Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has proved to be a Machiavellian politician, who understands political terrain and the nuances of peculiar politics of his state. Last week, against all odds, and to the surprise of many watchers of Kogi politics, the suave governor, two days before the APC gubernatorial primary, at a stakeholders meeting, publicly anointed the former auditor general of the state, the 41- year- old Ahmed Usman Ododo.
Insiders to the delicate political manoeuvring that led to the anointing of the youthful Dodo, told Business Hallmark that the governor had been successful in giving each of the candidate hope, playing one against the other, giving each of the candidate the impression that they were his anointed.
A top director in one of the ministries, who craved anonymity told this medium that “Many of us knew, who the pretenders and the contenders were. Among the contenders, Bello took time to weigh his interest, his political future and who among them would effectively cover his track. Dodo is a long time ally of the governor, and a fellow Ibira man, meaning that he wants to handover to his brother.”
There have been serious political tensions in the state over who succeeds Bello. The Kogi East, where the three previous governors came from – Alhaji Abubakar Audu , two- time governor, who actually won the election in 2015 before his sudden mysterious death, then followed by Alhaji Mohammed Idris, who spent two terms, then followed by Captain Idris Wada; were all from Kogi East ( Igala people).
Bello came to office fortuitously having scored second position to Audu. The argument of the Ibira people is that since Igala people from the Kogi East spent a total of 16 years (1992-2015) in power, the Kogi Central, where governor Bello comes from should be allowed to complete their 16 years before power can shift to Kogi West, from where Senator Smart Adéyemí comes. Kogi West is largely populated by Okun Yorubas.
Previous to the primary, powerful lobby from Abuja, including the federal capital territory minister, Mohammed Bello, a friend to Adéyemí, had allegedly put pressure on the presidency to prevail on Governor Bello to concede the governorship to Kogi West. The governor was said to have been evasive and non committal.
Edward Onoja, Bello’s former Chief of Staff, in his first term but who is now deputy governor, was widely believed to be the candidate the governor was going to anoint given his enormous contribution to Bello’s reelection and success in government, widely seen as the chief strategist, connected, powerful and feared. Unfortunately, he is from Kogi East, a zone that has enjoyed more than their fair share of the cake.
Many insiders spoken to, confided in this newspaper that there was no way Bello would give power to Onoja, who is already acting royal even as deputy governor. He is seen to be too independent-minded, bold and may not be trusted not to rock Bello’s boat if handed power.
Adeyemi is also an ally of the governor as the duo banded together to fight Dino Melaye of the People’s Democratic Party in 2015 and 2019.
But political interest outweighs sentiment of friendship. An insider informed this newspaper that Ododo is Bello’s prodigy and it is in the interest of the governor to handover to his kinsman, so that he can play the role of a godfather, that way his political interest will be protected.
It’s against the backdrop of this political calculation that Ododo, former auditor general of the local governments in the state, emerged the winner of the just-concluded governorship primary of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state.
The election itself was conducted via direct mode in the 239 wards across the 21 local government areas of Kogi.
Ododo polled 78,704 votes to defeat the six other contestants.
Announcing the outcome of the primary at the State Secretariat of the APC, the Secretary of the National APC Governorship Primary Committee, Patrick Obahiagbon announced 93,729 as total numbers of registered voters while 83,419 represented numbers of accredited voters.
He said Shaibu Audu scored 763 votes; a former Minister of State, Stephen Ochen polled 552 votes, a former Executive Director of the Rural Electrification Agency, Sanusi Ohiare scored 424 votes, while the current Senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Smart Adeyemi scored 311 votes.
Speaking further, Obahiagbon said Abubakar Achimugu polled 1,159 votes, Salami Ozigi got 1,506 votes while Ahmed Ododo polled the highest votes of 78,704.
Declaring the winner of the election, Obahiagbon said the election was conducted in the 21 local government areas of the state and the result have been collated peacefully from all the returning officers in charged of the election.
“By the power conferred on the committee by virtue of Article 19 of the APC guidelines for the nomination of candidate for general election 2003, I, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, Secretary of Election Committee Kogi State on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee, Governor Bello Matawale of Zamfara State, hereby declare that Ahmed Usman Ododo, having scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the direct primary election conducted on the 14th day of April , 2023 in Kogi State is hereby declared as winner of the APC Kogi state primary election.
“He (Ahmed Usman Ododo) hereby return as the duly elected governorship candidate of APC for the November 2023 governorship election.”
Many watchers of the political situation in the state believe the outcome of the primary election will lead to defections and anti party activities, but Bello holds the aces. He is a benefactor to all the candidates, including Adéyemí himself. On the side of Kogi West, Bello is said to have secretly promised Okun stakeholders to support them, assuring of the readiness of the Kogi Central to support them in the 2027.
The outcome of the primary will show in the November 2023 gubernatorial election.