LAGOS – In the last few weeks, Kogi State has consistently been in the news with the issue of the Governor, Yahaya Bello and his deputy, Simon Achuba.
Another issue that has made the state, to constantly remain a major news headline, is the All Progressives Congress (APC) adoption of indirect primary as a means of electing the candidate that will fly the party’s flag in the forthcoming governorship election, scheduled for November this year.
Some days ago, the Presidency summoned the state deputy governor, Achuba, to the Presidential Villa, over the ongoing misunderstanding between him and his principal.
Achuba had complained that Bello deliberately denied him his accumulated entitlements amounting to N819.7 million, and issued an ultimatum to the state government for the payment of the said amount.
According to him, the amount comprises travel allowances, hotel bills, outstanding monthly imprest, as well as allowances and salaries.
The deputy governor, has, however, vowed not to support the second term ambition of Bello, despite a glaring sign that the APC leadership is doing everything to ensure that Bello clinches the party’s ticket.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC), had on July 5, 2019, approved indirect primary to elect the party’s candidate. This decision was made known in a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, who said that the approval was given after a meeting of the NWC in Abuja, where a formal request from the state executive and stakeholders in preference for the indirect primary was considered and deliberated on.
The decision by the party’s NWC had since been generating reactions from the party’s stakeholders in the state. Some of the aspirants hoping to contest against the incumbent governor, have alleged that the method is not the consensus of all stakeholders and thus constitutes inherent danger for the APC ahead of the election.
One of the aspirants, Prince Mohammed Audu, the eldest son of the late Abubakar Audu, former governor of Kogi State, in a recent interview with DAILY INDEPENDENT, said, “Direct primary or indirect primary, it is the people of Kogi that will vote in the general election, but in the case of the indirect primary, you have a chosen few in the process of selecting the party executive positions. The governor will select his family and friends; the appointees will select their family, members and friends and thereby give them an undue advantage. What we are saying is, open it up for everybody; let the man that sells kolanut vote, let the maisuya vote, and then we will know who will win.
“I personally think that the present government is afraid of opening the process of selection and that is why they have chosen to go by the way of indirect primary. The indirect primary is closed, if you are a politician and a true democrat, you will want everyone to participate in the process of selecting you and I dare the government to say they are going by the way of direct primary today, I am sure they will bid the people farewell. If they do direct primary that every Kogi person that is a member of the APC is allowed to participate, no doubt, we will emerge victorious,” Audu said.
Though, a Federal High Court in Abuja, had on Friday, ordered the APC to suspend the plan to use indirect primary.
While ruling on an ex parte application filed by four members of the factional executive committee of the party in the state, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ordered parties to the suit “to maintain the status quo” pending the main suit which dwells on the propriety of adopting indirect mode of primary.
Given the way the party lost out in Imo, Rivers and Zamfara in the last general elections due to alleged high-level internal wrangling in the party, political observers believe that the threats by the opposing aspirants ahead of the election must not be taken for granted.
It is believed that the adoption of indirect primary would not be a wise decision, as it may spell doom for the party in the November governorship election.
To a lot of observers, Governor Bello has not performed to warrant a second term in office and handing the party’s ticket to him at the detriment of other qualified candidates, may pave way for the opposition to take over the state.
There is the possibility that aggrieved aspirants may end up teaming up with other opposition parties to work against the APC’s victory if the impasse is not well handled.
Audu, had in his recent interview with DAILY INDEPENDENT, alleged that, “The decay in the system is very enormous. We moved from a situation where we cannot provide viable and quality infrastructure for the people to where we cannot pay the salaries of workers. There are no more agricultural potentialities and viable private sector in the state. Everything seems very chaotic, everyday you hear of protests, killings, kidnappings and suicide attempts. All the things people now hear about our beloved state is bad news. Our people are living in squalor.
“The state in meant to be the richest in the northern part of Nigeria because we have abundant mineral resources of different kinds. We have viable agricultural potential because we have arable land; we have a virile youth population that can be used to harness the resources. But we have the problem of technological know-how.
“The present government has the highest financial incentives in the history of the state. We have had governors that their highest monthly allocations was N800 million in a month but today, we are talking about people who get above N4bilion monthly.
“We are not discussing infrastructure, schools and hospitals but we are talking about how to pay the salaries of the state and local government workers. It is very embarrassing. The state screening exercise for civil servants has been endless; the state does not have a nominal payroll, that is, the amount to be paid as salaries in a month,” he added.
The APC in Kogi has also been successful in suspending the deputy governor over allegations of anti-party activities before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
The party based the suspension on “some actions the Deputy Governor took that constitute embarrassment to APC family in Kogi state”.
The Kogi APC chairman, Abdullahi Bello, told reporters that the party received several petitions from stakeholders in Iyano ward, Ibaji Local Government Area, where Achuba hails from.
He alleged that the deputy governor discretely and openly worked for candidates of opposition parties during the presidential, national and state assembly elections in the state.
Bello added that the activities of Achuba during the last elections was against the APC candidates, while he (Achuba) held the exalted position of the Deputy Governor of the state
He noted that the report of the disciplinary committee constituted by the Iyano ward and Ibaji local government APC, to probe the crises in the area, allegedly indicted Achuba, and also recommended for his suspension to be followed by expulsion, if he did not show any remorse.
Bello, however, added that the decision of the state working committee would be communicated to the APC National Working Committee in due course.
Also, the state House of Assembly has commenced an impeachment process against the deputy governor, as members of the House on Wednesday, August 7, deliberated on the impeachment notice. The notice was read by the majority leader of the House, Abdullahi Bello, representing Ajaokuta, Constituency, as a petition on the floor of the assembly.
The lawmakers precipitated their petition on three grounds of criminal indulgence, financial misappropriation and non-performance. The majority leader who affirmed that 21 out of the 25 lawmakers signed the petition, said the allegations, actions and utterances of the deputy governor amounted to gross misconduct.
However, Senator representing Kogi West at the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Dino Melaye is optimistic of becoming the next governor of the state. He has insisted on contesting in the race under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Many political observers have expressed confidence that if the APC once more refused to allow internal democracy to come to play, will be shooting itself in the leg the same way it did in Rivers and Zamfara, thereby giving a free ride to the PDP. They have urged the party to learn from its past mistake and allow a level playing field in which all aspirants will be given the chance to put their popularity to test.