Kogi: Will power shift in 2023?

Yekini Jimoh takes a look at the issue of power rotation in Kogi State amid the ongoing campaigns by some leaders in the state.

KOGI State is one of the complex state in the country. It comprises many ethnic groups, but the most prominent languages spoken n the state consist Igala, Ebira and Okun. However, since the creation of the state in 1991, the Igala-speaking ethnic nationalities from Kogi East have been dominating the political scene. The current dispensation is the only period an Ebira  is occupying the Government House Lokoja. Though the Okun have never produced governor, their kinsmen have been deputy governor on two occasions.

A cursory look at the list of the past governors of the state includes the late Prince AbubakarAudu, an Igala. He occupy the office twice (first in the aborted Third Republic and second, in the Fourth Republic). His first tenure was from January 1992 to November 1993 and the second from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2003. He died due to ill-health shortly after the announcement of the election results on November 22, 2015, while seeking to be re-elected as governor on the platform of the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC).

Another Igala man took over as the governor of the state in the person of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. He was elected in April 2003, and re-elected in April 2007. He is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Idris was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Captain Idris Wada (retd), who won an election in December 2011 and assumed office in January 2012. Wada was elected on December 9, 2011 as third governor of the state on the platform of PDP. Idris was, however, succeeded by Alhaji Yahaya Bello a non-Igala, on January 27, 2016, after losing his re-election bid in the 2015 gubernatorial election.Bello from KogiCental senatorial district, who came second during the APC governorship primaries, replaced the late Prince Audu. His choice by some power brokers in APC almost collapsed the party in the state, but the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari brought peace to the party and moreover, Bello comes from an area that had never govern the state since its creation.

Now that he is in his second term in office, many stakeholders from the state have begun series of consultations across the state and the federal capital Abuja, especially politicians from Kogi West and Kogi East, who are agitating for power rotation. But the governor is said to be averse to power rotation, going by his statements that the position of Presidency should not be zone but rather a competent person should be allowed to rule the country. There are reports that some forces wished his deputy governor, Chief Edward Onoja from Kogi East, could throw his hat into the ring at the expiration of the tenure of his boss. Also, there are speculations that the Chief of Staff to the governor, JamiuAsuku, who hails from Kogi Central where the governor comes from is under pressure from some groups to run for office. It was equally gathered that some groups are lobbying influential persons to prevail on the Secretary to Kogi State Government, Dr Mrs. FolashadeArike from Kogi West to contest. She is generally believed to be among the closest allies of the governor. She is often referred to as  Margaret Thatcher because of her conduct and boldness in handling on tough issues.

Meanwhile, some PDP stakeholders of the Peoples have held a retreat in Abuja, with the aim of evolving a winning strategy during December 2023 election in the state.  It was at the instance of the Kogi PDP Renaissance. The event attracted party stalwarts drawn from the North Central zone, including former Governor Idris, immediate past president of the Senate, DrBukolaSaraki and former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana. In his keynote address at the occasion, Gana expressed the determination of leaders of the party to oil the right machinery to ensure the victory of the party in the next elections. Decrying the state of affairs in the state under APC leadership, he noted that the prevailing condition has “made the work easier for the PDP.”

Similarly, the Kogi West Elders’ Forum (KWEF), a non-political group, said it was not comfortable with  the skewed power structure against the area in the state. The forum, comprising personalities and opinion leaders of  the district, decried that despite their good intention and active participation in previous elections, the area had not produce governor since the creation of the state in 1991. The communique issue by the forum which aimed to address the prevailing power imbalance in Kogi between the three senatorial districts of; Kogi East, Kogi Central and Kogi West, and its consequence on the Kogi West senatorial district’s future political alignment in the state. It was signed by the former Minister of Police Affair, Major General David Jembewon (retd) and stated that Kogi West must produce the next governor of the state. “In contrast, the two other senatorial districts of east and central have occupied the seat of the state governor for about 21 years now and 25 years by the time the incumbent leaves office in 2023,” it added. The forum also reject running mates in all political parties” urging the “state governor, his Excellency AlhajiYahayaAdoza Bello and all political actors in the state should take conscious note of this demand and support every arrangement that will meet the aspiration.” The body equally called on  all political parties in the Kogi West to endeavour to work together to stimulate actions that would produce credible candidate(s) leading to their state primary elections in the state. All political parties in this regard must, however, align with the Eastern and Central of the state to accomplish the objective by working to produce a governorship candidate that will be acceptable to all the flanks of the state in the 2023 governorship election. The people of the area reminded the governor of their unalloyed support during the last election” when we made a public statement to  endorse his re-election based on the insight that he was a democrat, courageous and would honour their modest agitation for power rotation in the state.”

“As an aspiring president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the governor needs to more than ever before, demonstrate his support for an enduring power sharing and restructuring arrangement at the grassroots level in Kogi State and then Nigeria as widely conversed by all critical and discerning minds in Nigeria. This demonstration will show the infallible strength of good character and integrity he poses to lead a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria.”According to the forum, Kogi West is blessed with a number of qualified candidates that understand the need for good governance that will benefit every part of the state and urged the governor not to allow any individual or group to take the state back to the woods when the whipping of sentiment, pettiness and selfishness of interest groups influenced previous administrations to be parochial in the management of the power equation among the various ethnic groups in the state.”

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