The quest for mandate to occupy the three senatorial seats of Kogi State has raised issues, which Shola Oyeyipo, in Lokoja, tries to examine in this report
Even prior to the disclosure of the election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), sectionalism, great intrigues, and desperate political machinations have taken the centre stage in the three senatorial districts of Kogi State, as politicians jostle for the Senate seats in the Central, West and East senatorial districts. However, rotation seems to be the major factor that would determine who will eventually represent the districts at the National Assembly.
The declaration by Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane, who represented the Eastern Senatorial District twice in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, for the governorship seat in the state has spawned names such as Hon. Attai Aidoko, a renowned philanthropist from Ugbamaka in Olamaboro Local Government Area, who was elected to represent the Federal Constituency at the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007; Air Marshal Isaac Alfa, a governorship aspirant during the primary in 2002 and 2007. Alfa hails from Iyen, in Ankpa Local Government Area, which is considered as an advantage for him; Mr. Muhammed Kabir, an indigene of Enjema, in Ankpa Local Government Area, who contested the House of Representatives election under the umbrella of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) against Aidoko of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and defeated him; Ambassador Isaac Onu, the current Nigerian Ambassador to Botswana, a well respected politician from Abejukolo, in Omala Local Government Area.
Mrs. Halimat Alfa, a Commissioner for Commerce and Industry during the Prince Abubakar Audu regime, is another force in the race, though, she is an indigene of Idah Local Government Area, but her marriage to a retired Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Director who hails from Ankpa is likely to put her in a good position in the race.
Another leading contender for the Eastern Senatorial seat is the former state chairman of PDP and incumbent Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, Mr. Dangana Ocheja, who hails from Idah. His achievements during the brief stint as the state chairman of PDP are no doubt helping his ambition way for him in the three zones in the East.
Obviously, the bid to succeed Ugbane is heavily polarised along zonal sentiments. Politicians from Ankpa, Olamaboro, and Omala local government areas are tenaciously laying claim to the seat. Their position is predicated on the argument that since the about 20 years existence of Kogi State, no candidate from the zone has represented the area at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Whichever way, the issue of zoning the ticket to Ankpa will play a significant role in determining the eventual representative of the district at the Upper Chamber.
It was gathered that despite saying that his party was yet to decide on the candidate for Senate, the state chairman of ANPP, Farouq Yahaya, who is from Ankpa zone, is planning to throw his cap into the ring should the PDP field an aspirant from Idah zone. His plan is to get the votes of his Ankpa kinsmen who he is sure will give their votes to anyone from the area, irrespective of party affiliation.
The situation is rather different in the Central Senatorial District, where four aspirants, including the incumbent Senator Salihu Ohize, are eyeing the seat. The other contestants are the PDP ticket holder in the 2007 election for the Senate, Ahmed Salau Ogembe; a former senator, Salami Mohammed Ohiare; former Kogi State Deputy Governor, Chief Patrick Adaba; and the immediate past Commissioner for Information, Tom Ohikere.
Political stakeholders in the district are of the opinion that since the incumbent Senator, Saliu Ohize, and Ohiare, who are seeking the PDP ticket, had served at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly at various times, while Ohikere served as commissioner for two terms, consecutively, Ogembe should be given the chance to represent the district in the coming dispensation.
While this position is being canvassed by those who feel that Ogembe has remained consistent and committed to PDP, the suggestion may not make any difference as Ohize and Ohiare are leaving no stone unturned in their plan to clinch the party ticket. Similarly, Ohikere, who got massive support from friends who he said had encouraged him to step up to the Senate, is not relenting in his quest.
Meanwhile, agitation is now on among politicians from Ajaokuta, Ogori-Magongo, and Okehi local government area whose people are accusing Okene and Adavi local government areas of dominating the senate seat since the First Republic. Hence, the three councils are calling for the implementation of the November 2006 agreement between political leaders in the district where the zoning policy was endorsed.
The agreement entered into by 32 leaders in the five constituent councils of Kogi Central, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY, reads in part: “The seat of Senate, which belongs to all the LGAs, shall alternate between old Okehi LGA (Okehi and Adavi LGAs) and old Okene LGA (Okene, Ajaokuta and Ogori-Magongo LGAs). Each bloc will occupy the Senate seat for one term only and thereafter alternate to the other bloc.”
If the provision of the 2006 agreement is to be implemented, it is expected that the Senate seat in the district would go to Okehi while the House of Representatives seats would go to Adavi, Okene and Ogori-Magongo, respectively. This will affect the chances of the incumbent senator, Ohize, as he seeks another term.
Events unfolding in the West Senatorial District promises to be the most intriguing with the incumbent Senator, Smart Adeyemi, and his age long rival, T.J. Faniyi, poised for showdown. Also, stating that the quest for the PDP ticket in Kogi West Senatorial District is a straight fight between Adeyemi and Governor Ibrahim Idris is saying the obvious, as the duo have openly been at loggerheads over allegations of sectionalism against the governor by the senator.
Adeyemi has remained the only critic of the state government. He has sustained the criticism of government policies considered detrimental to his constituents in Kogi West and always demanded a better deal from the Idris administration.
The issues of zoning and second term have, however, remained the major factor in the race for the district’s ticket, as the Faniyi camp accuses Adeyemi of flouting the existing rotation arrangement. The argument being advanced by Faniyi, who hails from Yagba East Local Government Area and his supporters, is that Yagba East is the only council in Kogi West that has never produced a senator.
Observers may agree that Faniyi or any other aspirant from Yagba East has the right to aspire to the Senate. This is, especially, considering that Senator Justus Bode Olu (Yagba West) served between 1979 and 1983; Senator Joe Funsho Obasaju (Kabba/Bunu) served in 1983; Senator Sunday Awoniyi (Mopamuro) served from 1991-1993; Senator-elect, Alhaji Ado Shuaibu (Koton-karfe) was elected in 1997 (not sworn-in); Senator Tunde Ogbeha (Lokoja) served from 1999-2003 and was re-elected to serve between 2003 and 2007, after which Adeyemi (Ijumu) was elected in 2007, which makes it obvious that Yagba East is next. But the Adeyemi camp may have found a precedent in the immediate past senator from the district, Ogbeha; he served two terms and he is also from West Senatorial District.
Another factor that seems to be helping Adeyemi against the zoning argument is his performance. He has embarked on several projects, including roads, hospitals and markets and these are in addition to on-going water projects, a stadium project at Kabba and modern City Hall in Kotonkarfe. These are in addition to his vocal contributions to national debates on the floor of the senate.
Adeyemi is relying on the overwhelming support of his people among whom he enjoys unprecedented support, especially, for the brave representation of the district, commitment to alleviating peoples’ sufferings and personal empowerment projects. These stand him in good stead, not only against Faniyi but also, the governor whom Adeyemi said would sponsor an aspirant against him.
No one knows how the issues will play out. But in all, the West Senatorial District is a zone known for its tradition of independent voting, which is often free from state dictates.