…as religious sentiment takes centre stage
By Moses Ojogbane
The mass enthusiasm by the people of Kogi East senatorial district to unite and produce a single candidate to confront the flagbearers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may already be endangered by reports that certain politicians within the district are resolved to divide the consensus using religion.
Following the outcome of party primaries mid-last month which produced Mr Ahmed Usman Ododo in APC and Senator Dino Melaye in PDP from Kogi Central and West Senatorial Districts respectively, the people of Kogi East district who enjoy almost 50% of voting population in the state began to organise and mobilize to produce a single consensus candidate who will enjoy bloc vote from the district.
The efforts so far has yielded a member of the APC National Executive Council, Alhaji Murtala Yakubu Ajaka, who was prevented from contesting the APC primaries in April as a result of a last minute court order procured from a state High Court in Lokoja by persons believed to be working for the state government.
An enlarged meeting of Kogi East Stakeholders comprising elder statesmen, politicians, retired generals, the academia and captains of industry convened by the central Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA) invited governorship candidates of several parties for screening after which it adopted Alhaji Ajaka believed to have obtained the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the candidate of the district and urged members of all parties and even non partisans to canvass support for the candidate.
However, while the news of the adoption was received with euphoria across the district there are reports that a defeated candidate in the PDP primaries, Mr Idoko Ilonah, who also participated in the ICDA process, is sponsoring certain elders to reject the endorsement using religion as ruse.
The elders led by former Minister of Police, Mr Humprey Abah, former Deputy Governor, Mr Simon Achuba, former Senator Nicolas Ugbane and former Accountant General of the State, Elder Okpanachi Obolo have already started a rival process in Abuja to endorse the said Idoko Ilonah in clear rejection of the endorsement by ICDA which is umbrella organization representing the Igalas of Kogi state.
But Mr. Idoko Ilonah, when contacted by this reporter through telephone conversation, reacted, “I have no time for any stupid story and please don’t call me again,” (he hung up the phone call).
Meanwhile, members of the group some who worked for Ilonah at the PDP primaries intend to begin a subtle campaign to dissociate Igala Christians from the consensus endorsement, also include some former members of house of representatives who are Christians and a former ambassador, a former Ambassador, and the personal assistant of Mr Illonah, one Joseph Jibrin who is said to be the secretary/treasurer of the group.
The group is planning to again invite all the aspirants for screening after which they will declare Mr Ilonah as their choice for the district.
Observers are however convinced that the use of religion by the group is actually a deliberate ploy to sabotage the unity of the people of the Kogi East district at the behest of Mr Ilonah who is believed to be politically stranded at the moment.
Mr Ilonah after coming a distant second to Dino Melaye, polling 124 votes to Dino’s 313 votes, reportedly negotiated to produce a running mate for Dino. However, he was said to have only two Muslims in his campaign organization who turned down his attempt to nominate them as running mates.
Dino, who is a Christian, rejected attempts by Mr Ilonah to nominate a Christian from Kogi East and later gave the slot to the aspirant who came second runner up, Alhaji Kabir Mohammed who subsequently nominated a former House of Assembly member, Mrs Habiba Deen as running mate to Dino.
An angry Ilonah allegedly dashed to Labour Party and later SDP to beg that they ask their candidates to step down and give him the ticket but met a brick wall.
He is said to be currently negotiating to have the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to step down and give him the party’s ticket.
Sources say even his chances of obtaining APGA ticket is still uncertain even as he works to dissipate the consensus of his Igala people.
His obsession and desperation with undermining the consensus has already sparked off suspicion that he may be working in connivance with some interests who are afraid of the bloc votes of the Igalas in the November governorship elections to sabotage the unity of the senatorial district.
A meeting by the group is expected to hold at a venue to be provided by Mr Ilonah before the week ends.