Dr. Tom Ohikere
Ahead of the Kogi state gubernatorial election scheduled for November 2023, the primary election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) expected to select the party’s flagbearer has become enmeshed in controversy as incumbent governor Yahaya Bello and his group have chosen to flout the party’s guidelines for the smooth conduct of the primary in a bid to foist his preferred candidate on the party.
While the party had on Thursday adopted the direct method for the primary, it was gathered on Friday that the election was going on as scheduled in each of the ward headquarters in Lokoja, as approved by the national leadership of the party but at the same time a faction of the party in the state led by Governor Bello decided to conduct its own separately in a single area. The implication of this is, that there is an high level plot to undermine the credibility of the process. The Bello group held its primaries at the Paparanda Square, Lokoja with a top local government council official as collating officer with the hope of installing Ahmed Usman Ododo, the Kogi state auditor general, a close ally of the governor. Recall that on Thursday some of the aspirants voluntarily withdrew from the race at a meeting held at the party’s secretariat in Lokoja on Thursday and presided over by Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state in which Mr Usman-Ododo was endorsed by the state Governor. The include Edward Onoja, Ashiru Idris, Okala Yakubu, Abdulkareem Asuku, chief of staff to Governor Bello and the state’s Accountant-General, Momoh Jibrin among others.
From the Thursday parley it was already clear that it would not be Uhuru for the APC in Kogi state despite the consistent promise of Governor Yahaya Bello to provide a level playing ground for all aspirants. And as expected the ensuing and developing situation of the D-Day did not betray the foreboding of perceiving stakeholders of the party who smelt something fishy. As the Bello group gathered at the supposed venue of their primaries, the primaries endorsed by the party’s hierarchy in which other prominent stakeholders of the party were participating in were deliberate undermined as while party officials were seen in some wards carrying out their legitimate business, in most other wards they were non existent, in order to promote the legitimacy of the illegal Paparanda square primary and the primary election administration committee from headquarters in Abuja which have been inordinate aligned with the Bello group were no where to be found.
According to article 20.3 of the APC constitution, nomination of candidates for public office shall be through direct or indirect primary election to be conducted at the appropriate level, subject to the direction and supervision of the national working committee, while article 20.4 states that direct primaries shall be by party members in every ward by open secret ballot for the candidate of their choice.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Chairman of the primary election committee, Governor Mohammed Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state said all aspirants who have not withdrawn from the race are free to participate in Friday’s direct primary election to be held across the state. In the lead up to the primaries, Governor Bello had been accused of high handed and oppression. Recall that on March 23, the Kogi state house of assembly suspended eight lawmakers and nine local government chairmen, this was also the same time the deputy national publicity secretary, Yakubu Murtala Ajaka who is also an aspirant for the primaries was suspended by his ward executives for alleged anti- party activities.
Before Thursday’s withdraw from the race by some aspirants, those in the primaries include incumbent Chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello, Abdulkareem Mohammed Jamiu; the incumbent Deputy Governor of the State, Chief Edward David Onoja; the Deputy Publicity Secretary of the APC, Murtala Yakubu Ajaka; a serving Senator, Yakubu Oseni; and son of the late former governor of Kogi State, Shuaibu Abubakar Audu. Others in the race are Accountant General of Kogi State, Alhaji Jubril Momoh; the Auditor General of Kogi State, Mallam Yakubu Yusuf Okala; the State Commissioner for Finance, Asiwaju Asiru Idris; lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Smart Adeyemi; former minister of State for Labour and Employment in Buhari’s first term, Prof Stephen Ocheni; Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftiancy Affairs, Salami Momodu Ozigi; lawyer and politician, Halima Alfa; Kogi State Auditor-General for Local Government, Dr Sanusi Ohiare, Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo; GM, Jimoh banji, and Chief Friday Idachaba.
As of the eve of the primaries the projected leading contenders were Senator Smart Adeyemi, Yakubu Murtala Ajaka and Ahmed Usman Ododo and we as stakeholders expected the day to usher in a new chapter in the history of Kogi APC as the people who constitute the basis of our beloved party troop out to enthrone their choice but from the look of things, their are those who want to re-engineer a system of godfatherism in Kogi state APC even at the cost of losing the Governorship election.
For too long, pride, arrogance, subservience and utter disregard for popular will had been the hallmark of the APC leadership in Kogi state, while Friday was suppose to reset the situation and return sovereign ownership of the party to the people, it is once again been thwarted by the megalomaniac inclination of a retrogressive leadership that has outlived its time. As a result of this false sense of things, Kogi APC stands the risk of going into the election with an unpopular and unsellable candidate amid fears of a resurgent PDP and growing opposition coalition.
The APC in Kogi state since its ascendancy has walked a tight rope as a result of deep divisions in its fold that has persisted amid cries of marginalization, nepotism and exclusion which is inimical to any sustainable party administration, growth and popular acceptability making any major election an uphill task.
I advise the national chairman of APC, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu to cancel the purported primary election as it will not stand the test of time. If Governor Bello is very sure of himself, why is he manipulating the process ?
To forestall APC from losing the state, something very urgent must be done by the party headquarters. The consequences of such an unacceptable process is that aggrieved aspirants are bound to seek the legal option which will further worsen the woes of the party. The APC should endeavor to urgently explore all necessary internal mechanisms to save the situation, if not this can be said to be the beginning of end for the APC in Kogi state.
Dr Tom Ohikere is the managing director of APC NewsOnline Television and he writes from Abuja.