As the day draws closer, the battle for Lugard House has continued to gain momentum. All 18 political parties and candidates cleared to contest the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are beaming in the hope of clinching Kogi’s most exalted seat.
The current state governor, Yahaya Bello will officially draw the curtain on his second term by January 27, 2024 and the election for his replacement is scheduled to take place this Saturday, November the 11th.
The National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, had earlier announced the 18 candidates contesting in the polls as Usman Ododo of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Olayinka Braimoh of the Action Alliance (AA), Jimoh Francis Ayo of the Accord Party, Abel Yaba Emmanuel of the African Action Congress (AAC), Sunday Frank Onoja of the All Peoples Party (APP), Mohammed Kabir Umar of the Boot Party, Okeme Adejoh of the Labour Party (LP), Sirius Bala Abdulgafar of the National Reformation Party (NRM), and Dr Abdullahi Bayawo of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
Others include the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), represented by Senator Melaye Daniel Dino, the Young Peoples’ Party (YPP) will be fielding Omale Samson Agada, while the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) is represented by Suleiman Taiye Fatimah, Musa Salihu Mubarak will be representing the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Murtala Ajaka will be running on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
While the opposition PDP has vowed to reclaim power at the November 11 poll, the APC is throwing everything into the ring to ensure it retains power.
Also, the SDP and ADC candidates are optimistic about their victory at the polls, making the forthcoming Kogi election a four-horse race.
However, some palpable factors will determine the winner and losers of the forthcoming election.
Among them are, tribal consideration which would undoubtedly be a huge factor, also on this would be people who would vote for candidates based on religious leaning.
The three major tribes in Kogi – Igala, Ebira and Okun have produced candidates under the four major parties in the election, making it easy for tribal consideration. Nevertheless, tribal consideration is a blessing and a curse for the four major contenders.
PDP produced Dino Melaye from the Okun tribe; ADC produced Leke Abejide from the Okun; APC produced Usman Ododo from the Ebira tribe while the SDP propped up Murtala Ajaka, an Igala, as its candidate.
While the large population of the Igalas may work in favour of Ajaka, the 16-year history of the region since the creation of the state might work against the SDP candidate.
Ododo’s Achilles heel is the fact that he is a kinsman of the incumbent Yahaya Bello. Looking at the undocumented rotation policy promised by the governor and tagged, “EBIGO”, other regions might feel betrayed and work against Bello’s anointed candidate. From the look of things, this may threaten any form of alliance with other regions.
For Dino, he is in the battle with Abejide, a serving House of Reps member under the Kogi West Senatorial District. Political analysts have said that this may be the game spoiler for the PDP candidate, who would have naturally been a major contender due to his political antecedents.
The power of incumbency will also shape the result of the election. The governor, as expected, will likely do all within his power to retain the seat for the APC. With Ododo boasting of federal and state might in his favour, watchers of political developments in the country say he is the candidate to beat if other contenders are to stand a chance.
He also has an upper hand since all political appointees in the state have been mandated to deliver their region for the party’s candidate. However, the power of incumbency could also be his undoing as the government of Yahaya Bello has evidently not enjoyed a large percentage of the goodwill of Kogites.
Beyond ethnic inclination and power of incumbency, the perceived personality of each candidate will also make or mar them at the polls.
Dino may also find it difficult to win the hearts of some voters in his region, Okun because he is believed to have betrayed a former Deputy Governor candidate, RT Hon James Faleke, when Abubakar Audu died in 2015 before INEC’s pronouncement of the winner of the election.
The November 11 election in Kogi is sure to unfold many surprises as the major candidates each have their strengths and weaknesses which could help the seal the deal or ruin their games. No one can say for sure who GYB, popularly called White Lion, will hand over power to as only time will tell.