Tension in Kogi over Replacement for Late Minister

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Following the death of a former Minister of State, Labour and Employment, James Ocholi sometime in March this year, plans to pick a replacement is causing tension in the state, writes Yekini Jimoh

Tension is gradually mounting in Kogi State over the non-appointment of a replacement minister from the state after the unfortunate death of the late James Ocholi, a former minister of state, Labour and Employment, who represented the state at in the Federal Executive Council. Politicians in the state are unhappy with President Muhammadu Buhari for excluding the state for so long from the cabinet, five months after the death of James Ocholi.

THISDAY reliably gathered that those jostling for Ocholi’s job include former Acting Governor of Kogi State and one time Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Clarence Olafemi, Alhaji Mohammed Kasim, Senator Alex Kadiri, Professor Sam Egwu, Senator Mohammed Ohiare and Chief Gbenga Ashagun.

Many party chieftains believe loyalty to the party should be sacrosanct in picking the ministerial replacement. Some eminent politicians and groups from Kogi East and West in the state are already holding meetings for the ministerial position.

A group known as Kogi West Solidarity Forum, recently, while addressing newsmen said they agreed with the need to fill the slot to ensure that Kogi is rightfully represented and given a sense of belonging in the running of the affairs of the country.

Spokesperson for the group, Chief Richard Asaje said the group took serious exception to the position of a body called CPC, which today does not exist beyond the imagination of those, who gather themselves to advance personal, parochial and narrow interest that is totally against the spirit of APC of today.

“Since the formation of APC as a political party, it was clearly stated and understood that no merger parties have any identity to hold on to again. Just like the legacy parties for which CPC belonged and the new-PDP that joined believe in equal right within the APC. This belief does not exempt Kogi State from the understanding. Furthermore, what is the history and strength of default CPC in Kogi that warrant the selfish call to monopolise the ministerial slot for Kogi.

“It is an absolute disservice to the unity of APC, the default new-PDP in Kogi State currently boasts of 7 out of the 13 state Assembly members of APC with none from CPC, 4 of the 6 House of Representatives as against only 1 for CPC, and 1 of the 2 Senators of APC with none from CPC. In fact, the little relevance of CPC is felt in two out of the 21 Local Governments of the state – Lokoja and Koto Karfe, others elsewhere are just noisemakers that have not been able to produce a single councillor in their area,” he stressed.

According to him, during one of the presidential campaign meetings in Abuja, Kogi was apportioned 25% performance budget but at the last count of the presidential election, APC Kogi scored over 70% of votes for President Buhari, coming first by percentage in North Central and second by total votes within the region.

He said it was the first time the state would turn out massively against PDP in any election since 2003 to date, stressing that the defection of new-PDP on 23rd September 2014, en mass to APC was responsible for this feast.
This defection brought APC to 7-serving House of Assembly members, two former Speakers, one Acting Governor, one State PDP party Chairman, one former ambassador, many former Council Chairmen and their councillors and several of their supporters, lamenting that almost two years into the victory, no member of the new-PDP in the state has been given any position anywhere at the federal level.

“CPC does not see justice in allowing this slot to go to new-PDP element of APC. The new-PDP in Kogi is independent from any new-PDP anywhere and totally loyal to the party and the President, but suddenly, it has become an orphan in APC despite our huge labour for the success of APC.

“We, therefore, appeal to the president to ignore the claims in totality by these self-seeking minors and do justice and fairness by appointing a credible, experienced and committed member of the new-PDP from the state, taking into consideration the power of equation currently existing in the state.

“With the Governor coming from the Central Senatorial District, the Deputy Governor coming from the East Senatorial District, one will expect for fairness, equity and Justice that the 3rd most important position which is the ministerial position should come from the West senatorial district,” the group pleated.

Another group known as Kogi Progressives Unity (KPU) is also saying for Justice and Equity in the state, the next minister should come from Lokoja-Koton Karfe axis since the axis has never produced a minister from the state.
Addressing newsmen recently, spokesperson for the group, Mr. Daniel Ali Ochene and the publicity secretary, Tokubo Samson respectively said all the ethnics groups with cultural and religious affiliations in the state had produced minister in the past except Lokoja-Koton Karfe Federal Constituency. KPU appealed to other Senatorial districts in the state to allow Lokoja produce the next minister for equity and Justice.

A prominent member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) from Kogi East, Alhaji Linco Ocheje, said since the late James Ocholi was from their Senatorial district, whoever is going to replace him should also come from Kogi East.
“What do we have? The governor is from Central, the deputy is from East while the West got the position of Speaker and Secretary to the State Government. The minister should come from East and I don’t mind who gets it as long as the person is from Kogi East,” he said.

Another source familiar with the development said, “Unfortunately for the proponents of party loyalty, the president does not see political appointment as payback cheque for party loyalty. The President believes that competence rather than party loyalty should be the basis of critical appointments and he has always insisted that he is concerned about those who can perform in office rather than the length of stay in the party,” the sources disclosed.
However, sources close to the party in the state disclosed to THISDAY that the president may name a replacement for Ocholi this month.

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THISDAY reliably gathered that those jostling for Ocholi’s job include former Acting Governor of Kogi State and one time Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Clarence Olafemi, Alhaji Mohammed Kasim, Senator Alex Kadiri, Professor Sam Egwu, Senator Mohammed Ohiare and Chief Gbenga Ashagun.