House of Representatives seat in 2023: A case for Ibaji LGA

While granting an interview recently, the governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i, disclosed what made the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential election. According to the governor, PDP lost the election due to its insensitivity to what he described as a “political culture in Nigeria.” By this, he meant that zoning has become a political culture in Nigeria which enables any political party to win in an election, especially if merits and qualifications are not sacrificed.

As a chieftain of the PDP in Kogi state and having served as a senior special assistant to the government of the state in the main opposition party, I can authoritatively state the problems that affected our party at the national, state and even the local government levels were similar. We paid the heavy price by not being sensitive to the political arrangement acceptable to the people.

This opinion piece is intended to enlighten our party, the PDP, on the need to learn from experiences of the past so as to prevent the worst from happening to us in the forthcoming elections.

Ibaji, Idah, Igalamela/Odolu and Ofu are the four local government areas in Idah Federal Constituency making it the only constituency in Kogi state with the highest numbers of local areas. Ibaji particularly is known for giving block votes. PDP has always benefitted from Ibaji block votes except in the 2019 governorship election where prominent leaders of the party defected to the APC.

Ibaji local government area has given much to PDP both when the party was the ruling government in the state and when it fell into opposition. So, it will not only entrench fairness and equity, but also a strategic maneuver for the party to zone its House of Representative ticket to Ibaji LGA if it wants to win the 2023 elections.

On the basis of rotational representation which has become a political culture in the country, Ibaji is better positioned for the constituency ticket in the forthcoming general elections on the platform of the PDP.

The following are the sequence of representations at the lower chamber of the National Assembly since1999 for Idah Federal Constituency; Hon. Frank Ineke from Ibaji; Hon. J.J. Napoleon Idachaba from Idah; Hon. Ismaila Inah (Soulover) from Igalamela/Odolu; Hon. Emmanuel Egwu from Idah (again), and the incumbent representative, Hon. David Zacharias from Ofu.

From the above, one could see that the four local government areas in the constituency have had their fair share rotationally and it has been rounded. It’s now the turn of the Ibaji people to be given their opportunity. One interesting reason, except for Frank Ineke, that no one has been able to represent twice is largely due to block votes from Ibaji. It’s, therefore, conclusive that should the PDP zone its HoR to Ibaji then victory for them is assured with the block votes from that LG.

It is, therefore, expedient for PDP that is in opposition in the state to give a chance to Ibaji in order to position the party for victory. With Ibaji local government area’s conventional block votes it could be harnessed favourably to enable the party to return to power in the constituency and position itsef for victory during the governorship election in 2023.

Another argument in favour of Ibaji for the PDP ticket for House of Representatives for Idah/ibaji/IgalaMela/Ofu Federal Constituency is that the local government area has benefitted the least from federal positions and by implication empowerment as against the other three local government areas.

For instance, Barrister Humphrey Abah and Prof. Stephen Oseni both served in the federal executive council while both are from Igalamela/Odolu; Elder Ubolo Itodo Okpanachi is the current Federal Commissioner at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) from Ofu, while Alex Obaje is from Idah. On the basis of this, giving Ibaji the next House of Representative position would address the perceived neglect and marginalisation of the area.

It is also a fact that Ibaji is the only local government area in the constituency that is the least developed; the area has no motorable roads, clean drinking water and it is prone to annual flood disasters which have caused many indigenes of the community to relocate from the area. The sad truth is that the administrative office of Ibaji local government area has been relocated to Idah local government area due to the unending annual flood disasters.

Kogi state was recently declared an oil-producing state as a result of the oil discovered in Ibaji. There have been debates as to the owners of the land on which oil was discovered between the Ibaji people of Kogi state and the Aguleri people of Anambra state. The disputes as to the ownership of the oil had resulted in communal clashes between the people with many lives lost. Till today, the disputes have been protracted and it requires a representative of Ibaji extraction to give the needed attention to this issue in order to maximise the benefits to Kogi state.

It could be fairly said that the chances of the PDP to reclaim Idah Federal Constituency House of Representative position from the APC are brighter when an opportunity is given to Ibaji local government based on the above reasons and the voter strength in the area.

…Ogah, a PDP chieftain and ex-SSA to Kogi state govt, writes from Lokoja