One year after, Kogi APC still in the woods
For Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, it seems like the harder they come with the myriads of challenges from virtually all the political stakeholders in the state.
One year after providence smiled on the youthful governor when the All Progressives Congress (APC) gave him the nod to inherit the votes it garnered through late Prince Abubakar Audu, its candidate in the November 21, 2015 governorship election, the intra party squabbles have deepened with no respite in sight.
The unusual manner in which he emerged after the death of Audu did not help to unite the party. At present, the party is split into different parts with three major groups easily identified.
They are: the Audu/Faleke faction, coordinated by the running mate to Audu and member of the House of Representatives, Mr. James Faleke; Senator Dino Melaye group; and the governor’s group.
Apart from contending with the state workforce and labour, which has since taken to the trenches, the governor has parted ways with his once ally and defender, Melaye. While the Audu/Faleke group has been waging the battle from two fronts – Abuja and within the state, Melaye attributes all the ills of the state to the person of the governor.
For a former acting governor of the state, a truce and peace can be achieved in the state if Bello can shift grounds and reach a compromise with the people.
Most of the people who claimed to have worked assiduously for the victory of the party believed they were shot-changed with some other persons reaping the benefits.
But the group loyal to the governor does not want to hear any of such claiming to have worked for their principal at the primary election and borrowing Melaye’s words, insisting that “Kogi people voted for Audu but God voted for Bello.”
Again they said the party’ s decision to pick Bello after Audu’s demise was not a mistake as Bello was the first runner up in the primary election.
According to them, “The APC chose the first runner up in the primary, who happened to be governor Bello after superior legal advise from senior lawyers and it paid off.”
His opponents within the party are particularly bitter that the people the governor is patronizing and who claimed to have worked during the primary left the party as soon as Bello lost the primary election to work for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Thus while the governor was celebrating his one year in office in Lokoja with his supporters, some of the party executives and other leaders gathered in Abuja under the leadership of Melaye, strategizing on how to confront him.
They passed a vote of no confidence on Governor Bello saying that his one-year in office has brought unprecedented hardship, agony, and impoverishment to the people of the state.
Sometime last year, the same group passed a vote of no confidence on Bello, accusing him of sidelining members of the state executive council and other organs of the party in the affairs of the state.
They alleged that 90 per cent of his appointees were PDP members and called for Bello’s probe over alleged anti-party activities.
Present at the gathering with Melaye are the state chairman of APC; 20 out of 35 members of the state executive committee; 15 of the 21 local government party chairmen, Senator Alex Kadiri, former House of Representatives members, among others
Melaye who spoke on their behalf accused the governor of lavishing over N220 billion of public fund on ‘frivolities and misplaced’ priorities in the last one year as well as alleged maladministration and high-handedness that has relegated education, security and the economy to the background.
“This has led to gross public financial failure and reckless spending by the government as we have it on record that Bello has wasted and lavished over two hundred and twenty billion naira in one year.
“This represents thirteen months Federal Allocations to the state, ten billion naira infrastructural development funds, thirty billion naira bailout fund, over eleven billion naira Paris Club excess refund. We also have the sixteen billion naira refunded for Federal Government roads built by the past administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, seven hundred million naira ecological fund.
“All these above exclude an average of six hundred million naira internally generated revenue monthly,” he claimed.
As a result, they issued a four-week ultimatum to Bello to reconcile the on-going staff audit in the state with the realities on ground, pay civil servants, pensioners and others all their entitlements for the past one year.
According to them, at the N30 billion-bailout fund was primarily meant for that purpose while part of the N11.2 billion Paris Club refund was also aimed at ameliorating the sufferings of the people of the state.
They promised a stiff resistance from the 21 local government councils if the Governor fails to comply. Similarly, the chairman Public Accounts Committee of the state House of Assembly, Elder Friday Sanni Makama, slammed the governor for allegedly not “exhibiting transparency in the running of the state’s funds, especially the bailout fund released to him by the federal government for the payment of workers’ salaries”.
Makama, who represents Igalamela/Odolu constituency, said that that the committee wrote a letter, as part of the legislature’s oversight function, to the governor for explanation “on where the bailout fund was deposited; how much was released; and the bank it was deposited,” but lamented that there has been no response till date.
“It is saddening that Kogi under Bello has been able to pay salary for only one month out of 12 months he has spent in office, while sacking more than 30,000 workers in the state government. Before he came into office, his predecessor, Governor Idris Wada owed state workers only three months. With so much money coming to the state, Kogi does not deserve to treat its workforce the way Bello is dehumanising them,” he said.
Faleke recently took his case to the acting president, Yemi Osinbajo asking for presidential intervention over sundry issues allegedly bedeviling the state under the leadership of Bello, a development he argued could affect the fortunes of APC in future elections if not checked.
“We came to the presidency to let federal government know what is happening in Kogi state as regards the fortunes of the party, the way it is dwindling day by day as regards the civil servant, the welfare of the people and their relationship with the state government.
“Governor Bello should recognize those who work for the party and make the party to be successful. It is one thing to be victorious at the court level and another thing to carry the people along. I want to use this opportunity to urge the governor to carry the people along,” he stated.
A former deputy governor of the state, Abdulahi Bello Okene said stakeholders including former ministers, former ambassadors, and former National Assembly members across the state formed the delegation to the presidency.
However five administrators from the Yoruba speaking axis the Kogi West senatorial district rose in defence of the governor.
Their spokesman, Taofic Isah who is also the state chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria accused Melaye and Faleke of working against the interest of the people they claim to represent.
“We do not wish to experience the deprivation we experienced when Senator Smart Adeyemi was busy fighting the former governor Ibrahim Idris and we could not have a university in Okunland.
“Now Senator Dino Melaye and Honourable James Abiodun Faleke have entered into the shoes of Senator Adeyemi, for selfish political gains and future ambitions,” they asserted.
The governor’s special adviser on Political Matters, Chief Pius Kolawole, expressed shock at the attacks on Bello, by Melaye contending that Melaye is busy fighting “a selfish and egocentric cause” at the expense of burning national desires.
“Dino lies about everything including diversion of relief materials from NEMA and disguising it as constituency intervention. We ask Dino, what has happened to the huge constituency allowances he has received since he went to the Senate?
“Governor Yahaya Bello has flagged off numerous projects in the senatorial district where Dino is suppose to be representing, yet he doesn’t see anything good in the government, simply because the governor has refused to be used to achieve selfish interest by Dino Melaye,” he asserted.
Commenting on the issue, a former acting Governor, Clarence Olafemi advised Bello to shift grounds in the interest of peace.
However Olafemi pleaded that Bello should not be blamed, as he wanted to work with the people he had confidence in.
“I have my respect from the governor and from the other camp. It takes two to tango and it takes two to reconcile. Both sides should come together and make peace.”