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Underlining currents of the Kogi conundrum

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu

It became clear to all that the  Nigerian Constitution did not envisage nor provided for the eventuality of death of a candidate at an election, who was on the verge of winning, but had not been proclaimed.

When Alhaji Abubakar Audu the APC candidate, tragically died in the early hours of Sunday, November 22, 2015, a cat was let loose amongst the pigeons of Nigerian political society.

As we have seen over the past few days, lawyers have been very busy attempting to legally unravel the situation at hand. Senior lawyers like Auwalu Yadudu and Femi Falana have proffered opinions on the correct legal positions, while Wole Olanipekun, another senior lawyer, has spoken on behalf of the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the “inconclusive election”.

When the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, asked the APC to submit another candidate for the concluding sequel to the election, it appeared on the surface, that a definitive finale was being approached. Of course, there are still bitter recriminations along the way; for instance, the sitting Governor Wada wants to be declared winner of the election and that is a position to test in court.

But the more complicated issue is within the APC itself and the stance of the Deputy Governorship candidate James Abiodun Faleke. He rejected the party’s decision to field Yahaya Bello to replace the late Alhaji Abubakar Audu.

Faleke argued that he was “governor-elect” and so couldn’t be another person’s running mate; and was already putting forward the late Audu’s son as his own running mate! How these internal APC issues evolve will also significantly impact on the more serious underlining currents.

Underlining  currents

In the aftermath of Prince Audu’s death, there were genuine outpourings of emotions in the Igala-speaking part of Kogi State as well as reported acts of violence. These came, especially in the days after, when the issue of a substitute candidacy went on the front burner of political discourse.

For the first time since Kogi’s creation, the likelihood was emerging of an unintended power shift to one of the other ethnic constituencies of the state, namely the Ebirra and Okun.

This is the most important underlining current really, because it was clear that Audu’s unexpected death was going to change the dynamics of politics and power configuration of Kogi State. The idea of substituting with Audu’s son was dropped early because it was not going to fly!

Faleke was prepared to name Audu’s son running mate, as sop to the family as well as the Igala community at large. Yahaya Bello is particularly unacceptable to the Audu political family because he was said to have worked against Audu after he lost the primary and was not even gracious enough to be part of the APC campaign team before the election. The fact that he would become beneficiary of Audu’s death rankles Audu’s supporters, who must now genuinely fear that they would lose out with a Yahaya Bello governorship in Kogi State.

This unplanned power shift will have serious consequences for Kogi’s future. But it should also focus our minds on the underbelly of the states creation process in Nigeria which ostensibly had been done to remove domination by larger groups in the old regions and states, but ended up creating much worse forms of domination.

Kogi is one of the main examples of that trend along with Benue. In the old Kwara State, Adamu Attah, an Ebirra man, could become governor because larger states obliged the elite groups to learn consensus building. But where states have become smaller and there is a dominant ethnic group as we have with the Tiv in Benue and the Igala in Kogi, then a tyranny of ethnic numbers can easily be instituted to the detriment of all.

The Igala elites have literally run a state in their own image since the creation of Kogi and if Prince Audu had not died, that project of dominance was set to continue. What it took was to pick a running mate from one of the other two ethnic blocs and learn how to play one against the other,while sufficiently retaining loyalty of the Igala homefront.

Prince Audu’s tragic death is about to drastically change the equation and offer a new opportunity for the ascendancy of a different set of ethnic elites as well as the potentials for a re-configuration of the prebendal values underpinning the local politics of Kogi State.

The Kogi conundrum speaks very much for a radical surgical intervention in the nature and number of our states. As they are today, they are clearly unwieldly and unsustainable. Many people have proffered ways out; mine has been a consistent call for a return to the 12 states of the Gowon era. There were six in the North and six in the South. Each was big enough to become a serious locus of development and because, in most cases, they are multi-ethnic, that consensus building skill that seems lost today, will have to be rediscovered by the Nigerian political elite. It was such consensus building skill that was often lost where a dominant ethnic elite can control the political space as we have seen in a state like Kogi since it was created. The “Confluence State” is navigating through very treacherous political currents at the moment!

Jibo’s 61st birthday: I missed the dinner

On Monday, November 31, Dr. Jibrin “Jibo” Ibrahim, political scientist, human rights activist, Marxist scholar and public intellectual, celebrated his 61st birthday.

The day before, I received an invitation from his wife, Charmaine, to a dinner at their residence. I had been licking my “chops” in anticipation of what I knew would be a wonderful feast of food and ideas.

Unfortunately, I had to hurriedly leave Abuja the same day for Maiduguri from where I am writing these lines on Tuesday night. On Monday night, I called Charmaine and spoke with Jibo, who promised that we would repeat the revelry at our usual grilled fish rendezvous on Tuesday night. The guest for the night was to be the famous Nigerian political scientist, Professor Adele Jinadu, who shares Jibo’s birthday.

Again, I was unable to join them for an evening that would have passed in a truly enriching manner for belly and mind! The flights to Maiduguri were cancelled because of the harmattan haze at this time of year in this part of Nigeria. I feel the poorer in every sense.

Jibo is one of the finest Nigerian patriots that I know and he has dedicated his incredible intellect and talent to the betterment of Nigeria, and especially its working people and the poor. His work as a civil society activist with wide-ranging contacts around Africa has been deployed in conflicts resolution around our continent. Jibo was trained at ABU’s famous Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, FASS, in those remarkably productive years of the seventies and eighties, when it was arguably one of the star Faculties of its kind in Africa.

He has continued an engaging life of writing, teaching, research and activism. And his prodigious taste for grilled fish marches his talent as an intellectual. I have known this remarkable intellectual and patriot from our years as militants of the Nigerian Marxist Movement from the eighties, and feel happy that I can call him a brother, friend and comrade.

Happy Birthday. But Jibo, you know that we have to return to our rendezvous soon as I’m back in Abuja, for our grilled fish!

Professor Jerry Gana at 70

It is indicative of the changing times in Nigeria that Professor Jerry Gana’s 70th birthday came recently, without much funfair. The times have passed the ultimate survivor of the Nigerian political scene by. Let me confess that I have almost been unable to find objectivity in assessing Jerry Gana. The closest I ever came to the man was during last year’s National Conference; we were both delegates.

Jerry Gana was made Co-Chairman of the Northern Delegation; he attended our meetings a couple of times and then disappeared. The next time he re-appeared was as Chairman of the Middle Belt group at the Conference and one of the arrowheads of the many controversial horse-trading manoeuvers that dogged the Conference.

I think the man was true to type. His last major appearance was at PDP’spre-election fund raising dinner where he donated, on behalf of a faceless group of friends, N5 billion to the behemoth that was soon to be felled by the Nigerian people, at the 2015 elections.

I was stunned that the goodly Professor had the charm and pulling power to convince his friends to donate a tidy sum of N5 billion!

Those close to the man see in him a patriotic worker. And when he tried to run for president in 2007, I wrote a column titled: “JERRY GANA: ‘AGIP’ FOR PRESIDENT”. The late Chief Solomon Lar was so angry, that he wrote a rejoinder, to uphold Jerry Gana’s patriotic credentials. Even Adagbo Onoja was very angry with me recently that I wrote a dismissive piece about the man.

Public space

He fired a kindly defence of the “progressive” Jerry Gana. My view remains that we see him from different perspectives as befits a man who has been hugging the Nigerian public space from about 1983, when he first came into the political space by winning a senate seat as the underdog NPP candidate against a better-known NPN grandee.

Jerry Gana would go on to put his considerable oratorical talent at the service of military dictatorships and civilian governments with equal enthusiasm. There didn’t seem to be a moral issue involved in his service and the fact that he could openly or subtly exploit religious identity with so much competence, in the context of Northern Nigeria, became an equally important piece of the jigsaw puzzle of his public longevity.

There can be no gainsaying the fact that while it lasted, Jerry Gana literally held the only Certificate-of-Occpancy to the corridors of Nigerian power! And with his adroitness in faithfully serving dictatorship and civil power alike, I had wondered just what lessons he taught his grandchildren about being principled!

But even a cat with seven lives eventually expends them and expires. When the PDP was thoroughly discredited after 16 years of abuse of power, Jerry Gana seemed to have finally expired and would have his C-of-O to the corridors of power revoked by the new circumstance in Nigeria.

But we can’t discount some residual leftover he can cling onto to find relevance in the contemporary public space. I won’t ever be surprised with Jerry Gana, Nigeria’s ultimate “AGIP: ANY GOVERNMENT IN POWER”!

Happy 70th birthday to Jerry Gana, the Geography Professor who reminded that if you are a professor, profess well!


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