KOGI’S vote-buying slogan: East for Ajaka; Central for Ododo; West for N5k
THE Kogi State 2023 governorship election has come and gone with Alhaji Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress, APC, declared winner and the next occupant of Lugard House.
Truly, Ododo’s victory at the first ballot came as a surprise to many who followed events leading to the poll as some political pundits predicted that there might be a rerun.
Ododo won after polling 446,237 votes, defeating his closest rival, Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party, who garnered 259,052 votes. Senator Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, polled 46,362 votes. The Returning Officer for the Kogi State governorship election, Prof Johnson Urama, late on Sunday night announced that “Ododo of APC, having certified the law, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.” However, INEC in Abuja had earlier announced that there would be fresh elections on November 18 in 59 polling units where there were issues during the election on November 11.
A number of factors shaped the election and which aided Ododo’s victory.
Governor Yahaya Bello’s incumbency as current governor of the state on the same party platform with Ododo played a key role in the poll as witnessed in various areas. The ruling party was able to lure key defectors from other parties to its fold. Across the state, especially in Kogi West senatorial axis many party chieftains such as Yomi Awoniyi, who was deputy governor, Alfred Bello (Former Assembly member and PDP State Treasurer) and others left the PDP for the APC after Dino Melaye emerged the PDP governorship candidate. At a particular point, some APC supporters jokingly asked Dino to decamp too as almost all PDP strong members had left him for the APC.
Like most elections in the country, vote-buying was evident in Kogi during the poll. YIAGA Africa, a youth advocacy group, had raised the alarm that voters were being induced for the election. Many of the parties were guilty of this as votes were purchased with as little as N2,000 in some places and as much as N5,000 in other places. Vote-buying was more rampant in Lokoja and other LGAs of Kogi West – so much that the new slogan in the state is: “Kogi East Stood for Muri Ajaka (SDP candidate), Kogi Central stood for Ododo while Kogi West stood for N5k and Ankara oni nylon (Ankara clothes covered in nylon).”
Ethnic sentiment has always played out in the Kogi elections and the November 11 governorship election was not different. Since 1999, ethnicity has been a deciding factor in how elections played out. Out of the three senatorial districts in the state, Kogi East had the largest base, controlling 45 percent of the 1, 930,000 registered voters. Kogi West had 30 per cent while Kogi Central had 25 percent.
Even though Ododo is from Kogi Central, the least among the three, the electorate in the district voted overwhelmingly for him. For instance, the APC candidate got about 95 percent of the votes in Okene, his local government area, and above 80 percent in Adavi, Okehi and Ajaokuta LGAs which are Egbira-dominated enclaves. Ododo is an Egbira man. According to some Egbira persons, the fact that Igala had spent 16 years in power before Providence favoured the Egbira, they (Egbira) have decided to equal the score before relinquishing power. So, Ododo’s people — the Egbira were therefore committed to ensure that they did not lose the governorship seat so easily. They went as far as hiring commercial buses to bring home their ethnic people living outside the state to vote. The APC candidate was able to manage a win in Bassa, the least LGA in Kogi East, which is also non-Igala-speaking.
Surprise victory in Kogi West
It was however, a surprise that Ododo won in Kogi West, where Dino Melaye of the PDP, Leke Abejide of the ADC and Olayinka Braimoh of the AA come from. Aside Leke who narrowly won his Yagba East council area with 7,400 votes against Ododo who secured 7,060 votes, the remaining 6 LGAs in the zone were won by APC.
Race for SSG
Many of the political stakeholders in Kogi West senatorial axis campaigned for Ododo with the hope of being considered for the position of the Secretary to the State Government. This was based on the political permutations that once the governor is from a particular zone, the other two zones will share deputy governor and SSG slots. With Ododo’s deputy, Oyibo Joel from Ofu LGA of the Igala extraction, it is assumed that the West will automatically grab the SSG position. Many are already calculating that Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency may be favoured for it as Lokoja/Kogi Federal Constituency is already occupying the position of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, while Yagba Federal Constituency is holding the Senate seat. Even before the election, the likes of former Speaker, Kolawole Matthew, present Commissioner for Education, Wemi Jones and former Ijumu Council chairman, Olu Moko were said to be scheming for the position.
Faleke’s 2027 scheming
James Faleke, who was deputy to late Governor Abubakar Audu in 2015, whose electoral victory was yet to be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before his death and the court giving the APC ticket to incumbent Bello, is said to still have his eyes on the governorship position. Those who were privy to the meeting Faleke held with Governor Bello before he (Faleke) endorsed Ododo said he did it on the account that Ododo would run only one term. The source also said Faleke is relying on his closeness to President Bola Tinubu to emerge as APC candidate in 2027.
“Faleke believes that by 2027, Tinubu would have secured a second term before Kogi Governorship primary and the President could make him the APC candidate,” a source said. The source said it was based on this thinking that Faleke rallied political and business elites against Abejide in Yagba and Melaye in Kabba/Bunu Ijumu Federal Constituencies. A political analyst, Abdul Rahman, also argued that the fact that APC occupied majority of the political positions in the state gave them an edge over other 17 parties that participated in the race. According to him, “the spread of the APC across ethnic divide gave them opportunity to present agents and party canvassers across the 21 LGAs, which other parties could not do”.
How 18 parties performed
A – 1,254
AA – 1,440
AAC – 424
ADC – 21,819
ADP – 1064
APC – 446,237
APGA – 469
APM – 130
APP – 1,135
BP – 82
LP – 567
NNPP – 136
NRM – 242
PDP – 46,362
PRP – 781
SDP – 259,052
YPP – 868
ZLP – 227
Total valid votes -782,289
Rejected votes – 9,601
Total votes cast – 791,890