I can’t be Bello’s deputy, says Faleke
• But you are, Bello insists
• PDP condemns INEC for declaring him gov-elect
ALTHOUGH the All Progressives Congress (APC) was yesterday declared the winner of the Kogi State governorship election that was concluded at the weekend, intra-party wrangling is apparently dampening the celebration that should follow the electoral victory.
The running mate to the late Abubakar Audu, the APC candidate in the November 21 governorship election and deputy governor-elect James Abiodun Faleke, yesterday insisted that he would not be deputy to the governor-elect, Yahaya Bello.
Bello, who replaced the late Audu, for last Saturday’s supplementary election held in 91 polling units, was in the early hours of yesterday declared winner of the polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Basking in the euphoria of victory, Bello explained his acceptance to replace Audu as an act of obedience to party supremacy. He insisted that Falake remained his deputy since his position as running mate was not affected.
Bello who spoke to reporters in reaction to his victory as the winner of the supplementary election said Faleke remained the deputy-governor elect as the position was never vacant.
His words: “The former candidate of the party died. INEC requested the party to substitute, and I was chosen to fill the gap. The space of the running mate was never vacant. So if I respond to run on that platform, I don’t think I have any choice but to respect the decision of the party.”
Bello who was dressed in an all white traditional garb called agbada said his reaction to the results was that of ecstasy. However, he said the jubilation was low-keyed because of the death of Abubakar Audu who he described as their great leader.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described as a waste of time and scarce national resources and a ridiculous shadow-chasing, the action of INEC in declaring Bello the governor-elect.
The PDP said INEC, in the bid to satisfy the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC Federal Government, succeeded only in making a mockery of itself and the entire electoral process, by trying to illegally install an individual who, apart from not being a valid candidate, scored, under his name, a paltry 6,885 vote in the so-called supplementary election as
against the 204,877 votes polled by the PDP candidate, Governor Idris Wada in the overall election.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement on Sunday said that “the action of INEC in trying to transfer the votes earlier garnered by the dead APC candidate, Prince Audu Abubakar to another
individual is completely impractical and alien to the nation’s Constitution and the Electoral Act.”
Faleke had sued the INEC and others for declaring the November 21 polls inconclusive and sought to stop the supplementary election but lost the case on Friday when the Federal High Court, Abuja Division insisted that only election tribunals had jurisdiction on such matters.
He insisted that, as the running mate of the late Audu, he was the authentic winner of the said election, as Bello could not inherit votes from an election he did not participate in.
In declaring Bello winner, INEC yesterday said he polled a total of 247,752 to beat the incumbent governor and candidate of the PDP, Wada, who scored 204,877, out of the total accredited voters of 526,389.
The returning officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, who is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Makurdi, said: “Alh. Yahaya Bello having scored the highest number of votes and satisfied the law is hereby declared winner and returned elected.”
Faleke who spoke through his media aide, Duro Meseko, maintained that no one could force him to be the deputy to Bello, adding that he was ready to pursue his case to a logical conclusion.
“That somebody is a member of a party does not mean that you cannot fight for your rights, if they are trampled upon. The result of Saturday’s supplementary election has further confirmed my earlier position that we won the election of Saturday November 21st. My position is that I have appealed the case and nobody can force me to be deputy governor-elect to Yahaya Bello.
“I have taken the position that I am the winner of the election and even the election declared yesterday with the total votes cast which was a little above 12, 000 has vindicated the Audu/ Faleke campaign organisation that they should have been declared winner in the first place and that there was no need for the supplementary election,” he said.
On the way forward towards addressing some of the issues thrown up by the controversial circumstances surrounding his emergence as APC candidate, Bello said he was embarking on a quick reconciliatory move towards the immediate family and the political family of the late Audu.
He said he would also reach out to other leaders of the party and even outside the party towards true reconciliation. On those who might refer to him as a “governor-elect of a supplementary election” he said as a party man who was chosen by the party, “all votes cast in the election are for the party. So I cannot be said to be a governor of a supplementary election.”
He said he had a blueprint in line with the party’s manifesto to put the state on developmental map, adding that he would “make sure that there is justice, fairness and equity in the distribution of resources across the state.”
On the likelihood of litigations, he said that was usually expected after elections. “ But I don’t think there will be so much litigation as the issues are within the party and the party is going to handle it well.”
In a related development, Faleke has appealed to the people of the state to remain calm in the wake of Bello’s emergence as governor-elect. Sources who spoke to The Guardian at Faleke’s house in Ekinrinade, Ijumu Local Council said the appeal became necessary in order to calm the frayed nerves of his supporters.
The atmosphere in the compound located along Omuo road was sombre as many of those who were gathered there discussed the development in hushed tones.