Hope is gradually rising for the Social Democratic Party’s governorship candidate in Kogi November election, Yakubu Ajaka, as political weather is becoming more and more favourable to him due to some political realignment and permutations.
Barring any last-minute change, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct a governorship election in Kogi State on November 11, 2023.
But while the campaigns are in full swing, and candidates in full throttle of convincing voters, pundits have started their apocalyptic vision of seeing near Armageddon in the state, given the proclivity of the state to descend to political violence. They are, especially worried that this time the spectre is more ominous given the challenge to Bello’s authority and hold on the state.
They are saying Kogi election will be hot and keenly contested, and will be a litmus test for Governor Yahaya Bello, who had earlier anointed his protege, Ahmed Ododo as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) after a rancorous primary.
Bello has dominated the politics of the state like a colossus since providence rather than political sagacity and victory at the ballot made him governor since 2015, but the emergence of Ododo as preferred, anointed candidate among Bello’s many lieutenants, who are keen on succeeding him, has polarised the once knit Bello’s political family.
Among the disaffected in the wake of the highly contentious and controversial primary is Muritala Yakubu Ajaka, who defected to SDP and won its primary.
It’s no brainer that 18 political parties are fielding candidates for the election, but observers have narrowed the race to Lugard House to five as far as having visible structure on ground is concerned.
The frontline candidates and their parties are: Alhaji Usman Ahmed Ododo (APC); Muritala Yakubu Ajaka (SDP); Senator Dino Melaye (PDP); Hon. Leke Abejide (ADC) and ex-Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Usman Jibrin (AP).
Among these five candidates, it appears the ruling APC government fears the rising political profile of Ajaka, who is believed to be belching from the political home advantage conferred on him by Kogi East with 51 percent of the votes.
Recall that Ajaka has without let raised alarm over his alleged ill-treatment or witch hurt by the APC. His case is unique because he was in the APC before he defected.
Before his controversial defection to SDP, he was the APC deputy national publicity secretary. Sensing that Bello’s political machine had birthed in Ododo’s house, he defected to the SDP and secured the opposition party’s ticket to run.
Kogi East shops for consensus
Business Hallmark learnt that the Kogi East Senatorial District recently set up a committee led by the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Gabriel Aduku, to examine the candidates of the various political parties in the zone and come up with one that would defeat Ododo.
Note that Kogi East – where Ajaka hails from – has the highest number of LGAs (nine) with the highest voting population in the state, as well as the highest number of candidates in the race. The zone is known for its far-reaching decisions in elections because of its voting strength, and has produced all the governors of the state aside Bello.
Ajaka was presented at an event in Abuja, attended by some candidates of various political parties from the Igala-speaking axis (Kogi East), who stepped down for him to slug it out with Ododo, who is from the Ebira ethnic extraction.
In presenting Ajaka, Aduku made a passionate appeal to the other candidates and their supporters to work for the victory of Ajaka.
After Aduku’s political homily on supporting Ajaka, many candidates of other parties, who then stepped down for Ajaka from Kogi East are Arch Isah Dauda (APM), Onaji Sunday Frank (APP), Dr. Elukpo Julius (ADP) and Dr. Abdullahi Bayawo (PRP).
But aggrieved candidates of the Labour Party (LP), Okeme Adejo; All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Idoko Ilonah; and the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Sam Omale, who are also from the zone, were absent.
Miffed and disturbed by the Igala Consensus, many analysts say Bello’s government has come up with a spanner in the work to frustrate the opposition, including Ajaka. This, they have allegedly done through stringent campaigns rules.
Stringent campaign rules
One of these rules issued by the state government through the General Manager (GM) of the Kogi State Signage and Advertisement Agency, Hon. Richard Osaseyi, is the notice served to political parties and others concerned for servicing of outdoor advertisement to avoid demolition of their signposts.
He said, “All owners of billboards and banners displayed in public places are enjoined to proceed to the agency to pay all the prescribed fees required by the agency for the continual use of these advertising platforms.”
He urged all political parties, religious organisations, support groups, business owners and others to comply with the directive, saying defaulters would be made to face the consequences of their actions.
Osaseyi further said that anyone affected by the notice was to comply within seven days, stressing that after the expiration of the seven days all signposts, billboards and banners without the approval of the agency would be defaced at the cost of the owner.
Of course, the opposition parties view this development as targeted against them, claiming the order was a move by the ruling party to deny or muzzle them out of the right to display their own banners, billboards and campaign posters.
In a statement, the PDP said, “The campaign decrees recently issued under the guise of guidelines for the use of campaign materials by the administration of the APC and Governor Yahaya Bello in Kogi State is a vexatious, undemocratic and unrealistic attempt to evade contest, constrain the democratic field and stir-fry other political parties out of visibility before the November 11, 2023, governorship election in Kogi State.
“The PDP rejects the obnoxious and draconian imposition of a general payment of N5,000,000 for outdoor campaign materials, N2,000,000 for every billboard, N1,000,000 for every banner deployed and another N50,000,000 to be deposited as caution security.
“The PDP, which has deployed over 50 banners in each of the 21 local government areas of the state, will be expected to pay N1,050,000,000 as signage fee alone.
“The guidelines were conceived in bad faith and out of tune with contemporary democratic ethos. The PDP, as a lawful party, will not subject itself to any rule that is contrary to the laws of the federation.”
But an APC stalwart, Oladele Tunji, said the signage law was not new, arguing that it was in operation before the 2023 general elections, and therefore, accused the opposition of “trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.”
He further said, “The signage law did not originate from Kogi State; other states in Western and Eastern parts of the country enacted and operate the same law. It’s not a new law; why the noise about it?”
An analyst Dr.Olufemi Omoyele told Business Hallmark that the clash between the ruling party and the opposition was expected since everything was about getting political power.
He said, “Governor Yahaya Bello, could not do otherwise. Any other leader would have done the same, would put everything into the game to ensure the candidate of his party coasts home to victory in the November governorship election.
“The opposition parties should expect all kinds of rules, regulations and different twists and turns as the election draws near, but if they persist and work hard they will win”.
Reacting to rising tension in the state, Comrade Jacob Simoyan, a Lagos -based Kogi business man, told this medium that “Ajaka being a consensus candidate has a headstart, the way Ododo has, being the anointed candidate of a sitting governor, but if there’s understanding between Ajaka and Melaye of PDP, in terms of one becoming the governor and the other the deputy governor, they will defeat Ododo. Remember the Kogi Central, where Ododo comes from only has six local governments, while Ajaka’s Kogi East has nine whereas Kogi West, where Melaye hails from has 7.”
But beyond the hoopla about each senatorial electoral strength lies the fear of violence.The opposition is worried over increasing political violence in the state, alleging threats of arrest of their members over “imaginary” allegations.
According to them, most of the victims are members, who dumped the ruling party for the opposition parties.
Three weeks ago , the Kogi State chapter of the SDP came out with scary allegations that the Kogi Commissioner of Police, Mr Berthrand Onuoha, hatched a plot to frame up some SDP members in the state with fictitious allegations to arrest them.
The Director of Communications of the SDP candidate, Muritala Yakubu Ajaka Gubernatorial Campaign Organisation, Faruk Adejo-Audu, made the allegation in a statement.
He said the Commissioner of Police allegedly acting on the directive of the rival party and powers that be had concluded plans to come out with “All manners of trumped-up offences to enable him embark on a massive crackdown on our supporters.”
The opposition party further alleged that the planned attack was targeted against party members, who recently dumped the APC.
The SDP said, “The plotters have supplied a roll call of major supporters of Alhaji Ajaka to Mr. Unuoha, the Commissioner of Police, who is set to deploy a squad of policemen supported by the rival party’s thugs, for the assignment.
“We are by this statement calling on the Inspector General of Police, the Police Service Commission and the Minister for Police Affairs to step in and save our souls.”
But the Kogi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Onuoha, dismissed the claims by the SDP.
In a statement, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the command, SP William Aya, described the allegation as: “Totally false, malicious, pretentious and highly mischievous and remained a figment of the imagination of Faruk Adejoh-Audu and his political candidate, Yakubu Ajaka.”
It added, “The SDP candidate and his campaign organisation should leave the police alone and focus on issue-based campaigns and soliciting for support from the electorate instead of resorting to cheap blackmail, bullying and arm-twisting for political sympathy from the public.”
Similarly, the National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralph Okey Nwosu, alleged in a statement on Wednesday that the plot to arrest, detain and distract Hon. Leke Abejide, the candidate of the party, by security operatives on criminal charges had been hatched.
All this is coming as Governor Yahaya Bello has intensified winning strategies for the APC and its candidate, Ahmed Ododo, who is tipped to succeed him on January 27, 2024.
The choice of Ododo as the APC candidate following Bello’s backing did not go down well with some stakeholders of the party in Kogi East and West, and this is one of the factors analysts say will make the contest more scintillating.
At the moment, political parties and their candidates are crisscrossing the state selling their programmes and manifestos to the citizens in an attempt to convince them on why they should be elected into power.