The political terrain of Kogi State is a peculiar one that reflects the positions of the gladiators on issues affecting the state. In a democratic setting, one of the major indices that ensures stability within the system is a vibrant opposition that keeps the party in power on its toes and ensure that policies and programmes of government are formulated and implemented in the best interest of the people. With an unrelenting opposition coming up with constructive criticism, the party in power would find it difficult to be tyrannical and while at the same time responsible and responsive to the people.
Immediately after the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) towards the 2015 general election, the party gave the then ruling party at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a stiff opposition, exposing some of the atrocities of the government and also criticising many of the steps being taken by the government in Abuja. Some months to the election, it was obvious that the ruling party would find it difficult to retain the presidency and some states because of the rate at which the party in opposition was given the PDP a run for its money.
One of the states that were in the grip of the PDP before the 2015 general election was Kogi State. However, after the victory of the APC and the eventual assumption of office of President Mohammadu Buhari, the state later became one of those that the party took over following its governorship election held in November 2017. The results of the election and the controversies that followed led to the inauguration of the incumbent, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, as the governor of the state on January 27, 2016.
The candidate of the PDP in the election, Idris Wada, challenged the outcome of the poll to the level of the Supreme Court, where Bello’s victory was eventually upheld. Since the decision of the apex court, the PDP and its leaders in the state appeared to have gone to sleep, abandoning their roles as opposition party members.
Since the inauguration of Bello as governor of the confluence state, the major oppositions he had been facing have been from his own party with the PDP seemingly indifferent to many of the activities of the ruling party that ordinarily should have been major concerns of a party in opposition. Less than one year to the next general election, there is nothing on ground to show that the party is preparing to take over the state from the APC.
Kogi State’s PDP boasts of two former governors, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, who governed the state for almost nine years and Wada, who is the immediate past governor. It has several former senators like Tunde Ogbeha, present senators like Ahmed Ogembe, Kogi central and Atai Aidoko, Kogi east, many former and present House of Representatives members. This is as a result of its governing the state between 2003 and 2015. However, the voices of these people that should be leading the opposition in the state are not heard, painting a situation of ‘sleeping or docile’ opposition in the state.
The proximity of the state to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seems to be one of the undoing factors of the situation as majority of the politics of the state is played in Abuja. Many times, meetings of the party that are supposed to be held in Lokoja, the state capital, or any part of the state are held in Abuja with the government and people of the state not feeling the impact and the presence of the party. Except for statements being issued once in a while on activities of the state government, the visibility of the party across the 21 local government areas of the state is near zero.
There are many issues that the public expects the PDP, as an opposition party, to look into, with a view to making the state government accountable to the people. One of these issues is the annual budget of the state. The party has failed to scrutinise the budget and look into the budget implementation and performance. Bello has presented a budget for 2017 and 2018, the opposition parties in the state has not for once sat down to analyse the budgets and come up with its findings on the implementation of the previous year before another one is approved for the governor to spend. It is the expectation of the people in a democracy that an opposition party would support them in making the government in power accountable to them.
If the PDP is regarded as docile in terms of opposition to the party in government in the state, the other opposition parties are completely dead as many of them are not visible in the politics of the state. The only one coming up is the newly-registered All Progressive Democratic Alliance (APDA), which is believed to be an alternative party of some aggrieved members of the ruling APC in the state. The events in the last two years have shown that many of the political parties were registered to pave way for patronages from any ruling party as individually and collectively they have failed to live up to what is expected of opposition parties.
However, feelers from the camp of the PDP revealed that the party was only being careful about the kind of opposition it offers because of the level of insecurity in the state. The bigwigs of the party believed that present-day opposition in Kogi should be done with sense and calculation to avoid being caught in the web of the alleged insecurity, particularly to the opposition in the state.
The publicity secretary of the party in the state, Bode Ogunmola, said the party had not shied away from offering the needed opposition that could deepen the country’s democracy, but it was being careful not to jeopardise the lives of many of its members.
He said, “It is not that we are not reacting to issues, but maybe not in the way people wanted us to react. We are all in this state when a PDP member of the house of assembly, Friday Sani, was beaten in the assembly complex. The house of the chairman of our party in Okehi Local Government Area was also attacked, fortunately, he was not at home. If he was found at home, we don’t know what would have happened to him. Even A.K Salihu, a senatorial aspirant, ‘they’ went to his house, all this is happening when we are not talking.
“If the public knows the kind of text messages and anonymous calls I receive as publicity secretary of PDP, they will marvel. They should, however, understand that rascality is not limited to just one person. Because we are taking it maturely. We are doing our consultations very well and by the time we go for election, the public may not know who will win, but they sure know who will not win an election in Kogi State. So, we don’t need to stand in front of a moving train for it to crush us. They have the money, the weapons, security operatives and we learnt they are allegedly buying army uniforms, but I can assure that by the grace of God, they will not win any election in this state again”.
In the same vein, the chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in Kogi State, Ibrahim Itodo, said the state was too volatile for opposition to thrive. He, however, said the opposition in the state had not been docile but does not want to destabilise the party in power.
He said, “We are talking, we are not just toothless. We have been doing our best to put the government on its toes. The fact is that the present administration in the state has stylishly rubbished party politics. Even the party that brought him (the governor) into power, he has rubbished it and the crisis in the party is rubbing off on other parties. We are not subservient to the administration of Yahaya Bello, the only thing we are interested in is good governance and whatever we do if it is too aggressive will affect the state negatively, so we are only being careful. We are doing our best to see development and good governance that can be achieved through peaceful coexistence”.