BY SIMON REEF MUSA
Next week’s Saturday governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa state promise not to be different: Those in control of power levers would always take advantage of to swing victory to their side. You may disagree, but for now, that is an inescapable fact. At least, results of local councils’ polls conducted in some states have revealed that it is possible for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for opposition parties to sweep council polls.
Commentators are more concerned with the happenings in Kogi than in Bayelsa state ahead of November 16 governorship polls. While Governor Seriake Dickson has been commended for providing infrastructures and paying civil servants remunerations promptly, his choice of a successor has not sparked tension to trample the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) returning to power in the oil-rich state. In Kogi, the governor has been accused of owing over 30-month salaries and not living up to expectations. To those opposed to the re-election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, November 16 should serve as a quit notice date for his poor performance. Despite the condemnation of Bello’s performance, his supporters are convinced that he remains the man to beat next Saturday.
Those opposed to Bello’s return recently found a common ground to accuse the APC-led Federal Government of providing him with the sum of over N10 billion as a refund spent by the Kogi government in the construction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the state. Apart from empowering the governor to prosecute his electoral battle, the governor’s critics contend, the refund is meant to ensure the smooth re-election of Bello. Apart from the deployment of relevant agencies’ workers involved in the conduct of polls, the refund, Bello’s critics allege, is to empower the cash-trap state in determining the outcome of next Saturday’s polls. The rising profile of Bello for his re-election that has been accentuated by dearth of opposition as it is obvious that the opposition’s machinery for checkmating the incumbent’s victory has been destroyed. While finance and rancour have driven the opposition to the edge of defeat, the absence of forces to contend with Bello in the race for next week’s polls serves as a prelude for Bello’s re-election.
Ahead of the 2015 national polls that saw to the defeat of the PDP, the APC never let any stone unturned in drumming to the national consciousness that only change is sufficient to pave way for the emergence of a new government committed to tackling the twin monsters of insecurity and corruption that were then noted as the nation’s headaches. Before the conduct of the 2015 polls, it had been made clear through an aggressive mobilisation that got overwhelming Nigerians accepting the notion that the continuation of the PDP in power would amount to a grievous mistake that could torpedo the Nigerian project. In the aftermath of the campaigns that saw the incumbent swimming against national and international perception of the PDP as a drowning party, former President Goodluck Jonathan had no option than concede power when it became too obvious that his re-election bid was headed down the slippery pit of imminent defeat.
For Kogi state, the lackluster campaign trail of the PDP has rendered impossible any dream aimed at wresting power from a governor who is clearly not disturbed by any form of opposition. The absence of a vibrant opposition that has all it takes to awaken Kogi electorates to stand up for change remains the greatest albatross in ending Bello’s hold on power. Before someone gets me wrong, I am neither a political sympathizer of the governor nor his cheerleader. For a fact, some quarters insist that Bello has not performed too well to warrant a comeback. Those close to him are quick to debunk that, as they insist that he is eminently qualified for a return trip to Kogi State Government House based on his performance. However, even in the absence of those who support him, Governor Bello is deep rooted in what it takes to win re-election in a state that is almost completely devoid of energetic opposition. Except what we see in the open is different from what is in the inside, the governor has already taken the day even before the election is conducted.
Since the dawn of the present unbroken democratic dispensation in May 1999, I have come to realise that most Nigerian politicians are the same difference; you can never trust them until you allow them access to power. Apart from having a cabal in charge of power, the tragedy of Nigeria’s democracy is that the people have completely surrendered power to politicians in the corridors of power.
Even before now, there have been discordant tunes over the affairs of Kogi state. Not only has the state been referred to as poverty-stricken, Kogi has gained notoriety where public servants commit suicide to avoid miseries caused by pangs of unpaid salaries. Many fear that if Bello has been unable to pay salaries to public workers on time, what assurances are there that he can be trusted to confront the myriad of challenges facing the state?
The result of the November 16 governorship poll in Kogi state may have become a done deal for Bello, considering the fact that the governor, popularly known as ‘The White Lion’ by his supporters, proved bookmakers wrong when he emerged as the APC candidate for the polls despite protestations from other contenders. To assist Bello, who is presently the youngest governor in the country to return to power, the PDP and other formidable opposition parties have refused to do the needful by rallying an effective mobilisation to wrest power from him. For now, Kogi state politics has been left to only politicians, while the people who should be at the vanguard of democracy have been relegated to the backseat.
There can be no greater illusion now than dreaming that Bello is set to kiss the dust in next Saturday’s polls in the absence of a vibrant opposition. The PDP candidate has not risen to the occasion in rallying a solid platform in dislodging the incumbent from power. The PDP that is the major political party cannot be trusted to lead the battle against the governor who now seems to hold the three aces, if not four. The fate of the PDP in Kogi state is a deep reflection on how impossible it is for a party that has been forced to kiss the dust to rise up from the ashes of its past and regain power. The complex and intriguing interests in Kogi PDP seem irreconcilable and incapable of rallying other opposition elements to push for the common and overall interest of the state.
There is no doubt that Bello may have been found wanting in the discharge of his office, but to truncate Bello’s comeback bid without deploying an effective opposition platform could only end up being a wishful thinking. The belligerently disarraying disposition of the opposition in Kogi reveals the deceptive loyalty often mouthed by politicians in standing up by their parties at all times that cannot terminate Bello’s return bid. If the polls were to hold today, the White Lion is bound to smile home to victory. Nothing can be further from this fact.
Despite the mileage gained by Bello in returning to the Government House that has been brightened by a vibrant opposition, the next one week can prove a game changer if both the PDP and other opposition parties return to the trenches for a rainbow coalition against the White Lion. How such a coalition could be realistic is a far-fetched could prove a forlorn dream. If the PDP could remain prostrate for so long a time in rallying for such a coalition, not a few are convinced that Bello’s comeback has already been attained before the polls.