As the Kogi State gubernatorial election draws near, candidates from various political parties are begining to show their strengths while others are exhibiting their fears.
To some, they see the Kogi election as a way of showcasing popularity and acceptance while others see it as a dangerous path to thread based on their antecedents and records in past events.
While others are running to win the race, some seem to be running to make a name while yet some others appear to be contesting so as to be compensated either with money or juicy positions.
It is important to note that the 2023 election in Kogi State will not be business as usual considering the provisions in the electoral law and the introduction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Kogi election will be a contest between candidates, political parties and the major ethnic groups in the state which makes it very difficult to predict where the masses’ support would swing to.
To the Igalas in the Eastern senatorial district of the state, after about 20 years of governing the state, they still feel the zone should continue to rule the state because they are the most populous ethnic group in the state. Having 9 out of the 21 LGAs that make up the state, they feel it’s right to keep producing the governor back to back.
The Ebiras on the other hand feel that they should still produce the next governor to succeed the incumbent governor who is from Kogi Central senatorial district to equalise the years that the Igalas have spent being governor.
Kogi West senatorial district on the other hand are clamouring for the governorship seat for the spirit of equity and fairness. The Okun people eople have not been privileged to produce a democratically-elected governor since the creation of the state in 1991. They, being the second largest ethnic group in the state, think they deserve to produce the next governor because other senatorial districts have produced at least a governor.
On their part, the electorate are optimistic that the governorship election in Kogi would be free and fair because of the unexpected results during the 2023 general election in the state.
In some places where the ruling All Progressives Congress seems to be dominating, the electorate voted the candidates of their choice leaving the candidates of the ruling party that they assume has the support of the state government. This singular decision gave birth to three opposition party members in the Kogi State House of Assembly, a PDP member of the House of Representatives from Okehi/Adavi Federal Constituency as well as ADC representative from Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency to the admiration of many. These elected representatives are still in their respective offices till date. It raises the hope of voters that their votes will certainly count. They also believe that the electoral vices that used to characterise Kogi guber elections in previous years will not play out because they are confident in the electoral process and the umpire.
According to the final list from the electoral umpire, INEC, 18 candidates from 18 political parties are running to succeed Yahaya Bello in the Lugard House. Three out of the 18 candidates are from the Western Senatorial district while the Central and Eastern senatorial districts have 1 and 14 candidates respectively.
Below are five major candidates in the race:
Leke Abejide is a serving House of Representatives member who was elected under the platform of the African Democratic Congress to represent Yagba Federal Constituency. He was reelected on February 25, 2023 for his second term as a federal lawmaker.
Popular for his empowerments, Leke Abejide is running for the Kogi governorship seat under the platform of the ADC where he won his two previous elections.
Hon (Elder) Leke Joseph Abejide, a household name in Yagba Federal Constituency where he represents, was born on May 8, 1975 to his parents from Alu, Yagba East local government area of Kogi State and he is one of the three candidates from Kogi West Senatorial District.
He is well known for his payment of WAEC fees for students in public secondary schools in the three local government areas he represents at the House of Representatives. This is a strategy that earned him the votes of Yagba people and he has been planning to extend this gesture to other parts of the state until recently when Kogi State government announced free education for students in public primary and secondary schools in the state. The free education covers the payment of BECE, WAEC, NECO and JAMB fees for the secondary school students.
A school of thought said that Leke Abejide would have focused on his Reps seat and continue to spread his tentacles to prepare for a greater task while another is of the view that his popularity in Yagba Federal Constituency, which is just three out of the 21 LGAs in the state, doesn’t guarantee his victory at the poll.
There are speculations that Abejide is being sponsored by an unknown political figure to split the votes from his constituency to favour another candidate while others are speculating that Abejide might form a merger with another candidate to defeat the candidate of the ruling APC.
Daniel Dino Melaye is the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 11 election in Kogi State.
Dino Melaye is a Nigerian politician, a former senator and was a member of the 8th National Assembly, representing Kogi West senatorial district. He is from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu local government area of Kogi State.
Melaye contested the governorship primaries of his party in 2019 but lost to Engr Musa Wada who later lost the guber poll to Yahaya Bello.
Being the candidate of the major opposition party in the state, Melaye is well known for his courageous and outspoken lifestyle where he has severally made case for the masses. Even as a member of an opposition party, he enjoys the support of the people because they see him as one who stands for the “truth.”
Melaye who would have been the sole candidate of the people of Kogi West senatorial district is currently being attacked by some people who claimed that they want to revenge his actions during the November 2015 governorship election in Kogi State.
Dino was said to be instrumental to the declaration of the 2015 election as inconclusive. According to reports from some quarters, Melaye was earlier contacted by the family of the late Prince Abubakar Audu to inform him about the death of the former governor. They further claimed that he used the privileged information to work against the running mate of the late governorship candidate, Hon James Faleke who would have been declared the winner after inheriting the votes of the late Prince Audu.
This act was tagged as betrayal and they are willing to pay him back for working against his fellow Okun man.
Several calls have been made to reconcile Melaye and the people of Kogi West senatorial district but the matter remains unsolved.
Despite the above, Melaye’s acceptance in other parts of the state makes him a major contender who has a very high chance of winning the election.
USMAN AHMED ODODO
Born on February 7, 1982, in One in the Kogi Central senatorial district, Ododo is a politician, former auditor-general for Local Government in Kogi State and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 11 election.
Ododo, who polled 78,704 votes to beat other six candidates that contested the governorship primary of the party held in April 2023, was declared the winner of the election to fly the party’s flag for the guber election.
Being the only candidate from the central senatorial district, Ododo is widely accepted and supported in the whole of Ebiraland. He has been actively involved in the politics of Kogi State since his appointment as auditor-general for Local Government in 2016.
Being the candidate of the ruling party, he enjoys more support from the people of Kogi State because his party’s structure across the state gives more attention to elections.
Just like the central senatorial district, political appointees from Kogi East and West senatorial districts have expressed their commitment to delivering Usman Ahmed Ododo as the next governor of the state.
With all the supports from the people, Ododo just like other candidates, have a few points that are being used against his political ambition. Some claimed that they can’t vote for him because he was used steal funds from the local government areas even after the state has been taking the lead in transparency and accountability.
Looking deeply at the structure of the party, unlike others, winning the election might come easier for APC’s Ododo because the support he receives from the grassroot is none compared to other candidates.
MURITALA YAKUBU AJAKA
Born in 1981, Muritala Ajaka was the deputy national publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress and a gubernatorial aspirant of the party but was later disqualified after a controversial suspension by the executives of the party in his ward.
Ajaka resigned his position and membership of the APC after which he emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 11 election.
Muri, as he is popularly called, is a leading governorship candidate from the eastern senatorial district with his supporters across the 21 LGAs of the state. His journey to the guber race started when he opened a campaign office for Tinubu/Shettima and donated over 40 vehicles to the officials of the All Progressives Congress when he was the deputy national publicity secretary of the party.
Despite his predicaments, ranging from alleged attacks on his convoy and campaign offices, Muritala Ajaka continues to enjoy the support of the people of Kogi State but his chances of winning the election are becoming slim because of other political heavyweights from his senatorial district who are also contesting the election.
Born on September 16, 1959, Vice Admiral Usman Oyibe Jibrin is a retired Nigerian Navy vice admiral and the 21st Chief of the Naval Staff. Prior to his appointment as Chief of the Naval Staff, he was the Chief of Logistics and Director of Training, Defence Headquarters, Abuja.
He was the military governor of North Central State from July 1975 to 1977 during the military regime of General Murtala Mohammed.
The widely supported candidate from Igalaland recently revealed that over 10 political parties are collapsing their structures to work with him in the Accord Party. He also denied stepping down for the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Alh Muritala Ajaka.
Just like the SDP candidate, he has a great support of the Igala nation but that may not be enough to win the guber contest.
Away from x-raying the person of the candidates, the ruling APC is taking the lead in terms of preparation for the forthcoming governorship election in the state leaving behind the major opposition, the PDP. While the APC gubernatorial candidate is going about meeting people and consulting with stakeholders, little is being heard about other candidates who many claimed are doing “underground assignments.”
The All Progressives Congress has been receiving defectors who were stakeholders in their former political parties especially the PDP. Some of the defectors are claiming to be collapsing their parties’ structures and supporters into the APC’s Ododo campaign team.
The APC’s belief in the power of incumbency might be one of their reasons for not choosing a candidate from a more populous senatorial zone rather than Ebiraland that has just five local government areas.
Meanwhile, the PDP’s calculation might be that they will get the votes from other senatorial districts in solidarity with the agitation for powershift.
One can not say it all about the gubernatorial election in Kogi State but it is sure that the election is pregnant with surprises.