Kogi 2023: Akpoti’s tribunal victory unsettles Bello, APC

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In a single day, two senators of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kogi State were sacked by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Lokoja.

In Kogi Central, the senatorial district of Governor Yahaya Bello, the tribunal sacked Abubakar Ohere and ordered that Natasha Akpoti should be given a certificate of return.

Meanwhile, in Kogi East, the court sacked Jibrin Echocho and declared a rerun of the election.

Governor Yahaya Bello, following the verdict, said he is optimistic that the Court of Appeal will reverse the judgement because of the manner the Appeal Court ruled on the presidential election case.

“I want to assure you that even judging from the pronouncements yesterday at the Appeal Court (Presidential Election Petition Tribunal), we are going to have our 3/3 Senate in Kogi State, I can assure you,” Bello said.

Observers in the State believe that the verdict could have some impact on the governorship election slated for November because it shows that the APC is not as strong as many believed it to be.

In this analysis, DAILY POST reviews the impact of this decision on the 2023 governorship election in the State.

So far, the race is between Usman Ododo of APC (Kogi Central), Dino Melaye of PDP (Kogi West), Leke Abejide of ADC (Kogi West), Muri Ajaka of SDP (Kogi East).

“We have a four-horse race that could swing anywhere. No one can predict the outcome of the race,” Al-Had Sonibare, a member of the ADC told DAILY POST.

“We know that during the last election, intimidation was deployed by the ruling party, and the tribunal is exposing that. BVAS is exposing all of them,” he added.

Akpoti vs Bello in Kogi Central

In Kogi Central, Governor Bello has been in a protracted fight with the Ohinoyi of Ebira Land, Ado Ibrahim. It would be recalled that Bello once threatened to discipline the monarch for insubordination.

During the last general election, the APC showed significant vulnerability in Kogi Central, particularly in the race between Akpoti and Ohere. The tribunal judgement appears to have validated what many had long suspected that Akpoti was rigged out. It would be recalled that some women protested the outcome of the race.

Usman is expected to retain the zone because of the tribal division in the State. The Ebira people in the zone are expected to side with their own.

“Ododo’s survival depends on his ability to retain the entire Kogi Central; the Igala people will vote Muri (Ajaka), while the Okun people will vote Dino or Abejide,” Moses Obatoyinbo, a voter in Egbe, told this reporter.

However, Natasha Akpoti appears to be gaining ground in Kogi Central zone, and with the tribunal judgement, many believe that there is more incentive for her supporters to oppose Bello.

Turbulence in Kogi East

Governor Bello’s decision to pick Usman Ododo from the Central Senatorial District is causing some disquiet in Kogi State, particularly in Kogi East, the zone with the largest voting bloc.

Many in the State had expected Bello to support zoning of the governorship seat after his 8 years.

But in a surprise move, he shunned all candidates from other zones, including his deputy, Edward Onoja and Smart Adeyemi who are from the East and the West, respectively.

To appeal to Kogi East, Bello nominated Abubakar Audu, the son of former Governor Abubakar Audu, as Minister. The junior Audu had shown interest in the race for the APC ticket but dropped out after Bello endorsed Ododo.

In the last couple of weeks, Muri Ajaka, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), appears to be getting the approval of the stakeholders in Kogi East.

Last month, the Igala Elders Forum (IEF) endorsed Mr Muri for the governorship position. It would be recalled that he decamped from APC following the primary election.

“Kogi East currently has one strong candidate, and the way Yahaya treated Onoja means that there are few of his lieutenants that would work to deliver in the zone,” an APC member told DAILY POST.

Divided votes in Kogi West

Kogi West is going to be a battleground in the election. The zone can be divided into three- the Okun side, Lokoja and Koton-Karfe.

Abejide, the member representing Yagba Federal Constituency, and his party, ADC are strong in Okun side. In the last election, the party won two Reps seats in the zone. Dino Melaye is also from the side.

Insiders in the camp of Abejide told this paper that the lawmaker is counting on Faleke and other members of the APC to back him during the election and repay him for supporting President Bola Tinubu during the presidential election.

However, APC will be counting on its support base in Koton-Karfe and expects Senator Sunday Karimi, who represents Kogi West to deliver the votes. While Dino fancies himself taking Lokoja, the only place none of the ethnic groups can claim.

Fighting in APC

Before the judgement, Governor Bello had been fighting with some elements over the control of the party. Last month, he led a protest at the National Secretariat of the party over the nomination of Duro Meseko as the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary.

DAILY POST learnt that Governor Bello wanted Yahaya Ismail but the party accepted Meseko, who is from the camp of James Faleke.

The APC in Kogi State appears to be divided into camps of the Governor and Faleke. Observers say this may affect the outcome of the polls.

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