From EMMANUEL ADEYEMI, Lokoja
Palpable apprehension now hangs over the conduct of the May 4, 2013 council polls in Kogi State, as members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state are now leaving the party in droves.
This is because the party primary, which took place recently ended on a sour note, with reports of imposition of candidates, open display of bias by PDP electoral officers, and hijacking of ballot boxes.
Political watchers believe that the outcome of the forthcoming poll may either tear the PDP in the state into shreds or make it much stronger.
Investigations show that strong pillars of the party in almost all the 21 councils in the state are considering jettisoning the party and are romancing with the yet to be registered All Peoples Congress.
Aside from some current political office holders in governor Idris Wada’s administration, who are already holding clandestine meetings with the APC, some PDP bigwigs, who felt short changed in the current dispensation are on their way out of the PDP, it was learnt.
Such people may include the former acting governor, Clarence Olafemi, the running mate to PDP governorship candidate, Isah Echo, who is said to be sidelined by the deputy governor, Yomi Awoniyi, in his Mopamuro council.
Also, former commissioner for Finance, Abiodun Ojo, and close associate of ex-governor, Ibrahim Idris, whose word is law in Ijumu Local Government Area, is said to have had his influence seriously whittled down by Senator Smart Adeyemi, who is calling the shots in the area.
Similarly, sources close to a member, representing Ajaokuta Federal Counstituency, Mohammed Sadiq insist he may have instructed his supporters to work against the PDP chairmanship candidate in his council.
Indeed, Daily Sun gathered that a sizeable number of PDP stalwarts in all the three senatorial districts in the state were on their way out of the party, if serious reconcilliation meetings are not called.
It was gathered that based on squabbles that were generated in the heat of the party primary, the state governor, Mr. Idris Wada, called a meeting of party stakeholders in the state and pleaded with aggrieved members to close ranks. He told them that contrary to the rumours, flying round the state, he had no annointed candidate for the council poll.
But critics say, Wada’s statement was a mere cosmetic approach aimed at deceiving the electorate and portraying him as a saint.
They insist that the unfolding events are enough pointer to the fact that Wada is just a mere tool in the hands of the former governor, Alh Ibrahim Idris, who has a domineering influence on the laters administration.
It is the belief that though Wada is at the driver’s seat, the real hand behind the car steering is that of Ibrahim Idris, who dictates the pace of the car, and the direction the car can go.
A PDP stalwart in Olamaboro local government area. Chief Jonah Odogu told Daily Sun that if you need a political position either appointive or elective, as far as such person has the consent of the ex governor, the deal is considered done.”
In the last party primary, Investigations revealed that the former governor personally annointed no fewer than 18 of the 21 chairmanship candidates with only one of the candidates from Omalla, in the person of Aminu Atabo losing out.
It was also learnt that Atabo lost out due to persistent arrogance to party elders.
Even Wada had no say in who becomes the chairman of his own local government as the ex governor’s annointed candidate, Mohammed Ali scaled through inspite of mass protests by people.
“Wada is very weak when it comes to party matters, and even sensitive state matters. He has to consult Ibro, his godfather because he doesn’t want to offend him,” said a source.
However, Wada’s supporters say the governor’s seeming complacency should not be taken as weakness, as he is only exhibiting restraints.
Meanwhile reports say Dekina people are now revolting against the imposition of Alli, a 25 year old who was a special assistant to the ex governor because they alleged he is too young and also hails from Bassa local government area.
Fears are rife that there may be protest vote as the PDP stalwarts in the area are now backing one Benjamin Ikani who is the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN. Chairmanship candidate
Aside from Dekina council, investigations show that imposition of candidates are more pronounced in Bassa, Igalame-odolu, Olamaboro, Kotonkarfi, Mopamuro and Ofu local councils, among others.
Apart from the domineering role of the former governor, the last primary was also said to be characterized by irregularities, as the PDP. State executive members openly took sides with aspirants who could afford to induce them with money.
The Kogi west PDP chairman, Abdulrahman Mohammed Balga was even openly beaten and his clothes turn into shreds by alleged supporters of a chairmanship aspirant in Lokoja local government area. When confronted separately on the issue both. Salau and Balga however denied the allegations
Another matter that may constitute a hidrance to the smooth conduct of the local government poll in the state, is the cry of the opposition over the credibility, and non partisanship of the members of the State Independent Electoral Commission SIEC who are supposed to conduct free and fair election
They specifically claim that the chairman of KOSIEC, Mr Abaraham Olaniran is a card carrying member of PDP who contested for the House of Assembly election in 2007
According to the opposition, there can not be free, fair, and credible election under the current SIEC leadership even as they call for Olaniran,s immediate removal.
The government is however turning deaf ear to the opposition’s allegation
A source close to KOSIEC. Said the electoral body is now recruiting members of PDP at the ward level to be fielded as Adhoc staff and electoral officers in the forthcoming council poll.
But the problem with kogi state is that the state is lacking virile opposition such that the ruling party will always have it’s way.
Except the ACN who occasionally criticises the PDP led government in the State, other opposition parties are almost non existent.
On what is likely to be the expectations in the forthcoming poll, one of the aggrieved chairmanship aspirants, mohammed Umar from Bassa local council told Daily Sun that most of those who felt short changed in the last PDP primaries are now considering the option of joining the A C N along with their godfathers and supporters to realize their ambitions
In his words” we are ready to leave the PDP enmasse for ACN. Those who think they can impose candidates on the masses should continue, we are only waiting for the registration of APC to give PDP in the state, stone for stone, pebble for pebble” he said.
But if the election is conducted under the current SIEC leadership in the state, it remained to be seen how far the opposition can go.