By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
A one term governorship tenure is starring Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello, in the face. Multiple party sources in Lokoja and Abuja are emphatic that the Akinwumi Ambode treatment is awaiting the governor in the governorship primaries which comes up in August to select candidates for the November 2019 Kogi governorship election.
The forces up against Bello’s re-election are fighting a three-pronged battle to that effect – External,internal and ethno-religious.
The external forces are said to be linked to former Lagos state governor and National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who is allegedly bent on installing his godson, James Faleke, a sitting House of Representatives member representing Ikeja (Lagos) Federal Constituency as Kogi’s next governor.
Faleke, an Okun Yoruba from Ekinrin Adde in Ijumu council area of the state, was the late former governor Abubakar Audu’s running mate in the November 2015 governorship election.Tragically, Audu, who first ruled the state from 1992 to November 1993 and then from 1999 to 2003, died on November 22, 2015, on the cusp of another gubernatorial triumph, thus creating an uncharted constitutional situation.He was APC’s candidate in the November 2015 election.
When eventually it was resolved that the APC could still inherit its late candidate’s victory, it was Bello who came a distant second in the primaries with 703 votes, and not Audu’s running mate, Faleke, that the demigods in APC, opposed to Tinubu, awarded the the late Audu’s ticket and victory in the ensuing supplementary election which followed.
To strengthen his bid for the 2023 APC presidential ticket and broaden his frontiers of influence, this magazine has been told that Faleke is only one of the godsons the APC national leader is plotting to plant in power as governors in states-Kogi,Ondo and Bayelsa- where governorship elections will take place before 2023.
However, the second factor, Kogi’s ethno- religious politics, which is also militating against Bello’ s second term is as well likely to sound Faleke/Tinubu’s political death nail, according to followers of Kogi politics. This is how:
To boster his chances, it has been learnt that Faleke’s promoters have resolved to make an incursion into Igalaland, the largest single ethnic stock in Kogi, by pairing him with Audu’s first son, Mustapha Audu who had, vehemently, protested APC’s decision to cede his late father’s victory to Bello. Had Faleke been successful in his legal battles to upstage Bello, Mustapha would have been named his Deputy. Both men had bonded in the fight to wrestle power from Bello.
The late Audu was popular, and well loved by his Igala kinsmen and women while alive.The calculation is that a Faleke/ Audu ticket will harvest the late governor’s tremendous goodwill among his people. The the Igalas, due to their numerical strength, have since the creation of Kogi, produced the governor, despite the combined challenge of the two notable minority ethnic groups that complete Kogi’s tripod – the Okun Yoruba and Ebiras – and would have done so again in 2015 save for the sudden death of their son on the day of victory.
Being a Moslem majority state, the Igalas and Ebiras are predominantly Muslims as against the Christian populated minority Okunland, analysts say when push comes to shove, the two Moslem dominated ethnic groups will cooperate to ensure one of their own maintains hegemony at Lugard House, as Kogi state Government House is known, even if it means sacrificing Bello.This, according to observers, is where Faleke’ s albatross lies.
Impeccable sources told this this Magazine that the Igala nation will go for the main job rather than play second fiddle to Faleke.The ethnic group’s political class has, therefore, The Source was informed, vowed to retrieve the governorship from Bello, an Ebira, who they accuse of misrule after obtaining power on a platter of gold.
To this end, Igala political eggheads are reportedly making strong moves to snatch the APC ticket. Another source suggests that Mustapha, though currently governorship aspirant of the Young Progressive Party, YPP, rather than running with Faleke, is actually being considered for APC’s standard flagbearer for the election.
Internal forces arrayed against governor Bello are made up of indigenes of the state across political, religious and ethnic lines who insist the governor is a misfit and must give way for a competent hand to reinvent Kogi.
This category of Kogites say they are not aligned to any party, and do not care the party that produces the next governor provided such a person fits the expectations of the people. Recently, APC elders in the state joined the league of groups and individuals in Kogi kicking against the governor’s second term.
The elders, led by Senator Alex Kadiri, in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, accused Bello of mismanaging Kogi’s financial resources, saying he could not account for the sum of N344bn, which the state allegedly received as allocation in the last 38 months of his administration.
They described the governor’s emergence as an accident which must be corrected.
The petition reads, “Governor Yahaya Bello was never elected by the good people of Kogi State. The death of Abubakar Audu made it possible for Bello to be Kogi State Governor. He has shown everyone that he lacks leadership abilities. He can’t fight for the rights and privileges of Kogi people.
“We request you to step down your support for the candidature of Governor Yahaya Bello for the forthcoming election in Kogi State.
“If the party fields him as a candidate, we are sure of losing the state to the opposition.”
Though the embattled Kogi governor has denied plans to dump the APC in the face of mounting opposition within the party to his second term, impeccable sources in Lokoja, the state capital,swear that Bello is frantically preparing for a plan B, in the event that his party gives him cold shoulders.” I can tell you for sure that the governor is not prepared to wait for the APC to pull the rug from under his feet. Of course, if the signs are manifest that he will be denied the APC platform, there are other viable platforms.Parties are mere vehicles to attaining political offices”, one of the sources told the magazine.
It has, however, been learnt that some of the governor’s loyalists prefer he remains in the APC to fight for the ticket till the end. And if eventually denied, move to another party.The Accord Party, Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the Labour Party, among other parties, have so far been linked to the governor as a possible fall back, but his camp informs that no decision has been reached yet as to the platform to switch to should the APC bare its fangs.
“We are not yet at the bridge, when we get there, we will cross it.For now, we believe His Excellency has performed well to get his party’s ticket and we are sure he will get the ticket.So we are not talking about alternative platform for now”,he said
If governor Bello is eventually denied his party’s return ticket, he will be the third sitting governor since the return of democracy in 1999 to be so treated by their parties.The first was former governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra state who in 2003 was denied the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP second term ticket on the account of alleged misrule.
The most recent is the outgoing Lagos state governor, Ambode, whose fate for second term was sealed by his godfather and National leader of the APC, Tinubu, not on the basis of non performance, but according to insiders, as a result of issues bordering on alleged questionable loyalty. On Ambode’s stead is now Jide Sanwo Olu, another godson. He will be taking over from Ambode on May 29,2019.