By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Kingsley Fanwo
LOKOJA — National leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were last night locked in a meeting with some of the party’s governors in Abuja, weighing options to disqualify the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the December 5, supplementary elections in Kogi State.
Two options were being weighed at press time to push forward what some party leaders said were the advantages open to the party by the death in the process of election of Prince Abubakar Audu, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The meeting was being hosted by Governor Segun Mimiko of Ondo State in the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja.
Irrespective of the decisions in Abuja, the party’s standard bearer in the election, Governor Idris Wada went to court seeking to be declared winner of the election as the candidate with the highest number of votes alive.
Meanwhile, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, waited to no avail till the close of work, yesterday, for the APC to submit the name of a replacement for the late Audu.
The APC, which was in the lead until the death of Audu, was itself increasingly being saturated with the politics of a replacement for Audu. A meeting of the National Working Committee, NWC, called to deliberate on choosing the process of replacing Audu failed to hold. National chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun blamed the failure on the burial ceremonies of Mama H.I.D. Awolowo that took place in Ikenne, Ogun State. He promised the meeting would hold today.
Besides the PDP, other political parties were also taking positions against INEC’s decision to allow the APC field a replacement for the late Audu. Among the parties that took position against the APC, yesterday, were the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA and the Democratic Peoples Congress, DPC.
PDP leaders meet
Among those present at the PDP meeting last night were the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who chaired the meeting; some members of the NWC, members of the Board of Trustees, BoT and some governors. The meeting which took place under the aegis of the National Caucus, according to a source in the meeting, was pondering options to remove the APC from the fray on the basis of the death of its candidate.
One option, Vanguard learnt, was for the party to go to court to remove the APC from the contest on the claim that it no longer had a valid ticket of a governorship candidate and a deputy governorship candidate in the supplementary election.
Another option also being weighed was to press INEC to declare the PDP’s standard bearer, Governor Idris Wada as winner of the election. The basis of that submission, it was learnt, would include the fact that Wada as the second highest scorer should be declared the winner on the basis of being the only one with a valid ticket after the completion of the election.
Vanguard sources disclosed that court papers including the originating summons have been prepared with the legal officers of the party waiting for the go-ahead from the National Caucus.
That meeting was still on-going at press time, and the party is expected to unfold its resolution today.
The party was also, last night, deliberating on what sources disclosed as the “increasing reign of impunity in the country,” with the case of Kogi State as an example.
Party leaders. it was learnt, were vexed by what they described as the suppression of the will of the people of Kogi through the instrumentality of security forces.
Wada goes to court
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that Governor Wada approached the Federal High Court in Lokoja to be declared winner on the claim that he is the candidate with the highest number of votes alive. According to sources privy to the court action, Wada is arguing that the difference in votes between him and Philip Salawu, the Labour Party candidate is more than 49,000 and as such there should be no supplementary election.
Wada, it was further gathered, argued that INEC would not have considered a supplementary or a re-run election had it been that it was the candidate that took third or fourth that died.
Meanwhile, INEC officials, yesterday, waited in vain for the APC to present a substitute. The NWC meeting of the APC scheduled for, yesterday, to deliberate on the issue could not hold.
The national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun cited the burial of Mrs. Awolowo as the reason noting that many NWC members were at the burial.
“The meeting did not hold again today. Almost all of those who were supposed to be part of the meeting are not around. They are all attending the burial of Late Chief Mrs. Awolowo. The meeting is likely to take place on Thursday afternoon,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
Race for APC ticket hots up
Meanwhile, interest groups within the party have continued to push forward their cases in the race to replace Audu at the top of the ticket. Among those taking front roles are Rep. James Faleke, Audu’s running mate in the inconclusive election; Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the runner-up in the APC primary election that was won by Audu, and Alhaji Isah Echocho, who recently defected from the PDP to team up with the APC against his former party.
Yesterday, supporters of Faleke styled as Kogi Youth Vanguard took their case to the national secretariat in the form of a demonstration for Faleke to emerge at the top of the party’s governorship ticket.
Spokesman of the group, Bamidele Peters giving the basis of their agitation said: “We think the election should be allowed to be concluded and that there should be no replacement of the candidate until that was done. The party will after the election be able to replace its candidate.
“Our own interest under the circumstance is to ensure that the supplementary election is concluded. Even if the party will want to replace its candidate it should be after the election and I feel that if possible the running mate, Abiodun Faleke should be allowed to step in to replace the late governorship candidate.
“Section 181 of the Nigerian Constitution should be made to apply under the circumstance to enable the party resolve the crisis of substitution in which APC finds itself now,” he said.
Sources close to Bello said he was also weighing the option of a formal petition to the party to take what his associates claimed as his natural right to replace Audu on the fact that he was second in the primary contest that produced Audu as the candidate.
Echocho’s bid was also being galvanised by those aligned to him who claim that he is in the best position to defeat Wada on the basis of what is claimed as his grassroots support across the state.
Another consideration that was yet to get serious attention yesterday was Mohammed Audu, the son of the late Prince Audu. Those canvassing Mohammed Audu it was gathered last night, were also projecting Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West as his running mate.
Some party activists were, however, canvassing that should a replacement be taken from outside Audu’s Kogi East, that his son, in the person of Mohammed should be chosen as the deputy governorship candidate.
The APC’s permutations nonetheless, the smaller political parties were yesterday aligning with the PDP in opposing INEC’s decision to allow the APC field a replacement for Audu.
The gubernatorial candidate of the PPA, Mr. Emmanuel Enesi Ozigi faulted the submission by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubkar Malami that the APC was at liberty to substitute its gubernatorial candidate.
Ozigi said it was not fair and justiciable for APC to produce a fresh candidate to contest elections for only 91 units with them who had gone through the rigour of election from the beginning.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, the PPA candidate called for a level playing ground for all the contesting parties and their candidates.
“Another person who is a face of that party might not have gained this mile the late Prince Abubakar gained. So, if you are bringing somebody in now, I am afraid I do not know what is going to be the outcome of the supplementary elections.”
That is why I am saying for us to have level playing ground; we should all go back to the drawing board and have a fresh election.”
The Democratic People’s Congress, DPC has also called for a fresh election.
In a statement by the National Chairman of the party, Rev. Olusegun Peters, the party said it was wrong for INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation to allow the APC to substitute its candidate.
“The party rejects the Independent National Electoral Commission’s position to continue the 21st November poll by conducting a supplementary election for 91 polling units on 5th December 2015.
“It is inappropriate for INEC to direct APC to choose another candidate to substitute the late Audu and continue the governorship election when the people voted for the candidacy of Audu and not the yet to be selected candidate the electorate did not vote for.