Kogi: Between a Divided Ruling Party and a Disrupted Leadership

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Yekini Jimoh, in Lokoja, looks at the escalating dissension in the ruling All Progressives Congress in Kogi State and its effects on governance

Kogi State, the Confluence State, has been in the news for the wrong reasons since the last governorship election in December, which was won by the All Progressives Congress. The political crisis that started in APC before the declaration of the final results of the election, following the death of the party’s candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, later escalated and extended to the House of Assembly. It came to a head when the leadership of the Assembly, allegedly, impeached by five of the 25 members.

The situation deteriorated, leading to physical combat by members of the Assembly and a seal off of the legislative complex following a resolution by the National Assembly.

Vote of No Confidence
While the Assembly crisis was still on, there was yet another troubling developing in the executive. A vote of no confidence was passed on the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, by members of the Kogi APC state executive committee following a series of allegations against him.

In a letter dated April 12, 2016, and addressed to the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and signed by all the 34 members of the state executive committee, the Kogi APC accused Bello of side-lining members of the governing party and hobnobbing with members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. They accused him of failing to appoint even a single card-carrying member of APC into executive council, saying, “All the 45 appointments made so far by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello, are given to the PDP.”

Some members of the APC state executive went further to call for the governor’s resignation from office. There was an allegation that the governor donated N70 million during a book launch in Abuja by the First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari. The party also accused the governor of planning to take a controversial loan from a bank.

Bello was alleged to have appointed mainly Peoples Democratic Party members by into his cabinets. APC leaders, especially, in Kogi Central senatorial district, were said to have been abandoned by the governor. Among party leaders said to have been abandoned were Senator Muhammed Ohiare and Senator Salihu Ohize.
During the senatorial re-run election in Kogi Central, the governor was alleged to have work for the PDP candidate.

In Kogi East, the likes of Alhaji Abdulrahaman Abubakar, a senatorial candidate of APC, was also allegedly abandoned by the governor, while leaders like AVM Salihu Atawode were not given the chance to make any contribution to the APC government in the state.
In Kogi West, the governor is finding it difficult to convince Alhaji Buba Jibril, an APC leader in Lokoja, to support his government. Jibril, a member of the National Assembly, was an ally of the late Audu.

Sources close to the party also said APC members like Chief Clarence Olafemi and Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi West have dumped the governor. According to the source, this is due to the insensitivity of the governor to issues that affect the party in the state.

Assembly Crisis
The Kogi State House of Assembly is currently embroiled in a leadership crisis, with two members claiming the office of Speaker.
APC in the state accused Bello of being the source of the crisis in the Assembly. The SEC members passed a resolution saying “from now henceforth, we will have nothing to do with the government of Yahaya Bello.”

Part of the SEC’s request to the national leadership of the party was that Bello should not be allowed to have a hand in producing the next ministerial nominee from the state to replace the late James Ocholi, who died recently in a road accident. The party chieftains advised the national secretariat of and the presidency to work with the state’s party leaders in appointing a replacement.

The state APC publicity secretary, Ghali Usman, who confirmed the meeting and the decisions taken, said the only time the state executive of the party met with Bello “was before his inauguration when he went to collect his certificate of return.” He added, “Since then we have no idea of what is happening in the administration. The governor asked us to submit all we needed before his inauguration, which we did in writing, but he has since ignored our list and continued to appoint PDP people.”
The state APC executive accused Bello of working with the opposition PDP in the recent re-run elections in the state.

“An APC governor who supported the PDP in the last re-run election, making us to lose two senators, one House of Reps and two House of Assembly members, an APC governor who has not deemed it fit to appoint a single APC member in his cabinet and board, an APC governor who openly relates with PDP local government chairmen and leaders and abandon his party men, is not our best dream project,” they said.

Resignation
Some APC leaders in the state believe that since the platform on which Bello rode to the governorship seat had passed a vote of no confidence on him, the honourable thing for him is to resign along with his deputy, Simon Achuba.

Mr. Ben Adaji accused the governor of rendering the party hierarchy useless in the scheme of things, saying that with the vote of no confidence coming from the party, Bello could not lead the state.

“What we are saying is that if the platform he claims he represents, the platform he claims brought him to power will go to the public glare to disown him and passed vote of no confidence on him, he has no justification for remaining on that seat as governor, he should resign. Alhaji Yahaya Bello should resign honourably and allow the party in Kogi State to function as it is in other states of the federation,” Adaji said.

Governor’s Defence
However, Bello believes the allegations against him are the result of `resistance by the party executive in the state to the change he is bringing. Speaking through his chief press secretary, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, the governor said his administration was “not unaware of some political chess play among members of the state executive committee of the party in the state.” He said the circumstances that brought the governor to office were “surely unusual. Therefore, unusual reactions are expected.”

Fanwo said whatever might be going on within the state executive committee “is surely a contagious effect from the politics of interest within the party leaders in the state.
“We expect the state executive committee of the party to keep working with the leadership revolution that is reshaping the state to ensure rapid development.”

While insinuating that the running mate to Audu, James Faleke, was behind the party’s decisions, Fanwo said both “Faleke and Governor Yahaya Bello are members of the change family and no one should allow himself to be caught in the political crossfire playing out in the state.”

Faleke is presently at the state governorship election tribunal challenging the emergence of Bello as governor. Bello emerged governor after inheriting the bulk of the votes scored by Audu and Faleke at the election held last December.
Fanwo said Bello was committed to working with the leadership of the party, adding that the governor appreciates the role of the leaders of the party in ensuring the resounding victory of the APC in the state.

He stated, “Now that APC is in firm control of the state, it is foolhardy to think party leaders won’t bury their differences to deliver solid dividends to the Kogi people.
“It is absolutely untrue, ignominious and unintelligent to insinuate that members of the state executive committee of APC are working at variance with the landmark progress of the APC government in the state…

“With the train of the New Direction already taking Kogi to new destinations of hope, the party must be very proud of the laudable programs and policies of the Yahaya Bello administration in the state.
“We also urge those stoking the flame of discord from outside the state to believe in the judiciary and stop their war which has continued to fail. Kogi has a new government and hope is here.”

On the calls for the governor’s resignation, the chief press secretary said, “There is no point for the governor to resign because the allegation that brought about the alleged vote of no confidence was baseless as there was also nothing like appointment of 45 people, as being claimed by the SEC members.
“So the governor cannot resign on the basis of such allegation. The people calling for resignation are apologists of those working against the choice of the party during the last supplementary election in the state.

“Many of the members of the state executive council of the party were picked by the late Abubakar Audu and they are, therefore, doing the biddings of those in the camp. It is, therefore, a reckless call to have asked Alhaji Yahaya Bello to resign based on the actions of such people.”
The governor also debunked the allegation that he donated N70 million at a book launch organised by Aisha Buhari, saying it is a “laughable political desperation to brazenly slaughter truth.”

According to the governor CPS, “The book launch was organised by the nation’s First Lady to garner support for the families of the abducted Chibok girls, which was attended by Governor Yahaya Bello to lend support to the traumatised families of the girls. As a political leader and a parent, Governor Bello is touched by the plight of the girls and their families, hence the will to identify with the project

“The book launch was televised to the whole world and no one announced what anyone donated. Governor Yahaya Bello did not donate 70,000,000 naira as insinuated by the people who are turning opposition politics to a comical adventure.”

The statement described Bello as a focused leader who cannot be cowed by the media war against him by opponents who are bent on subverting the state’s march to greatness.
Fanwo also stated that the governor had not approached any bank for a loan, saying, “The spurious allegation that the governor has applied for loan at Zenith Bank has further exposed our opponents as people who lack the basic knowledge of public accounting. Their macabre dance on the grave of ignorance has justified people’s believe that our opponents are characters who lack the rudiments of governance. The governor didn’t apply for loans.

“We urge our opponents to always dwell on facts when playing their games and stop toying with the intelligence of the Kogi people. Governor Yahaya Bello paid two salaries within his first 57 days in office as against the four months owed by his immediate predecessor.”
Bello’s special adviser on media and strategy, Mallam Abdulmalik Abdulkarim, in his own comments, said it was the constitutional responsibility of the governor to appoint his personal aides without any recourse to a group of people, provided the person meets up the requirement as stipulated by the law of the land.

‘Clannish Politics’
Meanwhile, the governor has accused the state chairman of APC, Alhaji Haddi Ametuo, of hiding under the party to play clannish politics and the PDP card against the APC government because his brother, Hon. Jimoh Lawal, was removed as speaker of the House of Assembly by the lawmakers. Bello said his administration had demonstrated commitment towards rebuilding the state and uniting the people through people-oriented policies and programmes.

“I don’t want to behave like the past leaders who were regretting for not doing the right thing while in office due to selfish pressure mounted on them by some people. Anybody with impeccable credentials and feel that he has something to offer the state can come forward, “ the governor stated.

Vote of Confidence
But the APC youth wing in the state has passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of Bello. They also berated the state for claiming the governor had not done well in the two months of his administration.

Addressing a cross section of APC youth from the 21 local government areas of the state in Lokoja, the state youth leader, Mr Emmanuel Ayo, cautioned the youth against the antics of some people in who hide under the canopy of the party to cause crisis.

Ayo, who said at the last SEC meeting of APC in Lokoja, the issue of passing a vote of no confidence was never discussed, alleged that enemies of progress were working for Hon. Abiodun Faleke and his cohort. In their separate addresses, the youth leaders from the Central senatorial district, Mr. Ohiwe Abubakar, that of Eastern senatorial district, Abdullahi Abdulrahman, and Western senatorial district, Mallam Mohammed Asuku Dauda, said the youth were ready to sacrifice whatever it will take to protect and support the governor.

They said, “By the constitution of the APC the governor is the state leader and it very wrong for anybody to write a letter to the national body of the party passing a vote of no confidence on the governor.”

The youth leaders said they were against anything capable of distracting Bello from executing the responsibilities of his office.
But the divisions in APC have distracted attention from the welfare and security of the masses in Kogi State, the most important reason the party was elected. The political crisis now dominates reports from the state. Indications are that the APC national leadership may have been affected by the divisions in its Kogi State chapter, with some taking sides and the party finding it difficult to embark on an effective intervention. The APC in Kogi State may, thus, be in for a long-drawn-out crisis.