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Home » Unveiling Hidden Narratives: Assessing Kogi East’s Potential and the Political Maneuvering that Favored His Excellency, Ahmed Usman Ododo’s 2023 Gubernatorial Candidacy

Unveiling Hidden Narratives: Assessing Kogi East’s Potential and the Political Maneuvering that Favored His Excellency, Ahmed Usman Ododo’s 2023 Gubernatorial Candidacy

Usman Ahmed Ododo - Executive Governor, Kogi State

BY: Abdul Mohammed Lawal


The New Direction Administration, under the leadership of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, fundamentally transformed the political landscape of greatly between 2016 and 2024. This administration’s emergence disrupted the entrenched status quo to build a new order, generating a significant amount of resentment and opposition from established political figures and Kogi Easterners who felt disenfranchised. Despite this initial backlash, the it’s focus on youth engagement and the introduction of progressive policies marked a decisive break from the past.


The old political order, characterized by individuals and practices that did not always prioritize the welfare of Kogi’s citizens, was effectively retired. Leading this charge of young progressives was the imposing and influential figure of His Excellency, Chief Edward David Onoja, CIK (CEDO).


In the organizational structure of the New Direction Administration, the most significant role in the State, after the Executive Governor, was that of the Chief of Staff. This prominence was not only due to the unique nature of this office in relation to the Governor but also because its responsibilities expanded significantly. The coordinating role for the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs was transferred from the Office of the Deputy Governor to the Chief of Staff. This was a substantial shift in responsibilities. Yet, despite these extensive duties, CEDO’s influence surpassed them, and he managed his responsibilities with exceptional efficiency and effectiveness.


As a distant follower of the New Direction Administration and observing the sequence of events over its two terms, I believe that CEDO represented the best opportunity for the agitating people of the Kogi East Senatorial District to have seen one of their own become governor under the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform 2023. However, despite his significant potential, Chief Edward David Onoja, the chief strategist, miscalculated his position, ultimately removing himself from the governance equation. Though, he maintained an optimistic outlook, it was evident to observers like myself for years that his chances diminished as the term progressed.


At the start of the first term in office, tension grew around His Excellency, Chief Edward David Onoja (CEDO), despite his effective performance and increasing indispensability to the Governor. CEDO played a pivotal role in determining almost every government appointment, causing unease among people from the Kogi Central Senatorial District. They viewed the tenure as theirs and were frustrated by the influence of an Igala man in such a central role. However, they dared not voice their concerns to the Governor directly, knowing it would come with a price.


In Igalaland, CEDO also garnered significant opposition. Many believed he was monopolizing access to the New Direction Administration and restricting it to those in his inner circle. This perception of exclusion fostered resentment, with critics accusing him of “caging” the Governor and limiting the easterners’ involvement. In my opinion, CEDO’s strategic alliances were flawed. The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Igalaland soon became divided into two factions: the AUDU faction and the GYB faction, with only the latter being integrated into the administration. This division weakened the party’s unity and diminished CEDO’s overall influence.


Understanding the dynamics of the New Direction Administration especially at that time, it was apparent to nearly everyone in Kogi State that Onoja was poised to become the next Governor. However, I anticipated significant political drama unfolding over the course of the eight years. A surprising development occurred when His Excellency, Elder Simon Achuba, was removed as Deputy Governor, and the influential power broker from Kogi East chose to assume this position himself rather than appointing a replacement. By doing so, he left behind the considerable authority he had accumulated as Chief of Staff, signaling a shift in strategy. His supporters celebrated his elevation to the second-highest office in the state, yet they overlooked the broader implications of this move.


Following his assumption of the Deputy Governorship, a new power dynamic began to take shape within the administration, flourishing most in the second term. As discussions on succession unfolded, a cadre of potential candidates emerged, including Alhaji Jibrin Momoh, Pharm. Abdulkarim Jamiu Asuku, Engr. Abubakarsadiq Ohere, and Barr. Abdulsalami Deedat Ozigi, alongside CEDO, the former heir apparent. Surprisingly, Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo, previously a relatively inconspicuous Auditor within the State ranks, was not widely considered a frontrunner to succeed His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.


At one point, Alhaji Murtala Yakubu, the State’s envoy to the National Working Committee of the APC, emerged on this list as a significant contender. Despite being relatively unknown at the outset, his inclusion brought a sense of optimism to the people of Kogi East, who saw in him a potential leader capable of advancing their regional interests.


As the New Direction Administration neared its conclusion in 2022 and 2023, other key individuals within it began solidifying their positions within the APC, each crafting their own structures in anticipation of the Governor’s endorsement as the anointed successor. However, they treaded cautiously, mindful of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s pursuit of the APC Presidential Ticket, which added a new dimension to the political landscape. This period was marked by anticipation and intrigue, as various contenders jostled for position, setting the stage for a fascinating political contest.


My introduction to the name, Alhaji Murtala Yakubu, coincided with a pivotal period when I had the privilege of being part of the team that drafted the presidential manifesto: ‘The Roadmap to Hope’, during His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s aspiration for the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Throughout this time, Governor Bello frequently visited the Presidential Campaign Office, often accompanied by Murtala and the APC State Chairman, Abdullahi Bello – these were mostly deep into the night. While initially optimistic about the representation of Kogi East in such high-level discussions, tensions and fractures in trust broke between them before the end of that significant experience.


Words circulating in the streets suggested that the gubernatorial hopeful remained ambiguous in his support for both His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the eventual winner of the process, His Excellency, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He stood with neither, and these developments disrupted the delicate balance between loyalty, personal interests, and broader political objectives. Even his fallout with the grassroots chapter of the APC, which led to his suspension from the party, didn’t come as a surprise to me. Before this incident, I was with a Kogi-born Abuja socialite who mentioned that he was gifted intent and nomination forms by Alhaji Murtala Yakubu to contest the gubernatorial primaries of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), while he was still a member of the APC.


From privileged insights, it’s tempting to conclude that His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was the most trusting Governors in democratic Kogi’s history when it came to his subordinates. He afforded immense opportunities to every member of his cadre of young progressives to develop and establish their own spheres of influence, but the team player in him was his weakness. For some, the newfound prominence went to their heads, leading them to view themselves as proprietors of the systems that had nurtured them. Inadvertently, they disregarded the interests of Kogites and even undermined the very system that had fostered their rise.


Loyalty stood as the cornerstone of the New Direction Administration under His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, yet it took him considerable time, during a period when he couldn’t alter his cabinet, to realize that many of the actions of those around him did not reflect true loyalty. Despite acting as though they were aiding in his administration’s development, their behaviors painted a different picture.


In my humble opinion, it was understandable that he allowed them to contest the 2023 APC gubernatorial ticket before emphasizing the importance of unity and the collective vision of the system. However, each aggrieved member from the New Direction System ultimately revealed their true allegiance. In that regard, it was no surprise when the Kogi State chapter of the APC lost its media army, fondly referred to by the average Kogite as ‘Data Boys.’ Their newfound pact turned them into activists for good governance when their paymaster didn’t emerge as the APC flag bearer.


My firsthand experience at the APC National Secretariat when His Excellency, Ahmed Usman Ododo picked up his intent and nomination forms provided me with a unique vantage point into the unfolding political dynamics that many overlooked. Amidst the bustling activity and side conversations among supporters outside the premises, it became increasingly apparent that those aligned with Ododo’s camp were the few who refrained from engaging in peripheral discussions. The presence of onlookers lingering around and questioning why he was picking up forms, despite not viewing him as a contender, piqued my curiosity and made me want to learn more about who he was.


Upon closer examination of His Excellency, Ahmed Usman Ododo’s persona, it became evident that he possessed a distinctive attribute—a genuine grassroots connection that extended beyond the traditional structures offered by the Statewide APC framework. This authentic rapport distinguished him as the lone high-ranking appointee from Kogi Central with such tangible grassroots support, a factor that undoubtedly bolstered his candidacy.


Interestingly, Ododo’s unexpected emergence as a viable candidate provided a nuanced solution to the complex political puzzle within the New Direction Administration’s succession equation. His candidacy not only addressed the limitations of other contenders who may have overestimated their political influence, but also served as a response to years of unnoticed disloyalty within an ostensibly thriving system. By stepping into the spotlight, Ododo highlighted the underlying fractures and discontent that simmered beneath the surface of the administration. He was the dramatic shift in the balance of power.


Now that elections are over and it’s time to make Kogi better, I must acknowledge the uncertainty surrounding the court cases pertaining to the 2023 Kogi State gubernatorial election. However, it is essential to recognize that our state is unified under one leadership at a time, and Kogi State supersedes all interests. As Kogites, let us cultivate open-mindedness and take the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with His Excellency, Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo.


Reflecting on past experiences, it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes of the early stages of the New Direction Administration, which resulted in division and bitterness that kept many reputable individuals from contributing to the State’s development for eight years. Let us not repeat those errors. Instead, let us approach the present moment with a spirit of unity and understanding. By working together, we can ensure that every capable hand is utilized for the progress and prosperity of Kogi State.


In all, I hold your individual opinions and perspectives in high regard. It is through respectful dialogue and mutual understanding that we can collectively shape a brighter future for our beloved state of Kogi.

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