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Bello’s emergence and APC’s future in Kogi

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Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello


The emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello as the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not come as a surprise to many. This is expected, considering series of events leading to the party’s August 29 primary election.So now, Bello will be APC’s flag bearer at the November gubernatorial election, as he defeated 10 other aspirants to win the ticket.

The Governor was declared winner by Chairman of the electoral committee and Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammadu Badaru, after voting, sorting and counting processes were concluded.Earlier, Badaru announced that of the 3,838 registered delegates, only 3,596 were accredited by the committee.

Governor Bello scored a total of 3,091 votes, beating Barr. Babatunde Irukera, who scored 109 votes and others.Declaring the process, Badaru assured all aspirants that the committee would follow due process, as stipulated by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).Following this landslide victory, Governor Bello congratulated all aspirants that contested in the primary. He thanked delegates for the confidence reposed on him to fly the party’s flag in the November election.

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“Your votes today demonstrate your esteemed confidence in my leadership. This show of faith is highly appreciated and shall serve as a boost to our collective aspirations of moving Kogi State to the next level,” he said.The Governor also hailed the aspirants’ democratic posture, and
appealed to them to join hands in delivering the state to APC in November.

Bello’s victory was, however, expected. First, a court sitting in Abuja had upheld the state executive committee loyal to Bello as the party’s authentic executives in the state. It also endorsed indirect primary to select the candidate.A Federal High Court in Abuja had also dismissed two suits filed by some APC members in Kogi State in relation to the disputes over the party’s leadership and its mode of primary to be adopted for selecting candidate for the forthcoming governorship election.

Recall that other aspirants had agitated for direct primary, as they claimed that indirect method would favour Bello. All this is now history. And considering the sequence of events that led to last Thursday’s primary, which produced Bello, it is doubtful if the aggrieved aspirants and their supporters will work for the party’s success in November.

In a report by the committee headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma, 12 aspirants were earlier screened out of the primary for offences bordering on double declaration of age, non-commitment to party and non-attachment of relevant documents to their nomination forms.Those cleared by the first committee include Governor Bello, Hon. Hassan Baiwa, Engr. Bashir Gegu and Mrs. Aishat Blessing Ekele.

This led to series of protests by some of aspirants that didn’t sail through.Those on this list are former Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, the two sons of the late icon of Kogi politics, Abubakar Audu, Muhammad and Mustapha Audu.Others are Dr. Babatunde Irukera, Professor Seidu Onalo Ogah, Yakubu Mohammed, Hadjia Rukayat Ibrahim, Hadiza Ibrahim,

Abubakar Mohammed, Yahaya Audu and former President of Nigeria Football Federation, Sani Lulu.In another twist, Yagba West Local Government party chairman of APC in Kogi State, Major David Samuel (rtd), has denied issuing any letter to Barr. Irukera, authenticating him as a financial member of the party in the area.

Samuel was reacting to an online media report alleging that he issued a letter to Irukera, who was seeking the party’s nomination for the November governorship position.Irukera was screened out by the Senator Hope Uzodinma Committee on grounds of non-commitment to the party and non-payment of party dues.

Irukera had, however, argued that he has contributing to the party in his Yagba West Local Government, and that he had been paying salaries of staff of the party’s Secretariat, as well as payment for its rent.Reacting to the development, a member of the Irukera campaign group told The Guardian on condition of anonymity that Samuel was speaking under duress.

He said: “We understand where he is coming from. We understand he was whisked to Lokoja in the early hours of this morning to address the press conference. It is very unfortunate. As a group, we are committed and resolute. We would not be distracted and we would not join issues with him.”

The APC charged the 12 disqualified aspirants to take their complaints to the Appeal Screening Committee, as the party’s leadership would not meddle in the process.

This came after 12 of the 15 aspirants, who paid a total of N270m for the primary, were screened out for sundry reasons.The disqualification of the 12, according to the aspirants, was aimed at giving Bello an advantage.The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu in a statement Monday night in Abuja said:

“Screening of aspirants is a constitutional issue. There are clear procedures for the conduct of screening of aspirants in our party’s
Constitution and the Electoral Act. Screening itself is not the final stage in the qualification process. Aspirants who have objections to outcomes of the screening have the opportunity of presenting their case before the Appeal Panel.

“It should be noted that both the screening and appeal committees are independent of the NWC, as far as their activities are concerned. By practice, having selected people believed to be credible as members of these committees, the NWC does not interfere in anyway in their activities…”In a dramatic turn of events, the NWC said after deliberation on the reports of the screening and appeal committees, it had to clear additional five aspirants.

Issa-Onilu said the decision was arrived at after a comprehensive review of the two committees’ submissions, relying on the party’s guidelines and the Electoral Act’s provisions.According to him, a total of nine aspirants were finally cleared to contest the August 29, 2019 indirect primary, as against the four earlier cleared by the Hope Uzodinma-led screening committee. He explained that seven other aspirants did not meet the requirements for participation in the exercise.

Surprisingly, Irukera was later cleared, less than 12 hours to the primary election.One of the aspirants that wasn’t cleared, Prince Mustapha Mona Audu, had approached the court, seeking an order to stop the primary, but the court declined to grant his request.

The Vacation Judge sitting at the High Court of Justice headquarters, Lokoja, Kogi State, Hon. Justice Abdul Nicodemus Awulu, on August 29, which coincided with the primary, declined the exparte application filed by Mustapha Mona Audu to stop the primary.Some party stakeholders believe the national leadership would urgently need to put in place mechanism to resolve all disputes to bring aggrieved members together for the party’s overall progress.

They argued that Barr. Natasha Akpoti’s emergence on the platform of the Social Democratic party (SDP) from the same senatorial district with Bello calls for serious concern. This, they said, makes it even more imperative for the party to be cohesive to be able to face the challenges ahead.An indication that all may not be well with the primary was Hassan Bewa’s staged walk-out from the venue, where 10 aspirants were cleared, alleging that the exercise had been compromised.

This came on the heel of Irukera’s complaints that the primary fell short of acceptable norms.Irukera, who was the last person to be cleared last Wednesday by the NWC, debunked insinuations that he refused to show up at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja venue of the event.Bewa, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Dekina /Bassa Federal Constituency of Kogi State, said he could not cope with the level of manipulation going on at the venue.

He said that he was taken aback, when nearly all the delegates claimed to be illiterates, who could not read or write, hence officials were issuing them already customised ballot papers with Governor Bello’s name on them.He said all efforts to complain to the officials fell on deaf ears, while the security officials at the venue chased him away.

Asked what he planned to do next, Bewa said he had started consultation with his supporters and would communicate his decisions in due course to those concerned.Meanwhile, various groups have been congratulating Governor Bello, assuring him of their support for the November governorship election. One of such groups is the GYB Frontiers.

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Calling on the electorate to vote massively for Bello in November for sustainable development in Kogi, the group enjoined the Governor to continue his good works of ensuring adequate security of life and property, provision of qualitative healthcare and provision of quality education, among others.

An APC member and business mogul, Dr. Bolufemi Rotimi also described Bello’s victory as the best option for the party’s victory in November, saying his victory would make it easy for APC to win the election.Similarly, Senator Smart Adeyemi described as a master stroke Governor Bello’s emergence as APC flag bearer, saying the joy Bello’s emergence elicited around the state capital was a pointer to his acceptance as the best option for the party.

However, an APC stalwart, Dr. Tom Ohikere said the Governor needs to work fast at reconciling with aggrieved parties. Ohikere said the delegates’ action was a demonstration of Kogi people’s sustained trust in APC.He urged Bello to use the second opportunity to correct perceived mistakes, and consolidate on the gains from his first tenure in office.

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