Governor Yaya Bello of Kogi State

By YUSUF MOHAMMED

The Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections are coming up on November 16 2019 but the one that seems to be drawing more attention is the Kogi governorship election. This is because the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, perceived to be unpopular by many stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress APC, is putting up a strong fight for his re-election.

On the other hand, aspirants who are ready to replace him are working round the clock to see that Bello does not fly the party’s flag come August 29, the date that has been fixed for the primaries. Two weeks ago, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC said it would adopt indirect primaries, a decision that did not go down well with most of gubernatorial aspirants.

An indirect primary simply means that Governor Bello would be in charge of the delegates. In other words, there would be no level playing ground for all aspirants.

Some of the aspirants who have indicated interest to vie for the governorship election are Mohammed Audu, son of late Prince AbubakarAudu, a former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Usman Jibrin, former NFF Chairman, Sanni Lulu, Seidu Ogah and a host of others.

BusinessHallmark gathered that although some stakeholders want to replace Bello for his perceived weakness, they are still shopping for more candidates from Kogi East who would be easy to sell to the electorate. According to a reliable source, Bello’s men have gone to town with stories of how Jibrin is working for the PDP. They also tagged Ogah and Lulu as having strong ties with the PDP.

Bello’s administration has been adjudged in many quarters as a failed one due to his inability to pay workers salaries, and little to show in the state for billions of naira he received from the Federal Government as bailout funds. These are some of the reasons many political pundits and politicians believe Bello is not the right man to lead APC in the forthcoming governorship race.

Then there is the biggest issue of all which many analysts try to avoid. It is the issue of Bello’s ethnicity. Bello is from a minority ethnic group. In fact, since the creation of Kogi State in 1991, he is the first minority to govern the state as opposed to an Igala person.

Bello is from Kogi Central (Ebira land) and the first from that zone to govern the state.

It would be worth mentioning that in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, which was the ruling party, fielded a candidate from Okun land (Kogi West). While All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, ANPP fielded Prince Abubakar Audu from Igala land (Kogi East) who easily defeated the candidate of the PDP.

In 2003, the PDP picked Ibrahim Idris, an hotelier, who had no prior interest in politics. With him being an Igala man, they were able to defeat Audu. The PDP has resolved to use the same strategy this year. They are not considering anyone who is not Igala. Even within the Igalas, they are looking at Dekina Local government.

Before Wada emerged as governor in 2012, no one from that local government had governed Kogi. As a result, stakeholders from the East zoned the governorship position to this local government area. Wada who is from Dekina also fancies his chance to pick the PDP ticket.  As far as the PDP is concerned, it is a Dekina affair because that is the arrangement of Kogi East stakeholders. Most of those who have indicated interest under the PDP are from Dekina.

Many would recall how Bello emerged in 2015. It was due to the death of Prince Abubakar Audu. In what had never been envisaged by the Nigerian constitution, the APC governorship candidate in the November 21 election, 2015, Audu, who was leading the PDP’s candidate, governor Idris Wada by a margin of 41,000 votes, died after the election was declared inconclusive. Bello was nominated by the party to replace him.

In this year’s race for the ticket, most of the aspirants on the platform of the APC are from Kogi East. BusinessHallmark gathered that the top politicians from the West and Central parts of the state have deliberately not thrown their hats into the ring. For now, Bello is the most prominent person from the minority ethnic groups running under the APC.

Political analysts are of the view that Bello would be defeated if he is chosen as the party’s flag bearer, hence the call for a direct primary. Chairman of APC Justice Forum, Dr. Yakubu Ugwolawo, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja recently, said the party should not make similar mistakes that cost it Bauchi and Adamawa States where it lost to the PDP by fielding unpopular candidates through indirect primary.

Ugwolawo, who is also a member of Buhari Support Group, said “if the party adopts indirect primary, it also runs the risk of what happened in Rivers and Bayelsa States where litigations cropped up after the primary.”

“Apart from the involvement of every individual member of the party to really participate in the selection of the party’s flag bearer, direct primary gives members of the party opportunity to be part of the selection process among the plethora of aspirants to represent them as the candidate of the party”, he said.

According to him, indirect primary could not fly because the governor single-handedly picked the party executive. “So, if we do not have direct primary then it means you have handed everything to one single individual,” he added.

He drew the attention of the national secretariat of the party to a case in court in relation to the composition of the existing executive. Ugwolawo said if indirect primary is adopted, those who will midwife the election are the party’s executives at the state. However, he said if it were direct primary the midwifing of the primary election would be that of the national secretariat.

According to him, “The integrity of the national secretariat is not in doubt so for sure it would not go the way of Rivers and Zamfara. Let us go to the people who are on ground who would not have the fear that the election is manipulated. There would be no issue of litigation, so courts would not interfere in the process. That is why we are seeking for direct primary.

“The issue of asking the party to adopt direct primary is like guiding the party against the backlash in Bauchi and Adamawa where indirect primary was adopted against the wishes of party members. It caused the party the loss of two states to opposition PDP. He said if the party picked a candidate who is not popular it means the party would be at the receiving end, as it would lose the election.

“This time around, APC as a party would not condone losing Kogi State,” he said. “If you look at what is happening now, of the 36 States, APC has 18 while the PDP has 17 States. So, if the party loses Kogi to PDP, it would be 18 APC and 18 PDP and, of course, I am not sure we would make it in Bayelsa, and if we lose Bayelsa that means in 2023, for APC to retain the presidency would be a pipe dream.

Recently 20 governorship aspirants marched to the APC secretariat to protest against the indirect primaries adopted by the NWC of the party. The aspirants said this in a protest letter addressed to the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole which was read by one of them, Muhammed Ali, at a news conference in Abuja two weeks ago.

Mr Ali said the decision taken by NWC was done without adequate consultation with critical stakeholders in the state.

“We categorically reject the indirect primary adopted by our party for Kogi election.

“We urge the national leadership of the party to set up an Independent Caretaker Management Committee without delay with the sole mandate of providing a level playing ground for a popular direct primary involving all card-carrying members in the state,” he said.”

According to him, 20 aspirants have written against the outcome of the meeting of the NWC of our great party adopting indirect primaries for selection of our candidate.

“We observed that as a party committed to the enthronement of popular democracy, the resort to an indirect primary in the state amounts to a muzzling of the wish of the generality of our party members.

“As loyal party men, we would not fold our arms and allow our party to suffer huge political loss,” he said.

To counter the 20 aspirants who are kicking against the indirect primaries, Business Hallmark learnt from a reliable source that Governor Bello sponsored 37 governorship aspirants on the platform of APC to back the decision by the NWC o the party to approve indirect primary.

Spokesman of the group, Comrade Edime Godwin Amade, said “the group of 20 aspirants kicking against the indirect mode of primary were working for the downfall of the party in the state,” pointing out that the NWC should not allow the group pull the wool over their eyes.

He claimed that “the fact that the state governor has built the party in the state to an enviable height is not an indication that he would win the primary and pick the party’s ticket.”

A former senatorial aspirant under the PDP, Alhaji Yakubu Mamuda, was of the view that it would be easier for his party, the PDP to win the election with Bello as the APC candidate. In telephone chat with BusinessHallmark, he said, “Whatever crisis there is in the APC is to PDP’s advantage. To be honest, it would be difficult for the PDP to win if Bello is replaced with someone that is credible from Kogi East. Our prayer is that APC retain Bello.”

As it stands the party has not made its new stance known in regards to the mode of the primaries. There is serious pressure on the NWC to reverse the decision taken earlier as they may be grave consequences for the party if it decides to go ahead with the indirect primaries.

 

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