By YUSUF MOHAMMED
With less than three months to the primary election in Kogi State ahead of the November 16 governorship election, the battle for the number one seat has become more intense. Governor Yahaya Bello is trying to use everything within his powers to remove obstacles to his emerge as candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress APC.
There are reports that Bello is working with some aggrieved persons within the National Working Committee of the APC, to unseat the National Chairman of the party, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. According to a report, the plot was hatched by Edward Onoja, Chief of staff to the Kogi state governor during a meeting with some female APC supporters he was said to have hosted recently in Abuja.
Bello is from Ebira land (Kogi Central). He will be up against aspirants from Igala land (Kogi East) which is the majority ethnic group in the state. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on the other hand have resolved to field a candidate from Kogi East.
As things stand, the odds are against Bello winning the party’s ticket in August. Aside from the fact that many are of the view that he has performed woefully in his first term, he is also from a minority ethnic group. Again, he is said to have burnt a lot of bridges with those who should help him. Bello right now is clutching at straws and has become very desperate.
According to a reliable source Bello has spent millions of naira to divide members of the Nation Working Committee of the party. While some are in favour of Oshiomhole remaining as chairman, some others are against him. One of them is the National Deputy Chairman of the Senator Lawal Shuaibu. Shuaibu, two days to the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors, asked Oshiomhole to resign from his position for being unable to add to the value of the party.
In a letter to Oshiomhole dated May 27, 2019 Shuaibu blamed Oshiomhole for APC’s loss in Zamfara. Oshiomhole was advised to take the honourbale path and step aside from his position in the party and give room for improvement of the damage done by him.
The letter titled “APC: It is fortunes vs misfortunes, time to act” reads “I write this letter to you with very deep heart and high sense of responsibility. “I write this letter thinking because I am a critical stakeholder in the APC project. “I write this letter with my hands shaking arising from realizing of myself being involved in a project that is currently seen as failing, even before achieving the ambition of its founding fathers. I never found myself in any failed project.
“In advanced democracies, people who fail to add value or build or build over and above what they met on assumption of duty show some civilized examples, they honourably bow out.”
Former chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun a few days later also expressed disappointment over the regime of Oshiomhole. Oyegun in a statement by his Public Affairs Adviser, Ray Morphy, said one of Oshiomhole’s mistakes was the comment on “booby trap.”
He also stated that Oshiomhole lacked the ability to manage different things that make up a state, accusing him of acting contrary to the decision taken by the APC’s National Working Committee.
“The statement of ‘booby traps’ is ludicrous and infantile, an attempt to drum up justification for the failings of the party under Oshiomhole’s chairmanship. Oshiomhole failed because he lacks the temperament that is required to run a political party,” said Oyegun.
Oyegun is also blaming Oshiomhole for the electoral loss in the last general elections which made PDP gain some ground.
A chieftain of the APC in Kogi State who pleaded for anonymity is of the view that the only hope for Bello to win the ticket of the APC in the primaries is for Oshiomhole to be removed. Speaking to BusinessHallmark in a telephone chat, he said, “He wants to be fully in charge of the delegates by handpicking them. That is not going to work with Oshiomhole as chairman. As far as there is a level playing field, there is no hope for Bello.”
On the position of Shuiabu and Oyegun, he said, “The deputy national chairman and Oyegun are only being mischievous. They are acting a script. Oyegun is a money monger and he has been paid by Bello to speak. Do you think it is mere coincidence that both the deputy and a former chairman are calling for Oshiomhole’s removal few months to Kogi APC primary election?
“Look, Oshiomhole believes in party supremacy and that no governor is bigger than the party. “Those who do not like to obey rules are the ones kicking against his style of leadership. Oshiomhole is simply asking for orderliness in the party. Unfortunately, many members are used to doing things the old way.
“As one of the delegates in the national convention of the APC, I can tell you that Bello was one of the governors who rallied round Oyegun. Unfortunately for him, Oyegun stepped down for Oshiomhole,” said he.
In what appears to be a blow for Bello, the NWC of the APC on Thursday set up a five-man disciplinary committee to investigate the party’s Deputy National Chairman, North, Lawal Shuaibu.
According to a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, the decision was taken at the 38th regular meeting of the NWC held in Abuja. Issa-Onilu said Shuaibu is on his own out and that the NWC has passed a vote of confidence in Oshiomhole.
Part of the statement read, “After extensive deliberation, the NWC resolved as follows” to pass a vote of confidence in the National Chairman, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole.
“To set up a five-man disciplinary committee headed by Otunba Niyi Adebyayo to investigate the following: the allegation leveled by Senator Lawal Shuaibu against the National Chairman on issues involving the collective decisions of the National Working Committee.”
In what appears to be another blow to Governor Bello’s ambition, the Chairmen of the APC from the 36 states and the FCT have also declared support for Oshiomhole.
Spokesman for the Forum of State Chairmen and the Chairman of the party in Enugu State, Dr. Ben Nwoye spoke on behalf of his colleagues in Abuja, after meeting with the party’s NWC.
He said, “We discussed the issue of party unity and the need to move the country forward. We have all unanimously passed a vote of confidence in the national chairman and the NWC.
“So any news making the round that our National Chairman is facing crisis should be brought to rest. We found out based on the meeting that the issues are without merit and that they were brought up to malign the National Chairman.
“You recall that the actual reports came out on a day that was supposed to be the happiest day for the party, the day of inauguration of the President for a second term.
“Anybody with genuine issues should have presented them at the appropriate time and through the right channel. So, it was with no other intent than to malign the President and bring s down.
“Nobody gave President Buhari any chance of winning his second chance even with all that he had done. This chairman did something that was almost impossible.”
However, a prominent APC chieftain in Kogi State, Dany Ataja, has dismissed media reports suggesting Governor Bello is plotting the removal of Oshiomhole. Ataja who is a key member of the influential G9 Initiative for Governor Bello in Kogi State, in a statement sent to the press, described the report as fake news.
According to him, these reports are “examples of the childishness into which the opposition here continues to slide the nearer we get to November 16, the date for the Kogi governorship elections.”
Ataja said: “As leader of the party and director-general of APC campaigns in Kogi state respectively, the governor and his Chief of staff, Edward Onoja, were pivotal to the party’s unprecedented win in Kogi state in the 2019 general elections.
“They were both in Abuja this week to attend the inauguration of the president and vice president into a second term in office and attend to other matters of state. Neither holds the alleged hostile intentions towards any leader of the party nor did the meeting where same was allegedly voiced hold.
He blamed it on the opposition saying “What is truly sad is the Kogi opposition’s abysmal lack of reason in cooking up these lies. It has in fact become an epidemic of the incongruous; every other day they rehash a different version of the same old rubbish in their captive media.”
Lanre Issa-Onilu who is the National Publicity Secretary of the party, also debunked claims that Oshiomhole has plans to deny Bello ticket for a second term. On behalf of Oshiomhole, he cautioned party members, supporters and the general public on the fake news being spread in the social media on the upcoming Kogi primaries.
“We had initially ignored the fake statements but it has become necessary to debunk the several fake quotes, which are increasingly gaining traction, particularly many of such statements being ascribed to the party and Oshiomhole.”
“Neither the party nor the National Chairman has made any statement at any forum regarding these elections. The numerous quotes being ascribed to the party and the National Chairman are mere fabrications intended for mischief.”
August is around the corner. Time will surely tell if Oshiomhole’s position as party chairman would have any effect on Governor Bello’s re-election.