The APC national chairman is embattled presently as he has found himself in the middle of the power tussle between those in the Presidency who favour Yahaya Bello and Tinubu’s camp who favour James Faleke writes EMMA ALOZIE
The national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is in the middle again. He is in the middle of the Kogi guber election crisis threatening to tear the party apart at least in Kogi state. During the National Assembly leadership tussle, Chief Oyegun became the pawn on the chessboard of some powerful APC power brokers. He was nearly consumed.
He was accused and cajoled, he was prevailed upon to throw in the towel to save his face. He was harassed on one hand by the Tinubu camp who felt he sold out by not being firm to enforce party discipline. He was equally assailed by some president’s loyalists who believed he was leaning more towards Tinubu. Such scenario is likely going to play out again with the national chairman seemingly pitched between Tinubu and some powerful forces believed to be in the presidency.
While it is widely believed that some powerful forces at the presidency are favourably disposed to the candidature of Yahaya Bello, it is an open secret that Bola Tinubu, the strongman of APC is behind James Faleke. Before Faleke became Audu’s running mate, though from Okun area of Kogi, he is still a House of Representatives member representing Ikeja federal constituency in Lagos. This automatically makes him a Tinubu product.
Also, going by the many arguments by lawyers, one thing was most discernible; most of the pro-Tinubu lawyers from the South West were rooting for Faleke while the Attorney General of the Federation, who is an ally of the president holds a contrary view.
For instance, Femi Falana, a known Tinubu sympathizer has maintained that the more legally sensible thing to do is for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to conclude the election and declare Faleke the governor-elect.
“Those who have called for the cancellation of the results of the inconclusive election as a result of the death of Prince Audu have failed to realise that the rights of other candidates who participated in the democratic exercise, including the deputy governorship candidate of the APC, have accrued. Such vested interests cannot be extinguished due to no fault of such candidates. Therefore, if the results of the inconclusive elections are cancelled, the other political parties and their candidates are perfectly entitled to approach the court to challenge the validity of the cancellation and seek to restrain the INEC from conducting fresh governorship elections in Kogi state.
“In the light of the foregoing, the INEC has to review its position in the light of the claim that the number of disenfranchised voters in the state who have Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and are qualified to vote is less than 41,300. If the claim is confirmed, then INEC should not hesitate to declare the APC the winner of the election. In that case, the Boni Haruna’s case will apply. However, if the number of the disenfranchised voters is higher than 41,300 the INEC should proceed and conclude the election which may be won by either of the two parties. If the APC wins the election the deputy governor-elect will become the governor while a new deputy governor will be nominated by him and approved by the Kogi State House of Assembly,” Falana had said.
Also, Professor Itse Sagay has described as a mistake the decision of APC to dump Faleke for Bello. “If the party decides that it wants to conduct another primary, that is their problem, and I use the word ‘problem’ advisedly because they are creating an unnecessary problem for themselves. They already have two candidates — the running mate who is surviving is a candidate and all they need to do is to pick someone else from the same senatorial district as the deceased that will be the running mate of Faleke. I don’t know why people avoid simple things and then go and complicate life for themselves. I don’t understand. While I would not advise Faleke to go to court, I think the decision belongs to the party and if they want him to retain his deputy governorship candidature, he should allow them without making any problem. But I think it would be a mistake on their (APC’s) part,” Sagay said.
Festus Keyamo, another pro-South West lawyer argued in that line. “Kogi situation fits more into section 181(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and as such James Abiodun Faleke automatically becomes the governorship candidate of the APC. As a result the joint ticket of Audu/Faleke has acquired some votes already. James Abiodun Faleke is as much entitled to those votes already counted as much as the late Abubakar Audu. He has a right to cling to those votes going into the supplementary election,” he argued.
Meanwhile, the attorney general of the federation, Abubakar Malami had curiously at the early stage of the controversy flew the kite that what the APC needed to do was just to substitute with the candidate that came second in the election.
At a seminar in Abuja, organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission on the reform of the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (establishment) Act, the Attorney General said the Kogi election had to be concluded. He explained that section 221 of the constitution was clear that the votes that were cast were cast in favour of the APC.
Mr Malami said since the primary election conducted by the APC prior to the governorship election was still valid, the candidate that came second may have to be considered as replacement.
“The issue is very straightforward. Fundamentally, section 33 of the Electoral Act is very clear that in case of death, the right for substitution by political a political party is sustained by the provisions of section 33 of the Electoral Act. And if you have a community reading of that section with section 221 of the constitution which clearly indicates that the right to vote is the right of a political party and the party in this case, the APC has participated in the conduct of the election.
“It all depends on the appreciation of issues arising from the primaries conducted before now. There was a first and a second candidate. That primaries that had taken place over time had not by anyway been nullified and it is recognised by law. But then, a further consideration would be the idea of conducting another primary but that is not envisaged in view of the sustainability of the first primaries,’’ he said.
The late Audu’s camp saw this as script and came down hard on the minister, who is an avowed president’s ally. Dr Tom Ohikere, the head of media, Abubakar Audu/James Faleke Campaign Organisation said the statement by Malami was “pure script reading.”
“I do not agree with the AGF on his position regarding the nomination of another candidate by the APC. I however agree that supplementary election can be conducted by INEC. Surprisingly, all these arguments seem to have overlooked the provisions of section 187 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended,’’ he said.
From the foregoing, the Tinubu camp has once again come into confrontation with interests of those at the presidency and the APC national chairman is receiving the cross fire. He was according to sources forced to acquiesce to the pressure from the Villa and followed Malami’s instruction. Expectedly, the Tinubu camp has taken the battle to the judiciary where insiders say it has the upper hand.
He survived the first one. Will he survive this?