Council elections as Bello’s next challenge in Kogi
Many in Kogi are hoping that Gov. Yahaya Bello will use his second term in office to re-write the history of the poor outing of his first term. There are early signs of a departure from what had been. One of these is the formation of cabinet on inauguration day. The announcement came with the governor’s inauguration speech; the approval by the state House of Assembly and swearing-in of commissioner designates all within 48 days. The governor also had 30 special advisers approved by the legislative arm.
Although the November 2019 governorship election is still bogged down by litigation, the court cases this time will not include that of his fellow party member, James Faleke and a section of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), like it was in 2015. In 2015, Bello’s was an administration in desperate need of legitimacy following fragmentation in the ruling APC. In the course of striving to find its feet the government was forced to take a rash of emergency decisions, especially in appointments.
That would not be the fate of the administration this time around. Last term, the administration was most talked about for all the wrong reasons. It was perhaps the most unpopular state government in the federation. However, the governor scored himself high in the area of projects and policies, but lost the “propaganda war” to the opposition, which he claimed tainted his achievements.
There is the issue of the voting pattern in the November 16, 2019 governorship election. According to the result announced by INEC, Bello won with 215, 000 margin, which was largely off the mark of pre-election forecasts. The question thus has been why and how a governor so disparaged could return all the votes credited to him?
Perhaps, it is on the note of quickly putting behind issues of the elections that the administration has wasted no time to begin on clean slate. The launch of the Kogi State Open Governance and Accountability Systems (KOGAS), an online application designed to hold public office holders accountable to the people of the state presents a new start.
KOGAS, conceptualized by newly sworn-in commissioner of Information and Communication, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo is seen as a follow-up to the promise by the governor to run an all inclusive government, this time around.
Fanwo hinted that KOGAS would be made available and open to the people of the state as an avenue to score each sector of the state based on performance and to allow the people ask relevant questions from the leadership.
The commissioner said that the ministry as the custodian of the website, will upload alongside an online digital album where pictures of state projects would be displayed.
“The platform will fast-track effective feedback mechanism for government and promote efficient service delivery to the people. KOGAS is designed to make the people contribute directly in the governance of the state. The people will be able to ask all heads of ministries, boards and agencies questions and answers must be provided within 24 hours.”
Bello, in his inauguration speech on January 27 said, “We ran for a second term with the slogan, ‘Let’s Do More’ and made a strong case for reelection by showcasing our first term achievements while undertaking to improve on them. Kogi voters have reelected us with the most historic margin in a gubernatorial election ever seen in this state and it is now incumbent on us to keep our electoral promises – and we shall do just that. I do not intend to outline everything we shall do in this second term in this brief speech. That will have to wait for our updated New Direction Blueprint, which should be out within the next 90 days.”
Observers of Kogi politics say one area to watch is the appointments to be made in the days ahead. There are chances that the faction of APC once led by Faleke and former members of the PDP who defected to APC last year would be allowed to make inputs in Bello’s second term. If that happens, it would be a departure from Bello’s first term, when Bello and his powerfull ally, former Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja (now Deputy Governor) largely determined who got what.
With the matter of appointment of commissioners already settled, focus is on who gets what in terms of SAs, SSAs and others.
Analysts say this is one area the governor needs to apply wisdom to avoid another round of intra-party crisis between the various interest groups in the evolution of the new administration.
Three separate groups have emerged in the ruling APC and are in contention for relevance -The AYB, the GYB, defunct Faleke group and the “converts” from PDP.
Members of Bello political family make up the AYB group. This set formed the pillar of supporters in Bello’s initial quest to pick the ticket of the APC at the August 2015 primaries, a contest he lost to the late Abubakar Audu.
The second group, GYB is the combination of AYB, APC members and other interests who came together to work for the party’s success in the complimentary election that eventually produced Bello as replacement for the late Audu and governor.
The third are Audu/Faleke group. The fourth are converts or joiners. This set comprised those who decamped from the opposition parties, mainly the PDP in the run up to the November 16 general election.
Things To Watch
Local Government Election:
Although yet to be scheduled, there are glimpses of hope that local government election would be conducted soon in Kogi State, four years after the dissolution of the former council helmsmen in 2016. The recent constitution of the State Independent Electoral Commission (KOSIEC) is a pointer. The councils have been ruled by appointed caretakers codenamed “Chief Administrators”. It was the first of its kind in the political history of the state to have not just appointed caretakers, but the same set of people superintendent over the 21 local government areas for four years unchanged, for which the Bello administration had come under severe condemnation both from within and outside the APC.
There are feelers that the so-called Chief Administrators may be scheming to have Governor Bello endorse them as flag bearers of the APC in their various councils. Stakeholders of the party are expected to resist this move.
A socio-political group, Voice of the Grassroots alleged that top functionaries in the hierarchy of government are doing everything possible to convince the governor to nominate the administrators as the party’s candidates. The group, in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Taiwo Moses said “For the Governor to have peace of mind and avoid unnecessary controversy, he should allow the people to elect those that have the capacity to deliver not the paddy paddy way it was handled in 2016. If feelers from various councils are anything to go by, then it will be a tall dream for some of the administrators to return elected, as majority of the electorate including APC executives and members are prepared for a showdown with some of them. The majority demand at the grassroots is for the administrators to step down after four years, more than the statutory three years tenure allowed. It may be very difficult for the APC as a party to win in some local governments considering the conducts of some of the administrators whose woeful performances had far-reaching effects on the party in the last elections.”
Signs that the administrators may stop at nothing to retain their seats in elective capacity emerged from the rash of endorsements the incumbents have been getting from the various groups in their domains.
The examples of Kabba-Bunu and Omala Local Government Councils come handy. Feelers from the two councils located in Kogi West and East Senatorial Districts respectively, showed that the administrators, Moses Olorunleke and Ibrahim Yakubu Aboh have the endorsement of groups within the APC in the areas to be accorded the right of first refusal ahead of the yet to be scheduled elections.
Olorunleke and Aboh’s endorsement however have come against stiff opposition from stakeholders in their councils.
The leadership of Kabba/Bunu APC, which comprised the local government executives, ward chairmen, women leaders, secretaries, youth leaders across the 15 wards zoned the chairmanship position to Bunu District. Kabba/Bunu APC chairman, Elisha Olorunmosule disclosed after the meeting that the leadership of the party in the local government took the decision in the spirit of brotherliness, love and peaceful coexistence of the council.
He said “it is good to note that the leadership of the party in Bunu has also sub-zoned the chairmanship position to Kiri axis in Bunu District, since the Commissioner and State Security Adviser are in Bunu central, while Bunu south has the LGA Administrator.”
If this stands, the incumbent administrator, Olorunleke may have been zoned out of contention for the local government election in Kabba-Bunu council.
The party chairman noted that the adoption of the arrangements was to avoid unnecessary tension, as the party would not tolerate the imposition of any candidate in any ward in the local government.
From the governor, there have been no clear signs of endorsement of the continuation in office for the administrators.
For now, Kogites are hoping that council elections will happen soon, and that the primaries will be free and fair.
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