Okun, Ebira scheme for power shift in Kogi
Ethnic considerations may once again determine where the Kogi State governor may come from in the election slated for November 2, 2019. Where a potential governor hails from has always been at the core of voter preference in the Confluence State of North Central geopolitical zone.Within the state’s three senatorial districts are three majority ethnic groups, including Igala (East), Ebira (Central) and Yoruba, also known as Okun (West). And alongside the three districts are several minority groups that can be found in East, Central and West.
The Igala with acclaimed 55 percent of the population has produced all democratically elected governors that have held sway in the state from inception of its creation in 1991 until 2015. In the current dispensation, Prince Abubakar Audu, who as an Igala and served twice as governor under two different cycles, was on the way to another electoral victory before he was stopped by sudden death.
It was as a result of his demise that another ethnic group produced the governor in the person of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, an Ebira from Kogi Central. In what was widely considered a controversial decision, Bello, who came second to Audu at the APC primaries was drafted by APC leadership to replace the late Audu as its governorship candidate, as well as inherit the votes already scored by Audu and his running mate, James Abiodun Faleke at the November 21, 2015 election. The Supreme Court later upheld the decision.
Lead up to November
AS the 2019 governorship election draws nearer, not a few aspirants across party lines from Kogi East have indicated interest in the governorship. However, Kogi Central and West, which combined votes surprisingly ranked higher than that of the East during the February 23, 2019 presidential election appear to have regained their voices and lately been pushing for the adoption of the right strategy to bond and retain occupancy of the Lugard House for, at least, another four years.
To achieve that aim, a group, Movement for Power Shift Consolidation (MPSC), comprising politicians from Kogi West and Central Senatorial Districts are pushing for the retention of power in either of the two zones regarded as minorities.The group has faulted claims that the national leadership of APC was contemplating giving the party’s ticket for the November 2, governorship election to the Igala ethnic bloc on the grounds of superior population strength of Kogi East Senatorial District.
Reacting to a publication titled “Comrade Adams Oshiomhole Hits The Public Arena With Another Painful Truth Again,” credited to “Network News of Radio Nigeria”, MPSC alleged that the publication had been sponsored with a view to orchestrating injustice and a calculated attempt to deny the central and west of two terms after several years of domination by the east.MPSC said the “authors and sponsors failed in their attempt to put words in the mouth of the APC national chairman.” Oshiomhole was quoted as saying that “Kogi East is made up of three axes such as: Ankpa axis, comprising Ankpa, Omala, Olamaboro Local Government Areas. Dekina axis, comprising Dekina, Bassa Local Government Areas. Idah axis, comprising Idah, Igalamela, Ofu, Ibaji Local Government Areas. Dekina axis has taken the senate seat of Kogi East with our ticket in the just concluded senatorial elections. Ankpa axis has held the state governorship for nine years with Ibrahim Idris (Ibro) under PDP. In 2015, Idah axis won the state governorship election with Prince Audu, who hails from idah axis.
“But unfortunately Audu died while winning the election and his victory was given to a wrong person. So, Idah axis was robbed of their seat. Therefore, this time around, we must compensate Idah axis for the ever-painful death of Prince Abubakar Audu. We can’t afford to forget and ignore in a hurry the toils and labour of late Prince Audu that made APC to take over Kogi in 2015. It is unfair if we do so. So, our searchlight for a credible and sellable candidate for Kogi governorship election is on Idah axis of Kogi East…”
In its reaction, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian and signed by the chairman and secretary, Bolade Emmanuel Olumide and Abdulmalik Oneida, 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. The APC national chairman understands the implications of such unilateral legislation for the sensibilities of the diverse membership of the party in other zones. We want to believe that the national chairman, as a democrat, did not say that.
“If the incumbent is considered unsuitable against the backdrop of his well-established abysmal records and antecedents, why wouldn’t the party enable the process that would culminate in the emergence of another candidate from Kogi Central zone to complete the second of the four year term for that zone, under the accidental shift of the zoning arrangement from the hitherto dominant Kogi East senatorial zone occasioned by the demise of former Governor Abubakar Audu during the 2015 election?”
Continuing, the group wondered why APC can’t look in the direction of Kogi West Senatorial zone, which has never produced a democratically elected governor, either in the old Kwara State or the present Kogi State, in the interest of equity, justice and fairness to engender a regime of power rotation in the state?They question the rationale for a particular sub-zone of Kogi East Senatorial District, when the whole of the West zone has not for once produced an occupant for Lugard House.
MPSC stated: “All these talks of the East as haven of largest population in Kogi State regularly spun as the only basis of wholesale domination of the state won’t help in the unity and integration of the state. “It’s unfortunate that the Central and the West are always unable to come together as a bloc to wrestle power from East’s dominance, despite commanding superior number of local government areas-12 against 9 and superior number of electoral wards-140 against 99.
“Suffice it to say that out of the nine local governments in Kogi East, the Igala can 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 and a pointer that powerful blocs in Nigeria are only being able to unfairly manipulate the census and voter figures to their own advantage as a result of having their sons in power for many years.”
The quest for power shift to the West of the Niger (a sobriquet for Central and West) has occupied the front burner for close to two decades now, most particularly after the expiration of Prince Abubakar Audu’s first tenure. According to founder, Campaign Against Thuggery/Violence in Kogi Central, Oganya Abdulrazak Mamman, there are many causes to the power shift agitation, especially lack of even development. Mamman added: “There is lack of capital projects and poor access to educational and health care facilities as a result of location of most of the state’s important projects in the eastern flank.
“There is also the issue of maltreatment and discrimination in Kogi State Civil service. The West and Central also feel the scourge of exclusion from the key decision making processes in the state. In a nutshell, the Igala, from creation of the state in 1991, dominated the two most important aspects of Kogi State, namely government and the civil service.
“There is also the issue of unrealistic demographic claim by the East, that they are 55 per cent while in real sense 85 per cent of our statehood is to maintain the East. These orchestrated deprivation, alienation, unevenness, and infringement without any adequate or sincere effort to explain, examine, determine and compromise, if necessary, are the impetus or driving force behind power shift drumbeat.”
Furthermore, the MPSC made reference to the spread of the February 23, 2019 presidential election results across party lines between the East and the two other zones – Central and West thus:
“To start with, the results as announced by INEC shows that President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the APC scored 285, 894 votes ahead of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, who polled 218,207 votes. The total votes cast for the two leading political parties in the three senatorial districts are as follows: Kogi West – 155,367, Central – 138,787 and Kogi East – 209,974.
“Combined, West and Central Senatorial Districts polled 294,154 votes, while Kogi East polled 209,974 votes. The West and Central, led by a margin of over 90,000 votes and that is not counting Ibaji and Bassa.”It is not as though only the ruling party would be on the ballot but how far the agitation for power retention would go depends on the caliber of gubernatorial candidates thrown up by other political parties for the November 2 election.
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