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It’s no retreat, no surrender among gladiators

FOR many months, Kogi State has been witnessing a lot of political activities, with events in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) making headlines and forming major topics of discussions among the populace.

The political situation in the state is peculiar because of the circumstances that led to the emergence of the governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, a development that has greatly affected the politics of the state with politicians defecting in opposite directions.

Following the death of the former governor of the state, who was also the candidate of the APC in the last governorship election, Abubakar Audu, and his replacement with Bello by the national leadership of the party, many of Audu’s supporters had felt betrayed and disillusioned, as they believed the decision amounted to robbing Peter to pay Paul. This, therefore, led to a sharp division between the camp of the governor and the Audu/Faleke group led by the deputy governorship candidate of the party, James Faleke.

The crisis occasioned by that development had gone ahead to create a chasm among the state executives of the party, with almost all the members of the State Executive Committee (SEC), led by Alhaji Hadi Ametuo, siding with the Audu/Faleke group. The division could not be corrected until the conduct of the last congresses of the party, which swept away the entire Audu/Faleke structure from the APC in the state. Although the state had parallel congresses during the last exercise from the wards to state level, the national secretariat recognised the results of congresses organised by the Bello group, which produced Abdulahi Bello as the new state chairman.

The rejection of the results of the congresses, which returned Ametuo as the state chairman of the party further widened the gulf of disunity in the party and when the reformed APC birthed, it was not surprising that Ametuo was named as the state chairman. Though it is certain that the Audu/Faleke political family has parted ways with the APC in the state, its next destination has remained uncertain, as political observers continue to watch developments. It appears that the group does not want to put its eggs in one basket in the political battles ahead, with events in the last few weeks showing that while the group remained relevant in the R-APC, it may eventually pitch its tent with the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Already, the Director-General of the late Audu’s campaign organisation, Daniel Isah, has been recognised by the national leadership of the party as the Kogi State chairman, a development that has led to wrangling among members of the party in the state.

Some members of the party in the state recently raised the alarm over the directive of the ADC to resolve the “suggestion” that key members of the APC in the state be accepted to the party and that Isah be made the new state chairman of the party. Stakeholders of the party at a meeting argued that the directive was tantamount to imposition of candidate and therefore stood rejected.  In a communiqué from the party stakeholders’ meeting read by Dr Odekina John, the members held that the move was to please Faleke ahead of members that had been committed to the building of the party. They claimed that Isa was still a member of the APC and had not formally defected to the ADC, saying it would be absurd to make a member of another party the state chairman of the ADC.

The ADC stakeholders therefore urged the national body of the party not to create seeds of discord, as Faleke that the national chairman of the party was clamouring for is a member of the APC representing a federal constituency in Lagos State. The party chieftains added that for peace, harmony and stability of the party in the state, the status quo should be allowed to remain pending the outcome of the congress of the party billed to be held few months ahead.

However, while the state governor was having a running battle with the Audu/Faleke group, he also fell out with one of those that supported him in the early stage of his administration. The centre later refused to hold between the governor and the man who was the chairman of his inauguration committee, Senator Dino Melaye, the lawmaker representing Kogi west senatorial district. The disagreement between the two hitherto friends led to accusations and counter-accusations with many charges brought against the senator by the police, making him to accuse government of being the brain behind his ordeals.

However, political events in the last one week had shown that Melaye had already found his way back to the PDP, the party he left to join the APC in the build-up to the 2015 elections. Melaye is a front line member of the R-APC and staunch supporter of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. He recently appeared in a short video clip where he made his intention to return to the PDP known with the famous music of “Oh my home”, saying the PDP was his home and that he could not wait to rejoin the party.

It, however, appears that what the APC lost in Melaye in Kogi West senatorial district, it regained in the defection of a former senator from the zone, Smart Adeyemi. Immediately he lost the 2015 to Melaye and the confirmation by the Court of Appeal that Melaye was duly elected, Adeyemi parted ways with the PDP and joined the ruling party. Since he teamed up with Bello, the former senator has been mobilising support for government across the state and changing the perception of some people about the government.

Apart from Adeyemi, another chieftain of the PDP who has joined the “New Direction” government of Bello is a former governorship aspirant of the party, Alhaji Isa Echocho, from Dekina in the eastern senatorial district of the state. The coming of Echocho had further shored up the support base of the APC in the district, as he was said to have done so with the aim of using his defection to give hope to many Igala people, who felt “cheated” by the way they were treated by the top echelon of the party after the death of Audu.

The change of political platforms by Melaye and Adeyemi has, however, altered the calculations in the senatorial district as the two of them may have a repeat of the 2015 battle for the seat, but now on different platforms. The 2015 elections saw Melaye contesting on the ticket of the APC, while Adeyemi was the candidate of the PDP. The leadership of the APC in the state and the camp of the governor appeared to be favourably disposed to the former national chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) clinching the ticket, as he enjoyed the support of the Chief of Staff (COS) to the governor, Edward Onoja, who is a major deciding factor in the party.

Many of the party chieftains that had been in the forefront of the contest for the ticket before the coming of Adeyemi into the APC, have, however, been said to be uncomfortable with the kind of treatment being given to Adeyemi by the top echelon of the party in the state. Their belief is that since the governor “is the leader of the party in the state, he may always have his way on who gets what in the party.” Some of them, who have not made their feelings and complaints open, felt that the move would make Adeyemi, who is a new entrant into the APC to be imposed on others that had been working tirelessly to build the party. Sunday Tribune learnt that some of the APC chieftains in this category are already drawing up a “Plan B,” in case they are shut out, and this, it was learnt, may include dumping the party for another platform.

The PDP is not also insulated from the problem that the APC faces over Adeyemi, as the current occupant of the seat, Melaye, with his yet-to-be-announced defection, is said to be planning to re-contest in 2019. The development was said to be causing ripples among party members, particularly in the Okun axis of the senatorial district, as it is capable of altering the plan of Yagba federal constituency to produce the next senator. Before the coming of Melaye, the party had some aspirants that had been moving around to galvanise supports for their ambitions. These include the member representing Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency, Tajudeen Yusuf, his counterpart from Yagba federal constituency, Sunday Karimi and a former acting governor of the state, Clarence Olafemi, among others.

Speaking on the possible effect of the political developments and realignment in the state, the state publicity secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Tims Ejigha, believed the issue of Kogi State was already settled, as the variables and indices have indicated the end of an era for the APC.

He said: “In Kogi State, the election has been won and lost. Even in Ekiti, where the leaders of APC went to campaign, the central issue is about payment of salary and emoluments to civil servants and pensioners, the same thing is happening in Kogi State. If you go to Ekiti and say they should vote for a man that can pay salary and pension, what happens to Kogi? The salary payment under the APC administration in Kogi State and the massive retrenchment brought about by the unending screening has created a waterloo for the governing APC. The sitting governor has already been campaigning through his actions. All the retrenched workers, the pensioners that have been denied their pensions and are groaning in abject poverty with some dead and many on hospital beds, would no doubt mobilise and vote against the APC in Kogi state.”

Beyond the politics of realignment and fresh alliances, however, a fresh twist was introduced to the political melodrama in Kogi last week, when some yet-to-be-identified assailants visited their fury on Melaye by setting fire to some of his constituency projects, which he was planning to commission.

The hoodlums had invaded the Government Secondary School in Sarkin Noma, a suburb of the state capital and burnt a block of three classrooms built for the use of the students. Apart from this, the arsonists also vandalised another primary school constructed by the Senator in Lokongoma area of Lokoja. The development, according to observers was part of the ugly incidents that might be witnessed in the state as the 2019 election approaches.

But while speaking on the attack, Melaye said he would not be deterred or intimidated by the antics of the “forces of darkness” in the state. He said, “we have over 140 projects across the senatorial districts; we have roads, schools, water, rural electrification, skill acquisition centres, among others. By the grace of God, this is just a tip of the iceberg; we will continue to do only those things that will promote unity and prosperity of our people. No amount of fear or intimidation will stop us from actualising this for our people.”

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Politics – Tribune

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