Never in the brief but eventful political history of the state has the stake been higher. The political reality in Kogi is such that as the election day gets nearer, so are the people farther from hacking a guess as to who may carry the day on November 21.
By Kingsley Fanwo
CAMPAIGN Intensity: With the introduction of card readers, it is becoming practically unfeasible to manipulate the process or the results. The recent upturning of results declared in March and April 2015 is ringing more caution into the ears of politicians who circumvent the law, rape the process to achieve a supposed support of an unsupportive voting population.
With this in mind, the major gladiators in the Kogi governorship poll are hitting the streets to woo voters to support their governorship election. Analysts say the 2015 governorship campaign in Kogi State has witnessed a level unprecedented in the political history of the state. From Abejukolo to Idah, from Okene to Obangede, from Iyamoye to Egbe; the gladiators are leaving no stone unturned to capture the minds of the voters.
Another striking feature is the emergence of campaign groups such as the Project Win With Wada, Change Agents Initiative, Ozigi in Your Hearts, Salawu Volunteers and a host of others. These campaign groups have intensified campaign in the rural areas, combing communities to ensure victory for their respective candidates.
The Economics of the Campaign: Conservatively, billions of naira have been sunk into the campaign efforts of the leading candidates in the race. With a billboard averaging a hundred thousand naira, it is believed that over a billion naira has gone into mounting billboards in strategic locations alone. Political economists also say hundreds of millions of naira have gone into consultancy. The leading aspirants in the race are said to have contracted A-grade consultants to marshal their publicity portfolios.
Radio and Television advertisements have also been massive and may have absorbed the chunk of the campaign funds of the major political parties. Questions have been raised as to the source of funds going into campaigns. Unlike in the tested democracies where the citizens donate towards campaign activities, poverty, illiteracy and misguided value have combined to make our democracy a costly adventure.
The Governorship Debate: Beyond the naira and kobo attraction to people seeking political offices, it has become imperative to engage them on their plans for the people if and when they win elections. To this end, an NGO organized a debate to create a platform for the governorship candidates to relate their programs to the people of Kogi State. While the PDP was represented by the Deputy Governor and the running mate to Capt. Idris Wada, Arc. Abayomi Awoniyi, the All Progressives Congress was conspicuously absent.
The PDP and the Progressive Peoples Alliance used the event to hit the nail on their cardinal plans if elected on November 21. It also afforded the Deputy Governor of the state the opportunity to reel out the achievements of the incumbent governor in various sectors of the economy.
Another candidate who proved his mettle at the debate was the candidate of the Peoples Progressives Alliance, Mr. Emmanuel Ozigi who showed a grasp of the issues surrounding the economy of the state as it affects government/labour relations, education, agriculture, healthcare and solid minerals development.
However, the absence of the candidate of the APC, Prince Abubakar Audu raised a few eyebrows as stakeholders were deprived of the opportunity of hearing from him his programmes for the people of the state if given the mandate to stir the ship of leadership for the next four years.
The Angst of the Ebira People
The Ebira people of Kogi Central are the real game changers in the forthcoming governorship election. Many had thought 2015 was the year of the Ebira people with the emergence of Alh. Yahaya Bello as a political force in the run up to the governorship election, but with divisions among the ethnic minorities within APC, Prince Abubakar Audu emerged as the candidate of the party with a burst of controversies. Bello’s refusal to openly support Audu, signposts dangers for the APC in Kogi Central.
The PDP may benefit from the seeming angst against the APC. The PDP structure in Kogi Central may reap from the split in the opposition APC. But if the Kogi Central people follow the trend of 2003, they may choose between Emmanuel Enesi Ozigi of the PPA and Philip Omeiza Salawu of the Labour Party.
Can the Incumbency Factor Fly?
In Nigeria, incumbency constitutes a big factor in determining political contest. The governor of the state, Capt. Wada who is contesting on the platform of the PDP is expected to deploy incumbency towards achieving electoral success. With the retinue of appointees at his disposal, the governor is expected to spring some advantages to his favour.
It is however unclear if the pull of the centre would not work against the incumbency at the state level. The Buhari reforms and the discipline of the men around him may come to test in the Kogi governorship election as the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is believed to be rooting for his political godson, James Abiodun Faleke.