Amidst speculations that Kogi State traditional rulers were railroaded into endorsing the second term bid of Governor Yahaya Bello, while visiting President Muhammadu Buhari, a spokesman and Obaro of Kabba and chairman of Okun Council of Obas, Oba Solomon Dele Owoniyi, has explained the reason behind the Abuja visit.
Earlier reports in the media said the Kogi monarchs made a swift U-Turn on their earlier decision to back another All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Jibril Usman,
for the November governorship polls after intense lobby from state government officials.
They were said to have decided to present Usman to the Presidency as the anointed candidate only to be allegedly cajoled, harassed, and induced by state government officials.
The traditional rulers from the Central and West were said to have met last week with their counterparts in the East and enquired about their preferred candidate.
At the end of the meeting, the traditional rulers from the three Senatorial Zones of the state resolved to adopt Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman as the preferred candidate.
On getting the hint of the clandestine move by the traditional rulers to recommend a preferred choice to the presidency, they were allegedly summoned them to Lokoja where a top state government official threatened to deal with any traditional ruler who dare endorse and present any other guber candidate apart from the sitting governor.
“In his usual style, he shouted on, bullied and cajoled them into reneging on their earlier resolution and changing the name of their agreed candidate from the Vice Admiral to that of… (Bello) and then presenting same to the Presidency.”
A traditional ruler from Kogi West who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that their original plan was hijacked by the governor.
“We met, discussed, and agreed to present the erstwhile Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman because we deem him as the only aspirant with the experience and capability to rescue the State from its current precarious predicament. We have always been bullied and affronted … (and) reduced to insignificant chiefs before our people. He bullied and threatened us to change our choice and we had no option than to do his bid. To obey is better than to be deposed”, he said.
But the authenticity of the claim hangs in the balance after Oba Owoniyi at the Presidential Villa told journalists Bello had been endorsed by the people of the state.
Many wonder if it was possible for the calibre of traditional rulers to have been threatened or cajoled into total submission.
One source alleged that huge sums of money played a role in the new deal.
But Oba Owoniyi said, “We came for three basic things, one to felicitate with and congratulate him for winning the last general elections.
“We congratulated him because the election was so hectic and so many Nigerians were confused, they didn’t know what to do.
“But to God be the glory at the end of the day the president came back for the second term and his mandate was revalidated by most Nigerians especially in Kogi state.
“Secondly, we came to pray for him that this last lap is very critical in the checkered history of Nigeria and it is our wish and prayer that all the aspirations of Mr. President will come to fruition without much rancour.
“Thirdly, like the chairman of the traditional rulers said, the Attah of Igala said, he had come to upgrade what the president called the shopping list.
“Since we voted for the president and as usual like Oliver Twist, we must demand for our rights, we decided to upgrade the list of our demands from Kogi state.
“I am pleased to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that Mr. President has graciously alluded to most of our requests and has told us to come home and tell our people that he has us at the back of his mind and that he was going to approach most of these issues as they come.
“Fourthly, we had to reintroduce our governor to the president.
“Some people in the social media are already saying we are playing politics, we are not playing politics we are being realistic. When you are realistic you say things as there.
“We came to reintroduce our governor to the president and demanded for normal support since they belong to the same party, the issue of endorsement is not here, the people at home have already endorsed His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello for second term, so we don’t need to re-endorsed him in Abuja here.”
The Monarchs were led to the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by the Attah Igala, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni.