Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The battle to win the governorship seat in Kogi state scheduled for tomorrow has reached a frightening climax. Less than 24 hours to the showdown, both the political gladiators and the electorate are expectedly apprehensive over who the outcome of the election may favour.
Although there are 25 candidates in different political parties who have been cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest for the exalted seat, the contest is a titanic battle between the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello of the All progressives Congress, APC and Mr Musa Wada of the peoples Democratic party, PDP.
Kogi State is made up of 21 local government areas of 239 wards with over three million population and has 1,646,350 voters with 2,548 polling units.
The three senatorial districts in the state comprises the East made up of Igala/ Bassa with nine LGAs, the Central senatorial district made up of Ebira with five LGAs and the West senatorial district made of Okun- Yoruba/ Igbira Koto with seven LGAs.
Interestingly, at the various campaign rallies of both gladiators across the state, the slogans, songs and body language being used point to the fact that the Saturday election may be coated with ethnic sentiments between the Ebira where Governor Bello hails from and that of the Igala where Wada comes from.
Political watchers believe that the ethnic politics may have led to the recent order by some groups who allegedly told the PDP candidate and his campaign trail not to venture entering into Ebira land for any kind of rally.
Historically, Kogi State is being regarded as volatile when it comes to election matters but this Saturday’s exercise, pundits argue, may be worse especially when some people see the contest as a superiority fight between the Ebira who have been so marginalised in the past and the Igala who have been holding to power since the creation of the state.
Yahaya Bello, an Ebira was controversially elected as governor in January 2016 following the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu, an Igala and the then APC governorship candidate who had majority of the votes cast.
Thus, the Ebira who occupy the five LGAs of the Central senatorial district believe that this is their time and whether Governor Bello meets up in governance with the people’s expectations or not, he must be fully supported for re-election. For them, this golden opportunity must not slip from the Ebira people who are a minority tribe in the state.
On the other hand, the Igala who are the majority tribe in the state always believe that winning an election is by number hence, the tribe should always determine the outcome of elections in the state. And this is probably the reason many believe that the Igala are determined to reclaim power they lost to a minority tribe.
However, politics is not mathematics and various permutations are in the air ahead of tomorrow’s exercise. The question is -what are the factors that will determine the outcome of the election.
Gov. Yahaya Bello ( APC)
The most important factor that will work for Governor Bello in the election is the power of incumbency. As a member of the ruling party both at the state and federal levels, the governor has a lot of goodwill among his counterparts in other states and in the presidency.
Bello is also regarded as a political son of President Muhammadu Buhari, hence, he is loved by the cabal who could do anything to ensure that the governor is re-elected.
Aside from this, pundits believe the governor is sure of getting a bloc vote from his central axis which has about 24 percent of the total votes in the state coupled with a sizeable number of supporters from the Okun- Yoruba axis of the West. Notable among them are billionaire business mogul, Jide Omokore and past PDP juggernauts who recently defected to the APC.
Also, investigations revealed that there are strong ties between the Ebira and the Okun that may work in favour of Gov Bello in the election.
Both came from old Kwara and both have been crying of marginalisation in the hands of the Igala. A secret pact is said to have been made by some prominent people in the area and Governor Bello that power will be rotated to the zone if the people could support his re-election bid.
Tinubu/Faleke factor is also seen by many to have a considerable plus for the re-election of Governor Bello. Although, there were kicks from different quarters, the recent handing over of Audu’ political family by James Faleke to Bello is seen as a boost to his re-election bid.
.The most important factor that may work favourably for Bello is the issue of funding. A lot of people, it is gathered, aligning with Bello today are said to be propelled by what they would gain and the governor is said to have stored up billions of naira for distribution during the election.
Aside from this, the governor is said to have all the security agencies in the state including the police at his beck and call and could therefore use them to his advantage during the election coupled with the allegation from the opposition that a large number of thugs are being recruited.
The major weakness of Governor Bello’s re-election bid is the general perception of non performance in office.
In the last three and half years, his administration is said to have received over N400 billion aside from bailout funds, Paris refund and loans collected and no single viable project has been completed or commissioned to justify the amount collected.
The issue of non-payment of salaries and pension which has led to deaths of scores of civil servants in the state with many now nursing untreated ailments is seen as a serious setback to his re election bid.
Although, most of the salary arrears have been paid, many still believe that if re-elected, he may not bother to pay salaries again.
Musa Wada ( PDP)
The masses and the entire work force of the state are the major strengths of the PDP candidate as pundits believe that if there is free and fair election, Wada will emerge in the poll.
It is believed that the PDP candidate has a large following as people willingly come out enmasse during his campaigns without any form of inducement.
Another advantage of the PDP candidate is the voting strength of the Eastern flank of the state which has about 51 percent of the total votes.
Pundits believe that if Wada can have at least 80 percent of the total votes cast, and at least 50 percent of the votes in the Western flank, then he is sure to emerge winner.
Some people also believe that since the coming of Gov Bello’s administration, there has been pronounced hunger and starvation like never before, and businesses of middlemen and petty traders in the state have been negatively affected and therefore everything must be done to kick out the government. This is to Wada’s advantage.
The major weakness of the PDP candidate is lack of adequate funding which has hampered so many things like erection of bill boards, branding of cars, mobilization of members and even logistics for campaigns.
Also, the continued face off between him and his father in-law, former governor Ibrahim Idris who is regarded as the pillar of PDP in the state is a great minus to him.
It is also learnt that some big wigs in the party and some aspirants who contested along with him in the primary election are still nursing one grievance or the other against him and may not work for him at the election proper.
One other thing that may slightly work against him in the poll, pundits say, is the issue of inexperience in governance and the fact that Wada is still regarded as a green horn in the politics of the state and that if elected, he may be worse than the current governor.
However, with all issues considered, political watchers believe that if there is free and fair election, the margin of whoever will win between Bello and Wada may not be too wide.