Atiku vs Buhari: Factors That Will Determine Who Kogi Electorate Will Vote For on Saturday

The two leading political parties, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the country have toured the length and breadth of the country canvassing for votes. The two major presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the APC will be slugging it out on February 16th.

Kogi State offers an interesting contest giving the mixed fortunes both parties have enjoyed and endured in the last three and half years. The governor of the state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello is of the APC while the three senators from the state; Dino Melaye, Ahmed Ogembe and Atai Aidoko are all from the PDP.

Our Kogi correspondent, John Akinfehinwa takes a look at how electorates will vote across the three senatorial districts of Kogi State to decide who will pilot the affairs of the country till 2023.

KOGI CENTRAL

Fresh data of registered voters as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that Kogi Central constitutes 25 per cent of the state’s voting population with 409,120 eligible voters. These registered voters are spread across Okene, Okehi, Adavi, Ajaokuta and Ogori/Magongo local governments – the five LGAs in Kogi Central.

The incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello is from Kogi Central and this is expected to play a major role during the presidential poll.

The Governor is a well known ‘yesman’ of President Buhari and will do everything humanly possible to prove his worth to his ‘father’ in Aso Rock. It should not be a big task for the youthful governor as Buhari has always enjoyed passionate support from electorates in Kogi State. Buhari is good to go in Kogi Central, however, the Governor’s performance and ability to manage local politics can hamper APC’s expected landslide victory in this senatorial district.

Without doubt, Governor Bello has continued to pull huge crowd of supporters among his kinsmen. But the recent media and physical attacks against the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Senatorial candidate, Barr. Natasha Akpoti and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Ahmed Ogembe may likely affect the huge votes Buhari is expected to garner in Kogi Central.

DAILY POST, however, gathered that both the SDP and the PDP are working hard to ensure that Governor Bello’s anointed senatorial candidate, Yakubu Oseni does not get the mandate to represent the people.

The constant attacks on Natasha has further endeared her to the electorate who have a rich history of making radical political decisions.

Aside Natasha and Ogembe, Gov. Bello’s ‘obnoxious’ workers screening exercise will play a role in next Saturday’s presidential poll. Many civil servants from Kogi Central, just like other senatorial districts, were affected. Some have not received a ‘kobo’ as salary since Bello assumed office three years ago! Others are owed between five and thirty months salary and pension arrears. This set of workers and their people may likely vent their anger on Bello’s APC at the poll.

The judiciary under Justice Nasir Ajanah, who is also from the Central part of Kogi State, has been on strike for the past three months. The unresolved industrial dispute is viewed as a direct fight between Bello and Ajanah, two brothers from Kogi Central.

KOGI EAST

Kogi East enjoys a commanding 49 per cent of the voting population in the state with 804,715 registered voters.

PDP looks more comfortable in Kogi East. The incumbent senator A,tai Aidoko is of the PDP. Two former governors of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and Captain Idris Wada are fully on ground canvassing for votes for Atiku.

The APC is working hard as well but in reality, the party is running against the wind here.

The angst against Gov. Bello led APC government in the state among the electorate in Kogi East is like a raging storm. First, the electorate in the area believe strongly that they voted for late Prince Audu and not APC in 2015. When Audu died and was replaced with Bello, their anger deepened because Bello did not support late Audu but benefited from their labour. Many viewed his inheritance of Audu’s ticket as an imposition by Buhari.

The vexatious workers’ verification exercise carried out by Bello’s government did not help matters as many in Kogi East believe it was targeted at their kinsmen.

Bello’s choice of Edward Onoja was meant to be a masterstroke that will help him break through the thick political walls in Kogi East but much has not been achieved. In fairness to Onoja, he has laboured to make his Kogi East brothers and sisters embrace Bello but his humongous efforts has not yielded a commensurate result.

The presidential candidate of APC, Muhammadu Buhari did not help matters too. He is widely believed to have held late Prince Audu in disdain. He avoided Audu throughout his 2015 campaigns. He did not attend any of Audu’s campaigns and did not grant him audience. When Audu died, Buhari did not send a line of condolence but was only keen on replacing him with the person he wanted as Kogi governor ab initio, Yahaya Bello.

The major obstacle before Buhari in Kogi East on February 16 is the fear that the re-election of Buhari will seal their doom as nothing will stop Bello’s re-election. This fear of Bello’s second term in office may force some voters who sympathize with Buhari to vote for Atiku on Saturday.

All these hurdles notwithstanding, the virile political structure consciously build by the Yahaya Bello government will not give Kogi East up without a good fight.

Kogi West

Kogi West electorate are largely independent voters. The senatorial district is made up of Okuns, Nupe, Koto, Kakanda, Bassa, Hausa and other minority tribes. Kogi West boasts of 432,515 registered voters representing 26% of the voting population in the state.

Since 1999, Kogi West have always voted for PDP. However, during the 2015 governorship elections in the state, Kogi West supported and voted for APC. Pundits believe this was achieved through James Faleke’s joint candidature with late Audu. Faleke is well loved by people of Kogi West. Many in PDP voted for APC in 2015 because of Faleke. Now that Faleke is not in the equation, APC will have to rely on Senator Smart Adeyemi, Speaker Kolawole Matthew, the commissioner for finance, Asiru Idris and a handful of untested politicians in the zone.

Smart Adeyemi has won elections twice into the senate in Kogi West, so his influence cannot be wished away. His tacit support for Faleke’s APC in 2015 was instrumental to the party’s success at the polls. Faleke alluded to this when Smart Adeyemi formally decamped to APC in his Iyara Ward in 2017.

In terms of political structure and membership, PDP is still the dominant party in Kogi West. While the 2015 ‘Buhari Tsunami’ swept PDP off her feet in many parts of the country, the five local government areas in Okunland still voted for PDP candidates. PDP won two out of three House of Representatives seat in Kogi West and cleared five out of eight House of Assembly seats in the senatorial district.

The loss of Smart Adeyemi to APC was a huge blow on the party but the gap has been filled with the return of Senator Dino Melaye to PDP.

Melaye has added much colour to the party since his return in 2018. His stance against policies of the state government has earned him huge followership across the district.

The failed bid to recall Melaye from the senate by the APC-led state government has helped positioned the senator and his new party, PDP, as the toast of the people.

The perceived persecution of the vocal senator by the federal and state governments has resulted in attracting sympathy for him across the senatorial district.

Melaye and Adeyemi will be on the ballot same day Buhari and Atiku’s fate will be decided by the electorate in Kogi West. The voters ‘preference between Melaye and Adeyemi will definitely rub off on the presidential candidates.

APC chieftains are leaving no stones unturned to achieve electoral victory on February 16. They are fully aware that their continued reign in Kogi state is largely hinged on Buhari’s re-election. However, they are faced with an angry electorate who have a lot of misgivings about the APC government in the state. For the appointees and APC leaders in Kogi West, February 16 presidential election is a battle for survial and self-preservation.

PDP, on the other hand, have been bolstered by the return of its prominent leaders who left for APC in 2014-2015. From Kogi West alone, a former acting governor of the state, Asiwaju Clarence Olafemi, a former House of Representative member, Chief Sam Aro, former Kogi local government chairman, Barr. Shaba Ibrahim, former House of Assembly member, Commodore Folusho Daniel, former Yagba East local government chairman, Hon. Ganiyu Salawudeen and a host of others who dumped the party prior to 2015 general elections are back in PDP.

In terms of key leaders, PDP stands stronger than APC in Kogi West but it will be unwise to underrate the APC.

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