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Oyegun may bleed from Kogi substitution imbroglio




WOULD a new governor be sworn into office by default in Kogi State on January 27, 2016? Or could a court injunction suspend the exercise pending the determination of various suits challenging the conduct of the supplementary governorship election, especially the substitution of the deceased flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?

Another curious legal puzzle that could affect the inauguration of a new administration in the state, is what percentage ratio does the party platform hold in the election of a governor? Against the background of the ongoing disputations over the elongated governorship election in the confluence state, indications have emerged that the ruling APC may review the actions of its National Working Committee (NWC). The Guardian gathered that the unsavoury development in the Kogi confusion might rub off negatively against the tenure of the national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun.

Sources within the national headquarters of the APC confided in The Guardian, that majority of party chieftains, especially those from the southern part of the country view the actions of the national chairman with “disgust and disbelief”. They regretted that at a critical point in the party’s progression, Oyegun showed lack of moral strength and understanding of the issues involved pointing out that the national chairman was doodling and shuffling in search of body language to interpret in taking decisions on the Kogi substitution politics. “For instance, most leaders have come to the conclusion that the claim by Oyegun and few others that the decision to adopt Alhaji Yahaya Bello was based on the expert advice of APC lawyers, the decision was actually meant to satisfy the dictate of a powerful figure in the presidency,” the sources hinted.

Contrasting Oyegun’s chairmanship with that of the interim administration of former Governor Bisi Akande, the sources narrated that while it was easy to know where Akande stands on issues regarding political disagreements; Oyegun prevaricates trying to “flow with every argument, only to end up supporting the views of powerful persons”. The prominent APC stalwarts noted that apart from the technical challenge of getting a substitute in the election, there were other moral and political consideration that ought to influence the party’s judgment lamenting that instead of taking those issues into consideration, Oyegun rushed into bringing in Bello forgetting that the joint ticket of Audu and James Faleke had laboured together to produce the tentative victory in the inconclusive governorship poll.

Contending that the principle of first refusal ought to take precedence over the search for technical correctness, the party faithful declared that the party has been subjected to avoidable misperception owing to the effeminate leadership of the national chairman who they accused of preferring to preserve his job to doing the right things. The sources added that a situation similar to Rivers State governorship disputation between former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Celestine Omehia, has been foisted on APC pointing out that whatever the desirability or outcome of the supplementary poll, only the Supreme Court would determine who is the right custodian of the APC mandate.

Some other APC insiders claimed that Oyegun seems to be pandering to the whims of the presidency to avert his planned replacement with Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Others say he was cleverly distancing himself from the political camp of the former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Based on the body of what could be termed new thinking in the Kogi governorship impasse, it could be seen that the failure of the federal High Court, Abuja to assume jurisdiction and determine the issue of the supplementary poll, places further strain on the parties to the election. APC, it could be said therefore, seems to be gambling with the victory it won halfway before the supplementary poll.

Should the Supreme Court, which stands as the final arbiter in governorship election disputes, annul the participation of APC for fielding a fresh candidate to pair with an imposed running mate, the party would have itself to blame. Should that possibility happen, the Bello camp would have been left in the lurch! Without reflecting on the appropriate constitutional authorities that forbade the court from stopping the conduct of election by INEC, the Bello Support Organization, supporters of the governor-elect commended the judiciary for saving democracy in Kogi by rejecting the prayers to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from organising the make-up poll. Without mentioning Faleke, the group in a communiqué it released shortly after the court ruling, noted: “On November 21, the people of this state voted for the All Progressives Congress in an election that was acclaimed as free and fair.”

But as if to show that the crisis over the APC ticket may not abate soon, supporters of Audu’s running mate in the election, Faleke, stormed the state headquarters of INEC insisting that their principal ought to be declared governor on the strength of the votes announced after the November 21 balloting. Made up of mainly old and young women, the supporters blamed INEC for not announcing a winner after the election.

Speaking through their leader, Mrs. Folashade Joseph, the female protesters laid the blame for the confusion trailing the governorship election in the state at the door step of INEC insisting that only the commission could solve it by recognizing that Faleke, who appeared on the ballot alongside Audu secured substantial votes of Kogi people on November 21, is the winner of the election. The women held that “INEC deliberately set the state on fire; we have over 2,400 polling units in Kogi State. We do not understand why INEC will say election was inconclusive just because of 91 polling units.” They argued that with only 49,000 out of over 500,000 people who voted in the state, out of which only 25,000 have permanent voters’ cards to vote, expected votes cannot be up to 25,000.

The protesters added: “APC is leading with over 41,000; having won 16 local governments out of 21, which shows that the party was victorious in the election and INEC should have clearly declared the election concluded and announced APC winner. We are going to sit out here till INEC reverse itself by doing the right thing and announce that Audu/Faleke won; they won for APC, they have a joint ticket.”

Perhaps, strengthened by that line of reasoning, it was not easy ascertaining the position of Faleke on the make-up poll. Can INEC act upon the earlier list submitted to it by APC having Faleke as Audu’s deputy in the succeeding poll? Faleke had severally denounced any subservient position to Bello adding that he remains the governor-elect by virtue of the death of his former principal. He made his withdrawal from a joint ticket with Bello known to INEC through a letter where he also disclosed that Alhaji Bello did not take part in the electioneering campaigns that gave Audu/Faleke and APC victory on the November 21 poll. In the letter sighted by The Guardian, Faleke said he was also challenging the commission’s decision of declaring the election inconclusive in the first instance.

As the controversy over the APC ticket rages, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) insists that its candidate, Captain Idris Wada, (rtd) should be declared winner of the election arguing that APC has lost its right to further participation in the poll having failed to fulfill the constitutional requirement of fielding a running mate to the governorship candidate. PDP also maintained that APC had no constitutional sanction to introduce a fresh candidate midway into the election pointing out that the substitute having not canvassed for votes or joined issues in the electoral contest remains a total stranger to voters that voted in the first election.

In a statement, the party’s national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said PDP would challenge the imposition to the highest court in the land adding that Kogi has shown the undemocratic qualities of the ruling party. Calling on Nigerians to rise up and speak out against the emerging despotism of APC, PDP said that since INEC could not cancel the election, the candidate with the next highest number of votes at the November 21 election should be sworn into office since the APC votes died with its late candidate, Audu.

After the supplementary election, parties to the Kogi governorship would move over to the different levels of the nation’s judiciary to test the various thoughts on the unforeseen developments in the election.

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