Four months to the off-season gubernatorial election in Kogi State, politicians in the state have upped their campaign to succeed the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello.
Residents of the state have also urged political actors to eschew violence as the people’s blood is worth more than their political ambitions.
Already a lot of people have raised the alarm over what they termed “disturbing wave of violence” in the last few months and the threat it poses to peace and harmony in the state.
Agitation for the position of governorship is rife in the state right now, signalling a possible clash among the contenders.
The Igalas, for instance, are saying that this time around they would not allow the opportunity of returning back to Lugard’s House to slip off their hands.
They also say that they would not leave any stone unturned and have been engaging on series of meetings and consultations in order to put their house in order before the election.
Ajaka Muritala Yakubu of the Igala stock was disqualified before the All Progressive Congress (APC) primary election; he moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was given the ticket. He has the backing of his kinsmen, the Igalas.
They were not happy the way Governor Yahaya Bello treated Edward Onoja, in whom they had hoped power would effortlessly come to Igalaland after Bello.
Onoja is from Igala and has been part of Bello’s administration since inception. First, he was the Chief of Staff in the first term and the deputy governor in the current term.
But rather than allow Onoja to succeed him, Bello decided to anoint Usman Ododo, who is now the governorship candidate of the APC.
The Igala people went back to their drawing board to support their son Muritala Ajaka Yakubu. Barely few days after his endorsement, he was faced with the issue of forged result and he was later cleared of the issue when he presented his result.
The Okuns said their turn would be after the All Progressive Congress (APC) anointed candidate, Usuman Ododo might have finished his tenure.
With that understanding, they are giving their unalloyed support to the chosen candidate Ododo.
But the Okun Yoruba speaking people of Kogi are currently faced with the dilemma of how to really settle down when three sons of theirs are setting their eyes on Lugard’s House. They are Dino Melaye of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Leke Abejide of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Olayinka Braimoh of Action Alliance (AA).
In Okun, the agitation for power rotation has been on for so many years but the dilemma of presenting a single candidate now is the real issue.
Friday Ogungbemi said that Okun nation is having three formidable candidates in contest for governorship of the state. He sought to know if three of them would really contest against one another.
He advised that Okun people should understudy the three candidates and pick one out of them.
According to him, although Abejide Leke and Braimoh Olayinka are brilliant, choosing Melaye Dino would be the best option for them because of his past exposures, courage and political experience.
He also said that Leke Abejide is a member of House of Representatives who has single-handedly brought African Democratic Congress (ADC) to limelight and currently won re-election for his second term back to the House of Representatives and Governorship candidacy of ADC.
Ogungbemi is of the opinion that Leke Adejide’s chance could be very bright looking at his personal support for the Presidential aspiration of the President prior to general election and his financial commitment to that cause.
He called on Okun stakeholders, opinion leaders to wade into the matter and talk to the three of the sons of Okun nation in order to arrive at a better choice.
“Olayinka Braimoh of the Action Alliance is a young and intelligent personality and highly articulate and visionary with robust blueprint for development.
“If our political stage is advanced for people of high substance, his chance would have been very bright, but with the situation today, speaking from point of his political party, it will be a herculean task for him to make serious wave in the contest,” he said.
Ahead of the election, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on a recent enlightenment and sensitisation programme, the Director-General Balarabe Shehu Uela said that the Commission was always prepared to ensure that broadcast stations operate according to the rule in the best interest of Nigeria.
She emphasised that ethnic and religious profiling were unacceptable and that the Commission would always stand up to defend the ethics of broadcasting.
The Zonal Director of NBC, Pauline Ehusani, also highlighted the Commission’s responsibility to act as a gate keeper in order to maintain professionalism in the industry.
Fanwo Kingsley, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, pointed out that the state government was committed to supporting the commission in ensuring that broadcast stations adhere to the regulations aimed at ensuring a credible poll in the state, urging the broadcast stations to remain dedicated to providing their platform for all political parties and candidates thereby creating a level playing ground for everyone involved.
He said that the enlightenment was timely as Kogi was preparing to elect its next governor and that there was no better time than now for stakeholders to remind broadcast stations of their responsibility to the people.
“Few days ago, I listened to stories about candidates from opposition to the state-owned Confluence Radio. I was satisfied because it is the station for the people of Kogi State regardless of their political, ethnic and religious affiliations. We can’t have a free, fair credible election until all stakeholders come together to agree on standard and fairness. We have set the template in Kogi State and other states can follow,” he said.
He commended the NBC for its role in raising concern when necessary, stating that broadcast industry must play a crucial role in enlightening the people.
He accused the opposition of being behind the recent vandalisation of the state-owned broadcast station in Ochaja, and called on police and other security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended and brought to justice.
“It’s senseless and clear case of politics taken too far for political actors to vandalise a broadcast station. We call on the police to ensure that those responsible for this outrageous act are brought to book.”
Meanwhile, activities have slowed down in the camp of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). BusinessDay learnt that Okun Nation lost a prominent stakeholder in the person of Akin Banks and Melaye decided to suspend all forms of campaign activities for some days as a mark of honour for Banks in recognition of his contribution towards the development , peace and well being of the people of Kogi.
Akin Banks was a prominent son of Okun nation. He was a patriotic Nigerian and dedicated stakeholder who remained dedicated towards the well being and development of Kogi West Senatorial District.
“The death of Akin Bank is a devastating blow to me and a huge personal loss. Akin was a passionate and unwavering stakeholder in Ogidi Kingdom and Okun nation as well as making himself available to champion the interest of all our people to the very end,” Melaye said.
Stakeholders in PDP in Olamaboro Local Government Area, the country home of the incumbent Deputy Governor, Edward Onoja, said they have unanimously resisted attempts to lock them into the All Progressive Congress (APC) by Atai Aidoko Ali, the former senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District.
Aidoko summoned a meeting of the party stalwarts and stakeholders at his country home in Ugbamaka-Iga to persuade them to join him in defecting to APC, on the ground that after playing opposition politics with all its deprivation and difficulties in the last eight years, it was time to join the ruling party, saying he was expecting a top political appointment through the influence of the Senate President Godswin Akpabio who he claimed was his friend and one-time colleague in the Senate.
He promised to use the appointment to help those who agree to decamp with him and support the governorship candidate of APC, Usuman Ododo.
He said that the only reason he could miss the appointment is if he failed to join APC and urged the party stalwarts to join him in decamping to send a strong message that the local government area was now totally APC.
But his proposal met brick wall as he was rejected and was equally accused of promoting his selfish interest over general interest.
Sunday Agala, former vice chairman, accused the ex-senator of ingratitude and greed for wanting to abandon the PDP on the platform of which he enjoyed 16 years membership of the National Assembly, serving two terms each in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“Sir, in this 16 years, apart from your direct siblings that you positioned in juicy and lucrative jobs and in the armed forces, we don’t know anyone in this local government area who you helped to gain employment even as a cleaner or a messenger. May be you can tell us.
“Now you want us to follow you ad cowards to the APC to boost your rating because you are looking for appointment. If you couldn’t help anyone in 16 years, what will you be doing for us now?”
Signs of trouble also manifested early when a former two-term House of Assembly member, Zakari Ohemi confronted the senator on a recent viral picture of himself, the Governor of the state, Yahaya Bello and APC governorship candidate, Usuman Ododo.
Ohemi said the viral picture thoroughly embarrassed party members from the local government area because the senator is seen by outsiders as the leader of PDP in the area. He told Aidoko that if he was thinking of supporting APC candidate, he should purge himself of such treacherous thoughts.
The meeting lasted for two hours and Aidoko was not supported, rather he received verbal attack for his self-serving political record which never affected the people of the area positively.
The Kogi Coalition of Umbrella Development Association (KOCUDA), the umbrella socio-cultural and development for organisations in Kogi State, has expressed concern over the disturbing wave of violence and the threat it poses to peace and harmony in Kogi State in the last two months.
This is contained in a five-point communique issued at the end of its emergency meeting held at the Top View Hotel in Abuja, signed by Godwin Oyibo, president, Ebira People’s Association (EPA), Amodu Abubakar Sadiq, president, Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA), and Mokikan Femi, president, Okun Development Association (ODA), and a copy made available to reporters in Lokoja.
The association also expressed worry over accusations and counter-accusations, intimidation and harassment of individuals, members of political parties and innocent citizens, stressing that all citizens of Kogi State, irrespective of places of residence in the state, reserved the right to peace and should be allowed to participate in the democratic process without fear of any attack.
It added: “These incipient civil disturbances and infractions, as being recorded in the state in recent time, portends no small danger to a united Kogi State as it does not only undermine the democratic process, but jeopardises the safety and well-being of citizens and threatens the stability and progress of the state. It reverses the gains which the current administration of the state has made in the areas of peace and security of lives and property.
“Political violence is not known in human history to leave behind any good in its wake. In addition to stalling fundamental principles of democracy, it engenders a cycle of fear, intimidation, and socio-exclusion.
“The ensuing chaotic atmosphere, ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship election will only stifle open dialogue, freedom of expression, and peaceful resolution of conflicts, all of which are crucial for a thriving democratic society. The meeting, therefore, called on all political parties and their leaders in the state to prioritise the cause of peace far and above their personal or political interests in their activities and enjoined political leaders and their supporters to demonstrate their avowed commitment to peaceful coexistence, respect for human rights, mutual understanding, and adherence to the rule of law. We call on the Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Yahaya Adoza Bello, Chief Security Officer of the state, to do all within their legitimate powers to arrest the situation so that it does not degenerate further.
“The relevant security agencies in the state are charged to live up to their responsibilities by ensuring that further infractions and violence are prevented and culprits are dealt with by the law.
“Our revered traditional rulers, religious and community leaders are urged to rise to the occasion and assert their respected positions towards peaceful conduct of the forthcoming November Governorship election.
“Going forward, we enjoined all component clubs and associations in all parts of Kogi State to replicate these same calls in their various districts/regions and places, to drive home this message of peace and peaceful co-existence that have hitherto defined life in Kogi State.
“The meeting came to a close with a passionate appeal to key stakeholders in Kogi Politics and by extension all Kogites to eschew any act that could endanger the peaceful coexistence of citizens of the state, adding that no one’s political interest is worth more than the peace of our dear state,” the communiqué also said.