The stage is all set for the elections tomorrow between incumbent Governor Idris Wada of the PDP and Prince Abubakar Audu of the APC in the first of the deregularised gubernatorial elections across the country after the Aprill 11 gubernatorial elections. I was in Kogi from last week Sunday to Tuesday and I went round to sample opinion randomly and feel the political temperature of the state. Elections are always determined by several variables and every election prediction has a huge margin of errors. Nevertheless, political pundits and analysts must be able to look at the omens and predict the outcome. Based on my observations and without bias, here are the factors that will affect the elections, how I feel the elections will turn out and why.
Incumbency will be a major factor here and Wada has the advantage. As the incumbent governor, ongoing projects give room for leverage in communities across the state – projects like a diagnostics centre and a housing projects have no guarantee of continuity if the incumbent governor is voted out. Audu also enjoys a form of incumbency – as the former governor, he is well remembered but it works to his disadvantage and I will explain that in the next paragraph. Former Governor Ibrahim Idris also remains hugely popular in his area and is fully behind Wada.
Character is the likely to be the big issue in this election. Audu is considered arrogant while Wada has a reputation for simplicity. Audu is from a royal family and when he was governor, he acted like royalty – almost as if expecting to be worshipped. Recipients of government favour were made to prostrate in front of him and pay homage and even go on the state radio to testify to what “His Excellency” had done for them. It is also a major reason why the traditional rulers are supporting Wada and doing so quite openly too – Audu used to make them line up along the road if he was returning by road from a trip. They would be there for hours sometimes, just to pay obeisance to the governor. The contest is seen as one between a humble Governor and an emperor with history of slapping civil servants and even the head of service.
In Finance, the PDP shot itself in the foot by showing that it had learnt very little from the electoral loss(es) it suffered. Gov. Wada was made to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to get a second term ticket. At a time, his opponent Jibrin ‘Echocho’ Isah fought quite hard and the PDP hierarchy used him as a prop to make Wada spend so much trying to get the ticket. Now, he has to conserve his financial resources and deploy them where they are most likely to make an impact. Would the billions of naira expected from the bailout funds have been used to improve this situation? I cannot say.
Audu on the other hand has a well-financed campaign machinery. He also has a reputation of being the man to go to if you are a political player willing to trade loyalties. His deputy Hon. James Faleke allegedly mobilised funds from Lagos and with the backing of Senator Bola Tinubu, he has induced several defections in the Okun (the Yoruba speaking) area. The defection of Hon. Duro Meseko who had once been an aide to Wada as well as that of Fehinti Dada – the campaign manager of Sen. Smart Adeyemi’s reelection efforts may have an effect of the PDP’s chances in this area.
This brings us to the variableness of the elections – there is little guarantee that people will play along party lines to the hilt. Those who have defected may have done so out of financial inducement while some who have not defected may have been financially induced to play the spoiler in their party. A top APC senator is said to be working assiduously for Wada’s second term because he, like some others do not trust Audu enough to keep the promise of power rotation.
On defections, their impact is yet to be seen because while Finance plays a major issue in engineering defections, it could also be taken advantage of. Situations where people have defected and maintained their loyalty to the former alliances are not unknown .
Another factor is the wind of Change – many are desirous of aligning Kogi with the centre where APC now holds sway. In the general election, the APC cleared the state of all three senatorial positions and swept the presidential polls. If the elections had held at that time, Wada would be out of power now but he has a lifeline – the flaws of the present government have been presented as a campaign issue by PDP but this may not be enough to halt the tide of change.
Federal Might is the almighty factor and undetermined variable. PDP had in the past deployed federal power to its own advantage but under Jonathan, this was no longer the norm as INEC was allowed to be independent. President Buhari meeting with the Chairman of INEC secretly doesn’t help the optics here. PDP is also alleging that APC is prepared to manipulate the elections in favour of its candidate Audu.
In the presidential polls of 2015, APC won 264,851 votes while PDP could only muster 149,987 from across the 21 Local Government of the state and a total of 1,350,883 registered voters but only 476,839 accredited to vote on election day. I expect this number (accredited voters) to grow higher because the stakes here are quite high and it is a sort of emotional election in the state based on the points illustrated under the Character factor. Then again, intimidation may be a deterrent to potential voters who may not come out to vote for fear of violence.
The senatorial elections held on the same day saw the same trend with two- term Senator Smart Adeyemi of the PDP roundly defeated by APC’s Dino Melaiye in Kogi West, Mohammed Ohiare of the APC defeating the then incumbent Senator Usman Abatemi who had defected from PDP to PPA as a result of his defeat in the PDP primary election by Saliu Ogembe in the Central Senatorial district while in the East Senatorial district, Senator Attai Aidoko of the PDP lost to Alhaji Abubakar of the APC.
In the House of Reps elections held on the same day with the presidential and senatorial elections, APC cleared five seats to PDP’s three with one constituency undetermined at the time. The House of Assembly polls two week later however saw a reversal of fortunes as the PDP managed to win 14 of the 25 seats while leaving APC with 11. It is safe to say that the federal elections of March 28 were influenced by the Buhari factor and this was absent in the polls of April 11.
In the last gubernatorial race, Capt. Idris Wada of PDP polled 300,372 votes to Prince Abubakar Audu of ACN’s 159, 913 votes. PDP won overwhelmingly in 18 out of the 21 local governments in the state while ACN won in the remaining three local councils.
How They Stand in the LGAs
Adavi, Okehi, Idah, Ibaji and Dekina LGAs usually churn out large numbers that can outweigh the votes from other LGAs. Kabba/Bunu, Bassa, Igalamela/Odolu, Yagba East and Yagba West all deliver average numbers but taken wholly could prove to be crucial. Eyes therefore would be on the first five and the next five for pointers to the eventual winner. Kogi can be divided into three zones: Ebira, Okun and Igala where both Audu and Wada hail from.
Kogi Central (Ebira Land)
Ajaokuta – APC will get 60% of the votes while PDP with the influence of Moses Ado Okino will get 40% of the votes in the LGA. The total number of votes from here is usually less than 8,000.
Adavi – Former deputy Governor under PDP led Govt Mr Philip Salawu who is now the candidate of LP in this election may be the spoiler for PDP in this area but nevertheless, with the influence of former house of Rep Member Hon Badamasiu, PDP will win the LG PDP 60%, APC 25% Labour Party 15%.
Okehi – PDP will win the LG because all the political heavy weight in the area are still in PDP and the fact that Prince Audu moved a health college from there to his home town, the people of Okehi by my field reports are still unhappy over that decision. PDP to win 60% of the votes
Ogori Magongo – The voting strength here is the weakest in the state with about 4,000 votes. This is a PDP stronghold and the PDP will win here by 70% as it has always done.
Okene – Okene will play a significant role in the coming election because of the voting population here. Yahaya Bello who came second in the APC primaries is loved by Ebira people and his sympathy is with PDP now. All the heavy weight politicians from the area like Yahaya Karaku, Ahmed Ogembe, Abdulazeez King, Tijani Tamusa are working for PDP. Audu has a bad image among the Ebiras and especially the Okene people. PDP will win this place with wide margins.
Kogi West (Okun)
Kogi Local Govt (Koton Karfi) – APC will win here easily.
Lokoja – high concentration of civil servants in the state capital and voting strength of outside wards like Oworo Area, Kuppa where PDP has always won since 1999. Kogi civil servants and pensioners will not forget Audu in a hurry as he once referred to them as dead woods. There is also fear of Audu sacking them if he wins. The influence of people like Abdulrazak Kutepa, Senator Tunde Ogbeha and James Katugwa cannot be discounted especially Ogbeha who as the campaign DG has a point to prove. Wada to win 60% of the votes here.
Kabba-Bunu – PDP won all the elections in Kabba in March and April during the Presidential, Senatorial, House of Reps and House of Assembly elections. Hon Tajudeen Tijani of the House of Reps is a grassroot politician from Kabba and Prince Matthew Kolawole who is the majority leader in the house of Assembly is also very strong here. The recent defection of Duro Meseko may affect PDP’s chances here but PDP should win it by a slim margin.
Mopa – Home of the Deputy Governor, Arch. Yomi Awoniyi. His people will rally behind him, though former Speaker and Ag. Governor Clarence Olafemi may pull a few surprises. PDP may win by a slim margin here.
Ijumu – Home of Hon. James Faleke who is Audu’s running mate and Dino Melaye. Faleke is not fully accepted by his people yet but he is throwing a lot of cash around now. PDP still boasts of strong presence here with the likes of Smart Adeyemi and Hon Biodun Ojo. There are rumours that some APC high-ranking leaders here are wary of voting Audu and consequently putting Faleke in prime position to become the next Governor from Okun area by the power rotation principle, hence, sabotage votes are very likely. It is too close to call but APC may nick it with a slim margin.
Yagba East– The likes of Hassan Salawu (former PDP state party chairman) and Hon. Sam Aro are working hard for PDP here and they have spread the news that Audu influenced the disqualification of Sam Aro from the last APC senatorial primaries to pave the way for Dino Melaye to emerge as Senatorial candidate. PDP will win here.
Yagba West – I was neither able to speak with any analyst on ground here nor visit the place. Past election trends also provide an undetermined pattern so it is too close to call.
Kogi East (Igala)
Both Wada and Audu are Igalas from Kogi East Senatorial District.
Dekina – Wada’s LGA where he suffered huge losses during the last presidential elections but rallied back during the House of Assembly elections. He seems to have closed ranks with his people now as the chants in Dekina now are “redial Wada” or “4 + 4 = 8”. Religion was a major issue for voters in the presidential elections between Buhari and Jonathan. Some prominent APC members from here like Hon Positive Ihaibe are working for the Governor’s victory now. The traditional rulers here have also been very bold in campaigning for their kinsman. With the strongest voting strength in the state, Dekina is extremely crucial to Wada’s victory and he is on course to win here overwhelmingly.
Bassa – Former Governor Ibrahim Idris is still very loved by the people of Bassa as he constructed the only access road to the LG. Audu insulted them in the past that their entire population can be stuffed into a pick up van but the recent defection of a former LG chairman Maigida to APC may be a bit of a spoiler. PDP to win here.
Omala – Alhaji Ibrahim Idris’ home where PDP has never lost since 1999 and is unlikely to lose this time.
Idah – The political permutations here are very obscure but with high voting numbers, it becomes crucial. It may swing the election either way but this LGA is too close to call.
Ofu – Prince Audu’s home. He will win here with large margins.
Olamaboro – Prince Audu’s mother is from here and he has never lost Olamaboro in any election. Tomorrow will not be different, Audu will sweep it overwhelmingly.
Ibaji – Alh Ibrahim Idris is well loved here because he constructed the only road that leads to Ibaji from Idah. PDP may win here with a slim margin.
Igala-Mela/Odolu – Hon Makama Friday Sanni is a very strong politician here and he is a member of the state House of Assembly. He has never lost his local Govt since he joined PDP in 2003.
Ankpa – APC to win here with a slight majority.
Tying It All In
Numbers do not lie although sentiments can. Sentiments however give meaning to numbers and in this case, the sentiments are clearly slanted towards Wada’s return. A PDP victory is highly likely but only if all things are equal – which they rarely are. The Audu/Faleke machinery is well financed and there is the likelihood of massive rigging in APC’s favour based on federal might.
I spent time with the PDP campaigns because of my affiliation with them and while Wada is not entirely an exciting candidate for all voters across the state, major stakeholders consider him a better political option than Audu who is considered not trustworthy. There is more eagerness to vote Wada to spite Audu than to vote Wada for Wada’s sake.
Wada will win #KogiDecides all things being equal but with rigging as a factor, all things may eventually not be equal.
Demola Olarewaju is a political analyst and strategist who tweets from @DemolaRewaju.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.