OrderPaperToday – On March 2018, Natasha Akpoti spoke for 44 minute on the floor of the House of Representative on the scandal rocking the Ajaokuta Steel Mill, captivating her audience with a staccato of revelations.
The biracial lawyer born by Ukrainian mother to a man from Kogi will be running for the Senatorial seat of Kogi Central, which is the home district of the State governor, Yahaya Bello.
Natasha will be running against the incumbent Senator, Ahmed Ogembe of the Peoples Democratic Party and anointed candidate of the Governor, Oseni Yakub of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Natasha initially wanted to run under the APC and even started consultations in the party. Forum became inconvenient and she decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). But even at that, her political troubles, especially with Gov. Bello did not abate.
She recently alleged that the governor in a phone conversation said: “I am so powerful I can shut down the entire state for 1 week and nothing will happen. I will fight you and everyone who wants to disgrace me before President Buhari with my last blood.”
In another alleged call, she quoted the governor thus: “Natasha I have everything at my disposal to frustrate and defeat you if you challenge my decision to make Oseni a Senator.”
Since the emergence of the governor, it has been a long running battle with most of the National Assembly members from the state. For instance, the battle between him and Sen Dino Melaye has claimed lives. Sen. Ogembe has also faced a raw deal from Bello. But a major battle will be happening at the very heart of the governor’s fortress this Saturday. It will be between Messrs Yakub, Ogembe and Ms. Akpoti.
Kogi Central senatorial district has 5 local governments- Okene, Okehi, Adavi, Ajaokuta and Ogori/Magongo. The constituency is by estimate 80% of the Ebira ethnic group; in fact, only Magongo is not of Ebira ethic group.
The three major candidates are of Ebira stock with Ogembe who was the former chairman of Okene Local Government being from Okene, the same place as the governor.
The governor’s candidate is from Adavi Local government, while Akpoti is from Okehi. The battle will be to hold on to each other’s strong hold and make overtures to other local governments such as Ajaokuta and Ogori/Magongo.
Natasha has been vocal on the need to resuscitate the moribund Ajaokuta Steel mill, and she has even promised the people of the local government that she will get the steel complex to work 1 year after her emergence.
The governor’s dismal record on salary payment is a major hunchback for the ruling APC and its candidates in the polls, and Natasha’s disruption could mean that the incumbent senator might not benefit from the revolt vote against the governor’s camp.
But despite the anger over non-payment of salaries and in a state where ethnicity plays big role in the polity, Yahaya Bello is the first Ebira man to rule the state since the return democracy; it therefore remains unclear if the people of his ethnic background will rally round him in preparation for his re-election in December this year.
Also of importance is the factor of federal might which aided an APC victory in the by-election for Lokoja/Kogi federal constituency last year.
Violence flash Points…
The Senatorial district is one of the major flash points for electoral violence, and the district also has history of communal clashes: in 2007 for instance, a 10 months long unrest left many dead.
Akpoti alleged recently that On Friday 15th of February 2019, at about 6:30pm, some armed hoodlums led by the Okehi Local Government Administrator, Mr. Abdulraheem Ohiare under the instructions of the governor raided her family house in Oride, Obeiba, Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Okene and Ihiama are the two major flash points identified by people on the ground.
Natasha in a letter she wrote to the President reads in part: “some of my other supporters that have been murdered are Mr. Ojo Enesi, Youth leader of my Campaign Organization in Obeiba, Ihima of Okehi Local Government Area in Kogi state. He was dragged out of his house at about 12:30am on the night of Saturday, the 12th of January 2019 and brutally murdered by a gang of APC thugs led by one Ojo Inna who pulled the trigger on late Enesi.”
With all of these violence, can Natasha survive Mr. Bello’s den and defeat a strong incumbent? Watch out for answers on Saturday.