Kogi East, West protest as Bello anoints kinsman

GBENGA ODOGUN writes on the crisis that rocked the All Progressives Congress in Kogi State following the emergence of Alhaji Ahmed Dodo as the party’s governorship candidate

Before the primary for the Kogi State All Progressives Congress, which was held on April 14, there were disagreements and intrigues among members on the mode of primary that should be adopted.

 Some members of the party had accused the state Governor, Alhaji Yayaha Bello, of favouring an indirect mode of primary so that his preferred candidate would gain the upper hand. This generated a lot of controversies that forced the leadership of the APC to deny that the governor wanted to adopt an indirect mode of primary to enable him to impose a candidate on the party.

The state Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Bello, aka Dollar, denied the allegation that the governor had the plan to impose a candidate on the party. He said every member would be given equal chance and a level playing field. He also stated that Bello and indeed the leadership of the party would support whichever mode of primary the NWC approved. Most members commended the NWC when on April 11, it directed that a direct primary should be used in electing the APC candidate for the state governorship election.

Prior to that day, no fewer than 17 people across the three senatorial districts of the state had signified interest in succeeding Bello as the governor of the confluence state. Nine out of them are part of the Bello administration. They included the deputy Governor, Edward Onoja, a strong ally of the governor. He is from the Kogi East Senatorial District. He was once the Chief of Staff to the governor until 2019 when he replaced Simon Achuba who fell out with the governor and was eventually impeached. Also from the eastern senatorial district is an NWC member of the APC, Alhaji Muritala Ajaka; a former Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Prof. Stephen Ochen; and Alhaji Shuaib Audu, who is the son of the late Abubakar Audu regarded as the pillar of Kogi politics. The state Auditor General, Alhaji Yakubu Okala, is also a strong ally of the governor.

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Aspirants from the Kogi West included Asiwaju Asiru Idris, former Commissioner for Finance, Budget, and Planning; three-term senator representing Kogi West, Smart Adeyemi, and a Lagos-based businessman, David Jimoh.

The Executive Director of the Rural Electrification Agency in the presidency, Dr Sanusi Ohiare, was also in the race. He is from Kogi Central and son of former Senator Mohammed Ohiare, a political bigwig in Okene.

Another aspirant, Alhaji Ahmed Ododo, who is also from the Central Senatorial district as the governor, was until now the Auditor General of Local Governments in the Bello administration.

Before the primary, the governor had not told anybody his choice among the aspirants. He was reported to have told all of them to contest and that the party members would pick one of them.

But The News Agency of Nigeria reported that eight aspirants voluntarily withdrew from the race at a meeting held at the party’s secretariat in Lokoja on April 13 and presided over by the governor.

Those who stepped down were those who served  in Bello’s cabinet. Ododo who was reported to have been anointed by the governor did not step down.

Earlier, the lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency and erstwhile running mate to the late Abubakar Audu, James Faleke, did not participate in the governorship contest; citing his preference for a national assignment as the reason for pulling out.

Despite the agitation for a power shift to the West, Ododo was eventually elected and subsequently ratified at a special congress held on Saturday, April 15 at the Muhammadu Buhari Civic Centre, Lokoja.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the primary which produced Ododo has not escaped the wrath of some contestants and stakeholders from the Kogi West and Kogi East.

Adeyemi led the pack of contestants from Kogi West. Apart from being a leading voice in the agitation for a power shift to the West, he also vehemently disagreed with the conduct of the primary which he referred to as a kangaroo exercise whereby no election ever took place anywhere in the entire 239 wards of the state.

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He queried the rationale behind the choice of Ododo who, apart from being a cousin to the governor, is also from the same community as Bello.

“Refusing power shift to the western senatorial district will reduce the people to slaves in their own land. We are not slaves, we have equal rights and stakes in Kogi. We supported Bello in 2019 on the premise that he would support a power shift to the West in 2023,” Adeyemi said.

Ajaka from Kogi East, who also participated in the primary, rejected the outcome of the election and instead claimed to be the winner of the primary conducted.

The Igala Mandate Group, in a statement signed by DG Yakubu Ugwolawo, rejected the announcement of Ododo by Mr Patrick Obayagbon as the winner of the APC governorship primary election in Kogi State.

It read in part, “After an emergency meeting of the leadership of this organisation held early this morning in Igala House Anyigba, the following statements are hereby issued:

“The announcement made by Mr Patrick Obayagbon purportedly declaring Mr Ahmed Ododo as the winner of the governorship primary election of the APC in Kogi State is unacceptable and it is hereby rejected in its entirety.

“The victory of Alhaji Murtala Ajaka (Muri) on April 14, 2023, remains unassailable as he received the overwhelming mandate of the eligible electorate of the party across all the 239 wards in the state as the governorship of the APC in Kogi State.

“We consider the not announcing Muri’s result by Governor Bello Matawalle and his team as reckless, illogical and an anti-party stance. Matawalle and his team cannot unilaterally exclude Muri from the contest since no law gives them that power.”

The group also said, “It is an indiscretion and impunity carried too far in order to satisfy Governor Yahaya Bello’s political appetite to perpetuate himself in power by handing over office to his stooge.”

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“The Matawalle team and the destabilising agents from Government House Lokoja must not plunge the APC into unnecessary crisis and confusion. They should perish their plans against the APC and Kogi people.

But Bello in his speech at the party’s congress on April 15 in Lokoja, said, ‘’Today’s event shows that there is no opposition in Kogi State. We are one big family; we have won everything winnable in the state. We won the presidential election, we won the available three senatorial seats; six out of nine House of Representatives seats; and 23 out of 25 state assembly seats. This is a pass mark by any standard,” Bello noted.

Also, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications and chieftain of the APC, Kingsley Fanwo, described the emergence of Ododo as the governorship Candidate of the APC as a “winning joker.”

Fanwo stated this Monday, in a congratulatory message to Ododo, saying the people of Kogi State would vote massively for the APC candidate to “continue with the lofty strides of Governor Yahaya Bello”.

The APC stalwart commended the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by the aspirants who voluntarily stepped down for Ododo to emerge, noting that “their sacrifices made his victory seamless and reassuring”.

“The patriots who willingly stepped down to support Alh. Usman Ododo are the real heroes of the contest. Their selfless action is very reassuring and it signposts that the party will face November 11 with one mind and an indomitable force of a united party. They have shown that their individual interests could be sacrificed for the strength and safety of the party.

“The task ahead is onerous and we must remain focused and avoid complacency. The last general elections have boosted our confidence as a party and we are reassured that APC remains overwhelmingly the party of choice in our dear state. “

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