By Ralph Agbana
In the coming days and weeks, focus on activities around the upcoming primaries of the two leading political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) no doubt will have shifted from permutations and postulations to the obvious, in Kogi State.
Already, the wheat is being separated from the chaff. Men are being sifted from boys. At the close of collection of nomination and expression of intent forms, the electorate can easily decipher the real contenders, from the pretenders. Meanwhile, before that time, there are feelers that aspirants hitherto identified with APC and PDP may be moving into their “new political homes.”
There are talks about Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NNPP) aiming a raid on the frontline political parties in the 36 states of the federation. However, such speculations are yet to gain ascendancy in the Confluence State, like the unfolding threats posed by the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to the APC and PDP.
This may be due to a number of factors. Principal among these, is the audacious monetization of Nigeria’s democracy by the two leading parties especially APC, which fixed the price tag of the Senate nomination forms at N20m; that of the House of Representatives at N10m, and the House of Assembly at N2million. The development practically barred many potential aspirants who found the fees unaffordable, unbearable or unreasonable, as the case may be.
An aspirant for the Senate on the platform of the APC who shared his thoughts with The Guardian bemoaned the high price tags for the expression of intent and nomination forms. He is of the opinion that such fees are capable of forcing aspirants to leave the ruling party for political parties who offer more affordable prices. He cited the example of ADC whose national executive committee decided to offer the party’s ticket to Leke Abejide, the only ADC federal parliamentarian, “gratis” to compensate him for his contributions to the growth of ADC, nationally and at the various levels.
For the reason of high fees, some aspirants in Kogi State who used to belong to the APC but who are yet undecided about the purchase of nomination forms, may have secretly obtained ADC nomination forms, or are in the process of doing so. Already, some have done so. Julius Abel, a.k.a “On Top”, formerly APC stalwart and 2019 contestant, last week picked ADC nomination and expression of interest forms to represent Mopamuro State Constituency in the House of Assembly. He was received into the ADC fold by Hon Leke Abejide, the sole ADC sponsored member of the 9th House of Representatives from Kogi State, representing Yagba Federal Constituency.
Also, U.K based Tokunbo Oluwadami Alaga has picked ADC nomination forms for the House of Representatives election for Kabba-Bunu-Ijumu Federal Constituency. Alaga is leveraging Abejide’s influence in ADC and popularity.
Adding up to the potential ADC membership growth, is the fear that Yahaya Bello, the governor of Kogi State and APC leader, who has openly promised to provide a level playing ground for all party members and aspirants, may not keep to his word, when the chips are down. Also likely to be affected is the PDP where it is gathered that most of the available posts may be in line to be decided on consensus. Aspirants who fear their aspirations are at risks in the APC/PDP are said to be more disposed to the ADC, especially considering the more affordable price tag for the party’s expression of interest and nomination forms fixed at N100,000 and N400,000 respectively, for the House of Assembly Constituency elections; N1.5m for the House of Representatives and N2.5m for the Senate category.
Above all is the example Abejide is showcasing. In the face of unpaid salaries, Abejide has held the hands of many families, across the valley. Like he did before his election in 2019, Abejide has diligently continued to offset the bills of hundreds of students sitting for the West African School Certificate Examinations, (WASCE), in the three Yagba local government areas.
He has also undertaken some innovative empowerment programmes for his people. During the 2021 yuletide, Abejide announced that about 2000 people benefited from the scheme. He provided vocational training equipment for hundreds of his constituents, and provided others with automobiles, tricycles, motorcycles, mechanical implements and fertilisers to the principally agrarian people of his area.
Last week, Abejide made history when in his capacity as Chairman, House Committee on Customs and Excise, he was presented his nomination and expression of interest forms to contest for a second term, by the National Working Committee, (NWC), of the ADC in Abuja, at no cost. The forms were presented to him by the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Sa’aid Abubakar. The NWC delegation expressed satisfaction with the legislative goodwill and achievements of Abejide in the 9th Assembly. Sa’aid noted that the party recognised Abejide’s good works not only as a party loyalist, but also to his primary political constituency.
Said the ADC NWC National Secretary: “We have watched your legislative engagements with keen interest. You have performed well. Your impact as a legislator and chairman of a committee in the federal parliament has been very impressive. When others were cross-carpeting, seeking refuge elsewhere, you remained committed and steadfast, despite being a virtual loner in the legislature. We recognise your agitations about the development of our dear party ADC, which we may not divulge publicly. This has prompted us as a party to offer you this nomination form to contest again under our great party. You are indeed a loyal party man and a beacon of hope for a better Nigeria.”
Abejide expressed his pleasure at the gesture by the NWC of ADC and for finding him worthy of the nomination forms, at no cost.
“Today, I am the only member standing as an ADC member in the National Assembly. I want to appreciate the good people of Yagba Federal Constituency for giving me their mandate. Much as the people of Oranre Community in South-East Yagba East LGA of Kogi state also want to buy nomination forms for me which I deeply appreciate, the national working committee came in good time.”
He added: “I take this as a challenge to do more in promoting the course of our great party, while also building a lasting political structure and a better future for the people of Yagba and Nigeria. I appreciate the leadership of our party and this great delegation. I hereby present myself again to serve the people.