As a researcher studying how political underdogs, especially social movements, can use their deliberate and disciplined entrance into mass-mediated public discourse as a resource that can make them equal to those who already hold the balance of access, money, and official position, remains a powerful allegory.
We have seen where individuals considered too green and promising eclipse juggernauts on the field. There are situations that present themselves that requires toning down political correctness and adjusting grudgingly to realities.
That is exactly the circumstance we are faced with in Kogi State. It is a state in dire straits that requires urgent repositioning with the deluge of problems suffocating its capacity to operate as a viable entity within the federation.
We are in the age of the Underdog where our research on the place of persuasion in the success of contemporary Kogi Sociopolitical Movements has become inevitable.
The nearly four year-long search for a potential Governor with the requisite knowledge, preparedness and capacity who would succeed Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello is about to come to an end with Alhaji Aminu Abubakar Suleiman in the race.
As a group who studies trends of politics, especially for a State like Kogi which has launched itself as a trail blazer in the comity of States with a complicated election history, Kogi State as presently politically configured has overtaken Anambra State in terms of complexities and complications in the political dynamics of a State. They, like some others both run a staggered gubernatorial election timetable.
From Alhaji Ibrahim Idris (Omala L.G in Ankpa Zone) being the Governor for a record breaking 9 years between 2003 -2011 (won the ticket in 2003 as an underdog) to a sterile primary that produced Alhaji Jibrin Isah Echocho in 2011 (Now Senator-elect from Dekina L.G Dekina Zone under the platform of the APC) as the PDP flagbearer who never used his ticket considered to be premature by the Supreme Court at the time, to the ascension to power of Captain Idris Wada (another underdog from Dekina L.G Dekina Zone) who became the sole beneficiary of that aborted primary in 2011 and served just one term, to Alhaji Yahaya Bello (From Kogi Central) who against all human machinations and the chagrin of a bewildered electorate, succeeded in inheriting the votes of late Alhaji Audu Abubakar whose life was cut short on the eve he was coasting to victory. The said election was coincidentally being declared inconclusive. With all factors remaining consistent with their anticipated behavior, it would seem likely that the options for dialogue and negotiation will be narrowed down to two zones where one zone remains fallow for over 16 years and the other open to a right of first refusal after holding the reins of power for a brief four years.
The key word in the equation however, given the circumstance for the opposition PDP aspirants is the CAPACITY to prosecute an election and ability to strategically take advantage of the fallout of an impending discord. This will be subject to the outcome of the ruling APC primaries in the State.
It would be impossible not to be transfixed by the sudden turn of events owing to Audu’s death and the epic legal battle being waged after his demise and exit from the scene in 2015 for Lugard House, majorly between the two burgeoning parties of the APC and PDP. For Kogites, the contest was a twist of fate and was considered the most closely followed election in decades up to the Supreme court. It raised a lot of germane questions and was considered a novelty that required a judicial pronouncement by the apex court to put a seeming deadlock to rest. Events that followed saw a drastic change in the dynamics, perception, sentiments and default principles of zoning which had hitherto been entrenched to guarantee equity and social justice in the balancing of political power in the State. Kogi Politics after 2015, had never remained the same.
An EMG Poll taken in March 2019 immediately after the concluded General Elections, when political attention is usually at its nadir, found that nearly 70% of Kogites described the 2019 campaign as call for a paradigm shift, youth inclusion, overhaul of the State’s leadership selection and evolutionary process.
By March, EMG found that a record 89%, almost eight in ten Kogites, reported that they were following Kogi politics closely, an unprecedented threshold which reflects curiosity, anxiety and a struggle for economic and social emancipation from the shackles of maladministration, hunger, death and squalor which has bedeviled the State. This has remained a recurring decimal in the lives of the average Kogite. Worst still is the plight of the active labour force in the state and civil servants who are the drivers of economic activities in Kogi State.
The excitement generated by the oncoming election cannot be far-fetched. This is due to a number of factors, among them: the contest for a seat occupied by the ruling APC, the incumbent not from the Kogi Eastern Senatorial District where the state has the highest registered voters, the field of candidates parades scions and filial relations of the old order which is already causing an upset, sentiments based on the principles of zoning and dialogue, concentration of a particular age structure, internal party crisis and most importantly an already charged and sensitive electorate that is ready to identify with a nobody, a green horn and a chain breaker who has the CAPACITY to withstand the heat and build confidence amongst his supporters and followers. The one aspirant that strikes our attention with his strategic communication skills, capacity and political maneuverings is Alhaji Aminu Abubakar Suleiman AAS from the Idah axis.
Other aspirants whom we have identified to have been making inroads by responding to similar deft moves initiated by AAS are Dr. Joseph Ameh Erico from Ankpa axis, Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim the son of the former Governor Ibrahim Idris also from the old Ankpa axis, AVM Saliu Atawodi, an election veteran from the Idah axis, Engr. Musa Wada a half-brother to the former Governor of the State in person of Capt. Idris Wada.
It may seem obvious that public opinion, sentiments and perceptions are shaping the thoughts and decisions of various tendencies within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
All these candidates in their own right have the capacity to clinch the ticket of the party in the forthcoming primaries considering their various profile, background and antecedents. However, lessons have been learnt from Zamafara State, Imo State and Rivers State.
PDP has hitherto been branded to be notorious for its weak alternative dispute mechanism, lack of internal democracy, impunity etc. All these contributed to its downfall in 2015. The least PDP in Kogi State could do now to have a united front is to eschew and manage any form of disagreements within its fold that has the tendency of attracting legal distractions and a divided house. At this point nobody is dispensable.
Four years down the lane however, PDP can be said to have cleared the Augean stables and rid itself of elements and vices capable of undermining it. This is evident in the performance of the just concluded General elections with the PDP firmly in control of 16 States, 44 Senators-elect and 130 House of Representatives member-elect.
With Kogi on the front burner and all the inter and intra party intrigues and bickering, saying Kogi is up for grabs is an understatement. With the level of disaffection and emotional trauma civil servants in the state face, it takes a man with a large heart, experience in wealth creation, infrastructural development and financing, perfect knowledge of Public-Private Sector workings etc. to salvage the state from the precipice.
Going through Alhaji Aminu Abubakar Suleiman’s profile on the social media space and different fora, he stands out as one who has a whole lot of factors going for him such as age, ethnicity, experience, capacity, zoning, network, public opinion etc.
A consummate Quantity Surveyor and a Project Manager who has managed Project Portfolios in excess of over $1bn surely has the network, net worth and capacity to spring surprises in the midst of constraints. His mettle has been tested and trusted in his field of endeavor. He will make a good outing as one without blemish and no excess baggage unlike majority of the other contenders. He amongst others can be tipped to be one of the strongest in the field where their struggle for primacy would be dramatized by a long and highly competitive primary process.
In one corner are pockets of veterans who will be running against the backdrop of their performance and contribution to the State while they held sway and in the other, the newly minted aspirants will have to prove their mettle against the old order by swimming against the tide amidst harsh realities bedeviling the already disoriented electorates who are yearning for a new leader who can guarantee them a new lease of life.
– Salihu Ogbagebe
Research Analyst, Election Monitoring Group Inc.