A house divided against itself

Delegates queue to vote during the primaries of the ruling People

Jubril Echocho Isah was visibly disturbed when he arrived at the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja last Wednesday morning.

Accompanied by a few supporters, he moved straight to the office of the national organising secretary, Uche Secondus where he not only conferred with him, but also reportedly purchased the governorship nomination form to contest the forthcoming election in Kogi State.

Mr Isah had visited the party headquarters a number of times over his bid to retain the governorship ticket of the PDP in Kogi State. His position as the PDP candidate had remained unquestionable until the dying days of last month, when some senior members of the party in the state reportedly moved against him and began to demand for his replacement ahead of the poll.

Mr Isah, a former bank executive, had beaten several other aspirants to clinch the ticket late last year; even though the state produced the highest number of governorship aspirants in the build-up towards the April general elections.

But just as he prepared for the main governorship election in April, the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgement on April 15, confirmed the judgement of the Federal High Court that elections should not take place in Kogi and four other states. The other states were Sokoto, Cross River, Bayelsa and Adamawa.

Their incumbent chief executives had their tenures elongated, having been sworn in for a fresh term following their victory at the appellate court, which confirmed their elections in 2007.

Following that judgement, Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State will vacate office on April 5, 2012; while Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State leaves office on April 30. On their part, Magatakarda Wammakko of Sokoto State and Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa leave office on May 28 and 29, while August 12 is the exit date for Liyel Imoke of Cross River State.

Mr Isah and his counterparts, both in the PDP and the other parties in those states, were forced to suspend their ambition. They only returned to the electoral battle front when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced fresh dates for the governorship elections in the five states.

Beginning of nightmare

According to the national electoral umpire, the governorship election in Kogi State will hold on December 3, 2011 while that of Adamawa will take place on January 14, 2012. The others are Bayelsa, 11th February 2012; Sokoto, 10th March 2012; and Cross River 14th, April 2012.

Solomon Soyebi, the INEC Commissioner in charge of information and publicity also announced that the governorship election in Edo State would hold on 14th July, 2012.

The Commission is, by the provision of section 30 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), expected to issue notice for the elections not later than 90 days before the date of the elections. It also asked the parties to conduct fresh primaries. That turned out to be the beginning of Mr Isah’s nightmare.

The case of Kogi is unique. Of the five states where the governorship election did not hold last April, its chief executive is on his way out, having been first elected in 2003. The governors of the other four states began their first term of four years in 2007.

At a meeting with party stakeholders from Kogi State penultimate Friday, the NWC members reportedly opted for fresh primary election in the five states.

Ibrahim Alfa, a senior member of the party, who was at the meeting, said it agreed to conduct fresh primaries in Kogi State due to the restiveness over who picks the PDP ticket.

“Yes, it was agreed that there will be fresh primaries in Kogi State. I am not the mouth organ of the party; they are going to make pronouncement but that is the decision,” Mr Alfa, a former chief of air staff, said.

Although he admitted that the decision may not go down well with some party members, he said it would boost PDP’s chances in the forthcoming election.

A senator representing Kogi Central Senatorial District, Abatemi Usman, who also attended the marathon meeting, remarked that, “We have listened to the decision of the National Working Committee of the party. We are going back to absolve the import of this decision.

The party’s spokesperson, Ahmed Alkali, had told journalists after a meeting of the NWC last month that it would embark on consultation because of the disturbing case of Kogi State.

Expectedly, the decision has thrown up new governorship aspirants to challenge Mr Isah. Among them is Idris Khalla Wada, a retired army captain alleged to be an in-law to the out-going governor.

Mr Wada, accompanied by his supporters, was at the PDP national secretariat last Wednesday to pick the nomination form sold at N2.5 million. He likens the development to democracy in action.

“That is the beauty of democracy,” he said. “It is the choice of the people. You don’t expect hundred percent of the people to support a person or an idea. That is why we have opposition party or things like that. So we are human beings.” Mr Isah’s supporters, under the aegis of Kogi Frontiers (KF) are, however, protesting the call for fresh primary election.

“The last primaries elected a candidate in the person of Jibrin Isah. He was presented with the party flag at Lafia during President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign in the north central zone,” Johnson Musa, who leads KF, said at the PDP national secretariat, about three hours before Mr Wada came.

“Now, what is about to happen is that our party wants to give the ticket to an unpopular candidate, the implication is that the opposition party in the state will have a field day on the December 3 elections.” Sources say Mr Isah’s predicament may not be unconnected with the opposition of the incumbent, Idris Ibrahim to his candidacy.

It was learnt that Mr Isah was not the governor’s choice last year but was merely harangued into accepting him as the governorship candidate by some elders in their native Igala.

Besides, Mr Isah’s fate may have been fuelled by the controversy that trailed his nomination last year. The controversy arose from the fraud he allegedly committed while working with AfriBank.

In a petition to the national leadership dated January 14, 2011, a group, Kogi Youths for Equity and Justice, wrote that Mr Isah had a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has been investigating him over his involvement in the alleged fraudulent practices to the tune of N55 billion.

“We implore the leadership of the PDP to look into this issue so as not to be seen as a party that exalts corruption with a view of preventing Isah Jibrin from using the party’s platform to obtain immunity cover for his corrupt practices,” the petitioners demanded.

Troubles in other states

But the Kogi PDP candidate is not the only one whose fate is hanging in the balance. The return of Mr Imoke, the governor of Cross River State, is another. He is being challenged by some members of the party in the state.

A few weeks ago, some senior members of the party in the state held a secret meeting in Abuja where they fine-tuned plans to ensure he does not emerge as the PDP candidate in the 2012 governorship election.

Sources say the group is rooting for Sunny Abang, a former chairman of the party in the state who is currently Nigeria’s ambassador to Mali.

The group includes a former minister, some members of the state executive council, members of PDP state executive committee and a former governor. Its members have allegedly vowed to defect to the Labour Party should Mr Imoke pick the ticket for a second term in office.

Already, the group has begun wooing another one allegedly led by one Geshun Bassey, a leading politician believed to be eyeing the governorship seat.

Significantly, Mr Imoke is being accused of planning to renege on the agreement he reached in 1999 with Mr Bassey and the immediate past governor, Donald Duke to rotate power among themselves for 24 years.

Although, Mr Bassey is yet to make his plan in the governorship election clear, the fear of losing out in the trio’s calculation to keep power is confronting him.

It was learnt that he is not comfortable with Mr Imoke’s recent statement that he (the governor) would hand over to a candidate from the northern senatorial district.

But Paul Adah, one of Mr Imoke’s chief campaigners says the PDP in the state is intact and working towards the governor’s victory next year.

In Bayelsa State, the opposition to the emergence of the governor, Timipre Sylva is mounting. The unfolding drama in Bayelsa State is particularly interesting because it is the home state of President Jonathan, who does not appear to shift support away from the governor.

Although, Mr Sylva faced similar granite opposition before the judgement of the Court of Appeal last April, the current determination to dethrone him as the PDP candidate reportedly has to do with nominations for federal appointments, his performance and his roots.

Reference is often made by opponents to the manner in which the list of nominees for federal appointment was drawn up. The initial list of 13 nominees dispatched to Abuja was mainly peopled by the governor’s supporters, as against those of the president and other interests.

Some members of the party in the state have also claimed that the governor’s performance is not commensurate with the enormous fund coming to the state. Yet others claim that Mr Sylva comes from areas that are regarded as non-core Ijaw.

Meanwhile, although there is relative calm in Sokoto State, the PDP is also boiling in Adamawa State over plans to retain the governor, Murtala Nyako as its candidate for the January 14 governorship election.

Some members of the party in the state, under the aegis of Adamawa Elders Forum (AEF) have declared war against Mr Nyako, a retired admiral and chief of naval staff.

At the end of their meeting in Yola recently, which was initially disrupted by agents of the Adamawa State government, the group reportedly expressed disenchantment with the alleged mis-governance of the elderly governor. They accused his administration of poor financial management, corruption and subversion of council funds.

Former senator, Jubril Aminu, who spoke on behalf of the group said, “Our fight is at salvaging Adamawa State. It has nothing to do with sectional interest. All we are doing is to inform Adamawa people of the many sins of the government so that they can make informed choice at the poll.” But the bid to stop Mr Nyako, according to sources, may not also be divorced from his opposition to the ambition of Mr Aminu and others to occupy the position of the national chairman of the PDP, zoned to the North East geo-political zone.

The former senator as well as former minister and governor, Bamanga Tukur and former minister and Nigeria’s ambassador to United States, Hassan Adamu, all of whom are Adamawa State indigenes are eyeing the exalted seat.

Mr Nyako reportedly favours the emergence of the chairman of the PDP in the state, Mijinyawa Kugama as the national chairman. Curiously, Mr Kugama and Mr Nyako are cousins.

But it is believed that the fight against Mr Nyako is merely a throwback from the primaries held between last year and early this year in which some of the major actors in the PDP lost. Among them were Mr Aminu and a former military administrator of Lagos State, Buba Marwa. Mr Marwa has since left for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) whose flag he might fly in the coming gubernatorial election.

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