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Mamuda U. I
It is sad what some people are doing to the good name and reputation of Igala people in the guise of pushing a so-called ‘Igala Agenda’ to unseat Governor Yahaya Bello, an Ebira. They are out to create the impression that we are intolerant, ethnic apologists. Those of us in Igalaland who believe that governance is only justified by development also have a duty to expose such ethno-religious backwardness and tell the world that we are bigger and better than that. That is the reason I have chosen to make this write-up.
On Wednesday 18/09/2019, some of these people attended what they called an ‘Igala stakeholders’ meeting at Abuja but it was actually a PDP strategy session. Another group is meeting at Abuja today being Saturday 21/09/2019, under the aegis of Kogi East elders to do PDP business in the name of Igala people. The Wednesday meeting failed, and I know this second one on Saturday will fail also.
Several persons who attended the first Abuja meeting confirmed the same account of proceedings. All of them will attend the second one, and I will also update our people when I hear from them.
From all accounts, the meeting on Wednesday took decisions which I believe our people at home are entitled to know so that no one will come and deceive them with an ‘Igala Agenda’ which will later turn to ‘Ajipu Agenda’ and jeopardise our interests in the future and also in the current administration in which many of our sons and daughters are strong beneficiaries and players.
They told me that the meeting failed on arrival when key PDP stalwarts from Igalaland boycotted it. Then it failed finally when those who attended refused to queue behind the Port Engineer who came from nowhere to snatch the PDP ticket for November 16.
They came to the meeting to give the man and his few supporters a final chance to sell his candidature and were disappointed when all he could offer was a “Failed Ajipu Agenda” asking Igala to champion him because we and him are one. It was clear by and large that the PDP ticket was not a magic wand and that having snatched the giant’s robe by foul means at the primaries, the man was a dwarf lost in it.
For instance, up till now he has not been able to convince one strong member of their party to be his Director of Campaigns. At the meeting he could not articulate anything about leadership, governance, campaign logistics or political strategy. He could not show that running for Governor of the great state of Kogi was something he prepared for and not a mere afterthought. Even the nature and borders of constituencies and kindreds in his native Kogi East, not to mention Kogi Central and Kogi West, were still a mystery to him.
I heard that that at one point during the meeting, the PDP candidate whom they were calling the ‘hope of Igalas’ actually used his mouth to tell them that “Ane Igala is bad!” My contact said he was quoting the man word for word. He told me the comment so hurt him he lost all respect for the man and refused to care about any silly point he was trying to make. Even me that was listening to the story second hand, the thing pained me. In my mind, the wharf-rat just died to me. My ane Igala bad? And he wants their votes? I gave up on him as a lost cause with that statement. I told myself that this man who looks as if he is bleaching his skin talks anyhow and if we make the mistake of following him, he will one day repeat something like that during campaigns and finish all of us before our people. I have decided that I shan’t be there with them.
To make matters worse, he kept complaining that he is still hustling for money in Abuja and that no one was forthcoming, hence he cannot set up any campaign structure yet as it is money consuming. Nearly all my contacts found this one funny. As for me, I could not believe my ears. What was he thinking when he came out to contest then? That it was free or that other people will bring out their money when he doesn’t have, or has refused to bring, his own out first?
They said even his Captain brother must have been pissed off with that one because rather than calm people down he made it clear to his whining kid brother that from experience the cost of prosecuting a Governorship quest in Kogi State has risen from N200m in the 90s to about N5bn today.
Everyone at the meeting was said to have agreed that the legal uncertainties over the validity of the PDP primaries along with all the court cases filed by other aspirants and stakeholders against his emergence as flagbearer have practically wiped out his chances of securing backers or funding.
He was made to understand that nobody would invest in any venture whose foundations were so shaky. That if he lost, people’s money have disappeared. Even if he somehow won only for the courts to later decide one of the many cases against him and cancel the primaries, people’s money will disappear still. That the odds were too bad for investors, the risk too high, so he must think within the bounds of his own resources.
At that point, they said the miserable Port Manger appeared to be in shock and still didn’t seem to understand what everyone was saying, so another ‘stakeholder’, a bitter opponent of Governor Bello, had no option than to gently break it down for him. That only 58 days remained as at that Wednesday till D-Day, so if he does not have the N5B packed somewhere, breathing and ready for use for his campaign, then he was wasting everybody’s time and they want to go home.
It was then that it dawned on the PDP flagbearer that he won’t be getting a dime from anybody, including his big brother and rich inlaws, because he visibly upset and basically withdrew into himself for the rest of the meeting.
I was reliably told that truly, it is one thing for a child to steal his father’s shoes, it is another thing altogether for them to size him as school sandals. When it was clear to the man that he was abandoned and defeated even before the race began, one former minister who is an architect by training gave the meeting an advice which many of those present considered realistic and reasonable in the circumstances.
He suggested that since their masquerade was so sickly, maybe they should not attend this particular dance festival to avoid poor performance and public disgrace. He counselled that they should lay down their weapons this 2019, save their gunpowder for the future and let the Igala Nation strategise properly for 2023 when incumbency factor will not be at play and they can start early.
After analysing the suggestion, the meeting was said to have agreed that the incumbent has captured at least 75% of the state, particularly Igalaland. They also agreed that even they were to pick the N5B to pay for the campaigns on the ground somewhere, yet the PDP has given them a flagbearer who is not only unprepared and clueless, but too watery in character to inspire the type of movement needed to dislodge such a strong opponent like Yahaya Bello.
On top of that, the architect pointed out that while the APC has remained relentlessly campaigning and winning the heart of the people for years now, the PDP was too far behind in every area to even dream of trying to capture the remaining 25% in Igalaland and Bassaland, not to even think of Okunland, Ebiraland and the Lokoja/Koto axis.
It was a sober meeting at that point as attendees agreed that Yahaya Bello has penetrated deep everywhere due to 3 things: Lapses in the opposition strategy over the last 40 months, the Governor’s deliberate policy of attracting and empowering influential Igala leaders, youths and former PDP stalwarts into the APC through appointments and patronage and the third, which they called ‘the Edward Onoja Factor’ currently sweeping Kogi East.
And then there is the Edward Onoja Factor which is obvious even to the most untrained Politician because it meant that come 2023, all things being equal, they will still be confronting a strong, experienced and embedded tactician in the Yahaya Bello camp. 2 weeks ago the apex Igala sociocultural organisation, the Igala Cultural and Development Association (ICDA) cemented Edward Onoja’s popularity and standing in Kogi East two weeks ago when they bestowed on him the unprecedented title of Commander of Igala Kingdom.
In my own opinion, the fears of those elderly Politicians that a rising new breed of politicians in Igalaland and Kogi State led by Edward Onoja will displace them is correct. Edward Onoja, through humble and faithful service to his boss has earned plenty of goodwill which he deploys to ensure that Igala land is not short-changed in the only democratic government so far in Kogi State which is not headed by an Igala man.
No part of Igala land and society has remained untouched by Edward Onoja’s positive impact as a functionary in the government of the day in Kogi State. From Dekina to Ankpa to Idah to Olamaboro to Omala to Igalamela/Odolu to Ofu to Ibaji there are scores of ongoing and completed roads, schools, health centres, bridges, erosion management sites, electricity and water projects which have the fingerprint of Edward Onoja on them.
So great is the young man’s love for his people that even when the government cannot intervene directly, Edward simply mobilises friends from his former life as a banker and oil industry executive to raise the needed money. Igala Unity House, Okpo Central Mosque, church buildings, evangelism buses, personal vehicles to assist the aged, capital to start business, assistance to get federal or state jobs, homes for indigents, expensive surgeries for many terminally ill patients, etc. You name it, Edward Onoja has done it for Igalas or Igalaland.
They said at that point, as the meeting was getting too negative an strongman from Ibaji tried to lighten their dark mood by teasing the PDP aspirants about how they all scampered for safety during their primaries, climbing over themselves and crawling on the ground at the sound of ordinary gunshots.
The PDP candidate apparently didn’t get the joke and instead retorted angrily, shouting at the man from Ibaji, “If you were there, won’t you run for safety? Do you have native bullet proof?” The meeting was surprised at his outburst but took it as further proof that he needed to mature some more before coming back to play in major league politics.
It was gathered that the meeting closed without a rallying point as the ticketholder showed zero leadership attributes and no capacity for coordinated self expression to the very end.
After reviewing the corresponding reports from my various contacts, two questions were left unanswered for me by the meeting:
One, why major stakeholders stayed away from such a crucial and high level meeting. The absence of the longest serving governor in our state’s history who jetted out with most of his foot-soldiers and is said to be re-aligning with the incumbent was seriously conspicuous and worrisome. His absence was said to have almost derailed the meeting from holding, but for the shortness of time towards the elections they decided to proceed.
Two, all Kogi PDP’s young bloods, especially those heating up social media on her behalf since Yahaya Bello became Governor were barred from attendance as the elders still see them as voiceless and valueless. I think that was not only unfair, but a big mistake. It was their noise which gave the PDP a camouflage of being alive in Kogi State for years even when the elders all fled to Abuja and abandoned the party. Before 2023, the PDP must learn that the youth is the future. If you don’t believe me, ask Bello.
In any case, the meeting communicated the message clearly to the PDP candidate that he was strictly on his own. I am sure that if he brings food tomorrow, no matter how small, people will still gather to chop his money, but it is doubtful if any Igala Agenda can save him.
I challenge anyone who will come out in the days ahead to contradict me over the events I revealed here or to ask our people to queue behind a failed PDP candidate which they themselves have rejected and won’t invest in to put his money where his mouth is.
If they think the PDP is the warehouse of Igala Agenda for the 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Election they should prove me a liar by holding a fundraising televised live where the exponents of the ethnic Agenda will drop certified bank drafts (not empty pledges) for their PDP candidate’s campaigns. If they cannot do that then they are deceivers who want to trade for personal profit with our people’s image.
To even confirm what I have said about their refusal to fund or support the man, the man ran cap in hand to former President Goodluck Jonathan who merely wished him well and would not sponsor him much less commit to coming to campaign for him, assuming he could get his act together.
Today he made what is likely the most tactical blunder of his candidature. After banking on Atiku whose help is still uncommitted, he ran to Tambuwal in Kano. Anybody who understands even a little politics know that Atiku and Tambuwal have an ongoing feud and tend to cancel each other out. It remains to be seen whether our man will still get some of Turaki’s dollars after hobnobbing with Tambuwal who is currently in political purgatory.
We watch to see what shape this their deceptive Igala Agenda of personal interest will take in the following weeks. I remember they tried it during the 2019 General Elections when they urged our people to follow Atiku on a journey of failure. Thankfully, Kogi East people ignored them down to the grassroots and voted massively for President Buhari and the APC. I also believe that our people cannot be deceived on November 16.
Putting all sentiments aside and speaking only as a thinking political human being, it should be clear to any politician that the chances of PDP defeating the APC is practically nil. The PDP is the strongest opposition platform in this election and till now it has no campaign director, much less a structure, for an election that is 55 days away. With every passing day, ‘Bello has achieved nothing in office’ is becoming harder to sell to watchers of events in Kogi State. Is ‘vote against Bello because he is not Igala’, a political strategy?
APC on the other hand has been heavily on the field for months now. This week they inaugurated a campaign council which is 45,000-man strong and touches every single polling unit. In fact 50,000 if you add the unofficial support groups. Igala and Bassa can never push an agenda that will exile Kogi East to political irrelevance for the next four years.
Of course, nobody should think that Igala people are no longer the determinants in the politics of Kogi State. We remain so, only that for 2019, a huge bulk of them, myself included, are also seeing the Yahaya Bello/Edward Onoja APC ticket as the only viable one in this race and will do everything to make sure it emerges victorious.
Watch this space as I bring you more indepth updates from their meeting today. The roll call of attendees for Wednesday and Saturday will also be released together soon.
Investigative Journalist
Mamuda U. I

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