Kogi Governorship and the West/Central Challenge

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Bello...will he survive minefield.

With the current agitation, the November 2 governorship election in Kogi State is likely to be between the people of West and Central parts of the state, writes Yekini Jimoh

The people of Kogi West and Central Senatorial Districts of Kogi State are not relenting in their efforts to ensure that one of either Okun or Ebira ascends the Lugard House seat for another four years.

History shows that the Igala (Kogi East) has produced all past governors of the state, except for the incumbent, Yahaya Bello, an Ebira man, whose time was made possible with the death of the APC candidate in the 2015 governorship election, Abubakar Audu.

Although the agitation for power shift had been in the front burner before the 2015 elections, politicians of Okun and Ebira ethnic groups are of the common view that power should not leave their domains anytime soon. Indeed, they want the governorship retained till 2023.

But feelers from Kogi East, where more than 15 aspirants had indicated interest to run do not suggest that the Igala are ready to concede. This is as a statement purportedly credited to the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, that the party leadership may have backed the East to produce its candidate for the November poll, is currently a cause for concern among the west and central political interests.

Thus, a group of women and youth under the auspices of Movement for the Consolidation of Power Shift (MCPS) has risen to dismiss alleged plans by the APC leadership to deny the west and central the party’s ticket for the November 2 governorship, citing their superior voting strength.

Reacting to the publication titled “Comrade Adams Oshiomhole Hits the Public Arena with Another Painful Truth Again”, credited to Network News of Radio Nigeria, the MPSC said the statement could not have emanated from Oshiomhole, because “the authors and their sponsors failed woefully in their attempt to put words in the mouth of the APC national chairman”.

Parts of the statement allegedly ascribed to Oshiomhole read: “It is too early to lose Kogi to opposition party, because we just took over the state in 2015 with the effort of the late Prince Abubakar Audu, our governorship candidate in the 2015 Kogi governorship election, who died on verge of his victory.

“So, we will field a sellable candidate from the majority flank of the state, which is Kogi East, because fielding a candidate from the minority part of the state is risky for APC. We are aware of Kogi East politics, which is based on zoning particularly, when it comes to governorship and we will respect their zoning formula to avoid division and disunity in the state.

In its reaction signed by the group’s Chairman and Secretary, Bolade Emmanuel Olumide and Abdulmalik Oneida, the MPSC stated: “It is interesting, even laughable just how Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has become so instantaneously immersed in the micro-Igala jingoistic gubernatorial zoning arrangement, to the ridiculous extent of digging into extant federal constituency appropriations of political office between the Idah, Ankpa and Dekina zones in Kogi East.

“Yet in all his lifelong engagements as a unionist and politician, he has never cited a degree or diploma in Igala socio-politics on his resume. This most unintelligent concoction alone diminishes the source and originality of the statement ascribed to the APC national leader.

“The claims ascribed to Oshiomhole that the APC governorship ticket in Kogi State would be given to an aspirant from Kogi East, because of the large population and voter strength of the zone, relative to the other zones in the state, cannot be true.”

Suffice it to say that out of the nine local governments in Kogi East, the Igala could only count on seven local governments: Idah, Olamaboro, Dekina, Igalamela-Odolu, Omala, Ankpa and Ofu, whereas two others, Ibaji and Bassa, from their past voting patterns tend to align independently and most likely to mobilise for a candidate of west or central extraction.

The 2019 presidential election results in Kogi State aided by the use of card readers, which showed that votes from West and Central senatorial districts were more than votes cast in Kogi East, also put to question the census figures.

But after producing the past governors from the creation of the state in 1999, whilst power shift agitation had been in the front burner of Kogi politics until the accidental shift in 2015, the group argued that it was fair that “our Igala brothers appreciate our long wait by giving way for another four years.

“Ordinarily, it would have been a non-issue which zone produces the governor of the state so long as there is justice, equity, fairness and good governance. But since this dream is elusive, the principle of power rotation should be pursued until we get to that utopian stage, where ethnicity or religion becomes irrelevant, if they ever will.”

The quest for power shift to the west has occupied the front burner for close to two decades now, most particularly after the expiration of Audu’s first tenure.

Issues such as lack of even development, maltreatment and discrimination in the Kogi State civil service, allegation of exclusion from the key decision-making processes in the state and that the Igala, from creation of the state in 1991, had dominated the two most important aspects of Kogi State – the government and the civil service, are parts of the causes of fear and agitation for power shift, the group noted.

The MCPS pointed to the February 23, 2019 presidential election results across party lines between the east, west and central as proof that the west and central have the edge in terms of voting strength, if they come together.