By BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO, LOKOJA
Six days to the gubernatorial election in Kogi State, supporters of the two leading party, APC and PDP are singing songs of victory. Who wins the poll remains the issue.
Barely one week to the governorship election in Kogi State, the debate is about who will win the election. The two leading parties in the poll are winding down their campaigns.
Though there are 22 political parties contesting for the Lugard House, political analysts have narrowed the contest to two: Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, fielding Governor Idris Wada, and the All Progressives Congress, APC. Prince Abubakar Audu, a former governor of the state, is the candidate of the APC.
Enesi Ozigi is flying the ticket of Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, and Dr. Philip Salawu of Labour Party, LP.
Most of the other parties are believed to be in the race to gain recognition, with many said to be in alliance with the PDP or the APC with which they hope to form the government at the inception of the next administration in Kogi.
Incidentally, the people of the state are faced with the choices they are familiar with as the race is, in the main, between the incumbent governor and a former governor. The electorate have the rare opportunity of making an informed choice based on the scorecards of the main candidates.
Audu’s handlers said they had a head start based on what they described as ‘unparalleled achievements’ during his six years as governor between 1991-1993 and 1999-2003. Many people have also assigned to Audu the toga of the Father of Modern Kogi. The achievements they listed include the establishment of the Kogi State University, Kogi State Polytechnic, NTA Kogi, Confluence Beach Hotels, Graphics Newspapers and some housing estates. They went further to ascribe the leg work that led to the establishment of Dangote Cement Company, Obajana to the efforts of Audu.
The Audu men claimed their campaign is performance-based, saying their candidate’s performance in four years dwarfed the twelve years. Meanwhile, Wada, the PDP candidate, says his of the PDP. The PDP, on the other hand, hinged their campaign on personality, taking a swipe at the APC candidate alleged poor relationship with civil servants, traditional rulers, pensioners among others while he held sway as governor at the return to democracy in 1999.
At the weekend, political analysts felt 70 percent of the electorates have already made up their minds on who to vote for, leaving the parties to persuade the 30 percent who are yet to made up their mind on the path to follow .
However, there are many factors that will influence the voters in each of the senatorial axis.
The central senatorial axis looks favourable to the PDP. With the APC governorship candidate coming from the eastern flank and his deputy, from the west, the axis was hoping of securing their son for the minister’s position. Unfortunately, the appointment of Barr. James Ocholi, from the eastern flank as minister, coupled with the wrangling in the APC in the area, may give the PDP the upper hand.
Another factor that may work against the APC in the area is the alleged imposition of James Abiodun Falake as deputy governorship candidate. The move is perceived by the Ebira as not only narrowing down the chances of power rotation in 2019 to the western senatorial axis but also to a particular person. To them, Faleke was brought in by an APC top leader to be his preferred candidate for power shift in 2019. This claim has been used by the PDP to whip up sentiment in their favour. The ruling party in Kogi has been telling people of the area that its only in PDP that they have chances for power shift in 2019.
The obstacles for the PDP in the area, however, are the strong apostles of power shift, who will not mind voting for their ethnic person even if the person will not win the election. If these people continue on the grounds of ethnic sympathy, Salawu and Ozigi may get the majority votes and limit the chances of the PDP in the area.
The deputy candidates of the two leading parties are from this area. Faleke is from Ekirin Adde, in Ijumu Local Government Area, while Awoniyi hails from Mopa in Mopamuro Local Government Area. Both are Okun persons -the Yoruba speaking area of the senatorial axis.
The west has seven local government areas. The five LGAs in the Okun area will be shared. APC may win Ijumu, Yagba West, while PDP may win Mopamuro, Kabba/Bunu and Yagba-East.
However, APC may likely pick Lokoja and Kogi Local Government Areas to secure the majority votes from the zone.
This remains the battle ground for the election as Audu and Wada are from the zone. Analysts have also narrowed the nine LGAs in the area in ratio 5:4 for APC and PDP respectively.
Audu is favoured to win his local government, Ofu; his mother’s LGA, Olamaboro; as well as Ankpa, Idah and Ibaji; while Wada is favoured to win his local government, Dekina, as well as Omala, Bassa and Igalamela/Odolu.
Any candidate with clear cut votes from the zone must win both in Dekina and Ankpa. Unfortunately, none of them is favoured to win the two together, and must rely heavily on votes from the two other senatorial axis to win the election.
There may be voter apathy in central and western senatorial districts. The people of the two zones are enmeshed in power shift struggle and may be indifferent about who emerges as governor among the Igala candidates.
In the meantime, there is fear of rigging. Many in the PDP are ‘afraid’ that the APC may pay them back in their own coin. They feel the same way the federal might was used to oust Audu by the Obasanjo led- PDP in 2003 may also be visited on them this time around. But the APC has boasted that winning will purely be on the altar of free and fair election.
The PDP feels its strong holds, especially the central senatorial district, may be heavily militarised to intimidate voters from coming out to enfrachise their right, while the APC strong holds may be left open for them to have a free day.
Another pointer to the rigging fear was stressed last week by the governorship candidate of LP, Salawu, who alleged that one of the two leading parties in the election had stocked arms and ammunition to distribute to thugs to disrupt the election.
The Kogi poll promises to be a replica of the last presidential election won by President Muhammed Buhari. The only difference is that both leading candidates are Muslims and will not receive religion sympathy. The election is a two-horse race that is too close to call. It can be won by either the APC or the PDP. It will not be surprising if the eventual winning will not lead with more than 20,000 votes unlike in the past when PDP always won with a difference of more than 100,000 votes.