2019 poll results affirming Bello’s second term?
The Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had an impressive outing in the recent 2019 elections. YINKA OLADOYINBO writes on factors that may be responsible for this feat and the possible implications on the governorship election in the state.
The 2019 elections have come and gone, winners and losers have emerged but the ripples of the election are still being felt in many states of the federation. The election produced some surprises in some states, while the outcome in some other states was quite expected and in line with people’s expectations.
In Kogi State, although there was no governorship election as it would be conducted at a later date in the year, the presidential, National Assembly and the state House of Assembly elections were held and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) showed that it still had a firm grip on the state. The results of the elections, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), showed that President Muhammadu Buhari won the state, the party won two out of the three senatorial seats, seven out of the nine House of Representatives seats and the entire 25 seats in the state legislature.
Prior to the election, the belief of many political commentators and observers was that Kogi would be one of the states to be lost by APC and President Buhari. Many had based their assumptions on the series of crisis that have been rocking the party since the emergence of the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the aftermath of the various reforms, particularly the civil service reform, put in place by the administration.
To some people, APC does not deserve to be in charge for more than four years as, according to them, judging by the rating of Bello’s administration, he does not deserve another term of office. But the results of the election have proved otherwise and pointed to the fact that majority of the electorate still have hope in the party. This they have shown by voting for Buhari for another four years and also by ensuring that the opposition did not have a single seat in the state House of Assembly.
While Kogi East and Central senatorial districts overwhelmingly voted for APC in the presidential and National Assembly election, the people of Kogi West Senatorial District opted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and thus ensured victory for Senator Dino Melaye and other opposition candidates for the House of Representatives seats. However, the overall results from the entire state gave victory to APC and this may be a pointer to what to expect in the governorship election to be held around November.
The party, in the state, was above to rise above the leadership crisis and primary issues that engulfed virtually all the states being governed by the party and was able to deliver substantial votes that ensured that the president retains his seat and have more National Assembly members to work with him during his second term of office.
Having sensed the danger ahead the election, Governor Bello was said to have appointed his close confidant, a master strategist and who is also his Chief of Staff (COS), Edward Onoja, as the chairman of the state APC Campaign Committee. That move, perhaps marked the beginning of the new twist which later culminated into the victory of APC in the state.
Out of the three senatorial districts in the state, the eastern zone, where Onoja hailed from, has nine of the 21 local government areas of the state and therefore controls about 51 per cent of the registered voters. The zone has been the most vocal when it comes to the criticism of the Bello administration as many of the people from there felt short-changed over the death of the former governor of the state, Alhaji Abubakar Audu. Despite the fact that it is an open secret that Onoja, an Igala man, is very strategic in the operations and governance of the state, the people, who are experiencing life outside government for the first time since the creation of the state, were said to be displeased with the government and they have been threatening, both privately and publicly, to be against whatever Bello represents.
The decision became public few days to the presidential election when the leaders of the area adopted the candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and candidates presented by the party. These leaders, under the aegis of Igala/Bassa Leadership Forum, said it took the decision after noting, with distraught, the “abysmal performance of the APC-led government in the centre and in Kogi State.” It stated that, in view of the continuous sufferings and pitiable plights of the people of Kogi East, the entire sons and daughters of the zone resolved to adopt Atiku as their presidential candidate.
The leader of the forum, Dr Odekina John, further stated that the forum took the decision based on its conviction that the PDP presidential candidate had all it takes to restore the lost glory of the Igala Kingdom and also bring the country back to the path of economic prosperity.
However, signs that the Igala/Bassa people would not speak with one voice in the election and that the endorsement would not hold water came almost immediately after the forum made known its decision. The APC campaign council, headed by Onoja, came up with a statement condemning the stand of the elders, otherwise known as the Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC). According to him, many of the members of the forum were PDP card-carrying members and they could not be trusted when it comes to taking political decisions for the people.
“KEEC’s endorsement of all PDP candidates is not a problem at all as they are well within their rights to back any candidate of their choice. The problem is when they are too ashamed of their ruined reputations to endorse in their own names, but go ahead to ascribe their unfortunate conduct to the innocent Kogi East communities, in particular, the proud and upright people of the great Igala and Bassa Kingdoms.
“Everyone knows that these men are the founding fathers and leaders of PDP and that they, their families and friends benefited the most from the 13 and 16 years respectively during which the PDP ran wild in Kogi State and the country, wrecking our social fabric and mismanaging lives and destinies for the living and those yet unborn,” Onoja said.
Indeed, at the end of the day, it was obvious that the endorsement of Atiku and PDP did not enjoy the support of the majority of the people of Kogi East as they voted in support of Buhari and all other APC candidates in the senatorial district.
Justifying why the people supported APC and its candidates, the state government believed that the people decided to be on the side of a government that has given them a new lease of life and a departure from what has been happening since the return to democracy in Nigeria. It added that the Bello administration had recorded landmark achievements that made it stand out among its peers.
Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mohammed Onogwu, asserted: “The people have shown that they trust the APC-led administration because the achievements are visible enough to speak for themselves. The victory that APC recorded in the 2019 polls is without doubt a reward for hard work, sincerity, transparency and accountability.
“Governor Bello and his lieutenants all have their eyes on the ball and are poised to raise the bar of leadership and governance. There is hardly any part of Kogi that the government has not covered in terms of provision of critical infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, water, electricity and other social interventions. So, the massive support and cooperation we are getting from our people is an eloquent testimony of the fact that they are pleased and happy with the feats we have recorded across the critical sectors of the economy.”
The results of the 2019 elections in Kogi State meant different things to different people. To the state government, it was a reward for excellent performance and an indication that the government would be re-elected for another four years. But to the opposition, it was a victory that would not last and should not be expected to translate to success for the APC at the governorship election, coming up in the state later in the year. The big question to ponder on is this: “Is the outcome of the 2019 elections an indication of a second term victory for Governor Yahaya Bello?”