusiveness was an afterthought foisted on INEC just to debar APC from winning. Declaring APC winner in the event of the death of the flag bearer, Audu, would automatically confer deputy candidate James Faleke with a victory the party does not want. APC does not want Kogi West to inherit a victory that was meant for Kogi East. To surrender the governorship to Faleke might mean surrendering the state for the next four years to Kogi West and their godfathers, whoever they may be. A lot of calculations might have gone into that, including 2019.
The APC is not done with its own internecine wars. What we saw on June 9 in the NASS is just a tip of it. It is just beginning and a lot of scarce resources will now go into nourishing a needless back and forth game. Ordinarily, INEC needn’t spend additional funds to stage a contrived rerun. Much more will be expended in the legal fireworks that will be unleashed soon.
Is this the change the APC promised Nigerians, to dredge up electoral controversies simply because it wants to cut its nose to spite its face? By the time the puzzle is sorted and victory is apportioned, some would blame themselves for engineering the stalemate.
And what was the Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami, trying to suggest when he tersely pronounced that his party, the APC will have to substitute its candidate for the purpose of Saturday’s supplementary election? Did he think he was addressing his party members at a certain Ungwar Ward in Kebbi State? Is he the court that will make pronouncement on a matter that affects 22 other political parties?
We know that he is new on the job and he needs time to learn the ropes. But it will serve his interest and that of all of us if he quickly draws a line between the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and his political party affiliation. We know that he is an APC member, having followed President Buhari loyally from their days in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The new Nigeria, that we, non-partisan citizens envisage, is one that is bigger than one political party.
I leave same words for the man at INEC. If he wants to succeed, he should steer clear of the wiles of politicians. They are dangerous!