Ibrahim Oyewale writes that the off season gubernatorial poll on Saturday, November 11, 2023 in Kogi State is a three-horse game between the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party
All is set for the off season gubernatorial poll in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states this Saturday as candidates of the various political political parties round off their campaign in the three states on Thursday.
The electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had expressed As the clock ticks towards the governorship election on Saturday, the battle for the soul of Kogi State has taken several dimensions in the past seven months as various stakeholders, gladiators and foot soldiers at the grassroots level have not left any stone unturned to ensure victory in the polls.
The stage has been set for the battle of the gladiators and the question agitating the minds of the political observers in the Confluence State is who succeeds Governor Yahaya Bello among the cleared 18 gubernatorial candidates to contest election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Political parties in the State have gone to the trenches strategizing to outwit each other. The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is working hard to retain the the seat of power at Lugard House in Lokoja while the opposition parties are not relenting in their efforts to wrest power from the APC that has been in the saddle on the state in the last eight years.
Out of the 18 cleared political parties for governorship election in Kogi State as at Tuesday 7th of November, 2023, only six parties are very visible on the political landscape canvassing for votes for the next Saturday’s election. The opposition parties’ common enemy is APC and they are working hard to unseat the present government in the State.
The contending parties are the All Progressive Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Alliance and Accord Party snd have traversed the 21 local government councils in the state while others have not been known beyond the State Capital and others were said to have collapsed their structures across the state for other parties.
Watchers of political events in the Confluence state are of the opinion that the contest is between APC, SPD and PDP, describing others as not too serious contenders because some them do not have presence and structures in other parts of the State.They are also unanimous in their opinion that the coming election may be tilted toward ethic biases.
Analysts further argued that the three leading candidates in the race are from different ethnic background namely Ebira, Igala and Okun respectively and the voting pattern may likely reflect the same, while APC will dictate the pace in Kogi central, the SDP will make huge statement in Eastern senatorial zone of the state and probably the remaining die hard supporters of PDP will still vote for Dino Melaye in Kogi West. Although this may not affect the outcome of the poll because other factors would be considered in an election of this nature.
The battle lines have been drawn between the opposition parties and the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello, the APC-led administration in the State as the party is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that it retains power.
According to political analysts, the time has finally come to separate contenders from the pretenders as the November 11 gubernatorial election would be a straight contest between the ruling APC presenting Ododo Ahmed Usman/Joel Oyibo ticket, the Peoples Democratic Party with Senator Dino Melaye /Hajia Habibat Deen as flag bearers and the Social Democratic Party producing Murtala Yakubu Ajaka/Sam Abenemi ticket.
APC’s Ododo Ahmed Usman
Ododo Usman is the APC Gubernatorial candidate in the November 11th election.
The young man, until his emergence as the flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress was Auditor General of the Local Government in the State in last seven and half years and was believed to have participated actively in the kitchen cabinet of Governor Bello.
He has also steadily contributed positively to the processes that have led to the current massive infrastructural development of the Bello administration in Kogi State.
He was said to have pledged to sustain the legacy of the present administration if elected governor. Ododo hails from Okene, the headquarters of the Local government area of Kogi.
Kogi Central senatorial district has been the traditional home of the All Progressive Congress since the emergence of Governor Bello in 2016 not withstanding the recent development when Appellate court declared PDP senatorial candidate, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, winner of the senatorial seat.
The APC Gubernatorial candidate may still have the upper hand in the four local government areas in the central senatorial district. The fact remains that no Ebira governorship candidate has ever lost the district any time they contest election because the governorship is beyond senatorial issue which is an integral part of the State.
Also, the arrangement has been concluded that all House of Representatives members, five out of six State Assembly members, all political office holders, local government chairmen and all other appointees are to deliver their wards if they want to remain relevant in the politics of their areas.
The machinery has been set in motion to ensure the victory. Ododo is believed to have good financial standing to prosecute the electoral battle.
One of the things going for the APC candidate, Ododo, is that he has the backing of Governor Bello who has been campaigning vigorously for his victory at the poll.
Besides, all the political appointees, the legislators at national and State Assembly, all the local government chairmen are seriously working hard to deliver Ododo/Joel ticket come Nov 11.
Also the ruling All Progressive Congress still remains a party to beat in Kogi State. Following Ododo’s emergence as the party’s flag bearer, many opposition members who defected to the ruling party have vowed to work for his victory at the poll.
The centripetal and centrifugal forces may help boost his chances as the APC controls the centre and has strong structures across the the three senatorial districts of the state. Lastly, the achievement of Yahaya Bello administration in the past eight years is expected to work for Ododo.
Ododo’s chances are brighter as many support groups are rooting for him across the 21 local government areas.
SDP’s Murtala Yakubu Ajaka
Ajaka was a strong member of the All Progressive Congress in Kogi State.
But following his inability to secure the governorship ticket on the platform of the APC, he was said to have dumped the party and subsequently emerged as the governorship candidate of Social Democratic Party in Kogi.
Prior to April, 2023 when he contested for APC governorship primary and lost, he was the National Deputy Publicity Secretary of APC in Abuja. But with his emergence as the candidate of SDP, political observers in Kogi State have argued that it may have altered political permutations in Eastern Senatorial zone as the Party has been hijacked by those seeking for an agenda to return seat of power from the Senatorial zone which was inadvertently tagged “Igala Agenda”.
Sources hinted that those who joined the Party across the state are working hard to oust the ruling Party during the November 11 poll.
As earlier pointed out, all aspirants from the Eastern Senatorial flank who felt cheated and betrayed in APC and other parties during the Party primaries have subsequently moved to join the relatively unknown party in the state, the Social Democratic Party to wrest power from the ruling All Progressive Congress.
The political pundits are of the view that the rising profile of the SDP flag bearer, Murtala Yakubu, in the Kogi East was said to have drawn the ire of those in authority in the State which has culminated in serious frosty relationship between APC and SDP supporters in the State in the recent past. Though the SDP may be looking good to have an edge over other political parties, however, other candidates from the zones will share out of what would have been the block votes for SDP.
Meanwhile, Labour, APGA, Accord and other parties are not relenting in the efforts to garner votes from the same district.
There is no doubt, the SDP flag nearer has majority of the people in Kogi East behind him if this claim is anything to go by.
Sources hinted that those that joined the movement are those that have been frustrated after losing the seat of power to the Central Senatorial District which produced Governor Bello who still want to retain the power by bringing another Ebira man from Kogi Central.
Although pundits may have blamed him for the move by this current arrangement, but pointed accusing fingers at those leaders from the East who had allegedly blocked the gentle man power rotation agreement between three senatorial district since 1992.
However, the SDP will want to rely on the block votes from all the nine Local government areas in the Kogi East.
It was however learnt that external backers are not relenting in their finances and logistics to wrest power from the APC.
The Social Democratic Party is relatively an unknown party in the Confluence State, political observers argued. They pointed out that apart from the fact that the current senator representing Kogi Central, Senator Natasha Akpoti -Uduaghan, had used the same platform to prosecute her governorship ambition in 2019 much is not known about the Social Democratic Party which has never won even a councillorship seat in Kogi state.
It was further argued that the party has no structure to oust the sitting government.
For instance in Kogi Central, SDP’s presence is not all that pronounced like APC and PDP which have been political rivals over the years.
However the chances here may be 50 per cent for SDP, APC above 25 percent at worst while other parties will have their ways in Kogi East senatorial district.
PDP’s Senator Dino Melaye
Senator Dino Melaye, is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the November 11 gubernatorial election in Kogi State and is presenting an intimidating credential for the job. His emergence as the Party’s flag bearer was said to have not only split the party, but also opened the gale of defections that hit the Party in the state, particularly the big wigs from the Kogi West axis who left the party over alleged doctoring of the delegates list during the Kogi PDP governorship primary.
This notwithstanding, Melaye has put his act together in his determination to wrest power from APC in Kogi. Judging from his political sagacity, the former Senator who represented Kogi West in the Eighth Senate is best in terms of political experience at the Green and Red Chambers of the National Assembly. Loved by all for his activism against the power that be in the state eight years ago, he is said to have the financial war chest to prosecute his ambition.
Melaye’s emergence as flag bearer has rekindled the rivalry between PDP and APC in Kogi State. Sources told THISDAY that though eminently qualified but he might not pull enough weight to enable him win the election in Kogi West because some elders were said not to be happy with 2015 episode when he allegedly played a role of spoiler for Okun son to become the governor after the sudden death of Abubakar Audu, the leading APC Gubernatorial candidate then.
It is certain that the die-hard supporters of PDP are solidly standing by Melaye and ready to deliver him as governor of Kogi State. May be the Kogi central Senator, Natasha Akpoti -Uduaghan, may boost his chances in Ebiraland. While in Kogi East, the influence of his running mate and former member of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hajia Habibat Deen and other loyalists of the PDP in the Zone will awing vote for him.
The hitherto strong structures of the Peoples Democratic Party has been consistently weakened in the last eight years since it lost power to APC. Secondly, Kogi West used to be home of PDP but have lost that substantially to the ruling APC.