Kogi elections: The winners, losers

The governorship election in Kogi State may have come and gone, however YEKINI JIMOH writes on the factors that played out and which probably determined the outcome of the second term victory for Governor Yahaya Bello.

IT is no longer news that Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the governor of Kogi State was reelected during the last governorship election. There was loss of lives and property as a result of the crises before and during the election.

The outcome of the election took many by surprise as they had held that the governor would lose out in the poll. The view was informed by the outcome of the 2019 general election in which the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), lost to the opposition in Kogi West Senatorial District.

While the party was able to win all the available seats in the House of Representatives, two seats in the Senate and all the state House of Assembly seats, its candidate, Senator Smart Adeyemi, lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Dino Melaye in the election for Kogi West Senatorial District. However, the election of Melaye was voided by the tribunal and a court-ordered rerun was conducted on the same day, along with the governorship election and was eventually won (also after a rerun) by the APC candidate.

Many factors aided the initial dark cloud that surrounded the possibility of the APC candidate winning the election. Among such factors were the non-payment of salary, crisis within APC and host of others. Surprisingly, the governor was able to settle the issue of non- payment of salary and he also make sure that the party’s internal crisis was resolved before the election.

However, there is more to the election in the sense that the who-is-who in Kogi politics were all relegated to the background by the governor and his deputy, Chief Edward Onoja. The duo made sure that the issue of ethnicity in the state was tackled, even as they ensured that fresh hands were brought on board Kogi politics.

Those the governor appointed during his first tenure as coordinators of local government areas were later transformed into administrators. He built his political structure around the local council administrators and gathered the support of the traditional rulers in Igala land and beyond. Youths were empowered, even as those who were hitherto considered political lightweight, particularly, the present senator representing Kogi East, Alhaji Jibril Isah Echocho, were all brought on board. The younger elements confronted the established big wigs and retired them from Kogi politics.

One fact is that when Governor Bello came on board, none of the political elite wanted to identify with his administration considering the way and manner they came on board. They therefore sought to have a full control of everyone in his cabinet.

However, given the fact that Kogi Central was having a governor for the first time since the creation of the state, the APC had little work to do, as the party members rallied round Bello and forced all the PDP chieftains in the state to retire to pave way for the governor during the last election.

In Kogi West, Speaker of the state House of Assembly Matthew Kolawole, Senator Smart Adeyemi and the administrator of Ijumu Local Government Area, Alhaji Isah Taofik, played major roles in stabilising the Bello administration. On the other hand, Tunde Ayeni and Jide Omokore, and other Kogi PDP big wigs that would have provided logistics for the party during the campaigns were said to have withdrawn their supports and shifted their allegiance to Governor Bello, due to reasons best known to them.

A source said that of General David Jemibewon, Chief Shola Akanmode and host of others did little to safe the PDP as they were not so much taken in about the PDP governorship candidate. This was as Chief Clarence Olafemi, another PDP chieftain, a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and a former acting governor who is from Mopa/Amuro, also dumped the party for the APC, shortly before the governorship election.

In the past elections in the state, Kogi Central used to be the battlefield and the resultant violent political activities took the lives of many young promising youths in the district. However, the reverse was the case in the last election, probably because of the governorship candidates was from the district.

It was gathered that the PDP governorship candidate, Musa Wada, capitalised on a previous census report to believe that he was comfortable with having nine local government areas in his pocket ahead the election. Therefore while Bello, emulated his late political mentor, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, by working day and night seeking for support from all the 21 local government areas of the state, Wada was said to have expected bulk votes from his senatorial district.

The PDP candidate finally shot himself in the leg when he appeared on a national television and declared that Kogi leadership was the birthright of the people of Kogi East. His words: “If I win, heaven will not fall and at the same time, I don’t need the support of other senatorial districts. If they vote for me good and if they don’t, who cares? I am very comfortable with my nine local government areas out of 21.”

One of the major problems of the PDP in the state is internal crisis. It was gathered that the seed of discord was sowed in the party in the course of its governorship primary after Wada, a younger brother of the immediate past governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada, emerged the winner of the exercise. Wada polled 748 votes to defeat his main opponent, Abubakar Ibrahim, the son of another former governor of the state, Ibrahim Idris, who scored 710 votes. Wada’s elder brother, Idris, came third with 345 votes, while Dino Melaye polled 70 votes to emerge fourth.

Investigation revealed that former Governor Ibrahim Idris, said to be the main financier of Kogi PDP, felt that his son was cheated out of the governorship ticket. He was therefore said to have withdrawn his support, though he delivered his local government area, Omola, to the PDP. Also, most supporters of the former governor, particularly from Kogi Central and Kogi West were not happy with the outcome of the PDP primary,  and they may have worked for the APC during the election.

To worsen the crisis, Abubakar, the second runner up in the PDP primaries, also went to court to seek a declaration that he was the winner of the party’s primary. Though he later withdrew his suit and pledged his support for the party and its candidate, many people were of the view that his initial action may have sent a signal to his followers and supporters to look elsewhere beyond the party during the election.

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