By Ismail Omipidan
I have never met Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan before. But I have followed her political engagements over the years. She comes across as a politically savvy Nigerian, who is passionate about addressing the plight of her people. This is why I am reaching out to you today with this message.
Before I proceed to deliver my message, I would like to declare that I have not had a one-on-one meeting with Governor Yahaya Bello before. The only Kogi notable politicians I have had close contact with are Captain Idris Wada and the late Audu Abubakar’s son, who expressed interest in running for the governorship of the State in 2019. However, I understand that my message may not sit well with some of my Igala friends, and for that, I offer my sincere apologies in advance.
As someone with roots in Osun cum Benue, born in Texas, which serves as the headquarters of the Idoma nation, I have historical knowledge of how the Igala people, before moving to Kogi in August 1991 following its creation, made political life quite challenging for other parts of the State. And since they got to Kogi, they held sway until 2015 when a new dispensation emerged. They are, therefore, not qualified to speak about justice and equity in the political equation of Kogi State.
Dear Distinguished Senator Natasha, this is where I seek your attention. Politics is influenced by interest, sentiment, and emotion. As Drew Westen, a professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, Atlanta Georgia, noted, “in politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins.” It is worth acknowledging that the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Alhaji Usman Ododo, is AnEbira, like yourself. Thus, any misgivings you may have against Governor Yahaya Bello should not be visited upon Ododo.
Alhamdulillah, Allah has restored your seat at the Senate. I congratulate you for being dogged and steadfast over that struggle. You should, however, acknowledge the fact that you succeeded largely because majority of Ebira people wanted you. Today, majority of Ebira people want Ododo’s success at the polls, and as such, hindering his path may not be well-received by them. This is why you shouldn’t be seen to be a stumbling block to his emergence, for there is always a tomorrow in politics. This Saturday is about emotions.
Again, recently I tested the Adam Smith’s Rational Choice Theory in one of my works, in establishing some of the factors that influence voters’ choice of candidate in an election. And it was established that voters’ decisions and choice of candidates were also influenced by their self-interests and personal gains.
Politics often leans on self-interest, and an average Ebira individual would view Ododo’s triumph as a personal gain, and may therefore not forgive anyone that is seen or perceived to have worked against such interest.
The Rational Choice Theory was propounded by Philosopher Adams Smith in 1776. The theory is grounded in classical psychological literature positing that human beings take decision with relation to their needs and interest. It entails the claim to create a comprehensive explanatory model for social phenomena of any kind, and thus for every form of political communication as well (Vaidya, 2023).
This theory with relation to voting decisions, presupposes that voters use their self-interests to make choices that would provide them with the greatest benefit. These voters weigh their options and make the choice they think will serve their interest best. How these voters decide what will serve them best is usually dependent on their personal preferences. Proponents of Rational Choice theory believe that there is always a rational justification for behaviours and that individuals try to maximise their rewards because they are worth the cost.
Looking at the election at hand, Ododo is the only Ebira man in the race, meaning, all AnEBira would give him a bloc votes. The story is different for other candidates in the race.
Honourable Leke Abejide of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), who’s a serving House of Representatives member, representing Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency, appears more popular than Senator Dino Melaye of the PDP in that area. So, he would share from the bloc votes that ordinarily should go to Dino. And there are other featherweight candidates from the area as well that will reduce Dino’s votes drastically. Although, Muri Ajaka, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, an Igala man, appears popular in Igala land. Again, unlike Ododo, he is not the only Igala man in the race. Therefore, he won’t enjoy bloc votes as well.
Since all the other three major candidates consider Governor Bello, even though he is not on the ballot, as the ‘enemy’ whose party, the APC should not be given a chance to win this Saturday, their collaboration would have made the race a very tight one for Ododo. But since that has not happened and it is too late for it to happen, Ododo may perhaps carry the day. But I don’t want this to happen without your imprint, Senator Natasha. This is the crux of my message to you.
I know that in your inner mind and considering what you stand for, you can never pray for a character like Senator Dino Melaye to be your governor. Notwithstanding your misgivings for Governor Yahaya Bello, consider the fact that he played a significant role in putting an end to the senseless clan clashes among the Ebira, which had plagued Ebiraland before he assumed office. In those days, whenever I am traveling from Otukpo to Ibadan, those clashes were a regular feature in Okene which sometimes distrupt movement of motorists.
To the APC leadership, both in the state and at the national level, I encourage you to reach out to Senator Natasha on behalf of Alhaji Usman Ododo. This may not require public gestures, but extending a hand of fellowship and fostering a mutually beneficial political relationship is paramount.
Finally, Senator Natasha, Ododo is the candidate and not Governor Yahaya Bello. Place him side-by-side with Senator Dino Melaye and tell yourself who between the two will do well for the good of Kogi. I rest my case for now, while we all keep our fingers crossed and await the outcome of Saturday’s election in Kogi State.