Kogi, well known for its consciousness-raising, is a State that prides itself as centre of attraction as far as Nigeria’s politics is concerned today. Bordered by ten States, Kogi boasts as the heartbeat of the nation in terms of its regional interconnectedness to the nook and cranny of the federation. But the question remains, why is Kogi still struggling today despite the resources nature blessed it with? The answer is simple – leadership.
Since its creation in 1991, Kogi has weathered the storm and debatedly among the league of most corrupt States in Nigeria with 48% ranking, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – this the APC-led government in the State blamed on previous administrations. The blame game is not alien to Nigeria’s political space as oftentimes politicians see it as the easiest route out of accountability, thereby sheering away from its responsibility.
With a few hours remaining to another landmark election in the State, the Kogites will be all out on Saturday, November 11, to decide who becomes their leader for the next four years – a decision that can either make or mar the destiny of the State. Going by the recent developments, the election is a three-horse race between political giants from the three geopolitical zones in the State. The three leading candidates include Dino Melaye of Peoples Democratic Party (Okun), Usman Ododo of All Progressives Congress (Ebira), and Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (Igala). These three candidates by mathematical arrangement have divided the electorates along ethnic sentiments, which will also determine how the pendulum may swing on the D-day.
Just like the ‘Yoruba lo kan’ mantra that shaped the conversation during the buildup to the 2023 presidential election, the people of Okun (Kogi West) strongly believe it is the turn of the region to produce a governor going by the zoning formula in the State. Since 1999, the Okuns have been marginalised in terms of leadership in the State no thanks to the ‘pull-me-down’ syndrome by some of the political elites in the region who allow party interest override the call for Okun to be in power. This, of course, will shape the decision of electorates on Saturday.
Like their Okun counterparts, the Ebiras are also not exempted from exhibiting tribal sentiment with many hiding under “continuity and consolidation” to sell a candidate that some political critics consider as “unpopular” going by his antecedents. Ododo (the flower boy) as fondly called is riding on the popularity of the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello who has been campaigning for him rigorously amid series of banters from the opposition. Will the Ebira Agenda play a key role in determining how the Ebiras vote? This question remains unanswered until after the poll.
Igala Agenda is another mantra that has crept its way into Kogi politics in recent times following the emergence of Muri as SDP standard-bearer. It is not a mismatch to see the overwhelming support the candidate has garnered overtime in the region. Despite ruling the State for 16 years, Igalas believe power should return to the region after eight years of Yahaya Bello’s New Direction administration. The November 11 poll will decide if this comes true or remains an illusion.
What Kogi needs right now is not a tribal bigot but a leader who represents all irrespective of ethnic leanings or religious affiliation. The ball lies in the court of the electorate and as a matter of necessity should do the needful by voting wisely come Saturday. It is worth noting that the lives of the electorate are also protected before, during and after the poll. Violence is not an option and should not be given credence.
– Arogbonlo Israel is a journalist and peace advocate with keen interest in good governance