By Jacob Emmanuel
The battle for the soul of Kogi State has taken a very dangerous dimension. It is an intense battle of interests that is not pro Kogi but pro ethnic interests and a dimension that is very personal, particularly to the outgoing governor of the state. Some believed that for the governor, it is not about having the best hand to replace him but about having someone that can be controlled.
To those from the Eastern flank of the confluence state, it is their time to return to Lugard House after the catastrophic event that ushered in the power shift that produced His Excellency governor Yahaya Adoza Bello whose term will soon be over.
Again, the Igalas believed that it is only right for power to return to them since they are the most populated ethnic group in Kogi state and since democracy is predicated upon the rule of the majority and a model of governance that allows the minority to have their say.
Another argument put forward by advocates of power shift to the East in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is that the zone is the stronghold of the party in the state. According to them, the East produced massive results for the president-elect, HE Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and produced members of the national Assembly hundred over hundred unlike their Central and Western counterparts that could not achieve such a feat.
They also argued that in 2019, gladiators from the zone stood firm for GYB to consolidate his second term. They also argued that if the governor is not tribalistic, if he feels that amongst his Eastern allies no one is fit to replace him, why not anoint a candidate from the west if truly he believed in the EBIGO AGENDA he once preached or why not make the primary election open for all aspirants if his anointed candidate is popular within the APC in the state.
Those advocating for power to remain in the central part of the state are of the opinion that the Eastern zone enjoyed sixteen (16) years of leadership, hence it is only right that Kogi central is allowed to administer the state for that same number of years or even more since the power was not willingly ceded to the zone and since the east was deaf to the clamour of power shift in the past.
For those in the West, its their time because they only had the opportunity to administer the state in the past for three (3) months and there is no better time than now for the power to be rotated to them. They believed they deserve a shot at power because they’re the second most populated zone on the voter register and they also have what it takes to make the state better.
The two major political parties in the state fielded candidates from the west and central therefore condemning the East to choose between a third force, supporting Dino Melaye of the PDP or Ododo the candidate of GYB and Kogi central elites.
Kogi East and West have the numbers but Kogi central is superior because they have unity and a sitting governor that can mobilise resources. For instance, the best chance of the Okuns at power is through the PDP because of the statewide structure of the party but the widely accepted and loved elder Leke is a candidate for the governorship position under the ADC. If the Okuns want power, either of Dino or Elder Leke must pull out of the race,to have any chance at Lugard House. The zone must present one candidate and all stakeholders must work together.
The East on the other hand is in a serious dilemma because they are condemned to the third force and both the PDP and APC are likely to pick their running mates from that zone. This only means that the only possible chance of Kogi East at a return to Lugard House is, if the rumoured third force can deliver bloc votes for any candidate they picked and if they can mobilise voters in other regions to support them.
In all this struggle for power, the most united zone is Kogi central because they understand what is at stake and unlike the West and East they have only one interest (Lugard House). Again, unlike the West and East they have only one candidate and they are all rallying around him. Some people are saying that Dino Melaye has chances in Kogi central because of the Natasha factor that played out in the last election forgetting that she is not on the ballot this time around and in Kogi central there is no opposition to the APC on the quest of Central to retain power. All stakeholders in Kogi central (both those in LP, ADC, PDP, SDP and others) are likely to work for Ododo directly or indirectly. The Ajaokuta experience is only a template of what is to come.
What is unknown is if the elites from the Igalas flank, irrespective of party can bury personal interests and work for the interest of that zone or if the west can do same. What is certain right now is that Ododo can deliver votes from the major parts of Kogi Central.
With all the arguments against and for, it is clear now that Kogi 2023 Campaign is majorly about three opposing Interests that if not properly managed will destroy the very fibre binding the three major ethnic groups in the state. The political climate is tensed as the conflicting forces view each other’s steps with serious suspicion. In all the advocacy, nowhere it is mentioned that Kogi first policy will be entrenched, dividends of democracy will be evenly and fairly distributed and workers of the state will at least get their full salary at the end of every month.
In the end, Kogi is at a very dangerous crossing and only a unifier without ethnic colouration, with the vision and foresight can salvage Kogi State from imminent collapse.
Emmanuel Jacob, Public Affairs Analyst, wrote from Ajaokuta, Kogi State.