For the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, his victory in all the five cases filed against his election notwithstanding, it is a victory for all, his opponents inclusive. Yekini Jimoh writes
The name of the first executive governor of Kogi State, the late Alhaji Abubakar Audu, who was also the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last governorship election will not be forgotten in a hurry by the people of the state. As the first executive governor of the state, he was generally said to have brought about rapid development to the state during his first term and so, when he was re-elected for a second term, he repeated similar feats in critical sectors of the state economy.
There is no doubt that his record as the governor etched his name in the consciousness of the people so much that when delegate members of the APC voted him as the party’s candidate in the November 2015 governorship election in the state, it was merely for the asking. He was indeed leading in that election when suddenly news broke out that he was dead. It was a painful piece of news to the entire people of the state because election was nearly concluded except for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce the winner.
His demise then brought in Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who was the runners up during APC primary election as the party’s replacement after series of meeting by its leadership. And by the time supplementary election was conducted, it was a walkover for Bello, who rode on the strength of the efforts of the late Audu.
But the running mate to Audu, Chief James Abiodun Faleke, challenged the nomination of Bello as well as the immediate past governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada and the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr Goodman Aku at the Kogi State Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal which sat in Abuja. At the end of the six months of the tribunal sitting, Justice Halima Muhammed affirmed the election of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as the validly elected governor of the state.
In a statewide broadcast following his judicial victories, Bello said “in this matter, I declare that there is neither victor nor vanquished. Today, and as always, I celebrate the life and times of Prince Abubakar Audu, the first Executive Governor of Kogi State. It is our hope that those, who want to lay claim to his legacy will at least develop the same heart for the growth and development of Kogi State that he demonstrated throughout his lifetime.
“We will continue to honour him and recognise his contributions. It is against this backdrop that I immortalise our fallen hero by naming Kogi State University after him Prince Abubakar Audu University. To this end, I will send an executive Bill to the State House of Assembly for confirmation,” he promised.
He noted that a total of five Elections Petitions were filed against him by various actors, who also contested as candidates or not, but failed in those elections.
“They canvassed many legal issues, some of which were confronting the Nigerian Legal System for the first time. Lawyers on all sides found their professional ingenuity heavily tasked as they sought to make sense of provisions the Electoral Act, 2010 and the various Electoral Guidelines and Regulations in the light of the Constitution and extant Judicial Precedence.
“Punditry lost meaning in the plethora of opinions canvassed in and out of court and in the news Media. The situation in Kogi State, for a while was the focus of most discussions wherever politically knowledgeable persons gathered to talk. We are thankful indeed that the Tribunal, despite what must have been unbearable pressure from many strong quarters stood her grounds on the side of Justice.
The governor stressed that the Petition by Honourable James Abiodun Faleke was a bit harder to come to terms with because it came from within the ranks of their great party, the APC.
“It is never an easy task when a leader finds himself in conflict with elements of his own support group and I found it particularly hard to face off with fellow party men in the press and in court. Honourable James Faleke’s was a petition that greatly polarised our party at a time when we really needed to act as one in order to survive the heavy blow dealt the APC in Kogi State by the sudden and painful death of our leader, Prince Abubakar Audu.
“However, it has also served the purpose of giving every loyal member of our party who may have had concerns about the legality of the events that brought us into office a definite answer from the Judiciary itself.
“The Kogi State Elections Petitions Tribunal has proclaimed it loud and clear, five times this week for emphasis, that Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was validly elected and returned as the winner of the 2015 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections, that his swearing-in as the fourth Executive Governor of Kogi State was in accordance with the law in all respects and that he is duly entitled to exercise the powers of that office,” he stated.
Bello said he was sober because “in a dispute between brothers of the same family, there cannot be a winner and a Loser. In this matter, I declare that there is neither Victor, nor Vanquished.”
He noted that there is only the consolidation of the new direction agenda which it has pleased God to unveil for Kogi State in this season, and under his administration, as he enjoined all citizens of Kogi State to support our journey in this New Direction.
“It is my desire that Kogi State be united in purpose and action. In the days ahead, I will still continue my peace building and reconciliation efforts. I want to reiterate that there is room in the new Kogi for everyone to play a positive role in moving it to a greater height.”
The governor said he would particularly reach out to the absentee members of the Kogi State House of Assembly at this time and urged them to return to their lawful duties.
“Now that the courts have spoken and nothing remains for any law-abiding citizen but to respect the judgment or appeal them if unsatisfied, I call on all our people, whether in the APC, PDP, LP, APGA, PPA, etc who have found themselves on one side or the other in the fallout from the last gubernatorial election to put aside all bitterness and rancour and join hands with us to develop Kogi State.
“I must also sound a serious note of warning to any unruly element, who may wish to use the failure of these petitions or any other reason for that matter, as a ruse to foment trouble anywhere within Kogi State to have a rethink. The Security Agencies are on Red Alert, and you can rest assured that all troublemakers will be apprehended, and they will face full wrath of the law,” he warned.
On the way forward, Bello said the New Direction Agency in Kogi State remains fully on course. He said following the disposal of these petitions and with the road ahead now cleared of the distractions and obstacles they constituted hitherto, he would formally unveil the full new direction blueprint in the coming week.
“The Blueprint will provide an insight into how to make government work for our people in all indices of development over the next four years, and beyond. Kogi State has all the potential to become the preferred tourism and business destination in all Hinterland of the Nation.
“The New Direction Blueprint, as promise during our Campaigns, is a Marshall plan – an actionable proposal for how we intend to activate those potential. Beyond that is a template for every enterprising individual willing to learn and act to identify a dream, pursue it and find fulfillment. It is our roadmap to lifting at least one million Kogites out of the national poverty index over the tenure of this administration,” he stated.
The people of the state do hope that with his victory, Bello will be more focused and determined to deliver on his promises for the state.
In a dispute between brothers of the same family, there cannot be a winner and a Loser. In this matter, I declare that there is neither Victor, nor Vanquished… It is my desire that Kogi State be united in purpose and action. In the days ahead, I will still continue my peace building and reconciliation efforts. I want to reiterate that there is room in the New Kogi for everyone to play a positive role in moving it to a greater height