The political impasse in Kogi state took another dimension yesterday, November 28, as political associates of the late Prince Abubakar Audu, rejected the nomination of Alhaji Yahaya Bello and declared support for Audu’s running mate, Honourable James Faleke.
Their stand was made public at a press conference in the state capital, Lokoja, by the head of media of the Audu/Faleke Campaign Organisation, Dr Tom Ohikere.
According to Ohikere, Audu issued the instruction on his death bed, adding that Audu believed that Faleke was in the best position to carry on with his vision and warned against any attempt to choose another candidate.
He accused the president and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of deliberately feigning ignorance of the provisions of the law, whereby a running mate to a deceased candidate in an ongoing election steps in as the party’s flag bearer.
He said: ”It has been a grand conspiracy between the party leadership and the Presidency to ensure that a Muslim is used as a replacement to late Prince Abubakar Audu, who died on November 22.
”The state will not only catch fire, but the late Prince Audu will rise from the grave and unleash terror on anyone involved in this conspiracy. Let me open up to you now. Our political mentor and father, late Prince Audu on his death bed, gave instructions to us (his followers), that should he not make it, the baton must be transferred to his running mate, Faleke, whom he (Audu), said is capable of carrying on with his vision.
”I want to categorically tell you that the party/executive’s conspiracy started when they heard that Prince Audu was dead. In an ulterior move to stop a non-Muslim (Faleke), from stepping in, the INEC returning officer was quickly directed to declare the result inconclusive.”
Ohikere also picked holes with the position of the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who had at a conference in Abuja advised the APC leadership to present a fresh candidate to pick up the mantle.
”I’m amazed by the welter of opinion canvassed by several leading legal icons on this seemingly thorny issue. Some have called for a fresh election, others have argued otherwise while some have posited that the victory of APC should be, wholesale, donated to PDP’s Capt Wada.
”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,”Ohikere stated.
The spokesman advised the presidency and the APC national leadership to suspend moves capable of undermining the provisions of the law on what he described as“selfish ground,” while accusing Bello of parading himself as the new candidate because he is close to the president.
However, New Telegraph attempt to get the reaction of President Buhari’s spokespersons on the issue proved abortive as they traveled with the president to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Meanwhile, some Igala youths took to the streets in the state yesterday to protest over the replacement of the late Audu with Bello who is an Igbira man.
According to National Mirror, the protesters in their large numbers also blocked the bridge across the River Niger at Itobe which connects areas in Kogi Central, including Anyingba and Dekina, forcing motorists to make U-turn, while some others resorted to continue with their journey via the waterways at Shintako.
The protesters explained that they will not watch a situation where the governor, speaker of the State House of Assembly and the chief judge of the state will all come from the same zone.
In the same vein, Faleke, was retained as the party’s deputy governorship candidate for the upcoming polls. Audu died last weekend while leading the polls with 41,000 votes.
From the results announced by the INEC so far, from the 21 local councils in the state, Audu had won 16 local governments out of 21 and was clearly ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party opponent and incumbent, Captain Idris Wada.