Kogi APC’s governorship primaries controversies




Ahead of Thursday’s All Progressives Congress governorship primaries in Kogi state, BODE OLAGOKE takes a look at the surrounding the mode adopted for the conduct of the exercise.

Months prior to the tomorrow’s APC governorship primaries, over the mode adopted for the election of the party’s candidate had reined as aspirants, stakeholders and others have questioned the indirect primary mode adopted by first by the state executive committee and later affirmed by the National Working Committee (NWC).

Those against the indirect option have hinged their opposition on the argument that it is designed to favour the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, whom they say represent something negative. They also said his candidature would lead to doom for the party.

Conversely, those rallying support for the indirect mode and against the direct option as canvassed by the former are of the view that it has in the past given the APC the right caliber of leaders who had gone on to beat candidates of the PDP.

However, where the pendulum would eventually swings in respect the better option remains unknown as only the outcome of the November 16 governorship election would provide the appropriate answer.   Some though are afraid the leading to Thursday’s primaries may if not properly addressed be detrimental to the fortunes of the party.

Stakeholders speak

Following the decision of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) to use the indirect mode of primaries in nomination of the candidate who will fly the party’s flag in the November governorship election in the state, some stakeholders opted to challenge the decision.

The aspirants though firstly wrote to the national leadership of the party including the national chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and President Muhammadu Buhari calling for their intervention to save the party from defeating staring it in the face should a wrong mode be adopted for the selection of the party’s flag bearer.

To demonstrate their seriousness, a suit was filed. The notification of the suit filed at a Federal High Court in Abuja and served to the office of the APC National Legal Adviser at the national headquarters of the party, the appellants insisted that a drastic action must be legally taken to rescue the party from the clutches of elements who do not mean well for the party.

The plaintiffs, which include the state exofficio, Apostle Destiny Eneojoh Aromeh, Organising Secretary, Isah Abubakar, Zonal Youth Leader, Noah Aku, and Zonal Women Leader, Mrs Joy Onu, urged the party to halt indirect primaries proposal.

Abuja protest

Still not satisfied with actions they already took in respect of persuading the state executives committee to jettison the indirect primary option, 20 governorship aspirants and some other stakeholders sent a petition to Oshiomhole, kicking against the decision of the NWC.

In the letter, the stakeholders said: “We are opposed to Yahaya Bello’s contrived indirect primary. He can’t be a judge in his own case.

“So we are saying it must be direct primary. We believe his faction can’t do the primary. We are calling on the National Working Committee, (NWC) to dissolve the state executive and create a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the state.

“We have bent over backwards to accommodate Governor Bello. In 2015, he worked for PDP and as at that time, he wasn’t a registered voter in Kogi state.

“We won’t accept indirect primary for the selection of governorship candidate. We won’t allow Governor Bello to choose for us; the insult on Kogi people is too much.”

Not done, the 20 governorship aspirants under the aegis of Kogi State APC Governorship Aspirants Forum staged a protest at the APC national secretariat in Abuja. Its spokesman, Mohammed Ali said: “The planned adoption of the indirect party primary is inherent with serious negative consequences for the fortune of the party in Kogi State.

“We regret to observe that such decision was taken without adequate consultation with critical stakeholders of the party in the state especially the governorship aspirants on the platform of the party and other contending groups in the polarised structure of the party in the state.

“The decision to adopt an indirect primary by the National Working Committee is fraught with severe implications. First, contrary to the information given to the National Working Committee, there is a suit pending in Abuja court seeking to determine the authentic executive of the party in the state.

“As a matter of fact, at the last hearing, the suit was adjourned till October 2, 2019. Second, arising from the pendency of the various suits to determine the legitimate party executive council in the state, the use of any factional delegate list may amount to an exercise in futility.

“And lastly, we may have unconsciously set a booby-trap for our party and the stage for the replay of the unfortunate Zamfara scenario.” The governorship aspirants include Aliyu Zakari-Jiya, Dr Tim Diche, Alhaji Yusuf Haruna, Admiral Usman Jibrin (retd.), Alhaji Mohammed Audu, Alhaji Mohammed Ali, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Alhaji Jibrin Haruna Mohammed, AIhaji Yakubu Mohammed.

Counter protest

However, 37 other governorship aspirants think otherwise. They took their own protest to the national secretariat and insisted that indirect primary remains the only option capable of producing the best candidate for the party.

Coming under the Coalition of Kogi APC Governorship Aspirants, they expressed shocked at what they termed politically motivated opposition of the indirect primaries. The coalition chairman, Amade Edime, said the so-called 20 aspirants opposed to the indirect primary were unknown to the party and could not therefore be representing the larger interest of the party.

“We are shocked because some of the individuals who came here as aspirants seeking the party’s ticket were openly working for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party up to the last round of elections just three months ago. It is also clear to anybody who is on the ground in Kogi State that the real aim of their so-called aspirations is to destabilise the party from within as we go into the 2019 Kogi State Governorship Election.

“It must be stressed that historically, the APC in Kogi State had always adopted indirect primaries and it has always worked for her. In 2015, indirect primaries produced the late Prince Abubakar Audu. In 2019, indirect primaries gave us two out of three Senators, seven out of nine House of Representatives members and 25 out of 25 State House of Assembly. Why do they want to change a winning formula so late in the game, if they do not have sinister intentions?

“As young and loyal aspirants we stand unshakably for the indirect primaries earlier approved for us by our party. Neither NEC nor even the NWC has issued a contrary directive to any state branch after the adoption and approval of modes of primaries. Guided by the foregoing many of us here have gone to great costs in engaging delegates and it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to move the goalpost now.

“Let it be known that we will go to every legal extent to resist any attempt to single Kogi APC out for the imposition of the expensive and unworkable direct primaries,” the coalition said.

After screening protest

Last weekend, the APC Screening Committee headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma completed its assignment and disqualified 12 of the 16 aspirants that eventually met the criteria for being screened as prospective candidate of the party.

But in a swift reaction, Monday, eight aspirants disqualified by the party’s screening committee from contesting the governorship primaries have alleged that the screening process was flawed and deliberately programmed to throw up current governor of the state, Yahaya Bello as the party flag bearer.

Addressing a press conference Monday night in Abuja, the disqualified aspirants said the appeals panel who supposed to attend to their case kept them waiting for several hours without attending to them, even when they showed up at the appointed venue.

The aspirants are Hadiza Ibrahim, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi, Yakubu Mohammed, Mohammed Abubakar Audu, General Patrick  Akpa, Rear Admiral Jubrin Usman, Babatunde Irukera, and Prof. Seidu Onailo.

Spokesman of the aggrieved aspirants, Babatunde Irukera, said they were ambushed as there was no appeal committee to address their case, stressing that the process of announcing their disquaification was also flawed as they only got to hear of it from the social media.

Irukera recalled that they were only informed on Friday in Lokoja that there would be a meeting with the aspirants in Abuja on Monday , and later informed about the meeting with the Appeals Committee scheduled for 10am on Monday at Barcelona Hotel in Abuja.

Screened and passed as the candidates to stand the primary election tomorrow are the incumbent Gov Yahaya Bello, Hasan Abdullahi, Engr Abubakar Bashir, Mrs Ekele Aishat Blessing.

 The meeting he said did not hold nor were they told otherwise. The group warned against the repeat of the Zamfara episode, saying: “the handling of the process is wrong. We lost everything in Zamfara state as a result of procedural error. We should toe the path of caution and prudence to avoid catastrophic losses.

“There will certainly be unintended consequence because it is difficult to tell the people not to enforce their rights. There are people out there who have aggregated their choice in us, to eliminate those choices from those people is grievous.

“Our primary might be a one horse race. We love our people, we love our people and we want to serve.”

He said further that the fact that they were taken aback that what was supposed to be an internal matter was exposed to the press, saying “my strict interpretation of cleared or not cleared means we are still on the highway. 

“In the absence of that we are determined to challenge the party in court. Leaving the APC isn’t an option. I don’t have intention of going anywhere else, because there is no credible alternative.

“The August primary is compromised. Even if the clearance comes tomorrow morning, the momentum is lost. Every aspirant, every delegate is a potential plaintiff, and there is no way people won’t seek redress. 

“The action might not be from any of the aspirants but party delegates. The option open to APC is to reverse itself. It shouldn’t narrow the process by disenfranchising people”

The court verdict

Three days, a Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed two suits filed by some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi state in relation to the disputes over the party’s leadership and its choice of mode of primary to be adopted for selecting candidate for the forthcoming governorship election.

In two judgments on Monday, Justice Taiwo Taiwo dismissed both suits marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/581/2018 and FHC/ABJ/CS/833/2019.

In particular, the suit filed by Destiny Eneojoh Aromeh, Isah Abubakar, Noah Aku and Mrs Joy Onu, queried the decision of the APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) to adopt indirect primary in choosing the party’s candidate for the forthcoming governorship election.

The plaintiffs were of the view that the choice of the mode to be adopted for the primary could not be determine while the leadership question in the state chapter of the party was yet unresolved, with the pendency of the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/ 581/2018.

The case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/833/2019, Justice Taiwo held that since this suit was predicated on the first suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/ 581/2018), which had been dismissed, it was unnecessary determining issues raised in the suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/833/2018 on the grounds that they have become academic.

The judge noted that the totality of the complaint of the plaintiffs was that the first defendant in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/ 581/2018, who is the defendant in this suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/833/2019 (APC), through its National Working Committee (NWC), ought to wait until the decision of the court in the first suit before adopting the indirect primary mode for nominating its governorship candidate in the forthcoming election.

He further noted that the suit numbered: FHC/ABJ/CS/581/2018 was instituted by the plaintiffs, who claimed that they are the authentic Kogi State Executive Committee of the defendant (APC).

The judge stated “I do not intend to waste judicial time which is precious in times like this, in going into the merit of this case in view of the judgment of the court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/581/2018, read a few minutes ago, in dismissing this suit for being statute barred, pursuant to Section 285(10) of the 4th Alteration, No: 21 Act of 2017.

“It would be pointless to proceed in considering the propriety or not of this as canvassed by the parties. Through their counsel, in view of the judgment of the court just referred to above.

*Courts have been enjoined not to spend precious judicial time on issues that are academic. Courts are to determine life issues and issues that will meet the end of justice.

*The courts, not being academic institutions, do not brook academic disputes. No court wastes its precious time on causes, the determination of which bears no consequence on the dispute between the parties.

“Acting in vein never forms part of the court’s functions. This suit has become academic, in that its resolution has become unnecessary in view of my judgement in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/581/2018.

“To answer the issues canvassed will bear no consequence on the dispute between the parties in this suit.  The entire suit is spent and it is of no beneficial value. I therefore have no choice than to dismiss this suit in its entirety,” the judge said.

The suit, filed by Haddy Augu Ametuo and another, upon which the mode of the primary was predicated on, the petitioners had prayed the court to determine the true leaders of the party from the two sets of members of the party in the state, claiming entitlement to its leadership.

Justice Taiwo, in the first judgment, dismissed the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/ 581/2018 for being statute barred on the grounds that it was not heard within the 180 days stipulated under Section 285(10) of the Constitution.

The judge upheld the preliminary objection filed against the suit, agreed with the defendants that it was a pre-election case and held that the suit is caught by the statute of limitation as contained in Section 285(10) of the Constitution.

He noted that, as at the August 15, 2019, when the suit was heard, it was over 400 days, since the suit was filed.

Justice Taiwo noted that the issue in this matter has to do with the question regarding who is the authentic EXCO of the 1st defendant (APC) in Kogi State.

He added that it may appear not to be a pre-election matter, in that it has to do with the election of the Executive Committee (EXCO) of the 1st defendant in Kogi State and not election into elective offices.

The judge, however, held that by the Supreme Court decision in the case of APC v. Umar, the process or exercise embarked upon by a political party, such as congresses, nomination exercise, etc, are all pre-election matters or exercises.

He added “I am bound by this decision and I cannot decide otherwise. There is no doubt that this suit was filed more than 400 days ago.

“The court ought to have decided this matter within 180 days. However, this is not the case. I find and hold that this court will be in contravention of Section 285(10), 4th Alteration No 21 Act, if it goes beyond this premise in this matter.

“Anything done thereafter, aside deciding the objection of the 3rd defendant will become a mere academic exercise and a waste of judicial time,” Justice Taiwo said.

Conclusion   

In the light of the above, one of the aspirants, Yakubu Mohammed said “what I found strange is the campaign by the chairman of the committee to campaign for the sitting governor. If they have made up their minds, why waste our time. 

“As an incumbent, he deserves a second term but that depends on performance and his empathy with the people. This man is owing salary and I wonder why we are blessed with a man like that.

“Internal democracy and party supremacy is in jeopardy here. It will amount to naivety to assume that because APC won presidential election, it will retain Kogi with Yahaya Bello.”

Will the protest have lasting consequences for the party as it strives to retain the Lugard Government House it won rather oddly in 2015 following the sudden demise of Prince Abubakar Audu? How will the aggrieved aspirants and others opposed to the candidature of incumbent Yahaya Bello go to antagonise the party? In fact will the APC remain one, intact, strong and invincible as the advocates of the indirect mode have insisted it would? 

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