Yahaya Bello and Edward Onoja; The Uncommon Bond

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Nigeria is a country blessed tremendously with virtually all known natural resources in abundance and has over the years, succeeded in clinching a top spot in Africa.

The nation has over time remained an industrial destination for numerous investors from all over the world who have in one way or the other been beneficiaries of the riches of the Nigerian environment, a home of vast resources, a home of possibilities and a home where the struggle for the better never stops.

A critical study of the Nigeria before and the Nigeria now will reveal Nigeria’s true wealth dwells not in her vast mineral resources as popularly acclaimed.

Nigeria’s true wealth is in her people, the length of their arms and the strength of their minds.

Nigeria is the most populous black nation under God and her people carry around an aura of greatness only possessed by them, this is evident in their achievements in diverse fields in various countries of the world.

Heroism is not a common trend nowadays as people now effortlessly grow into vast entities characterized by self-centeredness only concerned with their personal inclinations and don’t mind if stepping on their neighbors is the yardstick to achieving their goals.

People are now growing apart and giving up the African nature of being their brothers’ keeper.

But all hope is not lost, there are still good men, passionate about unification, bridging the gap, capacity building, community development, and raising future leaders.

Nigeria is characterized by various tribes, religions, beliefs, cultures and other divisive elements and her history is greatly nourished by her unity in diversity even though tribe and religion troubleshoots most of our concerns.

Hence, we have stayed united against such odds.

Kogi State is strategically located in central Nigeria, created in 1991 from parts of Kwara and Benue states.

Kogi is bordered by Nassawara to the Northeast, while Benue is to the East. Enugu, Anambra, Edo and Delta borders the South, while Ondo, Ekiti, and Kwara are to the West and Niger and The Federal Capital Territory borders the Northern end of Kogi State.

By location, no other state borders as many states as Kogi State.

In that light, it has the most appreciable diffusion of people from all parts, religions and tribes of the country and can be used as Nigeria’s’ pivot point in analyzing the trend, current happenings and future occurrences projections.

Kogi State is multi-tribal and has had more than a fair share of tribalistic inclinations which was a major determinant of who becomes the Governor of the State before the miraculous emergence of His Excellency Governor Yahaya Bello who has been the Governor of the state for over six years now and counting, something no one ever dreamt could happen.

Kogi State is made up of three Senatorial districts (Kogi Central, Kogi East and Kogi West), which cuts across the three major tribes of the state; Ebira, Igala and Okun.

Since the creation of the State, the Igalas (Kogi East) have always found their way at the helm of ruling affairs being the largest by landmass and population while the other tribes only followed and seemingly watched from afar.

In November, 2015, shortly after the State Governorship election which was declared inconclusive, Prince Abubakar Audu the leading candidate of the APC died before the concluding aspects of the election, then the battle of who will secure the APC mantle to the finish line began.

In the end, things swayed in favor of Governor Yahaya Bello, an Ebiraman who hails from Kogi central.

The Supreme Court affirmed among other things, that Hon. Faleke whose joint ticket with Alhaji Abubukar Audu had garnered 240,873 votes before Alhaji Abubukar Audu’s demise, could not covet the votes or take his place as he did not meet the conditions precedent.

On 20th September, 2016, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun who delivered the lead verdict, stressed that INEC had already declared the election inconclusive before the sudden death of Alhaji Abubakar Audu, and held that the election had neither been completed nor the final results issued by the electoral body, therefore, Faleke as a running mate could not inherit the ‎victory in the election as he intends.

It held that by virtue of section 221 of the 1991 constitution, Bello, haven become candidate of APC and legally sponsored by the same party, in the face of the law, could lay claim to the 240,867 votes cast for the party in the November 21, 2015 election.

It is worthy of note that, at that time, the state was greatly divided across ethnic lines and each tribe saw the others as sworn adversaries and Governor Yahaya Bello’s victory brought about a lot of frowning faces, wagging tongues and clenched fists as this didn’t go down well with some Igalas as they considered this a slap to their uninterrupted rulership and the Okuns were displeased the Ebiras had overtaken them and had the opportunity to rule as Governor before they did.

Through all the ‘frownings’, ‘waggings’ and ‘clenchings’, a handful of people from other tribes looked beyond tribal sentiments, saw the big picture and resolved to support and stand by Governor Yahaya Bello, among them was his Siamese twin, Chief Dr. Edward David Onoja an Igala man, a rare gem a thorough bred kind of Politician and the very best of his kind.

Chief Dr. Edward David Onoja popularly known as Dr. CEDO was born on 9th of August, 1974 to a family of seven siblings and hails from Odidoko-Emonyoku in Ogugu District of Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State and is happily married to Mrs Mercy Ejura Onoja with three Kids.

He was the Head of Campaigns and Chief Strategist for the Yahaya Bello Campaign Organization and he is well known for bringing up a formidable team of passionate, youngsters from all the nooks and crannies of Kogi State with the motive of developing them and making them politically relevant in the state unlike previous administrations who only relied on them to perpetrate political violence.

After Governor Yahaya Bello’s victory in 2015, he became the Governor’s Chief of Staff before  his elevation to the post of the Deputy Governor of Kogi State in October, 2019 following the impeachment of the then Deputy Governor by the Kogi State House of Assembly.

Dr. CEDO is a man of impeccable personality. He is a graduate of the University of Jos where he bagged a BSc in Geology and Mining in 1999. History portrays him as a very determined young politician even from his school days, which earned him an enviable position as a pioneer president of the Natural Science Students Association (NASSA) University of Jos Chapter and was instrumental as the campaign director of the first Student Union Government President of the University of Jos from the faculty of Natural Sciences for the first time ever who also doubles as a Kogite and an Igala indigene.

During his service year, he served in the Exploration Department of Total Fina-ELF Petroleum Nigeria Limited as a Trainee Geologist and subsurface personnel where he showed great interests in the oil and gas sector particularly as it regards the role of Nigerians in the Nigerian energy market as well as its benefits to the populace.

He then began his professional career with the banking industry in 2001 as a Customer Service Officer with the Jos Branch of Guaranty Trust Bank after he graduated from the Training School in Lagos at the top of his class.

He displayed enviable abilities in administrative and managerial capacities which earned him a rather swift promotion to the post of the Operations Manager of Makurdi Branch.

His performance made him a cornerstone in starting up new Branches as he was instrumental in starting up the Lokoja, Lafia, Obajana and Okene branches of Guaranty Trust Bank.

Dr CEDO also doubled as the Training Officer responsible for carrying out on-the-job trainings for staffs of the Bank in Northern Nigeria.

In 2009, Dr CEDO then moved to Access Bank Plc as the Branch and Relationship Manager of Lokoja Branch.

He again applied his Midas touch, and his excellent achievements facilitated his promotion to a much bigger Branch in Abuja where he also performed exceedingly well.

In 2011, he resigned from Access Bank PLC and officially launched his political career when he contested for the Olamaboro Constituency State House of Assembly under the platform of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

He championed the Project 3R — Rescue, Restore, Rebuild Kogi as the State Director on behalf of the late Prince Abubakar Audu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Despite losing to Alhaji Idris Wada of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), they were obviously a big force to reckon with and it won’t be wrong to say their efforts laid the foundation of the party’s subsequent wins in the State.

In June that same year, he founded On and On Global Resources Limited, a consulting outfit focused on risk and financial investments as well as consultations in the power and energy sector
He became the General Manager Exploration and Production of Taleveras Exploration and Production Company Limited in 2013.

At Taleveras Exploration and Production Company Limited, he married his vast managerial, organizational and financial experience with his solid background in Geology and Mining to build a strong exploration and production arm of the company while effectively managing both the company’s domestic and international synergies.

He was able to help the company control excessive wastage by reducing the company’s exposures to investment risks and implementing resource control.

His strong relationship ability to read and understand people and situations propelled his appointment as the Commercial Representative on the Management Committee on joint asset where he worked closely with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd (NPDC) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In 2015, he became the State Director of Kogi Youth Arise Group for Buhari/Osinbajo, the group worked actively and tirelessly to ensure the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 Presidential Election.

He thereafter moved on to become the Chief Strategist and Director-General of the Alhaji Yahaya Bello Campaign Organization ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election in Kogi State.

Chief Dr Edward David Onoja being a foresighted politician dared to challenge the political status quo and led youths who were invariably new to the political sphere to the grassroots crisscrossing the three senatorial districts to garner support for their candidate.

Their efforts yielded groundbreaking results as Alhaji Yahaya Bello secured votes far ahead of other seasoned politicians with long experience in the state’s politics and made him the first runner up in the Party’s State primaries and then the turn of events that made him the first citizen of Kogi State.

His political strategy of inculcating Young minds in the political affairs of the state and their administration’s youthful appointments and women inclusiveness have redefined Kogi State’s political space forever and remains a grand legacy of the New Direction Administration worth emulating by other State governments.

Through thick and thin, the duo of Governor Yahaya Bello have weathered a lot of storm and their friendship, both in their private and official lives have continued to wax stronger.

Despite the efforts to put a wedge, the friends and colleagues who regard themselves as Siamese twins their resolve to develop Kogi State hand-in-hand have persisted
Time-in-time-out, fifth columnists have laid out speculations with the evil intentions of projecting a rift in their about Eighteen years friendship, but their friendship, loyalty and brotherliness have continued to amaze all and sundry and sparked unfavourable reactions from their respective tribes.

In the very words of Governor Yahaya Bello in the midst of a purported rift just after the 2019 gubernatorial election, he said “I thank my team in the New Direction Administration most especially His Excellency, Chief Edward Onoja, my Siamese twin and the deputy governor of Kogi State for the hardwork and loyal followership which enabled me pilot this ship with minimum distraction”. He went further to say, Edward Onoja is a Godly politician and an astute, visionary and talented strategist who has proved his worth again and again. First, as my Chief of Staff and now as my deputy”.

It is imperative to note that, before their formidable union, Kogi State could hardly boast of such friendship between individuals of the two ethnic groups, so such reactions aren’t unexpected.

In the build up to the November, 2019 gubernatorial elections, his commitment and tireless efforts to ensure his Boss’s re-election sparked a lot of sentimental outbursts from some of his tribesmen who made frantic efforts at swinging him to the opposition’s side who happened to be a fellow Igalaman.

They saw his refusal to yield as a direct betrayal and castigated him as much as they can till date, Yet Dr CEDO continued to attract mega projects for his people.

Dr CEDO in an outburst of patriotism, clearly expressed his choice to stand by his Boss as opting to choose the State’s progression in unity rather than promote an ethnically instigated agenda that hasn’t been, is not or will ever be beneficial to anyone in the state not even those instigating it.

To Be Continued…

– Matthew James Avabee (Mr Spreading) wrote from Lokoja.

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