Kogi guber 2019: Roll call of aspirants

Erico Ameh

• The Odds Against Yahaya Bello
The race for the November 2, 2019 governorship poll is on in Kogi State. And all the strong political parties— the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Accord Party, (AP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)— are parading notable aspirants. And barring any surprises, the APC and PDP are clearly in the lead.

The PDP list includes immediate past governor Capt. Idris Wada, his brother and staff of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Engr. Musa Wada, security expert, Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh, businessman and son of a former governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar Idris, technocrat and Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Space Research Development Agency, (NSRDA) Prof. Seidu Ogar, and former Deputy Speaker of State House of Assembly, Emma Omebije, former Commissioner for Health and erstwhile President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Dr. Idris Omede, another former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Aliyu Aku, a former Ankpa Council chairman, Hassan Yakubu Enape Muhammed Shaibu Tetes, retired regional manager with Nigerian Breweries. The list could grow.

In the APC, there are the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello, former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Jibrin Usman (rtd), Executive Director, Consumers Protection Agency (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, Chairman of defunct Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Sani Lulu and a former commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Tim Nda Dichie, among others.

Erico Ameh (PDP)
A United-States trained security expert and founder of Real Strikers Security Services Limited, Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh is a frontline aspirant in the Kogi 2019 guber election. Erico’s aspiration to become Kogi State Governor was responsible for the heightened activities in the main opposition party’s camp, as it has embarked on direct contacts and town hall meetings across the state. No other aspirant has traversed the state’s nooks and cranny as Ameh has done. He has also been assisting the party to meet its financial obligations.

In the run up to the February and March polls, he supported all PDP candidates in the National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections across the three senatorial districts, nine federal constituencies and 25 state constituencies. After the reported militarised state Assembly elections, Erico threw in his weight to enable aggrieved candidates without the means file cases at the Tribunals.

He was the National Coordinator of Professionals for Atiku and was involved in campaigns/rallies in several states. Aside that, when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came to the state for campaigns, Ameh mobilised PDP members in all the 21 Local Government Areas, by providing transportation.

A grassroots politician, he proved he was on ground in his ward, when he delivered all the 17 Polling Units for PDP in both the state and National Assembly elections.

Idris Omede (PDP)
A medical practitioner, Omede hails from Odu Dekina Local Government. He was a co-founder and President of Inikipi Club of Nigeria (1993-1996), a socio-cultural group for sensitisation and mobilisation of Igala sons and daughters, particularly the elders with youth participation to enhance unity of purpose, inclusiveness, togetherness, and common interest of the people and the Kingdom for sustainable development.

He was national president, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and President, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN). His tenure as Commissioner for Health, witnessed the establishment of Kogi State University Teaching Hospital, three zonal cottage hospitals and Kogi Diagnostic and Comprehensive Imaging Centre.

He has been a board member of many federal health institutions, including the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and Council member, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). He was Member, Kogi State PDP Presidential campaign Committee November, 2018 and Chairman, PDP Presidential Campaign committee on Health services, Abuja, February 2019.
He said his governorship aspiration “was borne out of my desire to provide visionary and transformational leadership in our dear state; put the state on the path of reality, trust, restoration of hope, confidence and build an endearing state…”

Jibrin Usman (APC)
He was Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff and served under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Prior to his appointment as Chief of Naval Staff, he was the Chief of Logistics and Director of Training, Defence Headquarters Abuja.

The list of those jostling for governorship ticket in APC was further elongated by Usman’s official declaration. The former service chief, who made his intention known recently, hinged his intention on the need to offer purposeful leadership.

He appealed for support of APC members and the people. He was said to have influenced the establishment of the Navy Command at Banda, Lokoja and Navy Secondary School, Okura.

Usman’s declaration finally laid to rest speculation on which platform he was going to run after several months of consultation. His decision to settle for APC came as a shock after it was thought he would run on PDP platform, especially as Kogi Rescue Mission, a group within PDP, spearheaded his consultation at the grassroots.

Sources close to the retired Naval chief, however, attributed his decision to pitch tent with APC to considerations for federal might and growing speculations within the party that the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello may be denied APC ticket.

Another reason adduced for his choice is the connection between him and Hajia Salamotu Baiwa, the Kogi-born APC national woman leader, who is said to be mobilising for him.

Last week, the forum of ex-political office holders said it had endorsed Usman’s aspiration.

In a statement signed by the forum’s secretary general, Suleiman
Adaji, the former political office holders, who served under former governor Idris Wada between 2012 and 2016 “are excited to hear the news of the declaration of governorship ambition of Admiral Jibrin Usman under the All Progressives Congress (APC)…”

Abubakar Idris (PDP)
Idris, a successful businessman with interests in hospitality, oil and gas, agriculture and mining, is one name that is generating interest in the PDP and fears in opposition parties because of his father’s towering figure. His father, Ibrahim Idris was a two-time governor.

Despite assurances of his neutrality as a party leader in the state, PDP members sympathetic to other aspirants have accused the older Idris of subtle attempt to impose his son as the party’s candidate.

At a recent meeting of Kogi PDP caucus, a visibly angry Idris was said to have threatened to resign his leadership position and quit politics. He was also quoted to have instructed his son to drop his ambition. It was gathered that it took the intervention of top party stalwarts within and outside the state for him to rescind his decision.

Idris has, however, refuted the entire story. He also declared that his only in interest in the 2019 governorship election is to entrench good leadership in the state.

The young Idris has continued to gain endorsements amongst a cross section of the party members. The groups and associations drumming support for him include; Lokoja Leaders of Thought, Koi East Youth Network, Lokoja-Koto Market Men Association, Performing Young Musicians Association; Kogi PDP Women Group; Atikulated Project Nationwide, Kogi State chapter, Kogi Central Coalition and Kogi West Youth Alliance.

The KWYA recently disclosed that it had paid for PDP gubernatorial intent form for Abubakar Idris long before he accepted to run for governorship.

Babatunde Irukera (APC)
Irukera is a lawyer of over two decades and currently the Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Before his appointment as DG of CPC, he was a senior partner at Simmons Cooper partners, a law firm, where Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo was a co-partner.

His record of advocacy and cases in favour of consumers has been outstanding. His experiences range from being in-house counsel to General Counsel and advising senior government officials and key government institutions.

Irukera came into political limelight when he aspired to govern the state in 2015, instantly becoming a toast of the young and old in APC.

After the late Abubakar Audu, Irukera became the next household name in the run up to the 2015 election. He seemed to have things going for him as a frontline aspirant, until his withdrawal from the race on the eve of the August 2015 APC gubernatorial primary.

The news of his withdrawal shocked both his supporters and the general public, for whom his aspiration held hope. It was, however, learned that his last minute withdrawal was a joint decision by the Tinubu/Osinbajo political camp to mobilise for an Audu/Faleke joint ticket, a near-successful venture marred by Audu’s death few hours to announcement of his victory at the poll.

Irukera’s return is seen as apt and foreseeable. It is also seen as work in progress, depending on the final resolution of the Tinubu/Oshiomhole factor.

The Guardian gathered that the projection is one of a multiple permutations among Irukera, Muhammed Audu and Jibrin Usman.

Dino Melaye (PDP)
Melaye was reelected Senator, Kogi West Senatorial District earlier this year. But beyond that, he has attained the cult-figure of being the voice of the masses in the state. Although going by the popular view in PDP that Kogi East remains the party’s strategic option to produce its flag bearer, not a few held the view that in the event Bello beats the odds to pick APC ticket, the PDP may have to consider picking its candidate from Kogi West for some reasons.
These include the increasing number of aspirants and multiple candidates likely to still emerge from other parties in the majority Kogi East. Another factor is the consideration for power shift; an age-long agitation for power to rotate from Igala to the west of the Niger (Kogi Central and Kogi West). The other factor is the fact that Kogi West has remained faithful to PDP since 1999, and was the only zone that delivered in the February and March 2019 polls, the presidential, senate and one out of three House of Reps polls.

A match between Bello and his estranged friend, Melaye would indeed be one event to behold.

Wada

Idris Wada (PDP)
In the roll call of PDP aspirants, Capt. Idris Wada remains one of the best for the party’s ticket, considering his experience and understanding of the state affairs. A renowned advocate of prudent management of resources and largely seen as incorruptible, a large number of the electorate, especially civil servants, whose role in the determination of Kogi governorship elections cannot be underestimated, have called for Wada’s return.

Yahaya Bello (APC)
Yahaya Bello will be walking a tight rope between the power of incumbency and the ‘enemy’ within the APC family in his desire to win his party’s ticket and subsequently the election in November.

Going by APC’s performance in the February and March polls under his watch, ordinarily, Bello shouldn’t entertain fears retaining his seat. But his major challenges are likely to come from the decision makers in the party’s top echelon, who are said to be inundated by petitions from groups and individuals complaining about his leadership style.

The odds against Bello are many. Aside well-known opposition to his second term bid by the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and national leader, Bola Tinubu, there is also a case before an Abuja Federal High Court involving the sacked Kogi State APC executives, who are in court demanding reinstatement.

However, the restoration of the Haddy Ametuo-led APC state exco, which is loyal to Audu/Faleke faction, would definitely not be in Bello’s interests.

Bello is also in the Kogi public court for negative reasons pertaining to his handling of state affairs, ranging from poor attendance to workers welfare to downsizing of the workforce and non-payment of salary.

There are also the political consequences of the division within APC faithful, resulting in the break up of the party into two irreconcilable factions. Surprisingly, out of the negatives has emerged a strong support base for the embattled Bello among his loyalists, especially government appointees from ward, local government to the state levels.

Among those that have openly endorsed Bello for a second term are two senators-elect, Jibril Isah Echocho (Kogi East) and Yakubu Oseni (Kogi Central), seven House of Reps members-elect and 25 elected members of the state Assembly.

APC’s victories in the presidential, National Assembly and state House of Assembly polls are some of the credentials his supporters are pointing at, as they insist there is no vacancy in Lugard House in 2019. But unsure of his fate in APC, Bello is reportedly considering shopping for an alternative political party to realise his second term ambition.

Meanwhile, at his official declaration for second term, Bello said his declaration came after consultations with APC leadership, both at national and state levels, as well as pressure from the state people to seek re-election.

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