By Boluwaji Obahopo
WITH the conclusion of the 2019 general elections and the state governorship election Kogi fixed for November 2, the major political contest in the state now is the speakership of the Seventh House of Assembly.
Interestingly, the race for the speakership is unique because all the 25 members of the House are from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Currently, some stakeholders are the serving speaker, Hon. Matthew Kolawole, who is representing Kabba/Bunu State constituency, to retain his seat on account of his antecedents, political sagacity and leadership skill.
However, zoning, loyalty to the Executive and relevance of constituency will play a crucial role. Kogi has three major ethnic groups scattered across the three senatorial districts. Kogi East with 90 per cent Igala people has 11 state constituencies; Kogi West with 70 per cent Yoruba- Speaking people who are called Okun has eight state constituencies, while Kogi Central with 90 per cent Egbira people has six constituencies.
The incoming House of Assembly would be an all-male affair. The 25 lawmakers elected on the platform of APC consist of nine second-timers and 16 green horns. With the governor and deputy coming from the Central and Eastern senatorial axes respectively, the Speakership position is a done deal for the West. The West is further divided into two zones – Okun area with five legislators and Lokoja/Koto with three state legislators.
According legislative norms ranking (legislative experience) is a major factor. On this score, second timers that will favoured are three – Kolawole Matthew (Present Speaker, Kabba/Bunu Okun zone), Omiata (Yagba East, Okun zone) and Idris Idakwo (Lokoja 11, Lokoja zone), who aspired for the position at the last time and lost.
Those calling for Lokoja/Koto zone to produce the speaker hinged their move on the fact that the Secretary to State Government and the Speaker hailed from the same Okun zone. To them, one position must be relinquished to their zone.
Those the odds may favour
As it stands, Speaker Matthew Kolawole Kabba/Bunu and Jimoh Omiata from Yagba East are the leading contenders.
Kabba/Bunu Council area is the traditional headquarters of Okun people and the political headquarters of Kogi West. The council area commands great respect in the political sphere of the State which Kolawole may benefit from.
While Kolawole has openly declared his intention to retain his seat, only a group, Kogi Reform Group has been clamouring for Omiata. The group said they are championing a Yagba Agenda.
Omiata’s silence on the issue is not helping his cause. He had at some fora denied knowing the group. But those who thought the denial would have put paid to the group’s agitation were mistaken as the group has continued its demands for Omiata to get the position. Analysts said the group are acting in proxy for the Yagba East legislator.
The current Speaker, Rt. Hon. Matthew Kolawole whose tenure ends in June, look good to continue on the seat till 2023 when another election will be conducted in the state. Kolawole is among the only seven returning assembly members in the next House of Assembly. He had served as Majority leader in the past.
Also, Kolawole is known for his wide acceptability among the members. He was the first legislator to get a second term from his constituency which many believed was due to his performance. He had contributed to many empowerment programmes.
Kolawole’s ambition is considered bright with the support of the state governor, Yahaya Bello and the Chief of staff to the Governor, Edward Onoja who have been rumoured to be the power broker in the governor’s kitchen cabinet.