The chances of the ruling All Progressives Congress winning the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship polls are slim considering the corruption scandal trailing its candidates. CHIKA NWABUEZE reports
The candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu and Chief Timipre Sylva appear to be running against the tide of public opinion. The implication of this is that the two candidates are likely going to lose the election to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidates, Governors Idris Wada and Seriake Dickson respectively.
Business Hallmark reports that both Audu, who was governor of Kogi between 1999 and 2003 and Sylva who lost his governorship seat to Dickson are hobbled by corruption charges against them in the run up to the governorship polls. Despite the fact that the incumbent governor of Kogi, Wada, is widely acclaimed to have performed below average, his reelection in the November 21 poll, seems a sure bet for the PDP with the emergence of Audu as the main challenger.
An online news media, the Premium Times in its report titled ‘How APC ignored EFCC’s advice not to field Audu as Kogi guber candidate’, narrated how the APC discarded the advice of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC not to field Audu.
According to it, the advice by the EFCC was to disqualify Mr. Audu, as governorship aspirant in the forthcoming Kogi State election over allegations bordering on abuse of office, theft of public funds and money laundering in an ongoing trial.
This is in addition to a letter of caution written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo over Audu’s acquisition of properties overseas, while in office as governor of Kogi state. Obasanjo disclosed that based on the notification he got from the British Home Office, he also wrote to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission, and the then National Security Adviser, NSA, Aliyu Gusau, directing them to investigate Mr. Audu in relation to foreign assets acquisition as a sitting governor.
However, Audu in response to the call for his disqualification from the race on corruption charges said “this is a matter that is already before the court and it will therefore be a contempt of court for me to disclose what happened in the court. “But as far as I am concerned, they have not established any prima facie case against me in the past 12 years.” But EFCC sources disclosed that Audu has been using interlocutory injunctions to evade trial.
Since he left office as governor in 2003, Audu has been in the public glare for the wrong reasons. Reports detailing his financial activities and probe have dominated the media space. But despite all these Audu has not failed to emerge the candidate of his party during governorship primaries.
In addition to the EFCC advice to disqualify Audu from the race, a petition against his emergence was sent to the national leadership of the APC by one Yahaya Bello, who incidentally was also a governorship aspirant on the platform of APC. The petitioner raised concerns on the eligibility of Audu to contest in the Kogi governorship election.
In his protest letter to the Appeal Committee on the party’s primaries, Alhaji Bello said “there is an indictment and pendency of criminal trial bordering on financial crimes against Prince Abubakar Audu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Also the letter of protest disclosed that “the committee found that the respondent in his nomination form while providing an answer to the question if he had any pending criminal cases against him stated that he had a pending “EFCC political case” against him.
“But when we visited the EFCC headquarters to make enquiries and verify these allegations, we confirmed that there was a pending criminal trial: FRN V. Prince Abubakar Audu & 1 Other Charge No. FCT/CR/115/2013 for offences bordering on abuse of office, theft of public funds and money laundering all committed during the respondents tenure as the executive governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003”.
Also in his petition, Alhaji Bello requested that “the APC should immediately disqualify or nullify the purported emergence of Audu as the candidate of the APC in the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State. However, nothing came out of the Appeal Committee with few weeks to the election.
Sources alleged that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of APC ensured that Audu remains the APC candidate in a deal that produced a former federal lawmaker who represented Lagos state, Jimoh Faleke, as governorship running mate.
Also a group under the auspices of Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ) has advised Audu to disqualify himself from the race over the alleged N11bn fraud during his tenure as governor. The group insists that Audu’s insistence to contest the November 21st guber election was against the current anti-corruption stance of the present administration in Nigeria.
The group however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for distancing the Presidency from the last Saturday’s grand rally of the APC held at Lokoja international stadium. The group urged the party faithful to support the anti-corruption crusade of the President Buhari’s administration.
In a statement issued and signed by the CHRSJ’s Executive Chairman, Comrade Adeniyi, Alimi Sulaiman, on the N11billion fraud leveled against Audu, it advised the people, particularly, the electorates in Kogi State against voting for Prince Audu during the forthcoming election in the state.
Analysts are of the opinion that it would take more than an effort for Audu to defeat Wada, whose ranking has continued on a downward spiral. The perception of Audu as a dictator who behaves like an emperor will not help his election, and it is being compounded by the litany of corruption charges against him by the EFCC, said a source.
Also Buhari’s failure to identify with Audu’s ambition as the candidate of APC is sending a negative signal to the people of Kogi and this development is being used as a political capital by the PDP. But Audu can’t be dismissed entirely as constituting any threat to Wada, because when the chips are down, he has got to prove his worth in Kogi politics.
Similarly, Sylva, the former governor of Bayelsa state won the APC primaries after the second election in which his main rival, Chief Timi Alaibe stepped down. Sylva had announced himself the winner of the APC governorship primaries without following due process and this led to serious altercation between him (Sylva) and the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole the chairman of the congress committee in Bayelsa.
The national leadership of APC later announced that a fresh primary would be conducted in Bayelsa, and surprisingly on the date of the election, Alaibe withdrew from the race leaving Sylva to emerge as the candidate of APC.
In 2013 after he lost the seat to incumbent Dickson following his disagreement with then president Goodluck Jonathan, Sylva was arrested by the EFCC at his No. 3, Niger Street, Maitama, Abuja home. He was accused of fraudulent transactions that borders on money laundering and acquisition of eye-popping real estates in Abuja. However, an Abuja high court later dismissed the charges preferred against Sylva by EFCC, leading to the anti-graft agency bringing fresh 50-count charges against him in June this year.
The opposition PDP has also resorted to mocking the candidates of the APC for Kogi and Bayelsa states in the forthcoming governorship election. In a statement the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, called on Nigerians to note the “corruption credentials” of the two APC candidates.
PDP described as “shameful irony and display of crass hypocrisy,” the fact that a ruling party that prides itself as an anti-corruption crusader, would field candidates being held on corruption charges.
“In Kogi, we have the APC brazenly fielding, for the November 21 governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu, a former governor of the state that was declared wanted by the EFCC for corruption, and who is now facing charges before the court, of breach of trust, embezzling and misappropriating the sum of N10.9 billion meant for the development of his state.
“In the same vein, in Bayelsa State, the APC is fielding, for the December 5 election, Chief Timipre Sylva, also a former governor of the state, who is similarly before the court on charges of embezzlement of a staggering sum of N19.2 billion belonging to Bayelsa State, he noted.
At any rate, a founding member of APC in Bayelsa, Chief Richard Kpodo has warned that federal might would not save APC in the governorship election because Sylva did not emerge through due process. Hallmark reports that Sylva is one of the pioneer members of APC in Bayelsa and a strong supporter of Buhari’s presidential campaign. He was a member of the APC transition committee and was touted as likely adviser on Petroleum until his emergence as APC candidate.