BY BABATUNDE USMAN
Kogites are gradually recovering from the rude shock of the defeat of Yahaya Bello, governor of the state, in the just-concluded APC presidential primaries. As the 2023 Kogi guber elections draw near, the question on the lips of the people now is: who will be the next governor of the state that will have links and influence at the federal level to bring about the required development, reverse the effects of bad leadership that has plagued Kogi for so long and also foster the spirit of unity among the different ethnic groups in the state?
Although no candidate has officially declared interest in the state yet, sources close to Lugard House have penciled the deputy governor and former chief of staff as Yahaya Bello’s favorites to pass the baton of leadership based on a deal they struck earlier.
Another candidate who is fresh from the APC political oven, untainted, and whom most Kogites I have interacted with are placing their bets on is Sanusi Mohammed Ohiare.
Who are these men?
Edward Onoja is the deputy governor of Kogi state. He was born on August 9, 1974, and hails from Odidoko-Emonyoku in Ogugu district of Olamaboro LGA of the state. He served as chief of staff to Yahaya Bello [2016–2019]. He rose to his current position after the impeachment of Simon Achuba by the state house of assembly weeks before governor’s second term election.
Prior to his appointment as deputy governor, Onoja served as the director-general of the APC campaign for the 2019 general election in the state.
Abdulkareem Asuku Jamiu was formerly director-general protocol, Kogi state government house [February 2016 – October 2019], before he took over the role of the chief of staff to Yahaya Bello from Onoja in October 2019, and has served in that capacity to date. He is from Okene LGA of the state and was born on January 2, 1980.
Prior to his appointment as chief of staff, he was DG protocol to Yahaya Bello. And before that, he held the position of head of the pharmacy department at Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom state.
The achievements of those two personalities in Kogi state are common knowledge to all and it will be an overkill to begin to highlight them. I believe strongly that these “achievements” will determine a great deal how far they go in the gubernatorial primaries. Instead, let me focus my energy on the 3rd candidate who is fresh in the pack.
Sanusi Mohammed Ohiare was born on March 6, 1985 and hails from Adavi LGA of the state. The 37-year-old prodigy is currently the executive director of the Rural Electrification Fund and a former board member of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). A scholar par excellence and Mandela Washington fellow, he has over 15 years of experience advising public and private entities on electricity access planning, mini-grid regulations, renewable energy policies, and data management systems for un-electrified communities in Nigeria; a position he has excelled in tremendously. The UK-trained humanitarian has shown a unique capacity to lead the state and take it to the next level.
Some might be tempted to ask, is he not from the same ethnicity as Yahaya Bello? Yes, he is. However, I do not believe that ethnicity would play a critical role in the choice of leadership for the state come the 2023 elections. My assertion is based on the general feedback received from the electorate via opinion polls conducted recently. The people of Kogi state want someone who is young and smart, a detribalised Kogite, who is independent and conversant with the plight of the people and has the capacity to drive the developmental agenda of the state.
I dare say that from the lineup, Ohiare has shown the aforementioned traits over time judging from his works and achievements thus far. His track record of performance has endeared him to many in the grassroots even outside of the state, as community leaders from within and outside of his home state have honored him with different titles in appreciation of his good work.
He received the title “Osietehueyi of Adavi-eba” [harbinger of light] from Asema of Adavi, and “Dan Amar Igu Koton Karfe” [the trusted one] from Ohimegye Igu of Koton-Karfe. He also received another “Akiliwo Ejeh Olamaboro” [strength of the king] from a revered Igala king, the Ejeh of Olamaboro, a rare gesture from an Igala king to an Ebira son in Kogi state.
Outside of the state, he was also honoured with the title Mene-edee [chief of light] by the Menebon of Barako kingdom in River state. These are testaments to the conclusion that ethnicity will not be a roadblock for Ohiare.
To those who are alien to Kogi politics, it may take another article to explain the high level of politics that went into the just concluded APC presidential primary. The result was a rude shock not because of the capacity and character of the winner but the level of confidence exuded by Yahaya Bello as a presidential candidate and events surrounding the “go-no-go” of the primaries which is common knowledge to all.
Everything now boils down to the governorship primaries election in the state that is expected to hold in the first quarter of 2023. Thus, with the recent presidential primaries, the power tide seems to be changing, and the political equation in the state might swing favourably to the camp of James Abiodun Faleke, the politician with the magic wand. The Kogi-born cum Ikeja federal constituency member of the house of representatives will no doubt be a force to reckon with in deciding who becomes the APC flag bearer in the state.
As we cross our fingers to watch Kogi State’s political future unfold, one thing is certain. If Ohiare emerges as the candidate of the ruling party, it will no doubt inspire, motivate and ginger the youths to vote for APC at the federal level as it shows a strong statement that Bola Asiwaju Tinubu has plans for the youths. The stakes are high and we cannot afford to get it wrong. The task of electing a leader with a vision, as well as the ability to translate such a vision into reality, is a task for all Kogites; at home and abroad.
As I drop my pen on this article, I leave you with a powerful quote from Harry S. Truman. “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better”.
Usman, a public analyst, writes from Lagos.
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