In Kogi where the off-circle gubernatorial election for Yahaya Bello’s successor will take place in November 2023, Politicians are already running over themselves gunning for the number one seat in the state.
Although Yahaya Adoza Bello is seen as an intelligent, calculative and unassuming politician who will not be reckless in the choice of his possible successor, it is given that he will play a prominent role in who takes over from him.
He is expected to get the concurrence of other critical caucuses of the party before deciding on a person who will follow his legacy and build upon it.
The natural instincts of man is to have control over the future and the ability to overcome challenges in his environment, Man does not like to loose sight and control over his future or rather I will say to be kept in the dark about his future activities.
Whilst Nigerians are faced with numerous challenges with many leading to name-calling about incompetence, it is not their wish to have a vague foresight of what’s coming.
In Kogi State where the guber primaries is around the corner, these group of men have either indicated interest or rumored to be interested in contesting in the election.
In Kog Central where the incumbent Governor hails from, The following individuals have shown interest: Alh Jibril Momoh, the current Accountant General of the state, he hails from Okene. Abdulkareem Jamiu Asuku, Chief of Staff to the Governor, from Okene; Alh Usman Ododo, Local Government Auditor General, Okene LGA; Dr Sanusi Ohaire, Executive Director, Rural Electrification Agency, Adavi LGA; Barr. Momoh Ozigi Deedat, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs, Okehi LGA.
In Kogi West, we have:
Asiwaju Ashiru – Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, from Yagba East LGA; Hon James Faleke, member, Federal House of Representatives representing Ikeja constituency, he hails from Ijumu LGA; Sen. Smart Adeyemi, from Ijumu LGA…
In Kogi East:
Alhaji Muritala Ajaka, APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, from Igalamela-Odolu LGA; ALH Yakubu Okala, State Auditor General, from Dekina LGA; Edward David Onoja, incumbent Deputy Governor, from Olamboro LGA.
In the All Progressives Congress (APC), the politics is much more complex. Being the ruling party, the APC and the governor would not want any distraction especially in the face of the forthcoming general election.
In fact, Governor Yahaya Bello was reported to have asked 10 members of his cabinet to pick the APC form over the week during state executive council meeting. This move threw up dusts, leaving a lot of people trying to guess the rational behind Bello’s decision. Some of those asked to pick forms immediately went to Abuja to do so, giving much more bubble to the politicking.
Many who were hitherto subtle with their ambition have suddenly gained the momentum, unleashing their strategies one after the other. Some are projecting philanthropism as a tool to boost their popularity among the masses. It has been rumored that some of the current political office holders in Kogi State as shown above are interested in running in 2023 elections on the basis of their current standing in government or previous contests, while others are banking on their closeness with power brokers both at the state and national levels. Many however, are playing the ethnic card. In all, several factors combined will influence the outcome of the process.
However, it is suspected that the major opposition party in the state PDP may likely put their ticket in Kogi East because it is their believe that in a contest like this, you don’t toil with the majority if you want to clinch or remain in power.
Going through the summary of registered voters in Kogi State as released by INEC, Kogi East Senatorial districts stands ahead of the other two districts.
Kogi Central 474,5541, Kogi East 952,369 and Kogi West 505,7311. Grand Total 1,932,654
COMMENTARY; Four essential attributes of a successful governor are;
1.Putting principles first.
2. Ability to focus.
3. Controlling the center.
4. Getting the right people on the team.
Focusing on the ruling All Progressives Congress, I tried to analyze the pedigrees and standing of the contestants, and factors standing between them and their aspirations.
Pharm Mohammed Jamiu Asuku
He is the Chief of Staff to the Governor.
Politically, he had previously served as Director General of Protocol to the Governor before becoming Chief of Staff to the Governor.
He is one of a trusted and loyal associate of the Governor.
It was not surprising when he was appointed as the Chief of Staff in 2019. As Chief of Staff, he is the political leg man for the governor and he enjoys this part of his work.
He is however accused of gross incompetence in the handling of his main tasks as the Chief of Staff.
For instance, during 2022 APC Presidential Primary which H.E Yahaya Bello contested, Asuku as the Chief of Staff was saddled with key assignments which included mobilizing Kogi State national delegates to vote the Governor.
He failed woefully to deliver the complete 63 delegates from Kogi State to vote Governor Yahaya Bello at the Primary.
This development embarrassed the Governor and leadership of the Party in the state.
Some stakeholders of the party blamed the outcome of the primary on Asuku’s divisive politics. Party members usually chide him for not making himself accessible and failing to interface with the people like his predecessor who often engaged people both in office and online platform, as demanded of his office.
Traditionally, the Chief of Staff is the chief gatekeeper to the principal which himself testified to when he picked his nomination form in Abuja, especially in the area of administration, coordination and resource mobilization for effective service delivery.
He is supposed to be the interface between the political appointees and the principal, so as to lessen the pressure on the principal. He is supposed to also be a go-to person by the public who may not have direct access to the principal.
Unfortunately, this is one task the Chief of Staff seems to detest most. He is said to be generally unavailable and not reachable. He is accused of not answering calls and it takes hours or days of waiting to see him, as he often avoids the office and move around with the governor.
A political appointee also revealed that “once you see some scintilla of brilliance in you, you are not likely to have it easy with him. He is easily intimidated by brilliant minds, and finds it easy to relate with those who can only take instruction and not those with initiative”. A lot of the people in government whom I spoke to have the impression that the Chief of Staff is not very politically savvy and not well grounded on the core issues of policy, governance and human management. His greatest undoing, from the assessment of the public is his lack of accessibility and narrow-reach at the grassroot, his people in Kogi Central senatorial district accuse him of only visiting home when governor is going to his village for functions.
One plus for the Chief of Staff is that he was able to employ many of his people into Kogi government workforce, but he isn’t enjoying that good relationship with Ebira elites and also traditional rulers. It’s a rumored that he is not in good term with the Ebira Paramount ruler the Ohinoyi of Ebira-Land, Dr Ado Ibrahim, despite his weaknesses, If loyalty was the only thing the Governor would be interested in a successor, Asuku would be a good consideration.
Unfortunately, the Governor did not highlight only loyalty as a requirement of his would-be successor, even though it can’t be taken for granted that every predecessor will like to have a loyal successor. From observation, Yahaya Bello has many loyal men around him.
Dr Sanusi Ohaire
Dr Sanusi Ohaire is the son of former Senator Ohaire from Kogi Central. He is from Adavi LGA. He is the Director General, Rural Electrification Agency.
He is a great mobilizer in Kogi Central and was once a stakeholder in APC National Youth Movement . Through his office, his community benefited from lots of power projects. He is also in the governorship race but many see him as a young man who has little experience with administrative duties and are advising him to relax his ambition and focus on building his capacity for future purposes.
Hon James Abiodun Faleke
Hon James Abiodun Faleke is presently the member representing Ikeja Federal Constituency in Lagos.
He is from Ijumu LGA in Kogi State. He is one of the men Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu groomed.
He was the running mate to Late Prince Abubakar Audu in 2015.
Some of his supporters in Kogi State are mounting pressure on him to contest in the hope that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will influence Governor Bello to endorse him. However, it seems like the electoral act has made it difficult for Hon Faleke to contest in the forthcoming Kogi governorship election since he is presently in the race for HOR in Lagos State but it was rumoured that he has also picked APC gubernatorial form in Kogi state through his close ally Alh Abubakar Sanusi Gamji. He however, released a statement afterwards claiming ignorance of the purchase of the form. Even though he didn’t outrightly reject it, he claimed that he was more focused on the presidential quest of Bola Tinubu.
Mukadam Asiwaju Ashiru
Mukadam Asiwaju Ashiru Idris is from Yagba West LGA in Kogi State.
He is presently the Hon Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning in the state. He is a very competent young man and has contributed immensely to the success of Governor Bello’s administration.
His supporters have been on social media rooting for him to succeed Governor Bello and he was luckily among the 10 GYB asked to pick APC gubernatorial form over the week.
Party stakeholders in the State see him as an intelligent man academically but politically irrelevant. This opinion is hinged on the manner he manages the party’s internal crisis in his constituency. One of his set back is that despite having him as a super Commissioner and his younger brother as the Chairman of his Local Government Area, they find it difficult to deliver their polling unit, ward and LG for the APC in all elections.
The APC lost in his polling unit in the last election. Yet he hasn’t taken any serious steps to unite the party in Kogi West, his inability to enjoy the overwhelming support of his people would possibly do great damage to his ambition.
He is regarded as being as a selfish politician who takes all the benefits accrued to his constituency for himself and family alone and also takes all the glory for whatever little gains the party records in his zone.
Hon Muritala Yakubu
Hon Muritala Yakubu popularly known as Muri is the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He is from Igalamela/Odolu Local Government Area. He is one that many tagged as an emergency philanthropist and he became very popular when he donated cash to support victims of flood in the state last year.
He has on several occasions indicated Interest in contesting for Kogi State Governorship position in the forthcoming Gubernatorial election in the state before he finally picked his form during the week, His supporters who are mainly his kinsmen from Kogi East argued that he should succeed Governor Bello in order to compensate Idah Federal Constituency and to restore Late Prince Abubakar Audu’s mandate in 2015, an idea the immediate family and political family of Late Prince Abubakar Audu totally distanced themselves from.
Hon Muri appears to be a humble man and is liked by many of his kinsmen, although some say the fame he currently enjoys is due to the way he gives out money. His greatest setback in the race however, is the fact that most of his supporters are members of major opposition party PDP, a development that APC stakeholders in the state are worried about because the Party is aware that the main reason PDP members are supporting Hon Muri is simply because they want to have a weak opposition candidate that would make the election easier for their Party.
Hon Muri’s inability to show the stakeholders his contributions to the party in the last 8 years has greatly put him at disadvantaged position in the race and he is not known in the other two senatorial district in Kogi state aside his own.
Alh Jibril Momoh
Alh Jibril Momoh is the current Accountant General of State. He is from Okene LGA. He is an intelligent man who has shown transparency and accountability in his duties.
He is a technocrat and a bosom friend of Governor Yahaya Bello.
He is a very influential member in Governor Yahaya Bello’s New Direction Team and enjoys the trust and confidence of Governor Yahaya Bello.
He is one of those the Governor asked to pick the party nomination form which he has done during the week to contest the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Ordinarily one would think Governor Yahaya Bello would not be able to turn down a request from his very good friend but friendship is not the only quality Governor Yahaya Bello wants in a successor .
The party will field a candidate that is politically active and widely accepted so that the election will be very easy for the party, but unfortunately for Alh Jibril, he hasn’t been active in political activities. Even when the news of his interest filtered out, many didn’t believe as they believe that he is just a technocrat with little or no political clout. A party that wants to win election will certainly not go for such a person. Best bet would be to pair him with a strong candidate.
Chief (Dr) Edward David Onoja
He is the Deputy Governor of Kogi State. A former banker and private businessman.
He has been active in Kogi Politics since 1999 and at one point contested for State House of Assembly in his Local Government on the platform of All Nigerians People’s Party, In 2014 he joined Yahaya Bello to form Kogi Youth Arise group to deliver the state for APC in the presidential election which brought President Muhammadu Buhari.
Chief Edward, a very close ally of Governor Yahaya Bello, played a vital role in Bello’s emergence as Governor in 2015 after the painful death of Prince Abubakar Audu.
As Chief of Staff to Governor Bello in Bello’s first term, he displayed a high level of competence and leadership in bringing the aggrieved members of the party on board.
Governor Yahaya Bello’s first term faced lots of challenges from those who felt minority tribes in the state can’t be at the helm of affairs. This challenge was handled by Governor Bello and his former Chief of Staff Edward by initiating government programs and infrastructural projects in the State, a development that calmed the tension and disagreement among the party stakeholders in the state.
In 2019, when Governor Yahaya Bello was seeking re-election, he decided to promote Edward from the office of Chief of Staff to run with him on a joint ticket as Deputy Governor on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) and they won massively.
Despite his goodwill, Edward Onoja faces some huddles in his quest to succeed his boss as governor, Chief amongst them is his perception among a number of people of his ethnic extraction. Many of his kinsmen, especially those in opposition PDP felt he betrayed his own by supporting another tribe to become governor. Many hold this opinion despite the fact that Kogi is a circular state with several ethnic groups.
Although, events seems to have mostly cleared this impression as the New Direction administration focused on aggressive infrastructure and human capital development in a manner never witnessed before in the region. Those who hated Onoja for his role in electing Yahaya Bello are now convinced that the government has done well, although they still hold on to the agitation that power must return to Kogi East.
In this case, If Onoja can convince his kinsmen to support him, banking on his closeness with the governor and his influence in other senatorial districts, he stands a better chance. He is also the most vast politician among Gov Yahaya Bello lieutenants who have transverse the entire state for his boss, having served as his DG campaign committee in 2015 and 2019 where they recorded massive victory with the entire team; this also earned him the name chief strategist among his contemporaries.
Aside his staunch loyalty and respect for his boss Alhaji Yahaya Bello, one of his qualities is “his ability to bring people together irrespective of tribe, ethnicity or religion. As he has clearly shown in those he appointed as his personal aides since assuming the office of the Deputy Governor.”
Tho suspected rivalry between him and the current chief of staff, Pharm. Abdulkareem Asuku appears to be an iceberg capable of rocking the ship of the both of them if left unchecked. Also, some loyalist of Onoja seems to have abandoned him and are now with the Chief of Staff. Even tho he (Edward) has continued to wax stronger, patient and calm amidst direct and indirect provocation from his successor in the last three (3) years. Being a political strategist, I look forward to the next card up his sleeves in this game.
It is acknowledged that differences are inevitable in a partisan system. How a leader manages conflicts and builds consensus is a key measurement to effective leadership Yahaya Bello’s successor must have these attributes. A track record of bringing diverse interests together to solve problems devoid of bigotry or fanaticism.
Such must be a unifier, a builder and an epitome of loyalty who is very accessible, generous, compassionate and focused. One who knows the beginning of the New Direction blueprint and is committed to furthering it.
– Abiodun Osekafore, a native of Okesi in Ogori-Magongo LGA of Kogi State, wrote from England.