Kogi’s unfinished business of a conclusive election
ALTHOUGH the November 21, 2015 governorship elections in Kogi, declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for being at variance with an election guideline, has been concluded last Saturday, so many issues raised by its conduct have made it an unfinished business at least in the opinion of most stakeholders that participated in the exercise.
The issues revolve around the acceptability of the candidacy of the declared winner of the election, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who has inherited the votes already scored by the joint ticket of Prince Abubakar Audu, the candidate whose sudden death before the conclusion of the November exercise led to the unprecedented debacle, and James Abiodun Faleke, on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the light of Section 141 of the Electoral Act.
The insistence of incumbent governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Capt. Idris Wada, who also rely on the Electoral Act that votes cannot be transferred to somebody who did not go the whole hog of electoral exercise, that he should be declared the winner being “the only living candidate with the highest number of votes” is another issue to contend with.
There is also the legality or otherwise of the absence of a running-mate for Bello in the exercise. Faleke has refused to be declared as the Deputy-Governor elect on the ground that he should inherit the joint mandate he shared with the deceased relying on Section 181 of the 1999 Constitution that recognizes the oneness of a joint governorship ticket.
Other issues include whether INEC was right in declaring the first exercise as inconclusive considering the fact that it was obvious that a fresh exercise could not swing the pendulum of victory the other way which the electoral guideline is meant to protect or whether APC was right in picking the runner-up in the governorship primary election over the running-mate in the election proper as substitute to its candidate.
There are also the very serious issues of ethnic tension between the Ebira of the Central Senatorial District to whom Bello belongs and the Yoruba of the West and the Igalla of the East who seem to have forged a new alliance with the coming together of Faleke and Muhammed, Audu’s son which proposed ticket the party at the national level has rejected.
Both Wada and Faleke have tried to stop the supplementary election from holding but a Federal High Court in Abuja did not grant their request saying it lacked jurisdiction as the matter could only be resolved by the Election Petition Tribunal.
The duo are said to be set for a legal battle with the governor-elect even though it is not clear on what ground Faleke would be standing if the matter is eventually to be resolved at the tribunal as he did not participate in the supplementary polls.
With all these dark shadows of doubts over what could be the final outcome of the election, Bello’s declaration is a victory without a celebration dance in Lokoja, the state capital and many areas of the state.
The only place where some form of jubilation was observed was in the Ebira-speaking parts of the state. At both Adavi and Okene local councils, supporters of APC decked in party colours with brooms and pictures of Bello, were seen dancing along major streets. One of them who was driving a vehicle emblazoned with Bello’s photographs, said they were preparing to welcome the governor-elect back into the midst of his people yesterday afternoon.
But the atmosphere at the Lokoja residence of the governor-elect, moments after his dawn declaration by the INEC through the Returning Officer, Professor Emmanuel Ayanabe Kucha, as the winner of the exercise, was that of cautious optimism last Sunday.
Rather than playing host to jubilant party faithful in festive mood to celebrate the victory as it is usual with politicians, the modest colonial style bungalow was devoid of any activity as a handful of politicians, who were far less than the number of security operatives inside and outside the building, were discussing the development obviously not sure of what was going to happen next.
Although he was said to be preparing to leave town for an undisclosed location later in the day, a freshly painted banner urging the people of the state to support “Fairplus”, another name by which Bello is known, in the quest to rebuild Kogi, that fluttered in the early morning harmattan wind, was the only sign that linked the scenario with the current political situation in the Confluence state.
Across the fence, the impressive Government House grounds looked quite as the governor was said to have traveled to Abuja a week earlier, to strengthen his legal position and meet with PDP top shots on how to come out of the situation, a winner.
Some two hundreds kilometers away at Ekinrinade, Ijumu local council home of Faleke, located along Omuo Road, the atmosphere was also somber as many of those who gathered there were discussing the development in hushed tones.
Although Faleke neither picked his call nor replied to a text message requesting an interview with The Guardian even when he was told that the reporter was at the gate, one of his aides, who was described as the official photographer, said “Oga is in no mood to see anyone”. The aide, who said his name was Emmanuel, disclosed that Faleke spent the night appealing to the people to keep calm as it was obvious that Bello was going to be declared as the governor-elect.
According to him, “Oga is relying on the courts and he is sure that he is going to get justice at the end of the day. But he doesn’t want people to take the laws into their hands, hence the appeal. He has therefore been appealing to the people to keep their calm.
“He has gotten in touch with party leaders in the state and assured them that the Judiciary will definitely right the wrong done by the national leaders by picking Bello.”
While legal practitioners are preparing to resolve the issues at the courts, the governor-elect has begun moves to resolve the ethnic issues. Speaking before his declaration, Bello said: “I am of the central senatorial district extraction and I am not going to be the Governor for the central but Governor of Kogi State.
“I am looking forward to developing our state so if I should make mention of power shift yes power has shifted from the older generation to the younger generation. That is what I believe in but on the bases of power shift from one senatorial district to another, I don’t believe in that. I could have come from the east and what is made of me would have still been what I am, what I believe and what I should do in terms of developing the state evenly to be sure there is fairness, equity and justice.
“All I can say is that we would do all within our power to ensure that sectional divide does not exist during our own time.”
He also pledged to reconcile all the divergent opinions in the APC with a view to strengthen the party saying, “APC is one big family and in a family there is bound to be one misunderstanding or the other but as governor I will ensure that all the aggrieved parties are brought together.
“Everybody would air their own grievances but we will make sure that everybody is carried along. To my other brothers in other political parties after politics we have to settle for the business of governance because in our state, so much needs to be done. We would all sit at a round table and do the needful.”
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