— as stakeholders predicts overwhelming victory for APC
Obansa Ibrahim, Lokoja
Barely two months to the Kogi governorship election scheduled to hold on November 11, 2023, political activities in the state has heightened tension, as the candidates strives to win the support of the electorates.
No doubt the 2033 governorship election in Kogi state is going to be a three horse race between the three major tribes in Kogi state. They are: the Igalas in Kogi East, the Ebira in Kogi central and the Okun people from West.
Keen observers of Kogi politics since it’s creation in 1991 said this is the very first time that the three major ethnic nationalities in the state are going into contest at the same time.
Aside the issues of ethnicity, violence, power of incumbency, Anti-Party Activities, stakeholders have said that the driving force of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman is the impressive performance of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration in seven and half years.
According to observers the governorship contest may shake the 32 year old state to its foundation due to some factors which requires the urgent attention of the relevant institutions responsible for the smooth conduct of the election.
There are eighteen political parties and their candidates that will be participating in the race to succeed Governor Yahaya Bello in Lugard House who was sworn into office in January 2016. The candidates are; Usman Ododo of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); Senator Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Muritala Ajaka of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Leke Abejide of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Olayinka Braimoh of Action Alliance (AA).
Others are Kingsley Idoko Ilonah of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Dr. Samson Agada Omale of Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Admiral Usman Jibrin of Accord (A) party amongst others.
At the moment, pundits believed that aside the APC candidate, Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman who may be favoured by the power of incumbency, Governor Bello’s impressive performance, through infrastructure, social development and spread of the APC in terms of structure, none of the candidates can honestly boast of such advantage.
Key issues that will likely shape the contest.
The 2023 governorship elections in Kogi state promises to be direct confrontation between the three major ethnic nationalities in the state. This is total new to Kogi politics. Since the creation of the state in 1991, there has always been ethnic contests between two major tribes while the third tribe and minorities become beautiful brides.
In 1999, Kogi governorship contest was a Battle between PDP’s Steven Olorunfemi from Okun and ANPP’s Abubakar Audu from Igala. Ebiras were the beautiful brides then, however in 2007, it was a face-off between ACN’s Mohammed Salami Ohiare of Ebiraland and PDP’s Ibrahim Idris of Igala extraction and the Okun people of Kogi west were the beautiful brides. 2019 governorship contest was between APC’s Yahaya Bello, an Ebira and PDP’s Musa Wada. The election results always showed ethnic inclinations. In 2019, Musa Wada won overall votes from Igala land while Yahaya Bello cleared the Ebira votes in a landslide victory.
Primaries held this year has successfully altered the usual pattern of two major tribes facing each other and using the third tribe as bargaining chip. PDP produced Dino Melaye from Okun land in Kogi west, APC produced Usman Ododo from Ebiraland in Kogi central, while while the SDP propped up Murtala Ajaka, an Igala man from Kogi East as its candidate.
This is the first time since the creation of the state, that the three major tribes will engage in battle for supremacy.
In the highly divisive governorship contest, the biggest issues dominating the campaigns loudly and in whispers are not merit, capacity, or track record of a candidate, but ethnic inclination. The campaign colouration is fast shaping up into a tribal contest, a triangular dogfight among the Ebira, Okun, and Igala ethnic nationalities. However, the APC candidate has always emphasized that he represents a Kogi agenda and not ethnic struggle.
Based on the voting strengths of the zones, none of these three tribes can single handedly make one of their own governor, so, the ethnic minorities like Bassa Nge, Bassa Kwomu, Nupe, Ogori-Magongo and non-indigenes may likely decide who wins November 2023 governorship election.
Interestingly, the governor said recently that he has been able to unit the state in the last seven years, saying ethnic politics has no place again in the political advancement of the state. Speaking during the inauguration of the APC national campaign council in Lokoja, he said “there is no room for ethnicity and divisive tendencies, as my administration have been able to demystified this practice that has held us back for too long.
There is growing concern over early warnings of political violence ahead of the election. This is another key issue that may shape the November 11 election.
Since 2003, incidences of violence has become one of the characteristics of elections in the state. Perhaps, killing of a woman, Salome Abuh, who was burnt alive in her house shortly after the announcement of the results of the governorship election on November 18, 2019 saw Kogi’s rating in political absurdities rise.
Recent developments shows 2023 may not be different from previous election years. On June 3 this year, there was the alleged attack on the convoy of Governor Yahaya Bello by the candidate of the SDP, Murtala Ajaka. Notwithstanding the denial of the allegation by the SDP candidate, this has since heightened tension in the state. The signs are ominous and if allowed to fester, it will surely affect the election with the possibility of low turnout of voters.
However, Governor Bello has said that everything will be done to make the state peaceful and by extension the campaigns and the election. The Governor while addressing the APC national campaign council in Lokoja warned those who may want to achieve power through violence to desist, insisting that his administration has done well to guarantee the victory of his party in the November poll.
He therefore called on the security agencies to ensure the protection of the rights of parties to a peaceful electioneering process.
Similarly, the Kogi State Command of the Nigerian Police has said it is collaborating with other sister security agencies towards ensuring that the November Governorship Election is violent free, even as it expressed optimism that trouble makers who are bent on causing trouble during the election would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
This assurance was given by Police Public Relations Office, (PPRO), SP Williams Ayah, at the two day Media Roundtable/Engagement on the Kogi Governorship Election organized for Journalists in Kogi State, by the International Press Council, (IPC).
Interestingly, Events of the last few weeks has seen the governor and security agencies keeping to their promises, as candidates of all the parties are seen carrying on with their campaigns without any hindrance. This is a plus and a major departure from the past.
In the February 2023 general elections, ADC claimed two House of Representatives seats in Kogi state. The duo reaped from overt and covert anti-party activities in their respective constituencies.
Fallout from party primary elections led many aggrieved politicians to support different candidates and similar scenario is playing out after the governorship primaries in some of the parties.
After Dino emerged candidate of PDP at the primaries, a horde of politicians particularly from his west senatorial district, have left the party in anger for the ruling APC. Also, the primary election of NNPP has been upturned and Musa Mabarak has been replaced with Hassan Abdullahi. The fallout from these contentious primaries may force aggrieved politicians to engage in anti-party activities ahead of the governorship election.
Power of Incumbency
Kogi has witnessed the much touted ‘power of incumbency’ severally at the polls.The APC controls federal and state powers as well as its enormous coercive apparatus. With federal and state might behind the APC candidate, observers opines that the oppositions face an herculean task in their bid to win the election.
While the battle for ethnic supremacy rages on, appointees of the APC led government from the three main ethnic zones are gearing up to garner winning votes for their party candidate. This again is another plus for the APC candidate.
How Governor Yahaya Bello’s impressive performance boosts Ododo’s chances
Asides the above factors, supporters across party line, have said that Governor Yahaya Bello’s impressive performance, particularly in his second term, will boost the chances of the APC candidate, Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman in the November election.
Core achievements of Gov. Bello.
Speaking recently in Lokoja, the national chairman of APC, Dr. Umar Ganduje, said the governor has done very in of human capital development, empowerment, infrastructure growth in the education and health sectors of the state’s economy and confident that the people of Kogi state will vote the APC again for sustainability.
He said “The commissioning of impactful and first-of-their-kind projects such as Muhammadu Buhari Civic Center located in Lokoja was an eye opener to the extent of development in Kogi State in seven years. Also the construction of Fly over bridge which is the first in Kogi state to ease traffic jam is also another plus for the party.
Speaking with our correspondent, a
Former Acting Governor and Speaker of Kogi State house of Assembly, Rt Hon Abdullahi Bello said “I am confident of our victory without any iota of doubts. My party, the APC has done well in terms of holding the State together united and in peace. There are so many great achievements cutting across the three Senatorial Districts that the current Governor has put in place, that will enhance our chances towards attaining total victory in November.
“And these achievements are in the areas of infrastructures, education, health and rural development among others. Salaries have been paid as at when due. What the government did in the area of staff Salaries in the Local government is novel. Instead of retrenchment, the government decided to pay what is available to cover all civil servants instead of few. And thus retrenchment was avoided in the last 7 years of Yahaya Bello’s administration. And Ododo will do better. He has learned governance and it’s critical ethics and demands.
The House of Representatives member, representing Ajaokuta Federal Constituency, Barr. Sanni Egidi Abdulraheem, told our correspondent in an interview that the Governor has Consistently stood out from the crowd in the World Bank’s States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability programme, among other first-time feats of the state under Governor Yahaya Bello.
Speaking further, he said Governor Yahaya Bello has delivered landmark projects, including the Reference Hospital that boasts of equipment, many of which are debuting in in Nigeria and Africa for the first time.
Another Stakeholders in Kogi politics and a former governorship Candidate of Zenith Labour Party, (ZLP) and the only female in the contest, Fatima Taiye Suleiman, noted that she dumped her party for the candidate of the ruling APC because of what she described as the impressive performance of the Governor in the last seven years.
She listed the areas the governor hs excelled toninclude, the World Class Model Science Secondary Schools, Health Institutions and other critical infrastructure such as roads, marked a year of incredible performance by the phenomenal Architect of a New Confluence State. “Also Bello Care Programme, which has offered near-free medicare to the people is also gradually improving life expectancy in the state. She stressed.
The proposed Payment of BECE, Junior, Senior WAEC, NECO, JAMB fees in all Public Schools beginning from next academic session, will cub out of school children in the state, while the establishment of the Confluence University of Science and Technology in Osara, has helped greatly in solving the admission challenges often encountered by Kogi students who want to venture into science and technical courses.
The establishment of Kogi state university Kabba, is also another landmark achievement of the Governor in the education sector, this observers said will attract the votes of the people of Kogi west who have desired a university in their area since the creation of the state in 1991.
The renovation and equipping of the School of Nursing, Obangede with modern medical equipment was also seen by many as one project that will help and ease the campaign of the APC in the state.
The well over 1000 teachers employed by the APC led government in Kogi for various secondary schools across the state, was also seen as a master stroke by the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello, as these teachers and their family will galvanized votes for the APC candidate, so as to keep their jobs.
The Governor, understanding that the youths are the driving force in any election, has consistently embarked on youth and women empowerment since he assumed power in 2016. He is the first governor in the country to ensure the emergency of women as local government vice chairpersons and council leaders across 21 LGAs of the state. He also ensure that over 90 percent of his cabinet was made up of youths and women.
In the area of security the governor was able to curtail crimes and all forms of criminality in the state by making sure the he empowered various security agents in the state. This according to his supporters had earned him various national and international awards. Today the activities of criminals has been reduced to the nearest minimum.
By and large, the security agencies have a huge role to play in ensuring the election is peaceful, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), must step up its game and ensure the processes are free, fair and credible.