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No respite for Kogi APC, as factions refuse to sheath swords


APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun

The leadership crisis in Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have defied all possible solutions, as it keeps getting more complicated with every new dose of palliative measure applied.The recent extension of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee’s (NWC)’s tenure and the 36 states working committees down to the ward levels seem not to have received majority of party followers’ blessing.

The state governor, Yahaya Bello, who broke the news on behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC), may be opposed to the decision, as he seemed to be working at cross purposes with what he read on national television.

Even though he celebrated Oyegun and his team’s tenure extension, that of his state, led by Hadi Ametuo may not have been in his interest.Going by the content of Bello’s message, which he delivered on behalf of APC NEC, the Kogi State Working Committee, led by Ametuo should have immediately been recognised and empowered to continue to allow for a lasting peace in the party.However, barely 48 hours after Bello’s announcement, the state’s factional APC executive was inaugurated after which a statement was issued expelling Ametuo and his 38 members.

Political commentators said the party’s state chapters keep flouting national leadership’s decision because the ruling party has been speaking from both sides of the mouth, sending wrong signals to the general public.

They hold the belief that whatever is going wrong at the state level would have not been happening, if they didn’t have national leadership’s blessing.The actions and utterances of governors of such states as Kogi and Kaduna, they said, speak volumes, as they keep going at cross purposes with the party’s position, and yet they are not supposed to be operating in isolation.

Governor Bello said the outcome of the party’s NEC meeting in Abuja indicated that the extension was to commence from June 2018. APC stakeholders in the state are of the opinion that the party should have cautioned Bello’s factional leadership, especially when in the broadcast he said NEC’s decision was taken in line with the party’s constitution, and explained that it was to ensure peace prevailed within the party hierarchy.

In a statement, the governor said: “Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses, we cannot afford to approach general elections with more disputes and crises. So, relying on Article 13 of our Constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out convention functions, the NEC has decided to extend the current NWC’s tenure.’’

Bello explained that the extension included the party’s executive committees at various levels. The expectation was that after the announcement, Bello, as a loyal party man, would comply. Hence, people were excited to see the party’s secretariat being given a facelift, with the belief that the governor was going to reach out to estranged APC executives.

But the honourable Ahovi Salam Ibrahim-led executive, loyal to the governor would not leave anything to chance, as it convened a press conference and expelled the Ametuo-led executive.Relying on the North Central Executive Committee that earlier sacked Ametuo and other executive members, the factional chairman loyal to Governor Bello, asked Ametuo to join any other opposition party, especially those he has been hobnobbing with clandestinely.

The factional chairman asked Ametuo to stop parading himself as chairman, because the state APC has expelled him and his co-travellers from the party.He said Ametuo has been deceiving himself that he remains authentic chairman because of the mere invitation extended to him by the NEC.Ibrahim said: “It was an avenue for him to have appealed the North Central Executive Committee’s decision to have his executive sacked. Rather, he chose to flood Facebook and WhatsApp with photos taken at the meeting.”

He explained that the state party has upheld his expulsion along some others by the North central executive committee. He used the opportunity to swear in members of the new executive committee, who pledged their loyalty to Governor Bello and the Odigie-Oyegun national executive committee.It would be recalled that Governor Bello had set up a caretaker executive committee immediately after the party’s North Central leadership purportedly dissolved the Ametuo-led executive for alleged anti-party activities.

It was alleged that the party’s North Central leadership received gratification to execute the hatchet job. And though the NWC disowned alleged sack of the state executive committee, the new caretaker committee set up by Bello has fully assumed duty, even as the embattled Ametuo and his group continue to operate from Abuja.Totally ignoring NEC’s decision, the chairman of GYB faction, as it is widely known, was fully empowered with presentation of a brand new Hilux van, two mobile police escort and another secretariat in Lokoja.

In a reaction to the purported expulsion of Ametuo and his executive members, the party’s NWC held that Ametuo remains the recognised state working committee chairman, and that only a convention can expel any of its member.

Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s national publicity secretary, while reacting to reports that Ametuo had been expelled from the party said: “APC wishes to clarify that neither state nor zonal executives, constituted in whatever name or form, can expel anyone from the party, as only the convention can do so. We restate that the Kogi State Working Committee of APC, led by the chairman, Alhaji Hadi Ametuo remains the only recognised executive committee in the state.”

He added that any disciplinary action being contemplated must be referred to the party’s NWC, as stated in the party’s constitution. He enjoined party members at all levels to desist from taking unilateral actions that are likely to further jeopardise on-going peace process.

Reacting, the embattled state party leadership dismissed claims that it had been expelled.Ametuo told The Guardian that there was nothing like a caretaker committee in Kogi State, as it remains the authentic party executive.He explained that the highest party organ, the NEC had endorsed it as the authentic executive after the purported dissolution.He said the NEC had resolved that the present leadership’s tenure from ward to national level be extended by one year, and that his group was the executive that was officially invited for the NEC meeting.

Asking where Ahovi was when his group was invited to the meeting, Ametuo said the rival factional leader had been suspended by two-thirds of party executive. As such, it does not have any idea about the party’s constitution.

“Yes, Ahovi is GYB chairman, not APC chairman. They are just parading their failure. The NEC has reaffirmed our leadership as the authentic executive,” he declared.On the insinuations that his group cannot enter the state to carry out any function, the state chairman said he can hold meetings anywhere in Kogi, but noted that in the interest of Kogi people, they would not want to play into the enemies’ hands, by using their issue to cause violence only to later turn around to lay blame them.He said: “Out of 56 executive members, Ahovi group has only 11. How can they expel any person from the party? After NEC has made its position clear, who are they to suspend anybody, talk less of expulsion?”

Based on the unusual manner Governor Bello came on board as governor, the state executive has been at loggerheads with the government, acting as the major opposition.At the last count, there were four APC factions in the state— the Faleke faction; an offshoot of the Audu/Faleke campaign organisation, the Dino Melaye faction, the Ametuo faction, which has 39 out of the 51 members of party executive and the Bello faction (GYB), which enjoys the governor’s support.

The governor’s onslaught against the Ametuo-led executive was through a petition to the party’s national secretariat, which was conceived to secure the structure for Bello’s loyalists, especially as the local council election is in the offing.Political analysts believe that the move was a strategy by Bello to checkmate internal opposition, since the party executive has absolute power to endorse candidates and can use this to flood the list with anti-Bello elements.

In the petition, the governor passed a vote of no confidence on the executive members and accused them of anti-party activities. They were made to appear before a disciplinary panel in Lafia, the zonal party office in Nassarawa State.But the accused refuted the allegations and threw them back at Bello, whom they said has no moral right to accuse them of anti-party activities, as such are his stock-in-trade.

Ametuo alleged that after Bello lost the primaries in 2015, he worked for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Captain Idris Wada, during the November 2015 governorship election.He told the panel in a response made available to The Guardian that the petition lacked merit, as some signatories to the documents were ghosts. “Honourable Taufik Isah, who has been appointed as Ijumu LGA Caretaker Chairman, signed as party chairman, while Osanaiye Taiwo, who died in 2015 signed as secretary of the council,” he said. He also pointed out that Haruna Isah could not have signed as Lokoja LGA APC chairman, as he has been appointed SA to the governor.He said: “Governor Yahaya Bello joined APC in February 5, 2015, when it was obvious that President Buhari was going to win the presidential election and at a time when we had concluded all rallies.

“We toiled day and night under the rain and sunshine from 2014 through membership registration exercise, congresses, conventions, primaries, rallies and all elections in Kogi State – a feat that was near impossible. Those of us who made these victories possible are still much intact and focused.“We are still prepared to recover lost grounds for our party in the state to repeat a resounding victory for President Buhari and recapture all legislative seats in 2019. We, therefore, request that the petition from this set of liars and impersonators be thrown into the dustbin for lack of merit.”

Despite their spirited defence, however, the zonal leadership announced Ametuo’s sack, as well as 38 executive members. It explained that the sack followed a report recommending their removal by the zonal disciplinary committee.Running mate to Abubakar Audu, the late governorship candidate of the party in 2015, James Faleke, described the sack as a sham and the height of frivolity. He alleged that there were evidences that the zonal chairman collected gratification to do the governor’s bidding.

“I maintained that it was not possible because in the first instance, only the NWC can recommend dissolution of state executives, which must be ratified by NEC,” he said. Wondering how a zonal office could dissolve state party executive, Faleke said it was unfortunate that the party’s zonal leadership relied on a petition written by the Bello group against majority of the executive members.

Speaker of House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, who was the majority leader in PDP before defecting to APC with seven others, blamed party executives for allowing the crisis to linger for more than two years after Bello’s emergence. Pointing to the hard line posture of some executive members as the major hurdle to reconciliation, he said: “It is unfortunate where we are today that the crisis in our party, especially in Kogi still lingers.”He said the executive members have refused to accord the governor his right of being the party’s leader; hence, they undermine him with derogatory comments and insults.

“I sincerely believe that what has a beginning must surely have an end. The state partyexecutives’ tenure, as of today, is coming to an end gradually and I believe that in party politics, the governor is number one. Governors are party leaders in all the states and our own cannot be an exception. He remains the party leader come sun come rain till he ceases to be the governor.”

It would be recalled that the party’s national leadership had earlier set up a reconciliation committee headed by Tony Momoh. After its recommendations, however, nothing tangible came out, as the crises seem to be on the upward swing.

Political analysts say things have become more difficult, especially now that Tinubu’s committee has started its reconciliatory job. However, with the parallel executive working for Bello, the Ametuo-led executive may be answering to that name only in Abuja, but in Kogi, the Bello group, led by Ahovi would continue to hold sway, as it has the governor’s blessing and all financial support.

It is not clear how the national body would wriggle out of complicity in the crises, especially as many of the aggrieved members have accused the party’s hierarchy of being the architect of its woes in Kogi, by picking Bello as replacement for the late Audu, when Faleke, who contested the election alongside Audu was left to lick his wounds.

Oyegun’s recent action and inaction seem to have laid credence to these allegations, especially with the manner he has been meddling in the state affairs. A very good example was when he recently graced the APC mega rally in Lokoja; barely a day after the North Central executive allegedly sacked the Ametuo-led executive.While in Lokoja, the rival parallel executive, led by Ahovi officially held forte as the state working committee, even while the party’s new secretariat was being commissioned.All through the event, the national chairman never made any reference to the crises or controversy thrown up by the alleged sack of Ametuo and his group.

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APCJohn Odigie-Oyegun

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