The question on the lips of many as regards the Kogi election is “Who will emerge as Governor of the state after the November 16 poll?” The question should however not be “Who” but “What”. Those who live and are directly affected by the actions and inaction of the state’s government should focus more on what they should expect from whoever emerges rather than who emerges. It would be hyperbolic to say it is a curse but it is definitely not a blessing that whenever an election is set to occur in the country, the phrase ‘Two man race’ readily comes to mind. Let’s forget about the gender nuance that could be attached to the lexeme “man” in that phrase and focus more on the contenders irrespective of their gender. After all, Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party seems to headline the news more in recent days than Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress and Engr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party. Thanks to the court ruling mandating INEC to include her name on the ballot, the attack on the SDP’s secretariat, the alleged ‘physical and sexual attack’ melted on her by some thugs at the entrance of the venue of the stakeholders meeting held in the state and the eventual refusal of her party to sign the peace accord accented to by 17 other parties.
Amidst all these pre-election theatrics and with due respect to all other parties contesting in the election, the November 16 poll in Kogi has adopted the same old nomenclature that has been attributed to Nigerian Politics for a while – ‘Two Man Race’. This race is however not different from what ‘almost neutral’ political analysts would liken to a kind of pessimism Kofi Awonowor’s line of “Returning is not possible and going forward is a great difficulty” in his poem ‘Songs of Sorrow’ portrays. The controversial truth is that there are many others who `could paddle the ship far better but as Douglas Adams implied in his book ‘The Restaurant at the End of the Universe’ that “…it is a well known fact that those people who must want to rule people are ipso facto, those least suited to do it”. The good people of Kogi are left with a ‘catch-22’. To avoid sounding too scathing, let’s take a look at these ‘politrickal’ gladiators gearing up to battle their way to the state’s Lugard House.
The power of incumbency cannot be trivialised in politics and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Yahaya Bello, has that to his advantage. Although his bid to govern the state in 2015 met a temporary setback in the primary election until Prince Abubakar Audu’s death and it could be argued that he did not get his mandate directly, he has positioned himself to be a strong force to reckon with. The All Progressives Congress primary conducted in the state on August 29 expectedly left lots of persons aggrieved. What more could be expected from a party primaries that had 16 aspirants obtained the party’s nomination and expression of interest forms for N24 Million and only four aspirants scaled through the party’s screening before an Appeal panel cleared four more aspirants to join the race. Even with the eight aspirants, the Governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, was elected almost unopposed pulling about 90% of the votes. The party was almost in a state of higgledy-piggledy and the dilly-dally that accompanied it almost made it unpredictable that the Kogi APC would be positioned where it is today. Alas, the comradeship style of leadership employed by the party Chairman, Adams Oshiomole, paid off and all the aspirants agreed to eat the humble pie and work together to ensure the re-election of Yahaya Bello in the interest of the party.
Whenever the power of incumbency is mentioned in the African political context, it has proven to connote the illegal deployment of interests and state resources to promote selfish agenda. The Governor of the state has this advantage and he has since emergence changed the political narrative of the state. As at the time he mounted the saddle, the PDP was the dominant party controlling about 70% of elective and appointive political offices in the state. That was then. The statistics has since changed, courtesy of Bello’s ruthless style and savvy. During the last general election, the APC rode roughshod to snatch victory at the polls. Today, all 12 National Assembly members but two are APC members. All 25 House of Assembly members are also from the party. The 21 Local Governments are manned by Bello’s appointees. So, from less than 30 percent presence, Bello has forcefully moved the APC to nearly 100 percent control in the state.
Even with these political successes, the incumbent governor, until recently, has been synonymous with ‘unpaid workers’ salaries’. The Governor owed workers and pensioners salaries before he ‘pulled an APC on the government workers in Kogi’ (The same way a former APC Governor of Osun state paid workers salaries some weeks to the state’s Governorship election and how a former Governor of Lagos reduced the ‘exorbitant’ school fees paid by the state’s higher institution of learning some few months to election). The Federal Government bailout fund was handy as it averted what could be a colossal loss for the Governor and his party in the state. This strategy of paying workers salaries weeks to an election has paid off in recent past and it could as well pay off now. Some workers in the state are however still wallowing under the burden of unpaid full salaries. Some even claim to have not been paid full salaries since Bello became Governor almost four years ago. The November 16 poll is however a fusion of those who have been paid and those who are still waiting for Samuel Becket’s Godot in his existentialist play ‘Waiting for Godot’. The Governor has also not been rated high in terms of infrastructure development and good governance. All in all, the Kogi electorates remember!
When the North remembers in the popular movie series ‘Game of Thrones’, it’s usually meant to prevent a similar misfortune, the sob story that could however accompany the November 16 polls, if indeed Kogi remembers, is that the Peoples Democratic Party seems to be out to divide the state along tribal lines and build a family empire in the state. A quick check on the thespian art staged in the primaries of the party will attest to this. The Governorship candidate of the PDP Engr. Musa Wada is a brother-in-law to the first runner up, Abubakar Ibrahim Idris, who is also the biological son of ex-governor, Ibrahim Idris, who allegedly installed the immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada, the elder brother of Engr. Musa Wada. The former governor Captain Idris Wada who lost as an incumbent governor to APC in 2015 also contested in the primaries of the party with his younger brother, in-law and son of his erstwhile godfather. This ‘family tree’ set up by the Kogi state Peoples Democratic Party is enough to predict the modern captivity the party has set out to achieve.
Although, it could be argued that this is not bad in itself as it does not in any way ravishes the laws of the land. However, that same dynasty has at different points in time been at the apex of the state’s administration and has allegedly enriched themselves at the expense of the state’s development. In most of the campaigns carried out so far by the PDP’s governorship aspirant, he has failed to clearly tell the electorates what he intends to do to improve the standard of living of the common man in the state. Rather, he has mostly played the card of ethnic supremacist sentiment by alluding to his Igala tribe as having the highest voting strength in the state.
An apt example of this reactionary puffed-up tribal sentiment was his first media interview on AIT’s programme, Kakaki. The PDP candidate engaged in a series of ethnic hype. Rather than telling the people of his plans, he went ahead to boast about how the Igalas constitute 52% voting strength in the state and implied that the Ebira Governor presently domiciling in Lugard House is a usurper. Wada has always been seen by many as a dynasty politician and his decision to play the ethnic card is definitely a red-flag. His Igala kinsmen may not hesitate to cast their votes for him giving him invaluable numerical advantage over the incumbent. Wada’s body language picturing him as an ethnic fundamentalist on a mission to retrieve his ‘ancestral throne’ for his family fiefdom further underscores the dilemma the progressive people of Kogi face.
The narratives that would be given to the political atmosphere of Kogi state in the next four years ‘could’ be determined by the people who show up at various polling units in the state come Saturday, November 16. Never has anyone risen to the position of a governor as Yahaya Bello did in 2015 and now he has a chance to ‘properly’ get the mandate of the Kogi electorates. Musa Wada as well has his eyes on Lugard House and is almost convinced that the election is his to win. For the Kogi electorates, E.A Bucchianeri in his novel “Brushstrokes of a Gadfly” prophetically left this conversation between two of his characters for you:
“Pops added, “you know, they say if you don’t vote, you get the government you deserve.”
“And if you do, you never get the results you expected,” (Katherine) replied.”