By Dr Tom Ohikere
As the hours and days goes by to the start of official campaigning for the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is seeming formidable as a result of the mending of fences and consolidation of its once fractious ranks.
The party which at the beginning of the tenure of incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello was enmeshed in an all-out crisis that greeted his sudden emergence of as the flagbearer of the party, after the eleventh hour abrupt demise of Prince Abubakar Audu.
The sudden change in the internal configuration of the party did not go down well with some stakeholders, particularly those who were in the kitchen cabinet of Abubakar Audu or what was known as the Audu/Faleke camp, of which i identify as one.
The ensuing crisis that festered in the party even saw the dissolution of the Hadi Ametuo led State executive council and its replacement by a council loyal to the governor and led by Hon Abdullahi Bello.
At the height of the non-payment of salaries controversy it was even speculated at one time that the national leadership of the APC were not in support of the governor’s re-election bid and that he was making subtle moves to defect to the Labour party as the alternative platform to flout his ambition.
But as the party inched closer to its August 28 primary election, it began to emerge that disgruntled stakeholders in the party were becoming more amenable to the overtures of the governor. And ever since then, this momentum has been gathering velocity.
The primary proper was another show of force and unity as it was marked by a rancor free ambience, in what seemed like a consensus among the grassroot of the party, that governor Bello indisputably deserved a second term as he won with a wide margin of 3,127 votes from a total of 3,596 delegates.
This was further followed by a post primary reconciliation within the party in which aspirants who had sought the party’s ticket resolved to support the governor as the candidate of the party at the poll.
After this reconciliation it was as if the floodgates of goodwill for the governor’s re-election had been opened as other aggrieved and defected members began making their way back to the fold.
Just last month, the Speaker of Kogi State House Assembly, Hon. Mathew Kolawole, formally received some of the defecting members of PDP and other parties into the APC in Okun land. The defectors from were led by Mr Nathaniel Taiwo, a former chairman of Kabba-Bunu Local Council and former member of the state House of Assembly.
Similarly, early this month, in Omala, members of the PDP led by a former chairman of the LGA, Alih Ajuh defected to the APC. The defecting band was composed of youths and women leaders from across the wards in the local government in a ceremony held in Abejukolo.
Even Hon James Falaeke, who was the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the party in the 2015 election and one of the main leaders of the Audu Falake camp, and was once in court with Governor Yahaya Bello over the decision of the party leadership to give the first runner up of the primary that produce Audu Abubakar as the candidate of the APC in 2015, the governorship ticket after his unexpected demise, is back and solidly backing the party and governor Bello’s re-election quest.
Speaking on the newly found love and unification within the party, Mr Falaeke said: “Following the decision of the leadership of Audu/Faleke group to work with Governor Bello as loyal party men and women, I on behalf of the group, met with the Governor to chart the way forward and build a strong and united APC before the November Gubernatorial election”.
“We have put all issues in the past and also will be in a better position to always assist and advise the party and government in the state to execute people friendly programs”.
Mr. Babatunde Irukera, who is the first runner-up in the party’s primary also called on his supporters to vote for the governor at the coming poll in a terse statement made available to reporters by his ally and former aide to Governor Bello, Mal. Abdulmalik Suleiman.
He said he is a national leader and a great believer in the party and will not support any action that will derail the victory of the party in the coming governorship election.
Professor Mohammed Seidu Ogah, former Director General of The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), has since rest his case and has joined the wagon of those who believe APC deserves to continue and consolidate on its governance agenda for the state.
Also speaking earlier on his alleged anti-party, one of the leading aspirant in the lead up to the party’s primary, Vice Admiral Usman Jibril said, “I have not directed my supporters to any PDP candidate. I remain APC loyalist”.
Speaking on Governor Bello’s return bid, APC national leader, Bola Tinubu who was initially rumored to be against given the ticket to the incumbent, has this to say: “if you don’t have complaints in politics, then there is no democracy so we only pay attention to the noise in the market because we have so many apples, oranges and various fruits of different characters but there is one that is constant”.
“This is a market of many branches and this is the broom; they will come together as a bunch to sweep clean all the debris of the past, that is it, we are going to win”.
Also speaking after her return to the APC to back Governor Yahaya Bello, former Director of SURE-P, Hajia Halima Alfa said she became convinced to back the governor after after due consultation with her supporters and other political associates, where they agreed that it was the right thing to do given the efforts of the Governor in improving the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of the state since his assumption of office despite his tumultuous start.
What is clear now is that the APC in Kogi state is for the first time since the demise of Prince Abubakar Audu, one united and coherent house with a rich variety of talents and competent individuals with vast political support and electoral value. Like i said in one of my previous articles, and I quote “the APC in kogi state is now a united house, with the supreme strategic interest of keeping the PDP with their plunder and impunity that disenchanted the people of our beloved state out of power, while retaining the mandate that was reposed in the APC.
Our Party, the APC family in the state, has since made new resolutions, which includes bridging the divide, forging better rapproachment, implementing power shift, promoting inclusiveness, justice and equity”.
As the APC continue to gain new grounds with their unification and harmonization drive, their main challengers at the poll seems to still be in disarray. The PDP candidate Musa Wada has eventually returned to the state after his Dubai gallivanting with is new mentor, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. But still no word on the reconciliation and unity within the party.
His campaign train so far has been devoid of notable faces and chieftains of the party in the state. Which is further emboldening the APC camp that their re-election is a done deal or as one commentator puts it : “The uncommon reconciliation and unprecedented unification that took place in Kogi State APC has dealt a devastating blow to then strategy and permutations of the opposition elements”.
“They are now groping in the dark like headless chickens with mudslinging, dirt throwing even throwing of the kitchen sink the options available. No level is too low for them at this point and they deserve our sympathy. The imminent defeat in the November election has left a sour taste”.
Dr Tom Ohikere is the Secretary of the media and publicity committee of the Kogi State APC governorship Campaign Council.