Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
There are strong indications on Monday in Lokoja that former Chief of Navy Staff, Admiral Usman Jibril (retd) might emerge the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the party’s primaries slated for August if Governor Yahaya Bello is eventually denied the party’s ticket.
According to investigations, Governor Bello is finding it increasingly tougher to lobby top party stalwarts and members of the National Working Committee of APC to support him for his re-election bid due to what pundits called,’ non-performance in office.’
Thus, the governor is said to have secretly pitched his tent with Accord Party which has given him automatic governorship ticket to contest the November 16 governorship election.
Sources close to the NWC of the party said the party is secretly shopping for a candidate that is generally accepted that will oust Governor Bello from office in a direct party primary slated for August.
Of all the scores of aspirants that have so far signified intention, Admiral Jubrin is said to be highly favoured among the top notchers of the party and party members owing to what pundits call his popularly.
Also his military background, affability and being a man of deep pockets is said to be some of the factors that are working for the retired Navy officer.
Already, the aspirants are currently undergoing a screening exercise taking place in Ayingba and put in place by former national Chairman of PDP, Col. Ahmadu Ali, and some eminent Igala personalities to scale down the number of aspirants.
The screening, it is learned is meant for aspirants from the eastern senatorial district and it cuts across party lines.
Jubrin was said to have attended the screening exercise on Sunday with large party supporters and sizeable numbers of politicians who are lobbying to become his running mate in the election
Top among those lobbying for the running mate is former House of Reps member and an oil magnate, Chief Sam Aro from Yagba West local government and former commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Tolorunju Faniyi who hails from Yagba East local government area and a few others who preferred not to be named.
Pundits are of the view that with Senator Dino Melaye, from Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency in the National Assembly, the deputy governorship slot should be for either Yagba or Lokoja/Koto federal constituency in the Western senatorial district.
However, strategists are considering a running mate from Kogi Central, the senatorial district of Governor Yahaya Bello. They are of the firm belief that Kogi West is already a no-go area for Yahaya Bello’s re-election aspiration, hence the need to make credible in the road into Kogi Central.
The strategists prefer the senatorial candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Kogi Central in the last election, Barr Natasha, Hadiza Akpoti, as the most suitable to run as Jibrin’s deputy.
The main challenge envisaged at the moment, it was learnt, is the chance of convincing Natasha to sacrifice her governorship ambition and run with Jibrin as it is believed that Natasha is likely to emerge governorship candidate of the SDP.
It is also gathered that top politicians within the Audu/Faleke faction of the APC are not left behind in the jostling for the prized deputy governorship slot. Already, the director-general of the Audu/Faleke Campaign Organisation during the ill-fated 2015 governorship election, Dan Isah, is said to have aligned with Admiral Jibrin’s aspiration.
Pundits believe he is the point man of the Audu/Faleke group sent to ensure the group gets the deputy governorship slot for the November election.
For many, Admiral Jibrin is Kogi State governor-in-waiting. His acceptability in Kogi East is not in doubt as witnessed on Sunday when he visited the district. A large crowd of enthusiastic supporters hailed the former naval chief as he passed through Itobe and other towns in Kogi East on Sunday.
Pundits are however of the view that the choice of who becomes his running mate will, no doubt, determine to a large extent, the chances of Jibrin at the poll.