As political parties prepare for their primary elections ahead of the November governorship election in Kogi State, Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan, reports that there is fear in All Progressives Congress following current crisis over the party’s ticket
THE ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi State is in crisis following unending disagreements among its chieftains over the type of primary election that should be conducted to decide who will fly the banner of the party in the state as candidate for the November 2019 gubernatorial election. Trouble started after the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC announced that it planned to use indirect primary method for the governorship primary election in the state.
Party sources say members of the APC in the state are worried that the crisis, if not checked, could lead to the loss of the state to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which, according to them, has been re-positioning itself to snatch victory at all cost come November. “PDP is spending time planning on how to win, but we are busy fighting unnecessary internal wars. Is this how we plan to win in November and retain the state? I am worried,” a party chieftain said.
Last week, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu said the approval was given at a meeting where a formal request from the Kogi State executive and stakeholders in preference for the indirect primary was discussed. The APC Constitution provides for three modes of primary election to elect party candidates namely, indirect primaries, direct primaries and consensus arrangement. But stakeholders are expected to be in agreement.
But party chieftains, including Alhaji Yusuf Haruna, a former Aide dè Camp, (ADC), to national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when he was Edo State governor, accused Governor Yahaya Bello of forcing the hand of the national leadership of the party to adopt indirect primary method so as to be able to corner the governorship ticket of the party ahead of other aspirants. This is just as some other leading party stalwarts insist indirect primary is the way to go.
The Senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Isah Jibrin Echocho, while also urging the national leadership to intervene in the crisis, traced the crisis to abuse of trust. According to him, those the governor empowered were the one, fighting against him, insisting that the APC should adopt the indirect primary if they want to retain Kogi State.
As at press time, there were indications that the national leadership of the APC is planning to review its decision with a view to finding out what majority of the stakeholders in Kogi APC really want. However, a review of the decision, rather than douse the crisis, may lead to a fresh face-off among supporters of the governor and those determined to stop his re-election for a second term during the November gubernatorial race.
Last week, protests rocked the national secretariat of the party in Abuja when 20 governorship aspirants under the aegis of Kogi State APC Governorship Aspirants Forum staged a protest at the secretariat. They expressed their displeasure at the indirect primary adopted by the NWC of the APC for the November governorship election in Kogi State. It was alleged that some political thugs loyal to Governor Bello, stormed the place in the early morning and harassed people at the scene. They were reportedly resisted by those opposed to the governor and the situation degenerated until policemen stormed the scene to restore normalcy.
The spokesperson for the forum, 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.
Few days after the anti-indirect primaries protesters left the secretariat, about 37 APC governorship aspirants visited the national leadership to declare support for indirect primary. Speaking under the aegis of the Coalition of Kogi APC aspirants, the coalition said they were shocked by the opposition to the indirect primaries ordered by the National Working Committee of the party. Chairman of the coalition, Amade Edime, said the earlier group of 20 aspirants were unknown to the party and could not make decisions for it.
“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.
Unending Warnings And Threats
Amidst the raging crisis, some stakeholders of the party have called on the national leadership to avoid a repeat of the mistake that caused the ruling party to lose Zamfara State to the opposition PDP. Prominent chieftains of the party who are who among others, made the call, are Rajan Suleiman from Ankpa/ Omala/ Olamboro, M. J. Aliu from Okene/Ogorimagongo Kabba/Bunu, Musa Bakare from Kabba/Bunu, Hajia Amina T. Musa from Ibaji/Idah/Igalamela/Ofu and Isiaka Ajanah from Okehi/Adavi.
They pleaded with national leaders of the APC to urgently intervene in the lingering intra-party crisis in Kogi State if the party is desirous of victory in the forthcoming governorship election in the state. “Against the recent untoward development in Zamfara where the party suffered unmitigated electoral reverses, the current polarisation of the party structure in Kogi with two state executive committees jostling for the control of the party’s soul would not augur well for the party’s progress, especially as it prepares for a governorship election on November 16.
“It is common knowledge that while the Abdullahi Bello executive committee parades itself as the authentic leadership of the party in the state, the Hadi Ametuo executive committee is in court challenging the legitimacy of the other group. We verily believe that this development poses ominous danger and capability of depriving the party of its anticipated success in the November 16 election. The former leadership of the party under Chief John Odigie-Oyegun refused to forge a synergy between the Audu/Faleke Group and the Yahaya Bello’s team populated by many leaders of the PDP that inherited the Audu Abubakar/Faleke’s unfinished electoral adventure,” the group warned.
This was just as another chieftian, Senator Smart Adeyemi, threatened to work against the APC if Governor Bello is not the party’s ticket in the forthcoming gubernatorial poll. According to him, the political destiny of the western senatorial district lies in the return of the governor.“Other senatorial districts have ruled Kogi State for two terms. Now a brother from Kogi central, who has done very well in his first tenure; should also be given another opportunity.
“If Gov. Bello is given the opportunity to lead us for another four years, I am convinced that we in the West will rule Kogi State. I am using this medium to beg our party leaders not to make the mistake of allowing one to change a winning team in Kogi State. Those who say APC cannot win Kogi under Bello are not God, because he is covenant child. If Governor Bello is denied the APC ticket, some of us might be forced to work against the party,” he said.
On Friday, a group named Concerned members of APC in Kogi state, stormed the national secretariat in Abuja to urge the party’s national leadership to ensure a level playing ground for all aspirants for the governorship election by organising direct primaries. Jubril Yusuf, Coordinator of the group said direct primaries would give the party’s stakeholders in Kogi the opportunity to choose who would pick its ticket in the state election slated for November.
The protesters said they were at the party’s national secretariat to place before the public the plight of the people of Kogi since the assumption of the incumbent governor in office, in February 2016. “The protest is also to call on men of conscience to put pressure on the party’s leadership to provide a level playing ground for all aspirants for the state governorship election. The living condition in the state is worrisome. Since February 2015, payment of salaries and pensions of Civil Servants had become optional and not a priority.
“Workers and pensioners in the state are currently being owed many months of unpaid salaries and pensions. It is only when workers are paid that other citizens in the state will be able to sell their goods and services. Consequently, the economy of the state is reeling on the ground, many businesses have folded and potential investors have been avoiding the state like a plague. Virtually all the indices about the state are negative,” Yusuf said.
But responding to the ongoing agitation over the APC ticket, Governor Bello on Friday said nobody can take away the governorship ticket of the APC from him during forthcoming primaries. He boasted that the ‘tenant cannot send the landlord out of his house.’ He further vowed that he would get re-elected for another four years in office, dismissing fears that he may lose the governorship ticket to internal crisis in the state.
“I have built APC in Kogi and it is very strong. Anytime, any day, we will win elections in landslide. That l am going to win in the primaries is given by the grace of God, by which ever means, direct or indirect. Secondly, in the November governorship election, we are not just talking of wining; we are looking at the margins. The margin is going to be such that whoever comes far second, will be discouraged from go to court,” he said.
Will the current tussle for its governorship ticket cost the APC its hold on the politics and governance of the state it has ruled since 2015? Or will the ruling party surmount the hurdles placed on its way tom victory and bounce back to win the November governorship election in the north central state? Observers within and outside the state are insisting that only time can answer these questions.