Being the first major election in Nigeria after the 2015 general polls, the Kogi governorship race has not disappointed in generating a lot of public interest and igniting political debates. So far more than 30 politicians from the Confluence State have indicated their interest in occupying the Lugard House. Kogi has been a PDP stronghold since 1999, but the Buhari wind of change blew through the state in March and the APC is believed to now stand a strong chance of adding the state to its expanding political territory. Based on my insight into Kogi politics, being a Kogi indigene myself, I attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and highlight the 7 main contenders.
Captain Idris Wada (rtd): The incumbent Governor of Kogi State and cousin of former Governor Ibrahim Idris, Captain Wada will most likely be PDP’s candidate for this election. His administration has seen Kogi witness very little development and his failure to deliver any tangible result, coupled with APC’s growing political influence since President Buhari’s victory, is likely to cost PDP one of the few remaining states under its control.
Dr. Philip Salawu: A former Deputy Governor of Kogi State under the administration of Ibrahim Idris, Salawu recently left the PDP for Labour Party to actualise his dream of governing the state. He was a member of the PDP board of trustees before decamping and contested the governorship primaries in 2011.
AVM Saliu Atawodi (rtd): A retired military officer with vast experience, Atawodi is from Igala – the largest ethnic group in Kogi State. He contested the PDP governorship primaries in 2011 and has since solidified and expanded his political base and following in the state. A renowned philanthropist, he is in pole position to clinch the APC ticket for this election based on his track record.
Prince Abubakar Audu: The first Executive Governor of Kogi State, Audu is perhaps the most popular, and yet controversial, aspirant in this race. From a N10 billion corruption case with the EFCC to allegations of marrying a child bride, the powers that be within the APC are said to be unwilling to back him for a return to the Kogi government house.
Honourable Clarence Olafemi: A former Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Clarence Olafemi was appointed Acting Governor in February 2008 after the election of Ibrahim Idris was annulled by the Supreme Court. He got into the Kogi Assembly in 2003 under the AD, but moved to the PDP in 2007. He has since left the PDP for ruling party APC. He was also an aspirant for the Governorship in 2010 under the PDP.
Princess Hadiza Ibrahim: a victim of child marriage who went on to earn a Masters Degree from the University of Lagos, Hadiza’s ambition is to become the first female president of Nigeria and she did attempt to contest the PDP presidential primaries in 2007. She was a delegate to the last National Confab on the platform of the National Council of Women Societies. She did a U-turn last year, decamping from PDP to APC.
Yakubu Mohammed: A veteran journalist and one of the founding fathers of NewsWatch, Yakubu is also a former PDP man who aligned his political career with existing realities in Kogi State by decamping to the APC.