Shola Oyeyipo writes that Senator Smart Adeyemi and Dr. Tom Ohikere, the two leaders of the Governor Yahaya Bello/Edward Onoja campaign organisation ahead of the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, are confident that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party pose no threat to the All Progressives Congress and its candidates in the election
It is less than 50 days before the November 16 date for the governorship election in Kogi State and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already cleared 23 political parties and their candidates for the election.
The two leading political parties; the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been on the field canvassing support from the electorate. The PDP previously ruled the state from 1999 till 2015, when incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello ousted Captain Idris Wada.
Recently, the APC announced a prominent politician from Kogi West senatorial district in person of former National President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and two-time federal lawmaker, Senator Smart Adeyemi as the Director-General Yahaya Bello/Edward Onoja Campaign Organisation. Another notable Central senatorial district politician and former Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Tom Ohikere was also handed the job of the Secretary, Media and Publicity for the campaign.
To examine the degree of confidence in Governor Bello’s camp ahead of the election, THISDAY spoke with the two persons in charge of the campaign organisation. They exuded so much confidence about the capacity of the APC to retain the governorship position.
For instance, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said he accepted to serve as the campaign DG for Governor Yahaya Bello because it is an assignment for the party and a duty beyond Kogi State, which he feels delighted to accomplish. His calculation is that the battle to win the November election will be in Kogi West where he feels he has the support of his people to deliver to his party.
“I know my people and my people know me. Don’t forget I served two-terms as Senator in Kogi West. Nobody has succeeded in doing two terms. It is because my people love me.
“What do you think determines support from the electorate? It is the personality of those who represent the party. If the person is a person of honour and integrity. If he is somebody who has touched the lives of the people, not displaying fleet of cars, when people are hungry and living in penury. I touched the lives of my people in various ways. There is hardly any ward in Kogi West that you will not see my landmark. I represented my people for eight years. I assisted in building basic infrastructure.
“Interestingly, the electorate now ask questions. If they don’t see you at the time of need then you can’t claim to be their leader,” Adeyemi stated.
Permuting the expected electoral victory for his candidate in the three senatorial districts, he said, “If sentiment will count, the worst that will happen in Kogi East is 50 – 50, but in Central, it will be 80 – 20 and in the West, we are giving the governor maximum victory.”
On why he feels the governor deserves the support of the electorate, the former Kogi West senator who is contesting his electoral defeat in the last senatorial election against Senator Dino Melaye in court, noted that, “I believe Governor Yahaya Bello means well for Kogi State more than any of the governors that we have had. He happens to be the only one building on the tradition of late governor Abubakar Audu.
“He is doing asphalt cover roads all over the state; in GRA Lokoja, all the roads around Ohinoyi’s Palace, in Abejukolo, Anpka; come to the West, you will see series of achievements of the government. He is building a political and economic structure that will take the state to the next level. He has united us despite our diversity. Every part of the state is part of the government.
“We are going to contest this election with our scorecard; there was a time you cannot sleep in Kogi with your eyes closed, buy today, there is respite.
“It takes somebody who is very dynamic like Yahaya Bello to govern Kogi State and that is why today we are seeing a new lease of life. He has increased the internally generated revenue from N300 million to about N2 billion monthly and about 150 communities are now connected to the national grid.”
Addressing the rather negative public perception of the governor and whether he agrees that his candidate had made certain mistakes he hopes he would correct in his second term, Adeyemi contended that, “There was no mistake about his first tenure. Instead, there was a display of raw courage and tenacity of purpose. You will pay the price when you do that. Only a very few individuals will have the courage of Yahaya Bello to confront institutionalised corruption in Kogi State.
“The state’s payroll was over-bloated. They had an ever increasing staff roll. The pay roll was increasing every month.
“When the governor said he was going to tackle the problem, party members told him not to start the fight against corruption yet until he wins a second term for fear that corruption will fight back and deny him a second term, but he said ‘no.”
He said all what people read on the internet are basically to discredit the government by some people from outside the state who deliberately set up an array of internet media men to pull down the government, because they are mainly beneficiaries of the corrupt system as some of them get salaries even when not resident in the state.
According to him, “The inability to pay salary was as a result of institutionalised corruption and bank loans taken by previous administrations both in naira and foreign currencies. When money comes in, the banks take it to service their debts.”
He took a swipe at the PDP over the crisis that trialed the emergence of Mr. Musa Wada as its flagbearer, saying, “I don’t know if the PDP has a candidate because they are in disarray. Those who contested with him in the party were challenging his emergence as the party candidate. We have been praying that the court should be merciful so that we can have an opponent.”
On whether the ruling APC disrupted the PDP governorship primary, he said, “How will the APC disrupt their primary? Were we the one that disrupted the one they had in Bayelsa too? We don’t have people standing for criminal charges in our team. So, they should rather look inward.”
On his part, Ohikere who initially fell out with the governor, said he opted to join the campaign train because he is convinced that the state still needs the governor to continue his developmental drives.
“Politics is a game of interest and relevance and in the area of interest, there are primary and secondary interests. The primary is the interest of the people that you represent while the secondary is your personal interest. So, I actually fell out with the governor as a result of personal interest which is secondary. Primary interest of the people is more important.
“I discovered that Governor Yahaya Bello is working with the people and he is maturing with political experience. And the level of work he has done is enough to convince me for reconciliation.
“He is working. Everything is about perception. All those who quarreled with him like, Faleke, Dino Melaye, Haddy Amaetu, myself among others, were seeing the achievement of the government from a distance and we were feeding the public with what we were getting from a distance,” Ohikere stated.
He also noted that his preferred candidate, Hon. James Faleke has reconciled with the governor and working for his victory, saying “Faleke is a party man; he too is supporting Yahaya Bello. He has done it officially. He has told all his supporters to work for the interest of the party.”
Talking about Senator Dino Melaye factor in West senatorial district and how it may affect the governor’s fortunes at the election, he said Senator Adeyemi is political champion, a good emissary – very versatile and that his record as NUJ National President and two-term senator does not only qualify him to lead the campaign, but also to attract needed victory for the governor in the zone.
“The governor is going to have an overwhelming support from Kogi West. Just some days ago, the entire traditional rulers in the zone paid the governor a solidarity visit and assured him of their support. What he has done in Kogi West is legendary and one of his legacy projects; the Omi Dam where he has the rice farm, rice mill; everything about rice production is located there. It is going to employ over 5000 citizens and it will contribute to the revenue base of the state.
“Across Kogi West most general hospitals have been rehabilitated with ambulances, laboratory and theater. In fact, most hospitals across Kogi State are all brand new. There are several roads that have been reconstructed in the West too. Worthy of note is also primary schools that have been reconstructed across the state.”
On the possibility that Kogi Centrel where the governor comes from may not be on his side, he said, “It is a blatant lie! I am from Central. For the governor to even win the election, we have decided that he is going to get the block vote of Kogi Central. It is what we are bringing to the table.
“The Kogi Central Supreme Council of Elders, visited the governor and declared that they are going to persuade every home to give maximum support. They said Yahaya Bello has done enough for Kogi Central. They highlighted the project achievements of the governor, especially the aspect of restoration of peace and security, road construction, schools rehabilitation, facility upgrade of Obangede Nursing School and others.”
Speaking on the relationship between the Ohinoyi of Ebira land, Dr. Ado Ibrahim and the governor, Ohikere said it is like father and child, saying, “For record purpose, the late mother of the Ohinoyi and the grandfather of Yahaya Bello are siblings, so you don’t expect any serious difference between them and Ohinoyi did not at any time talk evil of the governor. It was still a matter of hearsay.”
His comment on the PDP candidate was “Though a nice chap, Musa Wada is flying the flag of a dying party. Most of the people he invited to join him in the campaign organisation turned down his offer. Former governor of the state, Dr. Ibrahim Idris and Senator Dino Melaye who he appointed turned down their appointment because they have seen the handwriting on the wall.
“To further compound his problem is his connection as the younger brother of Captain Idris Wada, who had the record of mismanagement, maladministration and ineptitude in government. This is coupled with the fact that he is also married to the first daughter of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris who actually brought the last Wada to power. Our people are now seeing them as turning Kogi State to their political colony and dynasty.”
Governor Yahaya Bello means well for Kogi State more than any of the governors that we have had. He happens to be the only one building on the tradition of late governor Abubakar Audu. He is working with the people and is maturing with political experience