In about 24 hours, the electorate in Kogi will file out in their thousands to put their thumbs on the ballot towards determining their fate for another four years.
Within the last couple of weeks, the race for the Lugard House in the Confluence State has been filled with activities of various political gladiators, who have struggled to win voters to their sides. It is, however, now very clear who the leading candidates are.
Prior to the November 7 judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordering INEC to include the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti, in the ballot, the list of candidates had been pegged to 23. The new development has increased the number to 24.
About 49 candidates had earlier signified interest to take part in the poll, but for reasons of not meeting the required criteria and provisions of electoral law, 18 political parties were disqualified by INEC while eight others declared their support for the incumbent.
The remaining 24 candidates are Abdullahi Muhammed (Accord Party); Muhammadul-Kabir A. (African Action Congress); Medupin Ephraim (Alliance for Democracy); Justina Abanida (African Democratic Congress); Ndakwo Tanko (Action Democratic Party); Orugun Emmanuel (Abundant Nigerian Renewal Party); Bello Yahaya (All Progressives Congress); Ibrahim Sheikh (All Progressives Grand Alliance); Bello Dele (Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria); Victor Akubo (Green Party of Nigeria); Abdulmalik Adama (Hope Democratic Party), and Alfa Oboy of Justice Must Prevail Party.
Others are; Jimoh Yusuf (Mass Action Joint Alliance); Muhammed Dangana (National Conscience Party); Musa Wada (Peoples Democratic Party); Ukwumonu Idachaba (Peoples Party of Nigeria); Moses Drisu (Peoples Progressive Party); Ayodele Ajibola (Peoples Redemption Party); Natasha Akpoti (Social Democratic Party); Abdulrazaq Emeje (United Democratic Party); Abuh Omogami (United Progressives Party); Shuibu Seidi (Young Democratic Party); Aisha Audu (Young Progressive Party), and Suleiman Mikhail of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Out of these 24, only about six come to the consciousness of the voters PREMIUM TIMES spoke with. Their profiles are, therefore, presented below in no particular order.
Governor Yahaya Bello (APC)
The incumbent governor of the state, Yahaya Bello is well known to the game. He was a runner-up in the APC’s primary in 2014, which produced the state’s first executive governor, Abubakar Audu, as the ruling party’s candidate.
Following the emergence of Mr Audu, GYB, as the governor is fondly called, had recoiled into his shell until the sudden death of Mr Audu towards the conclusion of the election in 2015.
The declaration of the poll as inconclusive by the electoral umpire had afforded Mr Bello a return to reckoning as the party presented him as its replacement for the late Audu.
Mr Bello, born in 1975, is currently Nigeria’s youngest governor, whose controversial entrance into the leadership role was seen as a boost to the call for young people’s participation in governance.
Born on June 18, 1975 in Okene, formerly Kwara State, Mr Bello attended LGEA Primary School, Agassa, Okene LGA in 1984 and moved to Agassa Community Secondary School, Anyava, Agassa-Okene for secondary school education. He eventually obtained his senior school certificates from Government Secondary School, Suleja, Niger State, in 1994.
Mr Bello bagged BSc. In Accounting from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, 1999 and returned for Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in 2001, finishing in 2002.
He had his mandatory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), and became a chartered fellow of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria in 2004.
Mr Bello was retained by RMAFC after his youth service and had risen from his position as Revenue Officer II in 2002, to Assistant Chief Accountant, before leaving the agency.
Mr Bello soon ventured into business through real estate management and stock brokerage. He also invested in interstate transport service but this was reportedly shut down as soon as he resumed office as governor.
Before he aspired to be the governor of the state in 2015, he was the sole financier of Kogi Youth Arise Group, which worked for the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Bello, an Ebira, is from one of the minority zones in the state, but being the incumbent governor, he commands a huge crowd.
Natasha Akpoti (SDP)
Here is a 40-year-old woman, Natasha Akpoti, who, if elected would not only rank Nigeria’s youngest governor but also the first female to appear on the ballot and win governorship race.
Aisha Alhassan, popularly called Mama Taraba, had tried to record the feat in 2015, but she was defeated by the incumbent governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishiaku, in a keenly contested election.
Ms Akpoti, a lawyer, is more known for activism and social criticism than law. She came into limelight through her quest for the revitalisation of Ajaokuta Steel Company, where her parents had reportedly worked until its final collapse.
Like Governor Bello, Ms Akpoti is from Okene Local Government Area in the North Central Senatorial District of the state, but grew up in Ajaokuta where her father had practised Medicine until his death about 20 years ago.
Ms Akpoti’s mother, a Russian, had returned to her home country with her children following the death of her husband, and so Ms Akpoti had had her tertiary education in Russia.
Upon her return to Nigeria, Ms Akpoti began advocacy campaign for the revitalisation of the steel company, which she noted, had been allowed to rot away due to bad leadership.
Popularised by her advocacy, Ms Akpoti ran for Senate in the central senatorial district during the 2019 general election under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and her popularity had pitched her against the incumbent governor who supported Yakubu Oseni of the APC.
After a prolonged battle, Mr Oseni polled 76,120 votes while Ms Akpoti scored 48,336 coming second and beating the then incumbent senator, Ahmed Ogembe, of the Peoples Democratic Party (Nigeria), who came third with 19,359 votes.
The SDP candidate, who is the founder of Builders Hub Impact Investment Programme (BHIIP), an entrepreneurship innovation, is a threat to the aspiration of the incumbent governor as she may split the vote of the central senatorial district which the governor banks on.
Musa Wada (PDP)
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Saturday governorship election in Kogi, Musa Wada is a PhD holder and an engineer.
The graduate of Building Technology from ABU had another degree in Transport Management from Ogun State University (now Olabisi Onabanjo University). He has a Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure and a doctorate degree in Environmental Science from the University of Calabar (UNICAL), Cross River State.
Mr Wada, a younger brother to a former governor of the state, Idris Wada, is also a son-in-law to former two-term governor- Ibrahim Idris. He is an indigene of Odu in Dekina Local Government Area in the state’s East Senatorial District.
He attended LGEA Primary School, Okura-Olafia and Government Secondary School, Dekina, before proceeding to the School of Basic Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
A Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Shipping, Mr Wada belongs to many professional bodies including the Nigerian Society of Engineers and Institute of Building, amongst others.
Mr Wada started his career at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Port Engineer, Tin-Can Island Port between 2004 and 2007. He was later appointed, in 2015, the Managing Director, Seaview Properties Limited, a subsidiary of NPA.
Apart from being an Igala, Mr Wada is also from Dekina Local Government Area which has the largest voting strength out of the state’s 21 local governments.
Mr Wada had defeated the older Wada, and one of his brothers-in-law at the primary poll conducted by the PDP. But while the senior Wada has reportedly declared his support for him, the same has not been heard from his in-laws.
Aisha Audu (YPP)
Aisha Audu-Abubakar was Audu Abubakar’s wife and the state’s first lady when her husband was the governor under the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), which later metamorphosed to the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP).
The former first lady, also of Igala ethnic race, just like her late husband from Kogi East senatorial district, picked the Young Progressives Party’s ticket for the 2019 governorship race.
Mrs Audu is sometimes referred to by her loyalists as a professor but PREMIUM TIMES cannot independently confirm the source of her newfound status.
The former first lady’s profile has largely remained sketchy, and all that is made public about her is the troubles she experienced in her matrimonial home in 2010 when she approached a law court in the United States of America to seek refuge from what she regarded as abuse and harassment by her husband.
Till the husband died, it was not clear whether they ever reunited as she complained of a strained relationship between her nuclear family and her stepchildren.
However, the “love for the husband by the Igala people” is the major strength she is relying on in the race to the Lugard House.
Dele Bello-Williams (GDPN)
Dele Bello-Williams, a lawyer from Kabba, Kogi West Senatorial District is the candidate of the Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN).
The young man, who claimed to have practised law outside Nigeria for the past 20 years, boasted in one of his posts on Twitter that he has created solutions to socio-economic challenges across the world.
According to Mr Bello-Williams, he has been involved in international trade negotiations for Nigeria across the globe, and so possesses the required international network required to turn around the fortune of the mineral-rich Confluence state.
In 2014, he created the NIAS Creative as a platform to enable young people to develop their ideas and concepts within the creative and digital media sectors into multi-million enterprises.
Mr Bello-Williams is a member of the International Turnaround Association of the European Union and an international trade lawyer, who has refused to either step down from the race or endorse another party’s candidate.
The founder of the Premier UK think-tank, National Institute for African Studies, which was established in 1999, has been moving from one local government to the other, and has boasted of his readiness to win in a free and fair poll.
Justina Abanida (ADC)
Justina Abanida of the Okun ethnic extraction from Yagba East, Kogi West Senatorial District, is not strange to Kogi Politics.
Ms Abanida, a legal practitioner, and one of the three women in the governorship race, was the Secretary to the Kogi State Government during the administration of former Governor Audu.
She was also at a time the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, and very recently, she was appointed by Governor Bello as the chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), before she was unceremoniously removed.
Ms Abanida emerged the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) for the Saturday election having defected from the ruling party, following irreconcilable differences with the governor.
Ms Abanida, who is of the Yoruba-speaking part of the state, is another candidate from the minority region whose chances of winning the Saturday election is very narrow.