By Fanwo Kingsley
With the successful conclusion of the APC governorship primary in Kogi State, attention has shifted to the battle of wits in what analysts are already tipping as the 2011 rematch between Gov. Idris Wada and a former AFRIBANK chief, Alhaji Isah Jibrin Echocho. Both gladiators are from Dekina Local Government Area which is reputed as the hotbed of Kogi East politics. The emergence of the youthful Banjo Amoto Moses is raising a few eyebrows since he is the only aspirant from Kogi Central and by extension, from the old Kwara.
The 2011 PDP governorship primary threw up a number of political calculations. While the likes of Prince Sola Akanmode and Chief Christopher Adebayo Ojo were nursing the ambition of bringing finesse to governance; the likes of Chief Abiodun Ojo and Chief Clarence Olafemi were banking on their loyalty to the then incumbent governor, Ibrahim Idris.
But in a manner characteristic of outgoing incumbents, Idris feigned no interest in the succession. However, a day to the primary, it became obvious that the governor wanted Echocho who in the January, 2011 primary defeated his closest rival, billionaire oil magnate, Alhaji Abdulrazak Isa Kutepa. It was a direct contest between Idris and Kutepa. The then incumbent had his way.
But shortly after that primary, Idris’ tenure was extended by a court of appeal ruling leading to a repeat primary in the third quarter of 2011. By that time the bond between Idris and Echocho had snapped. It emerged that Echocho and Idris’ mortal political foe, Prince Abubakar Audu were in-laws as their children had married each other in Canada.
Idris was forced to lure Wada into the race, a development that Echocho resisted and fought to the Supreme Court, but to no avail.
The 2015 governorship ambition of Echocho had always been an open secret especially in the light of what some believed was the vulnerability of the incumbent.
However, his efforts at convincing some PDP governors and other party bigwigs to support his ambition have reportedly not been very successful as many of them are not underestimating the power of incumbency.
Power of incumbency
A source close to him revealed: “We have been holding several meetings because of apprehension over the chances of Echocho making the primary election. He is no doubt a competent hand to govern the state, but many PDP governors are not giving us encouraging signals which is not what we bargained for.
Many PDP governors want the incumbent to return and we are having a herculean task trying to convince them against supporting the governor. The current structure of the party in the state is clearly in support of the governor and except there is a radical change which we are praying for”, he said.
It is thus not surprising that the governor’s political spin-doctors are increasingly confident of winning the PDP ticket.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Arc. Yomi Awoniyi has met with no fewer than 10 local government council leaderships of the party to woo them to support the governor’s candidature. He has been showcasing the achievements of the governor as well as making promises on human development.
This, analysts say, is key to the re-election bid of Gov. Wada. With the support of virtually all the critical stakeholders of the party across the state, bookmakers believe the ticket is a sure bet for the governor.
The governor’s supporters are also hinging his chances on his performance in office. To them, the governor has recorded great achievements in the areas of education, industrialization, youth empowerment and agriculture; a feat the party will want to put on showcase during the electioneering.
Also, the party leaders across the state are supporting Gov. Wada because they wouldn’t want to toy with having a sitting governor who would not be committed to the success of the party in the election. Dropping Wada for a fresh candidate, they say, may spell doom for the party in the election.
Another reason that is working in favour of the governor is the power rotation pact which is being promoted by party leaders. The Kogi Central and Kogi West leaders are looking at the window of opportunity offered in 2019. Echocho coming on board, they reckon, will further push their aspiration for power rotation away.
My Banjo Amoto is considered a political neophyte in the politics of the state but the young activist is striving to put his doubters wrong. As the sole aspirant from the old Kwara State, many are looking at him as the fast-track medium for power rotation with the APC governorship ticket having gone to Kogi East. His pragmatic campaign is said to be winning hearts among some party men within and outside the state.
One thing is, however, sure: The November 21, 2015 governorship election will test the resilience of the PDP to hold on to power and the determination of the APC to seize power.