Kogi in subdued celebration, cautious optimism
Governor’s directive, police action restrain wild reactions
The expected outburst of jubilation or demonstrations over the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment on the validity of the governorship of Yahaya Bello of Kogi State was an anticlimax of sort.
There was a subdued celebration by supporters of Bello while those that planned to take to the streets to vent their anger over a loss, as well as hoodlums that would have capitalized on crowd anonymity to cause mayhem were cowed by the massive presence of security.
Thus it was a mix bag as the Supreme Court upheld Bello, as authentic winner of the November 21, 2015 governorship election in the state, with reactions as divergent as the people.
Prior to the apex court’s ruling on Tuesday, the former governor, Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu, winner of the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. James Faleke have filed petitions against Bello’s mandate.
While Wada claimed that Bello should not be declared governor because Audu died with his mandate, Falake insisted that he, being the running mate to APC’s governorship candidate that died shortly before the election was concluded should be declared governor.
However, the argument in favour of Bello was that being the runner up to Audu in the APC’s governorship primary, he has the constitutional right to take the mandate and not Faleke, who did not contest the primary of the party.
The unanimous judgment by a five-member panel of the Appeal Court delivered by Justice Jummai Sankey on August 4, had upheld the verdict of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, which dismissed Faleke’s petition.
But in Wada’s appeal, Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya gave a dissenting judgment canceling the election of Bello on the grounds that he was not validly nominated for the election following Audu’s death and he failed to nominate a running mate before the election. He had ordered the withdrawal of the governor’s certificate of return and the conduct of a fresh election in the state.
However, the Supreme Court in its judgment confirmed that votes belonged to the political party that nominated a candidate. It affirmed that the nomination of Bello to replace Audu was in order.
Supporters of Falake, who boasted that their man would win the case, as well as followers of Wada, were disappointed.
Meanwhile, the low-keyed jubilation in the state after the ruling on Tuesday was attributed to the fact that most of the supporters of Bello were still in Abuja.
Another reason adduced was the fact that the governor restrained his supporters against wild celebrations. The earlier warning by the State Command Police also restrained supporters from street jubilation.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Abdulahi Chafe had earlier warned that he would mobilized his men to arrest anybody that cause problem, saying: “such people would be prosecuted according to the laws.
One of the supporters of former governor Wada, who said there was no need to continue to bicker, called on Bello to extend a hand of fellowship to others for the growth and development of the state.
According to him, “Bello should not run an administration of revenge and vendetta.
However, the apex court ruling seems not to have gone down well with the state’s civil servants who were yet to get their salary.
A civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity said though many of his colleagues have received alerts of three months he was yet to receive. He expressed hope that Bello’s victory would change things for the better for the civil servants.
However, as the elated governor returned to Kogi, many of his supporters took over the Murtala Muhammed Bridge-Lokoja axis of the Lokoja-Abuja highway to welcome him but security operatives ensured normalcy. They made contingency plan as they directed commuter vehicles and other vehicles to utilize one lane of the dual carriage high way hence the reception was hitch free.
Significantly, supporters who trooped to the reception at the foot of the bridge came from the three camps on the matter, wearing uniforms of T-Shirts bearing inscription of ‘God Won for Bello’
They came in different attires with musical instruments in cultural display to the admiration of other supporters.
It was like a triumphant entry into Lokoja as Lokoja indigenes lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of the victorious governor. Some wore banners indicating that Loyola indigenes were fully in support of the Governor.
Elsewhere in Okene, the headquarters of the Kogi Central Senatorial district there was unprecedented celebration as popular masquerades were released to celebrate their own.
The joy of the people knew no bounds as the first ever son of the Ebira to occupy the exalted position has been successful in all fronts winning all his cases like the proverbial cat with nine lives.
One of those celebrating said the victory was germane because if the judgment had been otherwise the Governor would have been unable to return to Lokoja.
The governor extended the olive branch to those who contended with him noting that his victory at the Supreme Court showed that democracy has indeed taken root in Nigeria.
Bello who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said his victory at the court was a big honor to democracy.
“The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court today, which affirmed my election is a watershed in the annals of electoral jurisprudence and constitutional law in the country. It was a long walk to victory, which will reshape our constitution of the nation.
“The victory belongs to all Kogi people who believe in transforming Kogi from a potentially great State to a really great State. Am committed to serving the people and making the State the centre of excellence and the cynosure of all eyes”, he said.
The governor, however, restrained his supporters against wild celebration, saying the moment was a challenge to indigenes for sober reflection on how to make the state great.
He reiterated the administration’s commitment to the cardinal goals of improving education, reinventing healthcare, boosting infrastructural development as well as raising the capacity of the State citizens to reinvigorate the economy.
However, Faleke said he had no regrets challenging the decision to declare the election inconclusive as the step was taken in good faith to protect the interest of the over 240,000 electorates that voted for the Audu/Faleke ticket in the election.
In a statement issued on his behalf by Duro Meseko, he said it would amount to a betrayal of the sacred trust of the people who reposed implicit confidence in the Audu/Faleke ticket, not to have defended the sanctity of their vote up till the apex court level.
“We have heard the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court jurists upholding Yahaya Bello as governor. We shall wait for the full text of the judgment to know why they came to that conclusion. But let it be stated here that we have no regrets challenging the declaration of our election as inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). What we did was to defend the votes cast for Audu/Faleke by the over 240,000 electorates on November 21, 2015,” he stated.
Faleke urged all his supporters to remain calm, peaceful and law abiding while thanking them for their support and perseverance all through the court proceedings.
But speaking through his Chief Communications Manager, Wada indicated that the judgment was against the golden dawn in the state that bears the cradle of the people.
“It was against the golden dawn for all lovers of democracy in Nigeria and all over the world but we are proud to be at the vanguard of the revolution.”
He said the decision of the apex court, brings to an end a legal battle they initiated not because they wanted a second term in office; but to serve as a historic denunciation and a befitting dirge for electoral fraud.
Wada, however, resolved to offer his support to his successor, stressing that he would do his best in whatever way possible to offer support to Governor Bello for the uplift of the state.
Former acting governor of Kogi, Chief Clarence Olafemi said the judgment is a victory for democracy.
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