For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor Yahaya Bello, factional APC leaders and discerning political watchers, there are interesting days ahead the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State.
Recently, there were bribery claims and counter-claims, in which the state factional APC chairman, Haddy Ametuo and other notable members of the faction were accused of selling out to the faction loyal to Bello, who is seeking a second term ticket.
But with the subsisting court case instituted by Ametuo’s faction, seeking reinstatement as the authentic APC state exco and buoyed by the Supreme Court’s recent sacking of all elected APC members in Zamfara State, Governor Yahaya Bello may have been forced to come down from his high horse, if latest developments in Kogi APC is anything to go by.
With over three years of irreconcilable differences and the attendant running battles between the two factions, where the Ametuo-led exco controls the party, while Bello controls government, recent reports indicated that Bello had reached out to the other side.
Said to be jittery over possible reenactment of the Zamfara scenario in Kogi, North Central APC was said to have reached out to the factional chairman to reconsider his hard stance against Bello.
All this is happening in the midst of allegations that Ametuo, alongside former Senators Dangana Ocheja and Mohammed Ohiare, as well as Mohammed Audu, son of late Prince Abubakar Audu may have already sold out to Bello.
The quartet was alleged to have been prevailed to sheathe their swords, support Bello’s second term ambition, as well as withdraw the case filed by the Ametuo-led faction.
At the said meeting, the embattled governor was said to have gone down on his knees, entreating for the withdrawal of the pending case in court, and the endorsement of his ambition by the Alex Kadiri-led Kogi Elders Forum, known for its uncompromising stance on issues affecting Kogi people’s development and welfare. They were said to have indicted Bello over non-performance and maladministration during his first term. However, all those implicated in allegations of ‘settlement’ have denied it.
Audu’s son, Mohammed, said such allegations couldn’t be true, especially as he condemned Bello’s attitude towards the Audu family.
An angry Mohammed said: “The claims were products of hallucination that could only be induced by excessive use of hard drugs. It is only someone under the influence of hard drugs that would conjure reports that I was in a meeting to endorse Governor Bello’s second term bid.
“How can I stoop so low to endorse, let alone work for the re-election of a governor that has refused to pay salaries and pensions, despite the massive inflow of funds and aid to the state in the last three years?
“This is a man who has not deemed it fit to honour my late father, who laboured for the office he is occupying today. Governor Bello once promised to name the state university after my late father, in whose first stint as democratically elected governor in 1992, the idea of a state university was mooted. He has failed to fulfil his pledge, three and half years after assuming office. He has not even deemed it fit to name a single street after him… I am not a prodigal son.”
Similarly, Ametuo explained: “It is true the governor invited us for a meeting, but we have not even met. Why didn’t the person behind the allegation put his name to it? That’s to tell you it is fake news. For more than three years now, we have been left out in the cold. Efforts to make the governor recognise us and give us our dues, as authentic party executives did not yield any result.
“And now that he said he wanted to meet with us, we have agreed to meet with him. We don’t even have an idea of what he’s going to tell us. Let it be clear that there is no way I will cooperate with opposition parties to make my party lose everything in Kogi State, including the 2019 governorship election…”
The factional chairman disclosed that the Alex Kadiri-led Elders Forum had also agreed to meet with Bello after the Sallah break.
Asked if his faction was having a rethink and probably contemplating withdrawing the pending case or dropping the demand for reinstatement as the authentic exco, Ametuo responded in the negative, saying, “Bello’s faction should be prepared to meet us in court on June 3…”
While it is not certain who will blink first or what will be traded between the two factions, what is clear is that the Ametuo faction presently holds the ace.
Reinstating the Ametuo exco would be akin to Bello toeing a dangerous path that could likely bury his re-election bid.
The Ametuo faction, an offspring of the Audu Faleke camp, has not hidden its opposition to Bello’s second term bid.
Furthermore, some members of the camp are leading aspirants, hoping to displace Bello in the jostle for APC ticket in the August 2019 gubernatorial primaries.
Head or tail, the governor surely has his hands full. An anonymous source in the Audu/Faleke camp said any horse-trading between Ametuo and Bello will be a “non-issue,” as the group had concluded plot to deny him the ticket.
A Governor And His Many Battles
The political furnace blazing in Kogi seems to be making Governor Bello seriously uncomfortable. Last week, he had a bad day in office.
First, his attempt at shepherding traditional rulers to the Presidential Villa on a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, which had to do with his quest for a second term, reportedly hit the rocks. The royal fathers were turned back because they were not scheduled.
Bello had allegedly mounted pressure on the traditional rulers to do his bidding in the run-up to the November polls.
The Governor has also been in a running battle with Kogi judiciary. The state House of Assembly, accused of acting as an extended arm of the executive, failed in its recommendation to remove the state chief judge, Justice Nasiru Ajanah. And last week, Bello dismissed Justice Ajanah from an official function. Followers of goings-on in Kogi’s socio-political space attributed Bello’s grouse with the head of judiciary to the fallout from the long-drawn impasse, in the governor’s bid to unseat the Chief Judge.
Ajanah and the state judiciary, however, challenged the resolution to effect the ouster of the Chief Judge. And a judgment was given in Ajanah’s favour.
Bello’s various moves may not be unconnected with the Supreme Court’s recent verdict, which annulled APC’s victory in Zamfara and Rivers States, while declaring PDP the winner.
Few days after the February 17, 2018 APC mega rally held at Confluence City Stadium, Lokoja, which had the immediate past national APC chairman, John Oyegun in attendance, the internal wrangling in the state chapter of APC took a new dimension, as Bello was accused of opening a new secretariat and announcing the constitution of new state executive to pilot the party’s affairs in acting capacity.
The Acting chairman, Ahovi Ibrahim, inaugurated members of the appointed state executive. The new secretariat was commissioned by Oyegun, but as a campaign office for President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ametuo, who was earlier confirmed by APC national leadership as the authentic state party chairman, accused Governor Bello of disregarding party’s decision.
He said: “How can a state governor appoint party executives without approval of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Are party executives appointed or elected? Why does Bello like wasting the state’s meagre resources on fruitless ventures? We will, however, not be responsible or respond to any person or group that decide to allow themselves to be used by forces that did not know how the party was formed.”
In May 2018, the Ametuo-led exco was dissolved, following a petition allegedly sponsored by the Bello camp to the party’s North Central Executive, accusing Ametuo and his executive of anti-party and other negative activities.
So, the North Central executive declared that the state exco, made up of the chairman and 38 others, stood dissolved in accordance with article 21(d)(1) of APC Constitution, as amended.
The North Central executive also directed that the state’s most senior party official should take charge, pending when a stakeholder meeting would be arranged by the North Central Exco.
Interestingly, some weeks later, not only did APC national leadership reverse the sack order, but also went on to confirm Ametuo-led exco as the authentic leadership. It berated Oyegun for attending the rally.
The National Working Committee (NWC) further reaffirmed authenticity of the Ametuo-led state executive committee.
The Audu/Faleke and by extension the Ametuo-led APC state exco camp alleged that “despite the appointment of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu by President Buhari with a charge to reconcile aggrieved party members nationwide, Governor Bello had gone ahead to announce the constitution of new APC state executive, and further invited Oyegun to commission a parallel party secretariat.”
So, on May 18, 2018, two different executive councils emerged from the two parallel congresses conducted by the party’s two main factions.
While the faction loyal to Bello held a congress at the Confluence Stadium, the Audu/Faleke faction held its own at St Peters Primary School, Felele, also in Lokoja.
At the congress held at the Confluence Stadium, Abdullahi Bello emerged the state party chairman, while Ibrahim Abdulrahman emerged Deputy chairman and Josiah Onoja became the secretary.
However, the Audu/Faleke faction re-elected the outgoing state party chairman, Haddy Ametuo as the new chairman.