All Progressives Congress members and supporters are worried over the deepening crisis in Kogi State chapter of the party barely two months to the November 16, 2019 Governorship Election in the state.
The current face-off between Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, and the Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba, which degenerated during the week with the suspension of the Deputy Governor by the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), has heightened fear over the likely fortunes of the ruling party in the November 16 Governorship Election.
Observers said the suspension and the commencement of impeachment notice on the embattled Deputy Governor stand as concrete evidence that barely two months before the election; APC, the ruling party, is sorely troubled in the state.
Even before the quarrel between the governor and the deputy governor became public knowledge, most observers had expressed fear that open resistance of Bello’s aspiration for a second term by his fellow party men and women may weaken the chances of the party to contest the November 16 Governorship Election as a united party.
About three months before last week and this week’s open political fights, we have reported here that though APC and PDP are the strongest political parties in the Kogi State governorship race, it was observed that supporters of the ruling APC were more worried because of the ongoing internal crisis in the state chapter of the party. We made reference then to the inability of the warring factions in the state to resolve their differences. Some concerned insiders told The Nation then that the disagreement between powerful stakeholders in the state APC seemed to have given the opposition PDP some edge. This was because some powerful forces within the state could no longer hide their desire for an alternative to Bello’s aspiration to get a return APC governorship ticket.
One such open confrontation came from a group which described itself as the Kogi State Forum of Aspirants. After a well-advertised meeting in Abuja recently the group advised the National Secretariat of APC not to issue the governorship ticket of the party to Governor Yahaya Bello “if APC wants to retain Kogi in the forthcoming governorship election in November.”
In a two-page communique, which was signed by Mr. Ben Adaji and Mr. Anthony Odana, Chairman and Secretary respectively of the Communiqué-drafting Committee of the group, they said “that the forum unanimously rejects the candidature of Governor Yahaya Bello to run for the second term due to bad leadership and non-performance.”
They also threatened that giving the governorship ticket to Bello “would be amount to losing Kogi State to the opposition,” adding that at the end of their meeting, “Alhaji Yahaya Audu was unanimously endorsed by the forum to contest the forthcoming governorship election in the state.”
Only insiders then knew that the matter had become even more complicated. One of the most worrisome factors that have further worsened the crisis within APC in the state since then is the failure of the governor and the deputy governor to manage their hitherto well-guarded icy relationship in the interest of the party. Today, the two are on each other’s throat and it seems the opposition political parties in the state are rejoicing that the ruling party may never be able to contain the implosion.
BELLO V ACHUBA
Although the Kogi State Deputy Governor, Elder Simon Achuba, had said repeatedly that he has no plan to contest against Governor Yahaya Bello, political observers said his recent allegation that Bello has sent armed men against him, has, more than any other recent development, exposed the degree of disunity and bad blood within the Kogi State APC.
The embattled deputy governor shocked observers on Thursday, August 1, 2019, when he told newsmen that Bello has mobilised gunmen to go after him.
“I want the Police, SSS, IGP to know that if anything should happen to me, my family and aides, the governor should be held responsible,” he said.
Of course, that stunning press briefing was not the actual beginning of Achuba’s expose on the worsening relationship between him and Bello. In a pre-action notice, Achuba had written a letter to Bello, urging him to pay the accumulated sum of N819, 709, 980 owed to him. According him, the sum is the accumulated statutory allocations due to him, which include travel allowances, hotel bills, pledges, and outstanding monthly impress and salaries. He said these statutory allocations were withheld from his office for the past two years. In the letter, dated July 17, 2019, Achuba had accused Bello of regularly refusing to give approval for the release of funds for the smooth running of his office, the office of the Deputy Governor.
Achuba did not stop there but warned that his request for the release of the withheld allocations be granted within seven days, failure of which he would be forced to seek redress in the National Industrial Court.
At that point, it became obvious that the battle line had already been drawn. The Nation gathered then that many APC leaders at the national level, including top officials in the Presidency, like Mr. President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, reached out to seek ways of resolving the matter.
So when last week’s Wednesday the Kogi State House of Assembly commenced impeachment process against the Deputy Governor, Achuba, every keen observer knew that APC leaders may have failed in the prolonged efforts to resolve the crisis in Kogi State chapter of APC.
Reports quoted the Kogi State House of Assembly as saying it based its action on the utterances of the deputy governor on Channels TV and AIT, even as members of the House described Achuba’s utterances as a gross misconduct against Bello and the people of the state.”
The impeachment process began with a petition signed by 21 members of the House which was presented on the floor by the Majority Leader, Abdullahi Bello, representing Ajaokuta State Constituency that Wednesday at the plenary.
Parts of the petition read, “The actions and utterances of the deputy governor amounts to gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office.”
The petition also alleged that the committee that the Kogi State Government set up to look into the Iyano crises in the Ibaji Local Government made some finding that indicted the deputy governor over his actions in relation to the escalation of the crisis.
“It is our view that the deputy governor is guilty of gross misconduct and he ought to answer to and or substantiate all these allegations.”
Based on this, the Speaker of the House, Mathew Kolawole, directed that the petition should be transmitted to the deputy governor and gave him two weeks to reply, while investigation into the alleged misconduct commenced.
As if that was not enough, the state chapter of APC, almost at the same time suspended the deputy governor of the state, Elder Simon Achuba, over alleged anti-party activities before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
The party said it based the suspension on “some actions the Deputy Governor took that constitute embarrassment to APC family in Kogi state”.
The Kogi APC chairman, Abdullahi Bello, told reporters in Lokoja that the party received several petitions from stakeholders in Iyano ward, Ibaji Local Government Area, where the Deputy Governor hails from.
Abdullahi Bello also accused Achuba of “discretely and openly working for candidates of opposition parties during the presidential, national and state assembly elections in the state,” he said, adding that the activities of Achuba during the last elections was against the APC candidates, while he (Achuba) held the exalted position of the Deputy Governor of the state
According to him, the report of the disciplinary committee constituted by the Iyano ward and Ibaji Local Government Area of APC, to probe the crises in the area, indicted the deputy governor, and also recommended for his suspension to be followed by expulsion, if he did not show any remorse.
He therefore said that “the Kogi State Working Committee of the APC, having deliberated on the recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee of APC Iyano Ward and Ibaji Local Government branch of the party, resolved and upheld Elder Simon Achuba’s suspension till he responds to the letter that the party would serve him.
“As we are all aware, the All Progressives Congress does not condone acts of indiscipline, indiscretion and anti-party activities from any party member, no matter how highly placed.
“His series of reckless, damaging and unsubstantiated allegations against government of Kogi State was an action that constitute a serious violation of Article 21A (ii), (v) and (vii) of the APC constitution, amount, amounting to acts of disloyalty and embarrassment to the party,” Bello said.
Reacting to the development, Agude Achimi, an APC supporter in Lokoja, told The Nation on Friday that “Kogi APC is in dire need of rescue. Every effort to reconcile the warring factions has failed. To some of us, it seems the party is ready to let go of the state. We are frustrated and ashamed of the strategies currently being employed to resolve the problem. What is happening at the House of Assembly is a shame and a confirmation of the rot we are facing here in Kogi, even as the suspension of the deputy governor by the party leaves so much to be desired. We are worried over the party’s fate in the November 16 Governorship Election,” he said.
Like Achimi, many observers are today worried and curious to see how the crisis would be resolved eventually.