SWITZERLAND, NOVEMBER 16 – Today Saturday, November 16th, 2019, political gladiators in Kogi State slug it out in a contest to determine the next governor of the state.
Kogi State has changed hands between the PDP and other parties since 1999. In 2015, Yahaya Bello of the APC became governor of Kogi State after the original winner, Audu Bello died before his inauguration.
Bello is currently running for a second term. His major opponent is Engineer Musa Wada of the PDP. Kogi is one of the violence-prone states and reports of weapon stockpiling by politicians have been a source of concern for stakeholders. Although, all political parties participating in the election have signed a peace accord, analysts are worried that there will still be a significant level of violence.
Today’s Echo gathers that Ethnicity is a big issue in Kogi State politics as each of the three ethnic groups in the state will always like to have their son as the governor. The three major groups are Ebira, Igala and Okun. Wada is Igala while Yahaya Bello is Ebira. The votes from the Okun group is likely to be shared between the two and other contestants.
Enquiries by Today’s Echo indicates that many people in Kogi State are not impressed with the governor’s performance in the past four years. Nevertheless, he surprised many when he paid part of the outstanding salary arrears in July 2019 but the move may have come too late.
Party leaders may have sensed the growing resentment of Kogi residents to Yahaya Bello when they begged the people to forgive their governor. Both the First Lady, Aisha Buhari and Kaduna State State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai knelt down to beg Kogi residents to forgive their governor at a rally in Lokoja.
The PDP candidate, Musa Wada is an engineer with a less controversial record than Yahaya Bello. He also draws a huge political machinery from his powerful family. Musa is the younger brother of former governor Idris Wada; He is also a son-in-law to former governor Ibrahim Idris having married one of his daughters.
Another reason to be sceptical about Bello’s chances is the lingering crisis in the state APC chapter. Many believe his inability to manage the crisis in the ruling APC in the state may become his Achilles heel.
However, party leaders were able to put together an emergency reconciliation and now James Faleke, who was Bello’s co-claimant in 2015, has pulled his political machinery behind the governor.
Nevertheless, a source from Kogi State told Today’s Echo that these moves will not be enough to win the election for the governor as he is both disadvantaged in both the ethnical dynamics and political support in the state.
According to figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), out of the 21 local governments in the state, 9 are in the East (Igala) with 804,715 registered voters, 5 in the Central (Ebira) with 409,172 registered voters and 7 in the West (Okun), with 432,515 registered voters. This breakdown puts Governor Yahaya Bello at a serious disadvantage.
“As it stands, Bello can only win comfortably in the Ebira territory while the PDP is strong in the Igala territory where its candidate hails from. From inception, no governor has won an election in Kogi State without the support of the Igala. Bello has never contested for an election, he only became governor because the real winner of the 2015 governorship election, Abubakar Audu died,” the source told Today’s Echo
Yahaya Bello’s situation may have been compounded by the presence of another contender, Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who is also from Kogi Central. There are concerns that Akpoti may cut into Bello’s votes in his Kogi Central Stronghold.
Natasha Akpoti has accused governor Yahaya Bello of selectively targeting her. A few days ago, hoodlums attack the SDP office in Lokoja and set it ablaze. She also said thugs loyal to the governor prevented her from attending a stakeholders meeting involving governorship candidates and the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu.
There is also the issue of Senator Dino Melaye who hails from Kogi West. Melaye will be slugging it out with Smart Adeyemi for the Senatorial rerun on the same day and is likely to win. Analysts believe voting pattern in the gubernatorial election may just follow that of the senatorial contest in the senatorial district.
However, another source from Kogi State says the forces backing up the governor are quite strong and there may be rigging in an attempt to force him to win.
Also, with the backings of the federal powers and support from APC governors from other states, Yahaya Bello could outmatch his opponents in money and force, especially in areas where voters may have to be coerced to vote for a party’s candidate.
“As it stands, the only way Yahaya Bello will win on Saturday is through rigging. As much as I would hate him to win, I think he might just win through rigging. If he tries to force his way, it will lead to immense violence as a lot of people are poised to resist. I am indeed, afraid for Kogi on Saturday,” the source told Today’s Echo.