The race to the Lord Lugard House in Kogi State is gathering momentum, although the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is yet to roll out timetable and lift the lid on campaigns, gladiators are oiling their machines for the contest ahead. Ayodele Samuel writes.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may be on its final lap of taking charge at Lugard House as the All Progressives Congress (APC) members, who have found their bearings are bent on using every available strategy to unseat incumbent Governor, Captain Idris Wada.
Kogi State has been a stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the last twelve years after the party defeated the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP in 2003, but the last general election might be proving otherwise for the PDP.
The party lost its three senatorial districts and nine House of Representatives seats to the APC, leaving it with only three federal lawmakers in the party.
Since after the impressive outing of the APC at the last election, the party has begin to map out strategies towards winning the governorship election expected to hold in October.
An APC chieftain, Alhaji Ibrahim Linco Ocheje said based on the result of the Presidential/National Assembly election, which the APC won and the recent state assembly election for which APC won 11 seats, the party would coast to victory with no hassling.
He said APC won in areas where more than two third of the state population resides, adding that they are still areas for APC to win during the governorship election.
However who flags the party ticket has began to generate internal wangling in the APC.
While the APC parades a handful of governorship aspirants, including former governor Audu Abubakar; Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi; former Accountant General of the state, Ubolo Okpanachi; Obadofin Yakubu; a former commissioner in the state Baba Ali, a former speaker and acting governor of the state Asiwaju Clarence Olafemi, Yaya Bello, Senator Alex Kabiri, among others.
Audu and Bello seems to be garnering more support on the street of Lokoja and Okene.
Audu who has the control of the party structure and enjoys cordial relationship with national leaders of the APC has since been receiving torrent of encouragement in his ambition to rule the state again.
Bello who hails from Okene and chairman of the Kogi Youth Arise Group expressed confidence that his party was 100 per cent sure of taking over governance of the state from the ruling PDP next year. Bello banks on the zoning agitation of stakeholders in Kogi central zone clamoring for the governorship ticket.
A close source in his camp said "if APC wants to win the state, it should produce a candidate from the central senatorial district. Kogi central has never produced a governor since the creation of the state."
Bello a leading contender from the Zone assures that the APC victory at the poll will be landslide.
"It is going to be a landslide; everybody has seen the performance of the present administration and just like everyone yearned for change, Kogi State deserves more than change," Bello told reporters.
While some blocks in the APC wants Audu to take a back seat in the governorship race for a younger candidate to emerge, an APC stalwart in Yagba East LGA, Akinola Abdulrasaq however berated those urging Prince Audu not to contest the 2015 Governorship elections, describing them as "enemies", working against the interest of the party.
Akintola described those opposed to Audu's participation in the electoral process as political saboteurs and enemies of Kogi State.
"Those opposing Audu's candidacy are either agents of PDP or dishonest party leaders, Audu has been tested and each time he proved himself."
Another APC chieftain, Abubakar Kaka Ede said only Prince Audu can confront the current PDP structure in the state. "It is only Prince Audu candidature that can wrestle power from PDP in Kogi State."
Ede who doubles as the coordinator of SAS Frontiers, a support group within the APC, said Audu will bring lots of commitments and support to the APC and thousands of Kogites who are apolitical will throw their weights behind APC because of their trust and confidence in the person of Prince Audu."
Ede berated some leaders within the party opposing the current leadership of the party for "their selfishness and greed not minding the interest and wellbeing of the generality of Kogites."
Audu's media aide, Suleiman Abdulmalik said the people have always wanted Prince Audu to govern the state.
"I can assure you that the people of the state want Prince Audu Abubakar as their next governor.
"The standard set by Audu has not been met by any of his predecessors; all the major infrastructures you see in Kogi State were built by him.
"His past work will surely speaks for him, he's has been a grassroot politician that enjoys confidence of party members."
Although Audu has lots of battles in clinching the party's ticket, fallout of the APC primary election might give a boost to the PDP if not well managed.
"No cause for alarm"- Wada's aide
While the Kogi PDP had suffered from a mass exodus of many of its prominent members before the election, incumbent Governor Idris Wada might have a walk over in picking the PDP's ticket, despite rigorous campaign in some quarters that the PDP should come up with a fresh candidate, the governor said no cause for alarm over his re-election, looking assured for his victory at the poll.
Although the ruling PDP in Kogi State is presently in a bad shape, however the last state house of assembly election Kogi State shows that PDP is not dead in the state.
The party won 14 out of the 25 seats, leaving the APC with 11 seats.
Political pundits in the state believed Wada has lost grip of the party following mass defections of major stakeholders ahead of the last general election, Wada's Special Assistant on Media, Jacobs Edi in a phone conversation with our correspondent said those who left the party were "trouble makers" blinded by selfish ambitions.
"Am worried for the defectors because the APC has rejected them, so they have to come back to PDP because they won't get anything in the APC. Their leaving the party won't be a factor because those going to the APC are the trouble makers of the PDP, who have little or no electoral values."
Edi said Governor Wada is firmly in control of the PDP structures in Kogi State and he has maximum support of the people in his re-election bid.
While dismissing allegation of poor performance, Edi said Captain Wada has performed and impressed the people of the state in the last four years, "they will vote for progress because they are seeing what the governor is doing.
"I can assure that in Kogi State, no cause for alarm for us, the governor has performed better but that will not make the election a walk over , you cannot expect a walkover but Captain Wada would win."
Edi dismissed the APC victory at the presidential election saying it's wrong to permutate the party's fate on the last election.
"You saw how the election turned around after the presidential election, the PDP won the majority at the state House of assembly and I can assure you of how the PDP will win the governorship election anytime."
As residents of the state look forward for saner and fairer electoral process in October, hopes are high on who occupies the Lord Lugard House after the poll.