As Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello’s first tenure winds up, the emergence of new actors including the late Abubakar Audu’s son Mustapha, as well as other gladiators in the state’s political firmament, appears to have placed the state’s fragile peace on the edge. Can the incumbency factor save Bello? KEHINDE OSASONA and OYIBO SALIHU ask.
A former governor of Kano state, the leader of Kwankwasiyya political movement, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, had during the second year anniversary celebrations of Prince Abubakar Audu’s death in Abuja, described late former governor as “an unmatched phenomenon” in Kogi politics.
Kwankwaso, a closer ally of the late Audu, who chaired the occasion, said, “Because of Audu’s political sagacity and love for his people, I physically supported him for his third term governorship ambition, the victory that was yet to be announced before his transition to glory.”
Kogi politics before Audu’s demise
Lending more credence to Audu’s towering status, a former governor in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, also described him as “an unparalleled phenomenon” that traversed Kogi politics with passion, doggedness and fearlessness.
Idris, a two-term governor and a successor to late Abubakar Audu, further said, “To contest for governorship of Kogi state then, one must get clearance from the great leader which I did as Audu’s successor in 2003,” he said.
Also, the immediate past governor of Kogi state, Captain Idris Wada, said his voice to the encomiums on Audu when he referred to him as a compassionate, pragmatic, people’s leader and a friend.
His third attempt
Before his demise as governor in 1992-1993 and 1999-2003, the late Igala prince often basked in his political exploits which sometimes went beyond his traditional Igala enclave.
His deftness as game changer at that time, made him become a rallying point for political players and successive government in the state. But unknown to many, the late Audu was already nursing a come-back for the third time to consolidate on his previous achievements as governor.
Also, when it was time to re-align politically, Audu started romancing the opposition and later pitched his tent with the All Progressives Congress with the hope of realising his ambition.
Meanwhile, the APC having consider his clout, political relevance and dominance of Kogi politics, handed him the governorship slot to re-contest and occupies the Lord Lugard’s house, while Hon. James Faleke, an Okun man from Kogi West was got the deputy governorship position.
Unfortunately, when the duo was coasting to victory, death struck, and it shattered APC’s hope. Unknown to many however, the late Kogi state All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the 2015 elections, died on the day of the election he was set to win.
The coup against Audu, Faleke
Not pleased with the decision of the party hierarchy to field Yahaya Bello as the party’s governorship candidate after Audu’s death, Hon. James Faleke, approached the tribunal, and filed a case against Bello.
The case was heard by Justice Halima Muhammad, who doubles as chairman of the Kogi governorship election tribunal.
But while the case lasted, there were alignments of various groups within the party, even as some party members like Senator Melaye had already pitched tent with Bello.
At that time, Dino was touted to be among the strong forces that supported Bello when the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leadership nominated Bello as replacement after Audu’s demise.
The close affinity and euphoria of the moment prompted Dino to at the peak of the celebration christened Bello’s victory as “divinely orchestrated.”
Senator Melaye went on to serve as chairman of the transition committee that worked out the modalities for a hitch-free handover of power to Bello and his eventual inauguration on January 27, 2016.
But a few months after the inauguration, the political fraternity between them was replaced with hostilities and war of words between their supporters. The fierce battle later escalated so much that today the narrative in Kogi state has suddenly changed to “Bello must go.”
Besides the issue of Dino, lately too, there are talks about some prominent APC chieftains and members ganging up to replace Bello as the ruling party’s candidate. Some of the allegations against the governor were that he failed to carry party members and supporters along in the scheme of things.
The opposition hinged their stance on the governor’s inability to execute people-oriented projects amidst huge resources. Not done, they also wonder why the business of the state is reduced to a kindergarten play stage.
Similarly, at the peak of campaign for senatorial seat in the state, Senatorial Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Kogi Central, Barrister Natasha Akpoti, warned Governor Yahaya Bello, asking President Buhari to order him to stop unleashing terror on the people of the state.
She alleged that the governor armed some youths in the state and openly challenged her to drop out of the race for the senate, vowing to “crush” her with the “last drop of his blood.”
She said, “Governor Yahaya Bello openly told me that I cannot disgrace him before his father, the President. He threatened to deal with me with the last drop of her ambition to go the Senate.
“I have told those who care to listen that backing out of the Senatorial race because of his threat is not an option. We have evidence of the activities of the governor in the state and the fact that security agents in the state have been compromised.”
Just last week too, protesters under the aegis of Network of Kogi Youth Group stormed the national secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, asking the ruling party to reject the governor as its flag-bearer ahead of party’s primaries.
In a protest speech submitted to the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the group which cuts across the three Senatorial districts of the state, insisted that it would amount to taking a risk if Governor Bello is allow to fly the party’s ticket.
The group itemised among other reasons lack of payment of salaries, absence of developmental projects as their grouses.
Even though Kogi state did not participate in the governorship elections in March, the state ruling APC won two out of the three senatorial seats, six of the nine House of Representative and all the twenty-five seats of the House of Assembly.
However, pundits are of the view that the APC’s good outing in the recently concluded national and state assembly elections in the state should not be seen as mirror image of the coming governorship election.
Some political analyst in the state also observed that the forthcoming election will ultimately test the popularity and the general acceptance of Governor Bello in the state.
As the November 2019 date slated by INEC draws near, mixed feelings are already being nurtured over likelihood of intrigues and horse-trading taken over the centre stage across the three senatorial districts.
In the meantime, discerning watchers of Kogi politics said what played out in the last three and a half years in the Confluence state, may have pitched the Governor Bello against aggrieved persons and other stakeholders.
In an interview with Blueprint weekend, Kogi based political analyst, Muhammed Anda Abdullahi, said non-payment of salary of civil servants in the state may pose huge threat to the success of the governor at the poll.
Abdullahi lamented that the governor had in the last three years failed to utilise his position to unite and reconcile his own party members.
Firing a salvo recently, Muhammed Audu, the first son of ex-governor, alleged that neither he nor any member of the family has set eyes on Governor Yahaya Bello, since he inherited their father’s mandate in 2016.
Speaking further, on the relationship between the Audu family and Bello, he said, “To be honest, I think I have met the Governor Bello only once before he became a governor. Neither I nor any member of my family has set eyes on him since he became governor. We might not have very cordial relationships, but we don’t have anything against him.
“I can assure you that the biggest political group in Kogi state without question is the Audu political family and they are still up and alive. We have slowed down so that we don’t look like opposition within opposition in one party. We have decided to work with the government to ensure good governance so that our people can get roads, hospitals, good education and things like that.”
Meanwhile, without recourse to the family’s position, one of Audu’s son, Prince Mustapha Mona Audu, had penultimate months thrown his hat into the ring to slug it out with Governor Yahaya Bello and others in the November election.
Meanwhile, multiple sources within YPP ranks in Kogi state divulged to this medium that the younger Audu’s aspiration is a done deal, saying as at the last count, not less than 17 political parties in the state have adopted him as their preferred candidate.
Mustapha, who said he would build on the good legacies of good governance and developments bequeathed by his late father if elected as governor, urged youth in the state to join hands with him to make the dream a reality, adding that Kogi would move on to greater heights if he became governor.
The national leader of YPP, Bishop Amachri, had equally called on the people of the state, particularly the youth, to rally support for the party’s aspirant in his political ambition.
The other contestants
Abdullahi Haruna is a trained lawyer who hails from Dekina LGA of the state was an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during the reign of the late former Governor Abubakar Audu.
Described as “rugged” and grassroots politician, Haruna is said to be one of those behind some of the legacy projects executed by the late Audu. He has since dumped the APC for the PDP, and he is said to be enjoying good support from the late Audu’s political family.
Joseph Ameh Erico
Another top contender who have summon courage by declaring his interest to contest for the number one seat is a security expert and trained criminology, Dr. Erico who hails from Olamaboro LGA of the state.
He is the MD/CEO of a security organisation, Real Strikers Security Services Ltd based in Lagos and has received best security services awards from the Senate, the Inspector-General of Police and Common Wealth Society of Nigeria, among others.
He has equally been making wide consultations with critical stakeholders after expressing his interest.
Intense mobilisation is ongoing in order to actualise his 2019 governorship project.
Engr. Musa Wada, a son in-law to former governor Ibrahim Idris (Ibro) hails from Dekina LGA of the state.
Wada, a young and dynamic son of the soil, has, however, not declared openly for the race, even as observers say he may do so soon.
Come Dr. Omede, a former commissioner for health in Kogi state and former national president, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). He hails from Dekina.
Omede is also the current president, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN). He is seen as big threat to the governor should he choose to run for governor.
AVM Saliu Atawodi
He once ran to be governor in 2015, but lost. Atawodi who hails from Igalamela LGA of the state is another contender who is known for his philanthropism.
Bello reads riot act
Blueprint Weekend learnt that a meeting of party stakeholders called by the governor few days ago at government house in Lokoja, was orchestrated to whip erring party members into line.
At the meeting, this medium learnt that the governor warned political appointees in the state against any form of anti-party activities, warning his administration will not hesitate to boot out any appointee that works against the victory of the party.
He said, “Any aggrieved member of the party should use the internal crisis resolution mechanism of the party instead of working against interest of the All Progressive Congress (APC).”
Lord Lugard’s House
Meanwhile, the director-general, media and publicity to the governor, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, described the Abuja protesters as a “band of jesters,” saying many of the them were not members of the APC in Kogi state.
He said: “It should be on record that those who sponsored Comrade Enemali and his boys are failed politicians. But Governor Yahaya Bello’s recent performances in the state hav silenced all his traducers.
“Yahaya Bello has performed in governance and politics. Comrade Enemali and his paymasters may be selling duds in Abuja, but when they return to Kogi state, the facts will confront them and put fear into their hearts.”
Speaking in the same vein, the chief of staff to governor, Chief Edward Onoja, said “there is no vacancy in Lugard House, come January 2020.”
Onoja, who stated this at the official presentation of certificates of return to Kogi state House of Assembly members-elect by INEC in Lokoja, said the feat was an indication of what would happen in the state in November, and that APC would win overwhelmingly.
“This is an indication that come November, we’re not expecting anything short of a clear win. For Kogi governorship, with finality, I can say, there is no vacancy in Lugard House.”
Kogi not killing field
As a way of forestalling imminent calamity, some stakeholders in the state have condemned the introduction of widespread violence as witnessed during the recent general elections in the state.
A former governor and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, had in a press statement advised political actors to eschew violence, urging them not to turn Kogi to another killing field of Kigali.
“People should not despair over the state of affairs in our state. Rather they should look up to God and remain resolute on the choices before us come November. We all must join hands to rescue Kogi and restore its glory,” he said.
Can Bello survive opposition’s onslaught?
However, with less than seven months to the governorship election in the state, analysts are of the view that the embattled governor would need more than President Buhari’s support win his battle.
To have their way, the opposition had been carrying out nocturnal meetings in Kogi and Abuja to perfect their strategies ahead of the November 2 poll.
Considering the unfolding events, it would not be out place to ask whether or not Audu’s ghost is haunting Bello? Events that would unfold in the next few months will tell.