By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor,
Yesterday’s decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the election of Yahaya Bello as the governor of Kogi State was being received with mixed feelings. That was not surprising given the heightened expectations of the contending personalities. It was as such not surprising that in the victory that the governor urged his supporters against unbridled celebration.
The judgment, however, sets the state on an unprecedented threshold.
For one it puts his major rival for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Rep. James Faleke in a legal cum moral quandary.
Faleke who is from the Kogi West Senatorial District had until last year played all his politics in Lagos State where he served as chairman of Ikeja Local Government Area for two terms, and subsequently moved on to represent the Ikeja Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
After his nomination as running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu, Faleke had transferred his voting point from Ikeja, Lagos to Kogi State as part of the criteria to be fulfilled as a candidate in the election.
With his defeat in the court, political sources in Lokoja told Vanguard yesterday that Faleke was now contemplating his future political path. A former associate told Vanguard yesterday that Faleke would like to return to Lagos to pick up with his political career. However, the constraint would mean again transferring his voting point back to Lagos, unarguably raising a moral issue after transferring it to Kogi less than a year ago.
Even more, sources revealed that Governor Bello is also disposed towards wooing Faleke in a way to bring harmony into the party that became split after the primaries.
“The governor would want to give Faleke a strong role to play in the party and the affairs of the government,” a source close to the governor said yesterday. However, the feeling is that Faleke would want to return to Lagos.
It was, of course, an issue last year when he was chosen as the running mate to Prince Abubakar Audu, the deceased former governor who won the ticket of the party in the APC governorship primary. Faleke, generally believed to have been an acolyte of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had demonstrated his loyalty to the party during the crisis in the House of Representatives when he sided with those in support of party supremacy in the choice of Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila; first as speaker and when it failed, as majority leader.
However, his fidelity to party supremacy was questioned after he was overlooked for Bello in the choice of a replacement for Audu after the latter died in the course of the election last November.
The choice of Bello was difficult for Faleke as he and many others at that time alleged that Bello had become indifferent to the party after he lost the primaries.
The affirmation of Bello as the governor of Kogi State is, however, a major development. He is not just the youngest man to rule the state in the Fourth Republic, his election is also a systemic political shift that has removed the levers of power from the dominant Igala population in the state to the Igbira ethnic group found in the Kogi Central Senatorial district, which ironically has the smallest population of all three senatorial districts.
It is also undoubtedly the end of the road for the major political powers that had dragged the case through the tribunal to the appeal court and subsequently to the Supreme Court.
Besides Faleke, it is also the end of the road for Former Governor Idris Wada who became governor fortuitously in 2008 after the earlier candidate of the party; Alhaji Jibrin Isah Echocho fell out of favour with the penultimate governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris.
Yesterday’s judgment puts the state on a threshold for the development that the state needs after many years of stunted growth. That is if the much promised savvy that the governor first came to power with is sustained and carried to completion.
On the other hand, the state could be headed towards crisis if ethnic champions decide to fragment the state along ethnic lines, given the ascent to power of the first non-Igala governor.
Bello was yesterday, however, looking beyond the issues with the hope of rebuilding the state after the judicial affirmation of his governorship.
While endorsing the judgment as the hand of God in the affairs of the state, the governor through his chief press secretary, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo said: “The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court today, which affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya Bello is a watershed in the annals of electoral jurisprudence and constitutional law in the country. It was a long walk to victory which will reshape our constitution of the nation.
“Governor Yahaya Bello had remained humble and magnanimous in victory. He has called on those who contended with him to join him in building a greater Kogi State.
“The Governor has said the victory belongs to all Kogi people who believe in transforming Kogi State from a potentially great State to a really great State. He is committed to serving the people and making the State the centre of excellence and the cynosure of all eyes”.