The 2023 off-cycle governorship election in Kogi State has come and gone, but one major highlight of last Saturday’s poll was the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Usman Ododo.
Ododo’s victory in the off-cycle election was an indication of the second minority tribe overcoming the majority in Kogi State.
DAILY POST reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Ododo the winner of the controversial 2023 governorship election in Kogi State.
The APC governorship candidate, according to INEC, had won the election with 446,237 votes, defeating his closest rival, Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who scored 259,052.
However, the just-concluded governorship election saw a new narrative of how the minority conquered the majority with votes from the Ebira people, which is the second-largest tribe after the Igala ethnic group.
Reports by INEC indicated that Ododo polled over 135,000 votes from Okene, which is in the Ebira area of Kogi State, unlike in Idah, the biggest local government in the state, which had less than 15,000 votes. The record showed that Ebira people decided to come out en masse and vote for their own, Ododo.
Prior to the APC primaries in the state, Ododo, who is the Auditor-General of the state, was relatively unknown and was not given any chance at winning the poll despite being the preferred candidate of the outgoing governor of the state, Yahaya Bello. Both Ododo and Bello hail from the same Kogi Central and Ebira ethnic group.
During the party’s primaries, Usman-Ododo defeated a political juggernaut like Kogi West Senator, Smart Adeyemi and the likes of Shaibu Audu, Stephen Ochen, and Sanusi Ohiare.
To ensure Ododo’s emergence during APC’s primaries, the outgoing Deputy Governor Edward Onoja, ex-Finance Commissioner David Adebanji-Jimoh, Ashiru Idris, Okala Yakubu, Abdulkareem Asuku (Chief of Staff), and Accountant-General Momoh Jibrin withdrew from the race.
From 1999 to 2015, Kogi East produced all the governors—Abubakar Audu, Idris Ibrahim, and Idris Wada, but Bello broke the progression in 2015 following the death of Audu.
Speculations had it that Bello planned to ensure that an Ebira man succeeded him so that his zone could complete 16 years of uninterrupted stay in power.
Meanwhile, Melaye failed the popularity contest during the just-concluded off-cycle governorship election in Kogi State. Prior to the election, Melaye was rated as the most popular among the governorship candidates.
Melaye was believed to have what is termed “street credibility” above Ododo and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, candidate, Murtala Ajaka. Previously, Melaye had represented Kogi West in the National Assembly as a House of Representatives member and a Senator, unlike Ododo, who was an Auditor-General of the State, and Ajaka, a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Working Committee, NWC, before he defected to SDP.
Over the years, the PDP chieftain had carried out some major projects in and outside his senatorial district, like the construction of roads, building of schools, community halls, and churches, amongst others. Despite Melaye’s popularity, he came a distant third in the governorship election. In his Ijumu Local Government Area, Ododo defeated Melaye by polling a total of 10,524 votes.
Lamenting over the election’s outcome, Melaye accused INEC of allocating votes because there was no election in Kogi State.
“The issue of voting or not voting has no legal status. People win elections in prison. Legally, it has no relevance to the election. Whether I voted or not, it is immaterial.
“I don’t want to talk about it; there was no election in Kogi State on Saturday,” Melaye said.
In line with Melaye’s claim, the just-concluded governorship election in Kogi State was believed to have been marred by some electoral irregularities.
Commenting, the Action Alliance (AA) in Kogi State, Fred Ambo, rejected the outcome of the election on the basis that the poll was fraudulent, adding that it was greeted with manipulations in various polling units across the State to favor the APC.
While calling for the total cancellation of the entire exercise, Ambo said the party will be contesting the outcome of the election in a competent court of law in Nigeria.
He said: “INEC promised us a free and fair election, but what we saw was a show of shame. There was ballot box snatching, while the result had already been written before the commencement of the election to favor a particular political party. They have stolen our mandate.
“The party declared the winner by INEC if they are sincere with themselves, knew that they never won this governorship election in Kogi State. Why were they scared of our candidate, Olayinka Braimoh?”
However, INEC denied the alleged manipulation of accredited figures of voters in the Kogi governorship election results uploaded on its Result Viewing (IReV) portal.
The National Commissioner and member of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Mohammed Haruna, described such claims as false.
Haruna noted: “The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) attention has been drawn to some media reports alleging that the Commission was tampering with the accredited figures of voters in the Kogi Governorship Election results uploaded on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. However, these reports are unfounded.”
Countering INEC’s denial, the Director-General of Tinubu Renaissance Community and Sustainable Transformation, Dr. Yakubu Ugwolawo, insisted that Ododo emerged as the winner of Saturday’s election because the number of votes from Kogi Central was heavily manipulated.