Smarting from the loss of power to the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party in Kogi State is plotting a comeback. Behind the plot is the Kogi West branch of the party which claims it’s its turn to produce the next governor of the state, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Prior to 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party was the party to beat in Kogi State. Since 2003, Kogi State had been a stronghold of the PDP. But in what became a major upset, the party lost the state to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 governorship election in November, 2015.
Despite the PDP waterloo, the party remains a strong force in the state especially in Kogi west. During the National Assembly election in 2015, the PDP candidate for the Kogi State, Smart Adeyemi lost out to the incumbent Dino Melaye of the APC in an election that was finally decided in the courts after a protracted litigation. Nevertheless, PDP retained two of the three House of Representatives seats in Kogi West and majority of seats in the state House of Assembly.
Sunday Karimi and T.J. Yusuf, members of the House of Representatives for Yagba and Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituencies both retained their seats on the platform of PDP for a second term. Buba Jubril of the APC however, won the seat for Lokoja/Kotonkarfe federal constituency for a third term.
The PDP also won in Yagba West, Yagba East, Ijumu, Kabba/Bunu, Lokoja II and Kotonkarfe state constituencies, while APC took Mopamuro and Lokoja I. PDP however lost five of the legislators to the APC after a mass defection that rocked the state’s House of Assembly. PDP eventually became become the opposition party in the House. Nevertheless, PDP in the zone remained strong notwithstanding the defection.
Although PDP membership in Kogi was depleted by unprincipled politicians who ditched it for APC, the ruling party has had its own share of crisis. The emergence of Yahya Bello as governor following the sudden death of Abubakar Audu who was favored to win the race, created a division within the party. Those who expected the crisis that trailed the election to die down soon were disappointed. APC fractured as at press time. The party remains divided in Kogi State. The dispute has pitted the governor against James Faleke, running mate to the late APC governorship candidate, Audu. The governor is also at war against his party’s sole senator, Dino Melaiye. He is also not at peace with the party exco in the state.
Audu, was coasting to victory in the November 15, 2015 governorship election when he died before the pronouncement of the winner. His votes were later ‘inherited’ by Bello, but not without resistance from the Audu camp who felt Faleke ought to have been sworn-in as governor. The Supreme Court, eventually, decided in Bello’s favour, a verdict that left Kogi APC in tatters ever since then.
It is obvious that the governor is not enjoying the support of his party members. He has been accused of allegations of misrule, non-payment of salaries and pensions. The permutation is that the APC would be going into the next elections in its current state of disunity.
Despite the leadership crisis rocking the PDP at the national level between the Ahmed Markarfi-led caretaker committee and Ali Modu Sherif-led acting executives, Kogi PDP has remained relatively intact, devoid of factions. Hence, in the build up to the 2019 polls, the party is already back on the drawing board calculating how best to cash in on the divisions in the APC and consolidate to stage a come back.
Melaye admitted during a recent press conference he co-addressed with the APC chairman in Kogi State, Haddy Ametuo that unless something urgently was done by the leadership of the party between now and the 2019 polls, APC’s continuous rule in Kogi would remain under serious doubt. Faleke also, in a recent interview, called on the governor to save the APC in Kogi from himself.
The problems within the APC present a perfect opportunity for the PDP to regain control of the zone. The PDP camp in Kogi West has witnessed a lot of activities in recent times. These include three separate meetings of stakeholders held in the three constituent units at Lokoja, Kabba and Isanlu, where various committees were set up to map out strategies that would see the party return to winning ways. The meetings focused on reconciliation, census, voter registration, funding and discipline among members.
In the euphoria of the reported impressive attendance at the meetings, the party had boasted in its communique that it remained the dominant party in the zone, despite being out of power in the state.
The ‘Strategic Committee on Elections into Party Offices and General Elections’, a product of the meetings submitted its report to the PDP executive committee in Kabba, upper weekend. The 14-page document contained recommendations expected to enhance the chances of the party in future polls. What can be considered as the fulcrum of the recommendations is how to sustain the principle of rotation of party and elective offices within the zone.
Specifically, the panel recommended that the next senatorial candidate of the PDP for Kogi West senatorial district should emerge from Yagba federal constituency. It was also resolved that the people of Kogi West must unite in their agitation to produce the next governor of the state.
The 23-man committee, chaired by Alhaji Muhammed Abdulrahman, was set up on March24, 2017, by the Kogi West senatorial district PDP chairman, Mr. Taiwo Kola-Ojo, to look into causes of the defeat suffered by the party in the 2015 elections and also to recommend solutions that would promote reconciliation as well as provide the roadmap that will help the party in overcoming the present challenges.
The district resolution was against the background that the zone had always played its part in rendering support to the two other senatorial districts, namely Kogi East and Kogi Central, in the past elections, and that it was time for their neighbours to support a governorship candidate to emerge from the west. They resolved that the agitation for power shift to Kogi West would form the basis of the zone’s relationship with the Igala and Ebira dominated Kogi East and Central districts respectively in future elections.
The communique reads in part: “Kogi West senatorial district must ensure the rotation of the senate seat at the National Assembly between her constituents (the federal constituencies of Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu, Lokoja/Koto and Yagba). National and state offices zoned to Kogi West must be rotated within the zone. The same principle must be applied in appointments both at the state and national levels. The candidate for the election into the senate for 2019 should come from Yagba federal constituency, after which it goes back to Lokoja/Koto and Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu”.
It added, “The PDP in Kogi West senatorial district must continue to ask for power shift and this must form the basis of our relationship with the other districts in future elections”.
Kola-Ojo, who received the report said that the leadership would look into the report and consult party leaders and stakeholders for effective implementation.
Against the background of the panel recommendations, political elders and stakeholders in Yagba federal constituency in Kogi West, under the aegis of Yagba Political Forum, a non-partisan group, met in Isanlu, Yagba East local government area to chart an all-inclusive political roadmap for Yagba people ahead of the 2019 elections.
At the end of the meeting held at the Isanlu Town Hall and attended by political gladiators from the area, the forum resolved to unite and mobilise Yagba people to ensure that Yagba federal constituency produces the next senator for Kogi West Senatorial District. The meeting noted that, based on the existing rotation principle in Kogi West zone involving the three federal constituencies of Lokoja/Kotonkarfe, Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu and Yagba, “it is the turn of Yagba to produce the senator in 2019”.
The summit also debated on the next election into the House of Representatives for Yagba federal constituency, comprising of Yagba West, Yagba East and Mopamuro local government areas. Consequently, it was resolved that the next representative should emerge from one of Yagba East and Mopamuro local government areas, exempting Yagba West local government area alleged to have done three terms since 2007.
However, the senate seat was declared open for contest among the three local government areas with a caveat that no single local government shall produce both Senate and House of Representatives member at the same time.
Convener of Yagba Political Forum, Chief Frank Aiyedun, who read the communiqué at the end of the summit said the forum which had been moribund was resuscitated to ensure that Yagba attained its rightful place in Okun, Kogi and the country as a whole. He recalled that whereas Yagba, under the leadership of the late Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Chief Sunday Awoniyi, former Minister of National Planning, late Chief Silas Daniyan, third republic deputy governor, Chief Sam Akande and Asiwaju Jide Omokore, Yagba had been the centre-piece of Okun and Kogi West, politics, “the situation had degenerated so much that we find ourselves politically an appendage of our neighbours”.
Aiyedun, a second republic gubernatorial aspirant in the old Kwara State, added, “the body feels this sad situation should be reversed without further delay. Yagba should occupy its rightful position in the polity of Okunland, Kogi and Nigeria.”
Those who attended the meeting were President, umbrella Okun Development Association (ODA), Ambassador Paul Fadumiyo, former Secretary to Kogi State Government, Chief Shola Ojo, former state chairman of PDP in Kogi State, Mallam Hassan Salau, former members of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon Eric Fiki, Hon Rinde Asagun, Hon Henry Ojuola and Hon Philip Orebiyi; former member, House of Representatives for Yagba Federal Constituency, Hon TJ Faniyi and PDP state women leader, Olori Magret Orebiyi, among others.
Despite the leadership crisis rocking the PDP at the national level between the Ahmed Markarfi-led caretaker committee and Ali Modu Sherif-led acting executives, Kogi PDP has remained intact.