Ocholi’s replacement saga stokes fresh crisis in Kogi APC
Members kick against Faleke as possible substitute, party disown them
The inability of the presidency to fill the ministerial slot created by the death of James Ocholi about one year ago, has thrown Kogi State chapter of All Progressive Congress (APC) into a fresh round of crisis.
Ocholi who was minister of State for Employment, was an indigene of Kogi. His party, APC has been bedeviled by internal wrangling since the governorship election that saw the emergence of Yahaya Bello as governor in place of Prince Abubakar Audu who died on the verge of victory.
James Faleke, running mate to late Audu, had expected that Audu’a name will be substituted with his but the party leadership settled for Bello, the second runner up in the primary, to the chagrin of many members.
Though the Supreme Court has since laid the matter to rest when it affirmed the validity of Bello’s election, the Audu/Faleke’s group are still sour and it has not been well with the party ever since.
The dust raised by the choice of Bello has not settled when the issue of Ocholi’s substitution cropped up further deepening the crack in the APC.
Faleke’s name has been bandied as possible nominee to fill the vacancy created by Ocholi’s exit. Sources claimed that it was part of the rapprochements to get APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari back on one page in the party affairs.
In fact, it is believed to be one of the numerous appointments that have been lined up by the presidency to massage the ego of Tinubu who many consider relegated to the background by the central government.
But rather than pacify the people and bring cohesion to the party, the move has further stoked the acrimony in the state chapter of APC.
The Kogi East zone where the late minister hailed from, had before now complained over the presidency’s delay in picking one of them to replace their brother that died, insisting that it was their slot. According to them, it would be a grave disservice for another to produce the minister since their son died in service.
Similarly, the APC in Kogi West warned against the choice of Faleke as it would exacerbate the crisis within the party. In a statement jointly endorsed by Alhaji Suleiman Ejibunu and Chief Richard Asaje, they contended that if Faleke and his godfather deserve any ministerial slot it couldn’t be that meant for Kogi.
They cautioned such move would lead to exit of prominent, loyal and committed members of the party as well as aggravate the fractionalized party along many divides.
“We are also unequivocally resolute to stop Tinubu’s expansion into Kogi State or any state in the North Central, we are determined to push out all his consults from Kogi come 2018/2019. It is a task that must be done through all legal/political means. They have failed and they will continue to fail,” the Kogi West APC asserted.
They claimed that Kogi APC knew Faleke that represents a Lagos State constituency in the National Assembly only during the governorship struggle when the Tinubu purportedly imposed him on them as the deputy governorship candidate to late Prince Abubakar Audu.
According to them, it generated a lot of distress to the founding members of APC in the state who built the party, battled the then sitting government in all national elections and won.
Furthermore they asked: “Faleke took the party to court up to Supreme Court and lost while some leaders have remained beggars after the massive support to build APC in the state; if those leader’s effort are left to this ugly power play with humiliation of this nature, what type of party and country are we building?”
They alleged that reconciliation was proposed, which Faleke rejected on the grounds that he cannot be reconciled with the Governor until the ‘injustice’ of taking the governorship from him is redressed, adding: “Giving him such an appointment will amount to providing him fuel to fire the breakup of APC in the state.”
But in a dramatic turn, the State executive council of APC berated Ejibunu, Asaje and their associates described them as fifth columnists in the party.
A statement signed by the entire membership of the executive including the chairman, Alhaji Haddy A. Ametuo, said that the people lacked the locus standi to speak for it stressing that it was meant to cause disharmony among members.
“We the entire members of the state exco respect the power of the President to freely choose whoever he wants to serve in his cabinet, Hon. Faleke inclusive. We also respect the national leadership of Asinaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose support and influence traverses the national structures of the party.
However, Faleke in a swift reaction said that the opposition against his purported nomination was coming from “empty vessels,” noting that it was strange that the people were campaigning against a nomination that was yet to be made by the President.
The House of Representatives’ member, who denied knowledge of any such nomination, however, said those ganging up against him were working for a particular interest.
“My purported nomination as a minister is even unknown to me, but it is a fact that the choice of a minister from any state rest with the President. I will ignore the duo that spoke against my purported nomination,” he stated.
Also, he said that it was wrong for the people to have spoken against Tinubu, whom he noted, worked for the development and the victory of the APC, adding: “Tinubu is a national leader who also has followers in the North. He has nothing to benefit him in Kogi for them to view it as trying to infiltrate the state or northern politics.”