Last Saturday’s inconclusive governorship election in Kogi State is tearing the ruling All Progressives Congress apart.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that the APC leaders became divided shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission asked the party to submit a substitute for its governorship candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, who died on Sunday.
The commission had on Sunday declared the governorship election inconclusive.
It was gathered that party leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari; a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and an ex-governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso had yet to agree on Audu’s replacement.
INEC had declared the election inconclusive because cancelled votes or registered voters in places where elections did not take place were 49,953, a figure higher than Audu’s lead of 41,353.
The commission had on Tuesday written the APC, directing it to submit a replacement for Audu.
The APC also disclosed that it would hold a fresh primary to produce a replacement for Audu.
INEC also fixed December 5 as the date for supplementary election in the state.
Besides Audu’s son, Mohammed, who has been endorsed for the primary by Kogi East elders, others, who are said to be interested in the governorship slot include Yaya Bello; a former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Jubril Echocho; Salihu Atawoda and Audu’s running mate, James Faleke.
Investigations showed that right from the outset, Buhari did not support Audu partly because of his closeness to a former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Buhari was reported to have a soft spot for James Ocholi, who is now his Minister of State for Labour and Employment.
A Presidency source said after the death of the APC governorship candidate, the President shifted his support to Bello, who came second at the primary, where Audu emerged as the party’s candidate.
The source said that the President “is not a type of person that would impose his will on others.”
Buhari’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, while advising the APC to substitute Audu, had hinted that Bello might emerge as the replacement for the deceased candidate.
When asked whether Faleke would become the APC candidate or not, Malawi told journalists that the primary that produced Audu was still valid.
He had said, “It all depends on the appreciation of issues arising from the primary conducted before now. There was a first and a second candidate. The primary 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 primary.”
It was also gathered that Tinubu was a strong supporter of Audu, but he was of the view that Faleke, his political godson, should naturally be a replacement for the deceased governorship candidate.
A member of the APC National Working Committee, said, “From all indications, Tinubu is now backing Faleke. He believes that Faleke is part of the APC governorship ticket and that it will amount to injustice if a fresh primary is held.”
It was, however, gathered that the APC NWC members, including Odigie-Oyegun, insisted on a fresh primary because they were opposed to Bello.
It was learnt that Odigie-Oyegun, like the APC leaders in Kogi East, might support Audu’s son.
A member of the NWC, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “We felt the pulse of the people of the state and most of them are rooting for Mohammed. Besides, Bello does not have the type of political clout that Audu had, although he came second in the primary.”
It was also gathered that Mohammed was being supported by Kwankwaso, who was said to be close to his father.
Attempts to get a response from the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun were unsuccessful. Calls to his mobile phone were neither picked nor returned.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report at 8:05pm.
A similar attempt to get a response from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, were also unsuccessful.
Repeated calls to his mobile telephone number went into voice mail. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report. 8:05pm
Party Leaders Meet, Keep Mum Over Date for Primaries.
But three days after pledging to come up with a date for the proposed primary for the supplementary election, the party on Friday kept mum.
Journalists had gathered at the APC National Headquarters located at Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja, as early as 8:00am in anticipation of a pronouncement.
Members of the party’s NWC started arriving at the headquarters at 10:08am for a meeting. The meeting was interrupted at various stages by various protesting groups from Kogi State.
The series of meetings eventually ended around 5:00pm but NWC members led by the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, headed straight into their waiting vehicles and zoomed off.
They did not respond to questions journalists asked them.
The party leaders had held a similar meeting on Thursday.
It is Mohammed Audu or Nobody –Kogi Assembly Members
Meanwhile, support for Muhammed was strengthened on Friday as 11 out of 25 members of the Kogi House of Assembly insisted on him as the APC governorship candidate.
The lawmakers, who were said to have the ear of the party’s national chairman, after a meeting with Odigie-Oyegun, threatened to impeach anyone who emerged as the state governor, unless such a person is Mohammed Audu.
The leader of the group, in an interview with journalists, said, “We are the legislators; should in case anybody is smuggled in, we know the best way to remove him. It is not a threat; this is just a two-minute job for us.”
Calls to the mobile telephone of Mr. Sunday Dare, the Spokesperson for the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, indicated that it was switched off.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being expected as of the time of filing this report.
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