The demise of Prince Audu Abubakar, then gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on November 22, has opened a new chapter for the people of the state. To some it is a blessing while others are counting their losses. The scenario is described by some political analyst as the hand of fate springing up to change the political equation in a state created on August 27, 1991 from parts of Benue State and Kwara States.
Since the creation of Kogi State in 1991 by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration, the struggle for relevance has been a major characteristic of the politics of the state making some people to subscribe to the idea of a seeming marriage of inconvenience between the major ethnic groups that formed the state such as the Igala, Ebira, Okun, Bassa and Nupe.
While the Igalas in the present day Kogi East came from the old Benue State, the Ebira and Okun formed the bureaucratic locomotive of the old Kwara State. Unlike the Ebira and the Okun, who were relevant in the politics and bureaucracy of their former state, the Igala were crammed in between the battles of supremacy that featured between the Tiv and the Idoma of the old Benue State. Thus, the Igala judging from their numerical strength and conversance with stiff political opposition came into Kogi fully armed with the knowledge of the practical meaning of marginalization.
The Okun and Ebira in the old Kwara, were allegedly ill-prepared for the battle of wits which soon set in among the three major ethnic groups in the state. In fact, the Igala ensured they took advantage of the early delineation to claim more Local Government Areas than either of the two other major ethnic groups. While Kogi East, which is predominantly Igala has nine Local Government Areas, the Okun-dominated Kogi West has seven Local Government Areas while Ebira-dominated Kogi Central has five Local Government Areas.
Political leadership since 1999
When democracy returned in 1999, Prince Audu was re-elected into office on the platform of the erstwhile All Peoples Party, APP. His ambition to secure re-election in 2003 hit the rocks as Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, the furniture merchant from Abejukolo took the slot up to 2012. He handed over to Capt. Idris Wada thereafter. So, every elected governor that has ruled the state since inception has always been an Igalaman.
It however began glaring that around 2003, political elements in the Central and West began the agitation for power rotation. It became clear that the East had an agenda to retain the governorship of the state but such attempts were frustrated at the primary election level, with the structural superiority of Kogi East.
It became clear that the political parties were helpless as far as power rotation was concerned. The only time Peoples Democratic Party, PDP lost the governorship of the state was the time the party gave its ticket to a non-Igala, late Arc. Stephen Olorunfemi who was the party’s candidate in the 1999 contest.
Never in the political history of Kogi has the issue of power rotation been so topical in a governorship campaign than in 2015 as the major political parties were made to give commitments on power rotation by 2019. While the APC and PDP set up machinery for the actualization of power shift to either Kogi West or Central in 2019, the arrangement was shrouded in doubts.
Beyond the agitation for rotation among the senatorial zones, political activists claimed that the Igalas were already rotating the governorship among their triangular zones of Ankpa, Idah and Dekina. While Audu, who had been sworn-in as governor twice hails from Ogonicha in Ankpa Zone, Idris, from Abejukolo in Idah Zone also governed the state for two terms. The outgoing Governor, Cap. Idris Wada who is from Odu in Dekina, Kogi East, was alleged to be engrossed in the potent divide and rule political tactics.
But the Ebira which is wildly believed to be synonymous with behaviour and character never had it so good even though an average man of that extraction is a manifestation of good behaviour, hospitable, loving, caring, responsible, lawful, and resourceful among other ideal characteristics. But recently, it was believed in some centres that the decay in the people’s social, political behaviour has put them at a crossroad, thus, demeaning its good character component as well as disuniting them against a common enemy.
The thinking in Igala land was that the Dekina Zone should be allowed to complete its two terms before power will return to the Ankpa Zone. But late governorship contender and political heavy-weight in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu vehemently dissociated himself from that and came out in full force to give Wada a good chase for his incumbency.
Worthy of note is the fact that from 1992 to 1993 Prince Audu (Igala man) just as ranging from 1999 to 2003 Prince Audu, another Igala presided over the affairs of the confluence state. In the same manner, another Igala man, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris ruled the state from 2003 to 2011 and handed over to Wada whose ambition for a second tenure have been cut short by the All Progressives Congress, APC in the last keenly contested election.
Bello’s working career
Bello began his working career at the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in 2002 for his national service and was retained upon his completion of service year. He was appointed as Revenue Officer and was promoted to Accountant within a short period. He later left as Assistant Chief Accountant. With keen interest, he was greatly involved in stock trading, and his portfolio investments cut across the oil and gas, finance, transportation and agro-related sectors.
Bello’s business empire
Applying his entrepreneurial skills, Alhaji Yahaya Bello mastered the art of informed stock trading and had a financial breakthrough right before the crash of the stock market. His stock portfolio investments cut across the oil and gas, finance, transportation, and agro related sectors. He then grew and expanded his real estate investments expanding into a number of states in the country. His business/investment clout in these sectors helped facilitate job opportunities for a number of unemployed graduates and youth particularly Kogi State indigenes. In the transport area, Alhaji Bello began with one bus to build one of Nigeria’s most successful transport businesses. Fair Plus Transport started with an 18-seater bus, procured through a bank loan. But within a short period of time, the funding bank discovered Bello was a great manager of resources and someone who it could bank on.
With the introduction of modern business management into the business, Fair Plus rose to become a giant in the industry. Alhaji Yahaya Bello can also be considered a public-spirited individual and a philanthropist per excellence. He currently funds three orphanage homes and sponsors hundreds of Kogi State undergraduates in various higher institutions both within and outside the country. His strong drive for community development inspired him to invest in various community projects. All these activities endeared Yahaya Bello to the people of Kogi.
Yahaya Bello’s journey into politics
Inspired by the challenges facing his good people of Kogi State, and as someone who has always identified with the plight of his people, Bello was pressured by many who identified him as having the desired credential to lift the state out of dungeon. He eventually succumbed and immediately assembled his friends, most of who were his ABU friends from Kogi state. He gave them the task of developing an action plan that will give Kogi a new direction. With their ardent and potent support, he went gallantly into the primaries emerging as the first runner up with 703 votes while his political mentor triumphed with 1, 109 votes. A former Senator, Alhaji Nurudeen Abatemi, scored 400 votes to place third. Another aspirant, Alhaji Sanusi Abubakar, scored 309 votes, while Hajia Hadiza Ibrahim, the only female among the 28 aspirants, scored four votes.
Out of the 3,548 delegates, 3,044 were accredited by the Electoral Panel, while 29 votes were declared invalid.
Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, the Chairman of the Electoral Panel, commended the aspirants for their maturity and commitment to the ideals of the party.
From that exercise, the first runner-up was Alhaji Yahaya Bello who was shortly thereafter alleged to have perfected plans to defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in order to contest the November governorship election for the Lord Lugard House.
Bello was reported in a section of the media to have sent short messages to his supporters enjoining them not to lose hope as he was going to be on the ballot in the election with emphasis that his determination to give leadership to the state can no longer be delayed.
He stated: “I, Alhaji Yahaya Bello shall be on the ballot in the forthcoming Governorship election of Kogi State, Insha Allah. The coast is clear and the time is NOW! Details soon. Many thanks to all.”
Bello may have considered this option in order to give life to the agitation of his Ebira ethnic group for a power shift from the Igalas who have dominated the state since inception.
On 22nd November, 2015, the elections went underway and Audu was cruising to victory based on the results that were announced as at then. But the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared inconclusive the results. INEC returning officer for the election, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, said no party could be declared the winner, however, the number of cancelled votes was more than the difference between the first placed Prince Abubakar Audu of APC and the second placed Capt. Idris Wada of PDP.
News soon went viral that Audu died around 5 am on Sunday, November 22. In what was considered a bizarre occurrence. Media reports had it that his health had suddenly started to deteriorate on the night of Friday, November 20 when he started vomiting blood.
Faleke’s agitation to be declared Governor
Pandemonium broke lose in the various APC camps in the state. The tussle for power nearly tore the party apart as three different factions in the leadership with different candidates emerged.
There was confusion over the party’s stand on the matter as Yahaya Bello was picked to fly its flag for the re-run poll.
James Faleke who was Audu’s running mate battled for recognition as his principal’s replacement and governor-elect. To make good his word, Faleke has told INEC point-blank that he would not be Bello’s running mate.
Addressing hundreds of party supporters in the late Audu’s home in Lokoja, the APC leaders, led by former Minister of Police Affairs, Humphrey Abah, denounced members of APC’s National Working Committee (NWC), over what they described as their attempt to bring in a candidate through the back door. They called on the national leadership of the party to name Faleke the Kogi APC candidate and the eldest son of the late Audu, Mohammed, his deputy. They maintained that any attempt to pick a candidate who was not part of the party’s victory is unacceptable.
Faleke and Mohammed Audu were surrounded on the podium by party leaders, including former Acting Governor and APC Board of Trustees member, Chief Clarence Olafemi, the state deputy chairman of the party, Shaibu Osune, Hon. Enah Oseni, Alhaji Jibrin Isah (Echocho), Daniel Isa (Prof.), Alhaji Ibrahim Atodo and Mrs Folashade Joseph, chairperson, Women Mobilisation, Audu/Faleke campaign team. They said they would move to Abuja to push their stand.
How Bello emerged
But in a twist of fate, after extensive consultations, the APC submitted the name of Yahaya Bello as the party’s new candidate for Kogi governorship supplementary poll.
APC retained Hon. James Abiodun Faleke as the party’s deputy governorship candidate. Mohammed Audu, the son of the late governorship candidate, was dumped by the party because the party felt that fielding him might vitiate the entire governorship poll in the state. Kogi West politicians mounted pressure on Faleke not to accept the nomination of Bello.
INEC confirmed Bello as replacement
The INEC acknowledged receipt of the request by the APC to replace the late Audu’s name with that of Yahaya Bello for the December 5 supplementary governorship election in Kogi State, Nick Dazang, the INEC Deputy Director of Publicity, disclosed. He was then subsequently featured to complete the process started by Audu.
And Bello emerges winner
The INEC on Sunday 6th December, 2015 declared Alhaji Yahaya Bello of the APC as the returned elected Governor in the Kogi governorship election.
Bello scored 247,762 votes to defeat the incumbent Governor, Idris Wada of the People’s Democratic Party, who polled 204,877 votes.
Prof. Kucha, declared the results in Lokoja after the conclusion of the supplementary election held in 91 polling units categorically stating that the results were a merger of the election held on Nov. 21 and the supplementary poll conducted in 91 polling units on Dec. 5.
“The result of the supplementary election shows that the APC scored 6,885 votes, while PDP got 5,363. Only 13,000 out of the 49,000 registered voters expected to vote in the supplementary election turned out for accreditation and voting,” he said.
Kucha said out of the 494,723 votes cast during the exercise, only 21,740 were invalidated. The returning officer described the election as peaceful and successful.
Mr Mumuni Okara, agent of the APC at the collation centre, described the results as satisfactory, saying that the declared results tallied with what the party’s agents had obtained from the various polling units.
Capt. Joe Agada (rtd), who represented PDP at the collation centre, however, said his party would challenge the results at the tribunal. They have already done so.
Faleke has since resumed his seat in the House of Representatives where he is representing Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State.