Obviously, by design or by accident, heroes have emerged from the off-season election conducted in Kogi State, in particular, on November 11, 2023.
Recall my piece, published on this news medium platform on September 14; about 57 days to the off-season election. I had narrowed down the election to what I described as the tribal warlords, parading themselves as Governorship candidates. I said then that the Igala and Egbira in particular, had taken a clear and dangerous position of open tribal or ethnic battle when Usman Ahmed Ododo emerged as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and Alhaji Muritala Ajaka took the ticket of virtually none-descript Social Democratic Party (SDP) with a message from his group that had the signature of “we and them.” Senator Dino Melaye went on to pick the ticket of the major opposition party at the federal level: the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
From the body language of these three major actors, it was obvious that they were representing the three major tribes in the State: Dino Melaye of the PDP for the Yoruba speaking Okun; Usman Ahmed Ododo for the Egbira speaking area and Muritala Ajaka for the Igala speaking area.
The election, which had since been concluded with Usman Ododo emerging as the Governor-elect, has proved some bookmakers wrong on certain calculations, which is reserved for another time.
However, suffice to say that while the majority of votes in Kogi East and Central could be predicted with some measures of accuracy, that of the Kogi West (the Okun land, plus Lokoja axis) was uncertain. Indeed, what was certain was that Dino Melaye would not win much in the West which is supposed to be his stronghold, but the uncertainty was where the votes from this Kogi West would swing.
The calculation was that if somehow, the West overwhelmingly vote for their brother, Dino Melaye as East and Central were programmed to vote majorly for their own, Ajaka and Ododo respectively, there might be a run-off election. This picture was ignored by the leaders in the East, who strongly believed that they could win the election on the first ballot with or without the Central and the West put together.
On the basis of such overconfidence against the background of the conjured enormous population, Ajaka dreamt big.
Yes, at the end of the day, Ajaka was able to neatly capture majority of his Easterners’ votes and Ododo, his Central votes, while the votes from the West decided the winner, to the surprise or shock of Igala people.
What the votes from the three Senatorial Districts, with different distinctive tribes (Igala for East, Egbira for Central and mainly Yoruba for the West) proved was the unofficial but true population of the State along these tribal lines. The election had proved Igala wrong on the issue of being the largest in the State, to the extent of thinking that they can beat both the Central and the West put together, in anything that had to do with population.
Above all, the election in Kogi State had brought out a very salient issue about rotation, which has for long, been the crux of the matter between the Igala people in the State and the rest others they considered to be minority.
With the pattern of the votes in the November 11 election, the West appears to have fully laid the parameter to producing the next governor after Ododo on the basis of the rotation.
In fact, by practically turning their back even on their own, Dino Melaye, who of course, they reckoned would not go far enough to win the election, and by voting overwhelmingly for the candidate of the Central, the possibility of them producing the next governor of the State in the near future, is assured. With the possible 80 percent votes from the Central added to their own, as the reality now stands, the West looks good to produce a chance to win the next governorship contest in the State.
The reality also is that Igala, from the East, will continue to reel in nightmare about the outdated figure of being in super majority, using such nightmare to render themselves irrelevant in the State’s political equation, long after the team-work between the Central and the West would have taken a big flight to the height, in the context of newly found and refreshing friendship.
Therefore, from what appeared to be a deft political calculations and actions, the Okuns in the Kogi West can beat their chests and claim the trophy as the heroes of the November 11 political chess game and battle for the Lugard House in Lokoja.
It will only be a matter of time for them to begin to reap the fruit of brotherliness they have sown; the brotherliess which Ajaka and the multitude of his Igala supporters would prefer to view from the prism of “common enemies.”
From the point of the November 11 election, it would not be out of place to offer unsolicited but vital advise to the Igala people and their leaders to go back to the drawing board over their bloated ego and self deception. And more importantly, their leaders need to come down from their utopian hight, apologize to the section of the State they called common enemies for the purpose of restarting the needed togetherness.
Like Governor Yahaya Bello said, apolitical Igala people are nice and friendly, but being misled by their overambitious leaders. But how such arrogance of the leaders would help the entire Igala people to return to reality is a thing that only them can sit down to resolve.