The Audu/Faleke group, the main opposition camp to Governor Yahaya Bello faction had said it was boycotting the congress few days to the exercise.
It was assumed that the congress would serve as the defining moment in the over two-year-old crisis rocking the party in the state.
The Audu/Faleke group had been in control of the state and local government executives before inauguration of Yahaya Bello government. Hence, while Bello controlled government, the former held on to the party’s soul.
But it was expected that all that would change with another congress serving as an opportunity for the governor to bring in his own loyalists. Already, he had set the ball rolling with the ‘sack’ of state executives, who were replaced with a new set of Exco, albeit in acting capacity.
And though the national leadership declined to recognise the acting Exco, it was a matter of time before the governor’s men took over, so it seemed, as the congress approached.
Speculations were rife that members of the Audu/Faleke group had concluded plans to move en masse to Social Democratic Party (SDP), as the governor was set to take over APC.
When, few days to the congress, the Audu/Faleke group announced its withdrawal from the exercise, it was believed to be a step in that direction.
Announcing the boycott last week, the Audu/Faleke camp, including the state’s APC chairman, Haddy Ametuo, said: “It was expected that the governor would take ‘no winner no loser’ position in building a united political family, but he refused to use that managerial tactic.
We have come to an unimpeachable conclusion that the governor doesn’t want unity within the party.
He apparently came into office with a pre-determined agenda to emasculate the Audu/Faleke group, the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs the governor is enjoying today.
“Now that the party’s congresses are here, the governor, true to type, has hijacked the whole process, handing over the ward congresses to his LGA Administrators to compile names from wards to LGA.
Since he appointed those Administrators, the governor has been using them to function virtually as alternate party Excos, while refusing to fund the authentic APC Exco at all levels.
The Audu/Faleke organisation has been the body funding the party and the Excos at all levels till date.
Little surprise original Kogi APC members are more united with Audu/Faleke group till date.
“In view of the above, therefore, the Audu/Faleke Political Organisation hereby directs our members across the three Senatorial Districts in the state not to risk their valuable lives to participate in any of the congresses, beginning from this week’s ward congresses.
We learnt on good authority that very harmful weapons would be deployed at the various venues to keep us away from participating. So, it is better for us not to put ourselves in harm’s way. We urge our members to stay at home.”
So, the Kogi public, including the Bello camp, took the bait hook, line and sinker. Little did anyone know the game about to play out.
In another statement, however, the Audu/Faleke faction claimed victory in the ward congresses.
The statement titled: “Why we dumped boycott plans,” said majority of its candidates coasted home to victory at the ward congresses across the state. The state party Chairman, Haddy Ametuo, said he was glad to announce that APC members came out in thousands to elect ward Executives across the state.
“Having consulted widely with our people and critical stakeholders on our initial boycott plans and received assurances, we directed our members to come out in droves to participate in the congresses today, and I’m glad to say the congresses went well without hitches across the state, with our members recording massive victory.
“May I use this opportunity to thank Congress officials from Abuja, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) monitoring team and the various security agencies for providing conducive environment for hitch-free congresses. The people have spoken. It is now clear that the much-needed repositioning of our party in the state is on course.”
How The Plot Was Hatched
Knowing that the party’s only organ constitutionally authorised to superintend over congresses is the state executive committee, a source in Audu/Faleke camp told The Guardian that the boycott statement was a decoy to get the Bello camp to go to sleep. Indeed, following alleged distribution of congress materials to the governor’s camp, the plot was to approach the national secretariat to demand that congress materials be handed over to appropriate organ of the party, which is the state exco.
He said: “You know that the only party organ constitutionally recognised to conduct congresses at state level is the authentic state executives committee. We made the party’s national leadership to realise that it was a misnomer to sell materials to the governor. We demanded that the materials be handed over to the state Exco, which they did.
“The boycott statement was to get the other side to relax. What happened eventually was that last Saturday, the Audu/Faleke group took total control of the party at ward levels. If the governor does not like what happened, he and his supporters can go to another party.”
Concerned party members feared that the distribution of two sets of materials to the two camps portends grave implications for APC in the state.
Analysts are of the view that the crisis rocking the state’s ruling party is not only back fully, but also calls to question the national leadership’s sincerity in its efforts to unite feuding factions.
There remain a number of question marks around how congress materials got into two hands, given that the only party organ recognised by the party’s constitution and electoral congress guidelines is the state executive committee, an observer noted.
The governorship election in Kogi will hold in November 2019, nine months after the February 2019 polls calendar scheduled for most states. It was assumed that, based on the time frame, APC still has ample time to mend fences.
But going by two recent events: the ill-fated recall of the state’s sole APC senator, Dino Melaye and the parallel ward congresses, the general consensus is that APC national leadership has a lot of work to do, if the party must retain Kogi State.
The party’s crisis stemmed from the death of its candidate in the 2015 poll and the replacement with Bello. The mainstream Audu group alleged that Bello was imposed by the party’s National Secretariat to inherit votes the group toiled for.
Reconciliatory moves by the National Secretariat to get the two opposing sides to be on the same page, did not work. Rather than abate, the crisis festered.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party in power in Kogi for 13 years, until its defeat in the 2015 polls, stands a chance to benefit from the APC crisis.
Going by the negligible difference in election results between PDP and APC in the November 2015 poll, the latter’s fragmentation means the former will simply stroll back to power, if it succeeds in managing its own diverse internal interests and able to come up with a popular candidate.
Feelers ahead of 2019 polls suggest that the PDP would be heading to majority Igala land in Kogi East Senatorial District to pick its candidate.
If that happens, it means the incumbent, an Ebira from Kogi Central, who is expected to pick APC ticket, would face an Igala opponent.
The rift in the APC aside, no non-Igala has ever won governorship in the state’s history. Add that to the division in APC’s rank and file, it is easy to write off the prospect of a second term for Bello.
Meanwhile, the SDP will attempt to alter the above calculations. The party’s profile in the state is ever rising. So, a slip in PDP’s rank is capable of throwing up SDP as the alternative.
The Guardian investigations showed that SDP is waiting in the wings to receive new members from breakaway factions in APC and PDP. So, any mishandling of the PDP primary would be to SDP’s advantage.
However, Bello’s supporters have refused to rule out a second term for him. It is envisaged in the incumbent’s camp that PDP would eventually have its own divisions. The strategy is for Igala not to unite behind a consensus candidate, thus having multiple aspirants.
This will divide the votes in the East, leaving Bello as the only candidate from the Central. The idea is for Bello to come out with bloc votes from the central.
“The votes garnered from West and Central should add up to secure a second term,” said a governor’s supporter. But this calculation has been hampered by outcome of the recall exercise. Not a few feared the election might follow the same trend.
The Deputy Governorship candidate in 2015 election and member representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, described fallout of the verification exercise as a pointer to the fact that Governor Yahaya Bello is unpopular in the state and his party, APC, being the “ultimate loser” emerging from the recall episode.
He insisted that more electoral woes await APC in Kogi West and in the state. “Until those who worked so hard to win election for the party in Kogi are given due recognition, Governor Yahaya Bello will continue to struggle politically without results. The recall project has failed. The people won. The outcome today is not just about Dino, but the open rejection of the Yahaha Bello-led government.”
APC zonal chairman (Kogi West zone), Chief Gbenga Asagun, noted that “the main implication is that it is a pointer to the glaring unpopularity of the state governor, who allegedly sponsored the recall project, which translates to an ominous signal of what 2019 holds in store for our party, except we reunite and reorganise ourselves without further delay.
As it is said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The bandwagon effects of this failed recall exercise is looming precariously, except we move expeditiously to reconcile the various entities within the state’s ruling party.”
No Parallel APC Ward Congresses In Kogi State— Nze-Jombo
THE chairman of committee in charge of the just concluded All Progressives Congress (APC) ward congresses in Kogi State, Bestman Nze-Jombo, has said there were no parallel ward congresses in the state to the best of his knowledge.
Nze-Jombo said this in Lokoja last Wednesday, against the backdrop of claims by the state APC Chairman, Haddy Ametuo and Audu/Faleke-led group that the results of their congresses conducted across 239 wards were the most authentic and credible.
He said: “When we reached Lokoja the state capital on Friday, a day to the congress, we called for a stakeholders’ meeting, having spoken with Haddy Ametuo four times. But he did not show up for the meeting.
“And during the ward congresses proper, the committee did not see Haddy Ametuo, except the Acting State chairman of APC, Ibrahim Ahovi Salami, who stayed with us and assisted us in conducting the congress.
“Apparently in politics, it is only the people that participated in an election that can win such election. Nobody can be a winner in an event you did not partake.”
We Had The Authentic Congress — Meseko
THE Audu/Faleke group has said the results produced by it in last Saturday’s Kogi APC Congresses were the most reliable and authentic.
The group’s spokesman, Duro Meseko, urged members of the All Progressives
Congress in the state to shun the results being bandied by the Ahovi Ibrahim-led factional group supported by Governor Yahaya Bello, saying it did not follow due process.
He said: “Our party’s constitution gives power to the party’s state chairmen. They are the ones to receive materials for election, because it is the party’s state Working Committee that is supposed to appoint local electoral officers that should monitor the congresses, and in this case, the rightful person is the Hardy Ametuo-led executive.”
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to take a position on the raging controversies.