Kogi, APC and politics of exclusion from cabinet

Yahaya Bello

The death of some of Kogi prominent sons has remained a source of confusion for the people of the state.

They feel betrayed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that they massively voted for in the last general elections due to the supposedly lackadaisical approach to issues affecting them by the government at the centre.

In particular, the people are aggrieved that since the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, on the verge of a governrship victory in November 2015, the once united APC in the state has known no peace; while the state has been excluded from the country’s cabinet since March last year when their son and minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi died in a car crash.

They consider it double jeopardy for Kogi, as it did not just lose an illustrious son but also lost out in the ministerial slot for which a replacement to fill the vacuum one year after has been denied.

The magnitude of the tragedy of Ocholi’s death along with his wife, Blessing and son, Joshua, they argued, should have elicited sympathy for his family and the people on the vexed issue of his replacement, rather it has been enmeshed in political rigmarole.

Ocholi’s death one-year anniversary was marked yet with another tragedy in the demise of Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba, another aspirant on the platform of APC in the 2015 governorship election. He died same day exactly one year after Ocholi’s passing.

Though there has been renewal of the old rivalry among the three senatorial districts over who should be nominated to fill the vacuum, paramount in their quest is for the presidency to nominate a Kogi citizen no matter where he or she hails from.

The state chapter of APC has been engulfed in intra party tussle over who should replace Ocholi, the argument being that the late minister belonged to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) fold and should be replaced by another CPC person.

But the ‘New PDP (Peoples Democratic Party)’ members claimed that they formed the bulk of the population in the APC that gave the party victory at the state level, stressing that they should be given the opportunity because they have not been compensated at the federal level.

There is also the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) family and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which are more numerically than the CPC unit alleged to have benefited immensely from the federal government. Both groups argued that as interested parties they should be considered this time around because it would amount to disregard for the major parties that formed the APC if it slips bye.

Nonetheless, Mr. Goodman Akwu who is the president of Ujache Igala Association, a pressure group, lamented that the cabinet of a country can function without the representative of a state for a period of one year.

“It is so sad. Can you imagine a President can work without a state, an important fragment of the federation, for a whole year? I cannot call this an act of omission. This is simply negligence on the side of the President. He has neglected a state with millions of people.

“It is sad we lost our person in a tragic accident but Buhari has added more pains to us in not announcing a replacement since his demise. We worked for his success and we should share in what is attached to it. Ministerial appointment is not a favor but a constitutional right,” Akwu stated.

Another group, Ojuju Agbadufu Igala also challenged the President on the grounds that all political appointments have eluded the Igala race so far in his administration.

The group in an open letter to President Buhari said: “We wish to remind your Excellency that we the Igala people lost our son; His Excellency, Prince Abubakar Audu who should have been governor of Kogi State. We also lost James Ocholi who was a dedicated member of your cabinet. They were both Igala sons, as they did not just come from any part of the State.

They recalled in the letter signed by the Clerk-in-Council, Christopher Ukwenya that “All political appointments thus far have eluded the Igalas. We look up to you that you will do the needful by ensuring that the appointment of minister to replace the late Ocholi would be done in such a way that the votes of the Igala people, who were in the majority during the presidential election victory in the State, are not wasted.

A former chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in the State, Mr. William Aliwo said the people remembered with lots of regrets that one year after the death of Ocholi they are yet to have anybody in the federal executive council.

His words: “Kogi contributed to the victory of APC by voting massively for Buhari especially Kogi East and yet till now the President has not deemed it fit to make a replacement. It is unfortunate and we are highly disappointed. It is the height of insensitivity on the part of the President to have failed to understand that we have a vacuum that needs to be filled.”

A chieftain of the APC from Mopa Muro, William Agbaje Olusola said the Refusal to name a replacement for the late minister was becoming a source of concern especially as the State has lost six prominent citizens including their leader, Audu within a space of one year.

“We have lost chief Obadofin who was also a governorship aspirant; we have lost Chief James Ocholi; we lost Senator Ohize who was also senatorial aspirant and a chieftain of APC from the central. When the death of Ocholi was exactly one year, we celebrated it with the death of another strong man and a gubernatorial aspirant Dr. Onukaba.

“The area that touches us most is the fact that one year has also gone without having a representation in the cabinet which means that we don’t really have a mouthpiece in the federal executive council for that period. Not only is that legally against the spirit of the Constitution but also it is demoralizing for the entire State,” he bemoaned.

Olusola admitted that while some people want the ministerial slot to go to East senatorial district where Ocholi hailed from, other stakeholders from the West senatorial district have kicked against such move. He claimed that based on an unwritten rotation agreement, it is now the turn of the West.

Presently, the Central Senatorial district is holding sway at the state level having produced the governor while the East has deputy governor and the West, the speaker of the state House of Assembly.

For Senator Alex Kadiri, the Igalas have to learn bitter lessons from what is going on that they have virtually been schemed out of relevance.

He said: “We are not in the scheme of things in the country at the moment; we don’t have a minister, we don’t have a Federal permanent secretary, we don’t have any Igala man who is chairman of a board at the Federal level, we don’t have Governor, we don’t have a Chief Judge at the State level. We should brace up to see if we could assume our rightful place in the Nigerian nation.”

A constitutional lawyer based in the state capital, Lokoja, Mr. Barrister Joel Usman warned that should the matter be taken up legally most of the decisions of government at the federal level since the death of Ocholi might be called to question. “I think is absolutely wrong and it is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.”

A rights activist and executive director of Centre for Human Rights and Conflicts Resolution, Idris Miliki, is concerned that the President has violated the Constitution, which he swore to uphold by failing to appoint a minister from the State for over one year.

He maintained that the appointment of a minister from Kogi State was neither a favor nor privilege for the people but a constitutional requirement, which is incumbent on President Buhari to adhere to in line with the principle of rule of law, which his government pledged to uphold.

“We condemn it in totality, the lack of respect for provisions of the Constitution with regards to the appointment of a substantive minister from Kogi State … it is condemnable.”

Miliki argued that the non-appointment of a minister from the state has negatively impacted on the progress and development of the state since it has no representation in the federal executive council where “far reaching” decisions and policies that affect the entire country are taken.

In this article:
APCJames OcholiYahaya Bello
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  • Dr Sam Omale

    It is a crying shame indeed that the Igalas ranked as the 9th largest ethnic group in Nigeria are treated this way. It did not really start today, they have been marginalised for years. Granted that the Igalas themselves are self-destruct but constitutional rights are legal rights and should be respected by the government. Some states or ethnic groups are over represented in Federal appointments but you cannot find a single Igala person in any position of relevance in the country. . All we are asking for is grant us our constitutional rights. How difficult is that?