The victory of APC in Kogi State governorship election is fast turning into a huge headache for the party. With James Faleke, who is supposed to be the deputy governor elect turning down the offer and has excused himself from being sworn-in alongside Yahaya Bello, it seems there is no respite in sight yet for the party, writes EMMA ALOZIE
This is perhaps the most challenging times for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC since its victory in the 2015 general elections. Nothing prepared the party for this little blip in its chain of victories and this explains why the party appears so vulnerable in trying to manage the Kogi crisis before it degenerates to a full blown war that may rob the party of its hard earned victory in Kogi State.
So far, the party is enmeshed in war of words between the leadership of the party and James Faleke, who is not relenting in reclaiming what he feels is his mandate from Yahaya Bello who the party settled for after the death of Prince Abubakar Audu.
The National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has said the party was reaching out to the aggrieved Faleke for him to see reason on why he should put the party first. But, Oyegun went further to say that where the peace overtures fail, the party would be compelled to replace Faleke.
“On the Faleke’s issue, it is rather a straightforward and easy issue. We have replaced a governorship candidate. If the need arises and subject to what the law says; we will also get a deputy governorship candidate. We will cross those bridges as they arise, but they have not arisen.
“Let me add that consultations to bring everybody back on board are ongoing. What we are saying is if all these fail, we are doing everything as a party because of the consciousness of the pain that Prince Audu’s political family is going through.
“We are doing everything to bend back and accommodate his political family in the developing situation. So, if we are able to strike a deal, a lot of what we are talking here may be irrelevant.
“I have had cause to say that we are a political party, but we are in a humane period of change. We deeply understand the frustrations that resulted from the death of our candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu.
“We are ready to bend to accommodate some of the immediate reactions, which are normal because the people involved are humans. They were at the gate of victory and all of a sudden, it was shut on their faces by the unfortunate death of their mentor, who would have been our governor.
“So, a lot of things which normally would not have been accepted happened and we are ready to bend to accommodate, so long as we expect that everybody will simmer over time because life has to continue. So, bringing out the big stick in a situation like this is difficult, but there will be a timeline to it.
“They were at the gate of victory, but it was shut on their faces because of the unfortunate death of their mentor (Abubakar Audu), who would have been our governor in the state. So a lot of things, which normally we would not have accepted, happened, but we have to accept them so long that everybody will simmer down as time passes by. Bringing out the big stick in a situation like this may not be appropriate, but there will be a timeline to it, enough will be enough at a certain time.”
However, Faleke is not bulging saying he would fight till his mandate is restored. “I will defend my rights under the Constitution of Nigeria. About the peace deal you are talking about, I do not know who the party has contacted. The party has not contacted me. I will still go ahead to pursue the matter at the tribunal. Yes the matter is in court. I have my right under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to defend and I will defend it,” he said.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as regards the brewing intra-party crisis. Hon James Faleke, Audu’s running mate and the person the Audu camp is favourably disposed with his succeeding the late Audu has written another letter rejecting APC’s adoption of Bello as Audu’s replacement. In a letter he wrote through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, Faleke maintained “he was not ready or prepared to trade off or compromise his mandate as the Governor-elect of Kogi State” and does “not want to believe that he is being discriminated against for whatever reason.”
This is the huge headache of APC. There are many legal pitfalls in this path being towed by the APC. Many lawyers are worried on the insistence of APC to revalidate a primary election that has served its purpose. The question is when does a party primary cease to be alive? A party primary, whose purpose has been served by the winner of that election, what then is the legality of bringing it back to life?
Some prominent followers of the late Audu are hard done with the imposition of Bello as Audu’s replacement. They accuse him of betraying Audu when he lost the party primaries. They accuse him of working for the opposing PDP. “What the party is doing is not fair to Kogi East. Alhaji Bello openly worked against the APC candidate in the election. How can he now benefit from what he worked against? Secondly, you can’t have a political solution that does not feature Kogi East in the governorship. If you say Alhaji Bello is the replacement, and you also say Hon Faleke should be his deputy, what happens to Kogi East that delivered a huge chunk of the winning votes? Yes, the votes were for the APC, but it was Prince Audu’s personality that won those votes. We’ll take a legal step in this matter,” one of Audu’s men said.
Meanwhile sequel to the legal logjam occasioned by Audu’s death, a Lagos based legal practitioner Spourgeon Ataene, has called for total review of Nigerian’s constitution and the electoral laws. “What we experienced after the death of APC candidate in Kogi’s governorship election, is the lacuna we have our constitution and electoral laws, and this is an embarrassment to the country.
“Nigeria is a country blessed with intellectuals, why can’t we have a constitution that will stand the test of the time, at a slight opportunity a lacuna will drag the country back into disgrace and that is what we experienced during late Audu’s death.
“Governorship candidate emerged for all political parties, and they cannot go to election without their running mate, it is expected that every political parties filled their candidates with their running mates simultaneously, and in the event of the demise of a candidate, the running mate should automatically emerge as the candidate of the party,” he argued.