By Dr Tom Ohikere
As the people of Kogi State gear up for another election period, especially for the governorship -the state’s top seat-, it is no longer news that the race for a successor to incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello is hotting up.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state must now surely be making preparations for the exercise even as many prospective aspirants have taken a step forward by purchasing interest and nomination forms from the party.
It is heart-warming that the APC has just announced its timetable for the processes leading up to the party’s primary election to elect, by the delegate system, the right person to fly the APC flag.
However, the big question on every lip in Kogi State is if the leader of the party in the state (the state Governor) would allow for free and fair,democratic and transparent primary election to elect his possible successor.
To many, the answer to that critical enquiry is that the body language of the Governor doesn’t seem to favour such.
The fear of those clamouring for free and fair leadership succession process in the state seems to be justified -and heightened, for that matter -when juxtaposed against the fact that the Governor has ordered most of his cronies to buy the expression of interest form.
The good people of the state have been highly concerned all these years by the odious manner in which many aspects of democratic life have been restricted by individuals recruited by a vested interest group,said to be headed by the Governor.
The collective political temperature of those who care about the sad goings-on in Kogi has risen to high levels with added burden of a huge worry occasioned by issues surrounding the delegates’ list.
These majority patriotic voices are of the view that, judging by recent happenings and complaints, it appears the list has already been rigged by a leading personality in Government House,Lokoja.
The people of the state are already raising their voices because they are still reeling from the depredations of an era, run by Gov. Bello,when recruitment into sensitive political positions has been tainted by the prospective ’employee’ being made to agree to certain stringent selfish conditions.
They see such recruitment process as one that has generally rigged Kogi’s development process against the interest of people of the state, but in favour of the said vested interest and their cronies.
Concern is rife and the signs are on ground presently that, if not halted summarily, the so-called APC primary is only going to be a charade, a primary only in name, a primary merely to the extent that the word exists in the English language!
As an outgoing Governor, should Gov. Yahaya Bello be afraid? Why should he be? But he seems very much afraid of his relevance in Kogi political calculations after he leaves office.
Many believe any such fear could be down to the many moral deficiencies of his government —-and so he feels the only way out is to employ the business-as-usual tactic, which negates the ethos of the APC. If so,then he must be stopped immediately.
Going by his body language and other empirical proofs, a huge ambition and priority of the Governor presently appears to be a bid to impose his cronies,by whatever means,even undemocratic,as delegates to the primary.
In their calculations they probably think that, after all as Governor, he has access to the frame of seemingly unlimited financial war chest, state-wide influence and can,at the flick of a finger, order ruthless bulldozing of his way to ensure such cronies are foisted on the good people of Kogi State.
He is planning to use his position as leader of the party to handpick the delegates and block the forms from being relevant to other participants of the primary election through his known alliances with other major players in the state APC.
However, it is not a hidden fact now that majority of the party members and people of the state generally are ready to stop him. The belief is strong that the Governor is taking advantage of the fact that he is using his position as gatekeeper and guardian-figure to manipulate the political process and skew it in his favour to ensure the emergence of his political godson as APC governorship candidate.
It is widely thought that the objective of such ‘marriage’ is that after the godson emerges,and possibly wins the governorship election proper, the latter could reciprocate such ‘kindness’ by total submission,subservience,and make available provisions to him -with little or no priority concern to the needs of the beleaguered people of the state.
The Governor today, as he is known, could be so ruthless because he is keen to use his influence to disenfranchise the very people of the state who elected him and who, democratically, are supposed to be the recruiters of leadership in the state.
He wants to be active before, during and after the coming elections (including the February and March,2023 polls) in the state and, for the governorship primary, use the mechanism of his position to impose his crony as his possible successor by directing the outcome of the primary his own way.
This article was written as a warning to the state party hierarchy to watch the Governor’s body language from the get-go and ensure that he does not have his way.
Kow-towing to the Governor’s illegal and undemocratic quest in this particular vital,life-defining matter of party primary, is capable of lighting an unquenchable fire in the party with great consequences to the outcome of the forthcoming general elections and attract voters’ disdain for APC in the state.
I want to use this time to remind the Governor that his tools for manipulating the forthcoming primary are already known and in the public domain.The plan to entrench a system within the party to favour his anointed godson by using his (Governor’s) influence to rig out other aspirants, would not be allowed.
The only option left for Gov. Yahaya Bello is to consider the moral burdens on his shoulder by doing the right thing.