Will zoning play a role in the November 2 governorship election in Kogi State? Rasaq Olaitan examines the agitation for the slot by politicians from Kogi West and Central senatorial districts.

The people of the West and Central Senatorial Districts of Kogi State is not relenting in their effort to ensure that an Okun or Ebira ascend the Lugard House seat of government for another four years.

While in the history of the state,  the Igala (Kogi East) has produced all past elected governors, the death of the APC candidate for the 2015 governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu, who was clearely in the lead at the time of his death, saw an Ebira, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, ascend the office. Bello’s name was sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as replacement.

Although the agitation for power shift had been in the front burner before the 2015 ‘divine intervention’, politicians of Okun and Ebira ethnic groups are of the view that power should not leave their domains.  Indeed, they want the seat retained till 2023.

However, feelers from Kogi East, where more than 15 aspirants have indicated interest to run, does not suggest that the Igala are ready to concede.

This is as a statement purportedly credited to the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, that the party leadership may have backed the East to produce its candidate for the November poll, is currently a cause for concern among the west and central political interests.

Consequently, a group of women and youth organisations, under the auspices of Movement for the Consolidation of Power Shift (MCPS) has risen to dismiss alleged plans by the APC leadership to deny the west and central the party’s ticket for the November 2, governorship citing the superior voting strength of Kogi East Senatorial District.

Reacting to the publication titled “Comrade Adams Oshiomhole Hits The Public Arena With Another Painful Truth Again” which source credited to “Network News of Radio Nigeria”,  the MPSC said the statement could not have emanated from Oshiomhole, noting that  “the authors and their sponsors failed woefully in their attempt to put words in the mouth of the APC national chairman”.

Parts of the statement allegedly ascribed to Oshiomhole read:

“It is too early to lose Kogi to opposition party because we just took over the state in 2015 with the effort of Late Prince Abubakar Audu, our governorship candidate in the 2015 Kogi governorship election, who died on verge of his victory.

So, we will field a sellable candidate from the majority flank of the state which is Kogi East, because fielding a candidate from the minority part of the state is risky for APC. We are aware of Kogi East politics which is based on zoning particularly when it comes to governorship and we will respect their zoning formula to avoid division and disunity in the state.

“Kogi East is made up of three axis such as: Ankpa axis, comprises of Ankpa, omala, olamaboro Local Government Areas. Dekina axis comprises of Dekina, Bassa Local Government Areas. Idah axis, comprises of Idah, Igalamela, Ofu, Ibaji Local Government Areas. Dekina axis has taken the senate seat of Kogi East east with our ticket in the just concluded senatorial elections. Ankpa axis has held the state governorship for 9 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 searchight for a credible and sellable candidate for Kogi governorship election is on Idah axis of Kogi East….!”

In its reaction signed by the group’s Chairman and Secretary, Bolade Emmanuel Olumide and Abdulmalik Oneida, the MPSC said: “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?

“Secondly, why can’t the party look in the direction of the Western 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?

“Why must it be a particular sub-zone of the East senatorial district, when the whole of the West zone has not for once ascended the seat of governance in Lugard House? All these talk of the East as haven of the highest population in Kogi State regularly spun as the only basis of wholesale domination of the state, which will not 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 the dominance of the East, despite commanding superior number of local government areas-12 against 9; superior  number of electoral wards-140 against 99. Suffices to say that out of the nine local governments in Kogi East, the Igala could 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 allign independently and most likely to mobilise for a candidate of west or central extraction. The 2019 presidential  election results in Kogi State (details below) 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. Let it be known that as partners in the Kogi project, we bear no grudge against our brothers and sisters from the East. Indeed, we come out bold to say that in the past elections our votes have helped to install governors of Igala extraction. But after producing the past governors from the creation of the state in 1999, whilst power shift agitation had been in the front burner of Kogi politics until the accidental shift in 2015, it is fair that our Igala brothers appreciate our long wait by giving way for another four years. Ordinarily, it would have been a non-issue which zone produces the governor of the State so long as there is justice, equity, fairness and good governance. But since this dream is elusive, the principle of power rotation should be pursued until we get to that utopian stage where ethnicity or religion  become irrelevant, if they ever will.

The quest for power shift to the west of the Niger has occupied the front burner for close to two decades now, most particularly after the expiration of Prince Abubakar Audu’s first tenure.

Issues such as lack of even development, maltreatment and discrimination in the Kogi State Civil service, the scourge of exclusion from the key decision making processes in the state and that the Igala, from creation of the state in 1991 have  dominated the two most important aspects of Kogi State-the government and the civil service, are parts of the causes of fear and agitation for power shift, the group noted.

The MCPS pointed to the February 23, 2019 presidential election results across party lines between the east, west and central as proof that the west and central have the edge in terms of voter strength, if they come together.

‘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. We also wish to refer to local government by local government breakdown of the results is as follows:

Ankpa APC- 21,109 PDP-16,749

Bassa APC- 7,377 PDP- 10,137

Adavi APC-24,843 PDP-10,059

Ajaokuta APC- 13,253 PDP- 10, 710

Ijumu APC- 8,507 PDP- 12,423

Koton Karfe APC- 16, 588 PDP- 10,392

Mopa-Muro APC- 3,646 PDP-5,336

Ibaji APC- 13,545 PDP – 10,307

Ofu APC- 13,171 PDP- 10,374

Lokoja APC- 24,983 PDP- 18,351

Ogori-Magongo APC- 2,323 PDP- 1,956

Okehi APC- 18,222 PDP- 11,965

Okene APC- 37,617 PDP – 7,839

Olamaboro APC- 12,229 PDP- 11, 325

Omala APC- 8,206 PDP- 11,815

Kabba-Bunu APC- 9,131 PDP- 14,888

Yagba East APC- 5,687 PDP- 8,841

Yagba West APC- 7,175 PDP- 9,419

Dekina APC- 21,392 PDP- 10, 455

Idah APC-9,240 PDP- 8,784

Igalamela APC- 7,650 PDP- 6,082.

“From the above, the total votes cast by the two leading political parties in the three senatorial districts are as follows:

Kogi West-155367


Kogi East-209,974

“The West and Central Senatorial District, polled 294,154 votes while Kogi East polled 209974 votes. The west and Central led by over 90,000 votes and that is not counting Ibaji and Bassa”.

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