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Kogi State APC in political quandary over reconciliation

By John Akubo, Lokoja
08 September 2017   |   4:26 am
That Kogi State has been reeling under the excruciating yoke of a political crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is no longer news, its negative effect on governance has been visible in recent months.

Dino Melaye

While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is reportedly getting its act together, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi State is still being haunted by the politics of 2015 governorship poll that seems to be defying all efforts at finding a lasting solution ahead of the 2019 elections.

That Kogi State has been reeling under the excruciating yoke of a political crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is no longer news, its negative effect on governance has been visible in recent months.

The major characters in the feud include the governor, Yahaya Bello, leadership of the party in the state led by its chairman, Haddy Ametuo; Kogi West senator, Dino Melaye; deputy governorship candidate in the November 2015 election, James Faleke as well as notable chieftains of the party like Senators Alex Kadiri, Ohiare, Nicholas Ugbane, amongst others.

The Ametuo-led executive had remained averse to the governor, whom they have accused of not acting in accordance with the party’s manifestoes and favouring members of the opposition in the state.

The robust relationship between the governor and Melaye, which was consummated during the controversial emergence of Bello when the initial candidate of the party in the last governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu died suddenly when coasting home to victory, went awry, following alleged disagreements over appointments.

Melaye was one of the major backers of Bello when supporters of and Faleke were up in arms against him.

The state Assembly was not insulated from the crises also as former Speaker, Umar Imam escaped death by the whiskers when thugs invaded the State Assembly complex. His ‘offence’ was daring to summon the State Commissioner of Finance and other top government functionaries to offer explanations on the unending workers’ screening exercise and how the last tranche of the Paris Club loan refund was spent. The governor felt slighted by that action, hence, the change of leadership in the House.

Though the national leadership of the APC has been making moves to reconcile the warring factions in the Kogi chapter, some aggrieved members believe the leadership is just playing the ostrich. They accused the Presidency and the National Secretariat of the party of being the architect of their misfortunes in the state.

Since the emergence of Bello, the leadership of the party in the state had relocated to Abuja where they have been operating as the major opposition due to intolerance between the governor and the State Working Committee.
Most of them who were supporters of Audu said they committed their energy to the task of defeating the PDP with the hope of getting some patronage.

However to their surprise the new kid on the block allegedly abandoned them for the same people they fought and defeated as they claimed that 95 percent of the appointees of the APC government were PDP members.

Again they were taken aback to find out that the governor had little or no regard for the patty’s leadership structure as they were not being carried along in the activities of government.
For instance, the party accused Bello of handing out juicy appointments to individuals who worked against the party in the December 2015 election.

Because of this, demand for reconciliation from concerned stakeholders had continued to reverberate and has reached its highest pitch.
Though the John Odiegie Oyegun-led national leadership had set up a reconciliation and fact-finding committee headed by elder statesman Tony Momoh which has since submitted its report, the aggrieved members believe it is a smokescreen.

The said their suspicion was confirmed when early last week, the APC national chairman inaugurated another seven-man committee for the same purpose of reconciling the members even as they asked whether the first report has been consigned to the dust bin of history.

A former speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly Abdullahi Bello described the second reconciliation committee as a waste of the party’s resources and efforts.

James Faleke

According to him there is no transparency and sincerity on the part of the leadership of the party, which he said knows the root cause of the crises they created and yet is beating about the bush.

However he said the aggrieved party members were not in conflict with the governor even as he insisted that the crisis was between them, the aggrieved members and the Abuja leadership.

“At the time of the gubernatorial election we all joined forces together to defeat PDP and send them out of power. If the national secretariat and the Presidency think what we are facing today is our reward, so be it,” he added.

He said with the comprehensive work done by the Tony Momoh committee, the party should have implemented their reports stressing that the committee worked very hard for the party but the national body up to the Presidency abandoned them at the auspicious moment.

The governor may have foreclosed the hope for reconciliation in the state APC when he recently expressed concern over some members with dual characters who hide under the reconciliation banner but do not mean well for the administration.

Bello who disclosed this at the Lokoja Local Government Secretariat in his democracy day speech, was speaking against the backdrop of some party executives outside the state who have been antagonizing his administration saying, “People cannot offer us reconciliation with one hand and try to stab us in the back when we embrace them.”

He said his administration has the record of having the most malicious opposition in the history of in Nigeria stressing in another breadth that the APC in the state was one and indivisible as that there are no factions.

Other concerned members are worried about the political clout of the governor’s appointees who they described as featherweights in politics.
Their argument is that most of the real politicians who actually won the last election have been excluded adding that winning the next election for the

APC cannot be attained except the governor succumbs to the demand for true reconciliation.

Another chieftain of the party Senator Alex Kadiri said there is need to reconcile but they don’t have to beg to reconcile stressing, “If those who are holding power today feel they are in charge and they can do anything and get away with it, so be it.

“Markets holds every five days, election holds every four years but there is no issue that cannot be settled. The people that brought about this government almost totally marginalized. That is the issue. Some of us feel that we are de-marketing APC and you cannot de-market a party and expect the party to win election. That is our take.”

Faleke in a recent interview confirmed that Bello had not reach out to him at all adding that the situation where people worked and somebody else is taking advantage of their efforts is a very bad situation for the APC.

According to him, “I expected him to take over the party and carry every member along; give them opportunity to serve. They are all well educated. This governor has appointed, as at the last count, over 200 aides, from commissioners to SSAs and out of the 286, only 43 are original APC members. You can just imagine that the rest are PDP. That’s is the crux of the matter.”

Faleke said what he was expecting from the governor was that, while he was in court, he would have taken over the party from the Audu/Faleke family by giving them a lot of privileges so that by the time he (Faleke) finished at the court, he (Faleke) would have been the one struggling to be relevant among party members.

There has also been this running battle between Melaye and Bello with the senator playing the major opposition role taking on the governor on all issues.

Melaye was one of the strongest pillars of the Bello government at the onset but all that has faded away. The senator and other party executives recently called for the governor’s impeachment over INEC double registration saga signaling the urgent need for the reconciliation to curb the trend.

The singular act drew the ire of the governor and his supporters, which led to the move to recall the senator, a drama that played out with Melaye finding succor in the courts. But the last has not been heard of the issue.

Even among those occupying positions in the Bello administration the urgent need for reconciliation has continued to be reechoed as a former Speaker of the House of Assembly Honorable Ahmed Imam and the Deputy Governor recently at the swearing in ceremony of about 56 new appointees, dared the consequences to speak up on the lackadaisical manner the government was treating the issue of reconciliation.

They were worried that within Bello’s cabinet there are no politicians that can deliver the goods when it matters most especially as the chickens were coming home to roost.

They seem to be telling the governor not to play the ostrich, as election is practically a game of numbers in a tone suggestive that they have also lost confidence in the type of appointees being paraded who they believe know next to nothing about how the politics of winning election is played.

Imam said although they have succeeded in using their dragnet to draw some House of Assembly members in to their fold they needed to do more about reconciliation while appealing to the governor to work for true reconciliation because it is the only panacea for the continued stay of APC in Lugard House. He also challenged the estranged party members not to stay out after they have finished building a house saying they needed to come and join the train.

The former Speaker was also reported to have told the governor to forget the recall process of Melaye and go for reconciliation as the best option because he was not going to be part of the recall. That utterance, according to some analysts, may have been part of his disagreement with the governor that caused his recent resignation.

Also speaking on reconciliation, the member representing Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro Federal Constituency, Hassan Atayoma Omale, said it was possible if vexed issues in the state’s party were addressed.

He gave some of the conditions to include payment of Kogi workers’ salaries, dissolution of state executive and consideration of a sizeable number of those who worked for APC in the state to occupy positions. Omale emphasized that governor Bello must capture those who worked with the late Audu in political appointments.

Explaining the frustrations over the governor’s recalcitrance to party issues, the legislator revealed that all lawmakers from the state tried to reach out to the governor to no avail. He added that over 80 percent of those in Bello’s cabinet were a mixture of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and non-party members, insisting that the composition was unsustainable for APC’s continuity come 2019.

The division got deeper recently when prominent stakeholders failed to attend a meeting held at the party secretariat in the state capital, Lokoja, prior to the recent local government congresses.

Stakeholders in the party such as the National Assembly members from the three senatorial districts, were not in attendance and the APC executives were also absent at the meeting, casting doubt on the exercises as the main leadership who were supposed to convene such meeting were not there.

If the present scenario continues then the party may be doomed, as it cannot go into the next election so factionalized when its main contender, the PDP, is seriously forging a common front.