Even before the ballot for the November 2019 gubernatorial election is cast, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is already on its way to losing Kogi state.
One would think the APC have learned their lessons from the mistakes they made in Zamfara and Rivers that cost them dearly in those states, but it appears they are set on repeating them in Kogi state as they continue to turn away from decisively stemming the crisis that has been brimming since the fateful general elections in 2015 that saw one candidate win the gubernatorial election but another take over his victory; a development that led to cracks that continues to cause frictions within Kogi APC, especially now that the primaries and main election are just months away.
If the current imbroglio over who the genuine party executives are and what mode of primaries the party will adopt in the primary election is any indication then we might be witnessing Zamfara all over again. And this will be on the APC NWC for their lackluster handling of the internal wranglings ongoing in Kogi state.
The APC seemed to be cruising to victory in Zamfara state until Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal held that the APC did not file any eligible candidate in the 2019 general elections because the party did not conduct any valid primary elections.
The Supreme court in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices led by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, upheld the verdict of the Appeal Court when the case was escalated before the Apex Court.
The same signs of trouble are currently playing out in Kogi as we are yet to know who the genuine party executives are, and there seem to be an intense division on mode of primaries to be adopted, even though the APC NWC has come out to announce indirect primaries as the agreed upon format.
There is still a case in court to determine the faction of the party that are the genuine executives. Factional Chairman, Haddy Ametuo, allegedly doing the bidding of Governor Bello, had transmitted a letter to the APC NWC that the case had been withdrawn, the document that prompted the Committee into announcing indirect primaries for Kogi, but the other faction seemed to be led now by the Secretary who cosigned on the suit in court and other executives has responded by transmitting another letter to the NWC informing them that the case is still very much alive, adding that the Ametuo led faction do not have the authority yet to independently make decisions for the party in the state and as such the NWC should disregard Ametuo’s false claims in his letter to them and rescind the announcement of indirect primaries.
There have since been protests staged in front of the APC Headquarters in Abuja against and for direct primaries. A plethora of aspirants have suddenly surfaced overnight; a development many are attributing to Governor Bello. The narrative is that he is trying to procure the primary election by sponsoring these unknown candidates whose task is to put whatever weight they have behind the call for indirect primaries, his preferred method.
As it stands, Kogi under Yahaya Bello is in serious trouble. Since Bello emerged governor of Kogi State, rather than serve and promote the interests of the Kogi people, he resorted to, and continued advancing his egocentric and avaricious interests to the chronic detriment of Kogites.
Under Bello, Kogi people’s mandate has been raped and debased. This is the first time in Kogi political history that we see government being run like a sole proprietorship. Yahaya Bello does not only run Kogi State as a supermarket, but has committed a progressive range of unpardonable blasphemies against justice, equity, and good conscience.
Kogi’s incumbent governor has converted our democratic symbols into instruments for the worship of avarice. He bears the people’s pain lightly as his comprehensive looting of the state wealth has really essayed and crushed the Kogi masses into the mires and quicksands of poverty and chill penury.
No good economic policy has ever been formulated by the government of Bello to stem the tide of the turbulent poverty which has swept the Kogi people into a very deep sea of frustration. Lokoja township road is a festival of potholes. Roads linking Ajaokuta to Kogi east; Lokoja to Okene, and Isanlu to Egbe represents a carnival of gaping potholes. Hospitals in Kogi, having lost every pretence of being mere consulting clinics are now where people go to die or where dead Kogites are dumped. Little wonder the mortuaries and the obituary sections of the media in Kogi State are now the great money-spinners in a State economy that is on its way to hell.
Under Yahaya Bello in Kogi, the culture of impunity and executive recklessness appear to be the new order. Civil servants have been retrenched. Salaries of those in service are not paid. The civil service audit embarked upon by his administration is seemingly interminable. Myriad of civil servants have died as a result of nonpayment of salaries. Ample senior citizens of the State have passed on consequent upon nonpayment of their pensions and gratuities. Kogi youths have been transformed into thugs and heavily armed with sophisticated weapons to unleash terror on political opponents and the innocent public.
Lugard House which is the seat of power in Kogi State state has been converted by Yahaya Bello from a Government House to a casino abode, a theatre where all forms of political entertainment emanates from.
Governance and politics have been reduced to sheer bambino picnic and a superlative gambling establishment where the incumbent would throw up and sponsor 37 of his friends and cronies as aspirants with 22.5 million naira each to purchase expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the gubernatorial election on the platform of the APC — a game of desperation occasioned by his inordinate desire to perpetuate himself in power beyond November 2019.
Once someone is in government, he simply becomes the law and dictates what the law is and what is not. Yahaya Bello is law in Kogi.
The cornucopia of political, social and economic rights abuse being perpetrated by the Bello’s government against the Kogi people is mind-boggling. Yet, the APC, from its body language, is set to give Bello the ticket to run for a second term. The party doesn’t care. The National Working Committee of the party is obviously practically taking steps to gratifying the highest bidder. Good governance in Kogi is not their business.
The last general election, particularly the presidential election was a success in Kogi but not because of Bello. It took the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for the aggrieved stakeholders of the APC to agree to work for the victory of the party during the last elections. But as it stands, the factions have split again and have returned to warring; and the indecisive attitude of the VP and party hierarchy in dealing with the problem show they are not really serious about retaining their hold on Kogi state.
Without mincing words, Yahaya Bello is bad market for the APC in Kogi State. His administration is quintessential of a gargantuan plague, a disaster of epic magnitude. Bello has battered the image of the APC in Kogi to the extent that it defies every attempt at rehabilitation. He is the worst dreg of convoluted avarice and indefatigable selfishness.
If the APC NWC do not wade in to settle the deep rift within the party in Kogi and allow things to continue on their current trajectory, we might have a case of another Zamfara where the party lost out after the main election this November due to internal crisis.
In other words, should the APC insist on fielding Bello for the November 16, 2019 governorship election despite his terrible undoing as alluded in this piece, then the APC is on its way to losing Kogi State.
– Benson Ojodale Aduku, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abuja.