It does look like everyone in the Kogi state political circle has decided to shy away from the fact that whether we like it or not, someone must succeed Governor Yahaya Bello upon the completion of his second term of office. It is not as if we do not know this fact, but what is glaring is that the actors do not want to have that conversation yet, because of the Presidential ambition of Bello. They do not want to look like they are clouding the ambition of the Sheriff which could sell them out as disloyal, ungrateful and selfish.
These lots are of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state, because the major opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party currently appear comatosely eaten up, and the odds are that it will remain so for a long while. So, for what it’s worth, the fate of governorship hopefuls in the ruling party pitifully hangs on the aspiration of one man, while that of the PDP is determined on if the party wins the next presidential election. Hence, if a public conversation has nothing to do with the slogan “GYB-PYB,” they do not want to have it yet.
Regardless, not everyone’s fate is in this entanglement. Logically, if we have already started having a 2023 presidential conversation, then we must begin to have that of the next governorship election based on where we are now, antecedents and the standard for choosing our next governor. The issues stare us in the face, and no matter how you run from having the conversation, you will eventually have it. Fact is, you are already having it behind closed doors.
The Deputy Governor of the state, Edward Onoja is the Siamese twin of Governor Bello. He earned that place and title from when he helped his friend become governor, served as his Chief of Staff and got elevated to his present office. Also nicknamed the Chief Strategist of the New Direction government, Onoja gets the credit for notable achievements and failures of the government alike. Grapevines said so. One of those bells he rang to ears prior the last gubernatorial election is EBIGO – a slogan which transcends just the summation of first one or two letters from Ebira, Igala and Okun (three major tribes in the state) to form an acronym. While the surface level of the acronym harps on the oneness of the people, there is more six feet below the sea level causing confusion on how power is shared amongst these major tribes, especially as it relates to the number one seat in the state.
Right now, as far and as much as Kogi state politics is concerned, Governor Yahaya Bello has broken certain jinxes which eventually made him a god amongst men on who gets what, when and how. You cannot argue that fact until you could point at one single other person that could withstand his forces and influences on the field.
Onoja is a descent of Igala tribe which ruled the state for 16 years before the emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello. The Ebiras had cried of marginalization before Bello emerged. Now, the baton of cry has been shifted to the West, the Okuns. They feel if the Ebiras can, they can do it too. Their only fear is if Governor Bello decides to cede power to his bosom friend and Siamese twin, Onoja, as an appreciation for all of his supports from the grass to their grace.
The question begging for answer is, will he cede power to Onoja? If he does, the Okuns do not have the numbers to outrun an Onoja whose running mate is from the West, in an election fully sponsored by Governor Bello.
The odds are that he would emerge the first democratically elected Christian governor in the history of the state. If this happens, the Okuns may have been scammed by the EBIGO slogan which by every logic, should see them taking on that seat in the next dispensation.
If Bello decides not to cede power to his twin, would he give it to the Okuns, or retain it in Ebira for another years? Either of these options might spell confrontations, backstabbing, betrayals and political conundrum till after the elections. Even though Onoja is already debunking his ambition, stating that he would make it known at the appointed time as he is currently about his boss’s ambition, we all must agree that it is a smart talk expected of every wise political animal that has an ambitious boss. Luckily, Kogi gubernatorial election is many months after the presidential election. That is enough time to make a move after the fate of Bello must have been decided by the APC presidential primaries. If Governor Bello does not cede power to him, then that is probably enough time to subject their mutual loyalty and respect to test.
Already, grapevines are mentioning names of top cabinet members in the government who have already commenced closed door consultations, and making their moves in a manner that will not interfere with the “GYB-PYB” movement. While some are jostling for the number 1 seat, others are looking at becoming running mates. Others on this list are Commissioners and Special Advisers already taking battles to presently serving National Assembly representatives, trying to give them a run for their seats. In all their jostling, they do not want these conversations in the public, because the boss’s ambition is top priority. This explains why we see a lot of denials, debunking of reports, yet innuendos from their close aides say differently. Time would surely reveal the ambitions of man.
However, with Governorship materials surrounding him as friends, brothers, and aides, Governor Yahaya Bello would definitely be having a tough time taking this critical decision. For a political god position which he assumed and enjoys by the minute, whomever he anoints would go to bed with two eyes closed, knowing that Bello would take the bullets on his or her behalf.
Bello did it in the senatorial election, when he anointed Senators Yakubu Oseni against powerful and reckonable forces in the central senatorial district of the state, and nothing happened. So, he could deploy same strategy until another political god succeeds him.
This is just the beginning of the conversation, till the time to cross the river comes.
Alex Adeiza writes from Abuja.