BY BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO, LOKOJA
There is no party in the history of Kogi State that has suffered so much trouble like the present All Progressive Congress, APC. Despite being the government in power, the party has constituted itself into an opposition to the executive arm even more than the opposition parties.
The leadership of the party and the governor are at loggerheads, they don’t see eye to eye. Every political events that requires the presence of the party executive had always been attended to by low ranking members. The state Chairman of the party, Haddy Ametuo, the Secretary and other topnotch party leaders have been hibernating in Abuja.
The disaffection in the Kogi APC is the product of the manner the governor assumed power after a long political and legal tussle about who should be the replacement for the late Abubakar Audu at the supplementary election following the death of the party’s flag bearer, who died at the edge of victory.
Audu’s death and the resultant war of replacement created a chasm between the groups in the party. While the state party executive favoured the deputy governorship candidate, James FALEKE, to replace Audi, the national leadership preferred Yahaya Bello. With the legal tussle settled in favour of Bello, it became clear that the camps had taken their differences beyond reconciliation.
Though, Bello, after the legal victory mooted the idea of reconciliation, the mouse and cat game between the camps has continued unabated.
Probably due to youthful exuberance, the governor failed to open proper door for reconciliation. Eighty percent of his appointees were chosen from his camp who, at the eve of the 2015 general elections, decamped to Accord Party and only returned after he replaced Audu. The remaining twenty percent of the appointees were picked from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who identified with him.
This development further polarised the state APC. Fast forward. Two years after, the leadership of the party are yet to identify with Bello. Aside that, no elder of the party in Kogi has shown interest in the administration. The lack of elderly counsel manifested in the initial lackluster mode of governance. Every policy introduced by Bello, despite good intentions, was either poorly implemented or boomeranged.
But all that changed when Senator Smart Adeyemi, sensing political doom for the party in the 2019 elections if the trend did not change, decided to identified with the governor’s team. Adeyemi went to the Lugard House, as the Kogi Government House is called, to join the “New Direction” government.
The event was colourful in the sense that the senator, who represented Kogi West in the seventh National Assembly, officially visited the seat of power after he defected from the PDP to APC. Hundreds of people trooped out to receive the ‘Big Fish’ into the ‘New Direction’ team.
As early as 7am, the small town of Jamata along Lokoja-Abuja Road was already besieged by supporters of Adeyemi, who had left their various towns and villages to welcome him from Abuja to Kogi State.
The state government also celebrated Adeyemi’s home coming, because Bello saw him not only from the perspective of elderly counsel but also for the fact that he needed a figure who could match Senator Dino Melaye who had become a political thorn in its flesh. Aside serving as the much needed booster, the association of Adeyemi with Bello’s government was like the arrival of a Messiah that had come to deliver them from Melaye’s torment.
Soon thereafter, the senator’s involvement with Bello’s government began to pay off. Adeyemi, during the home coming ceremony, had told the governor of the need to pay workers salary. Though he praised Bello for the staff verification exercise, political will to embark on civil service reform and improvement in security situation in the state among others, he charged him to be faithful to workers’ salaries. He also enjoined him to accommodate criticism as catalyst for development.
Bello, while responding, echoed the idea of the deputy governor, Elder Simon Achuba, and said, “Having Senator Smart Adeyemi in the New Direction team confirms that we are heading in the right direction. We won’t go wrong with his experience, knowledge and smartness. We will deliver. We shall work together to deliver good governance to the people of the state, because we discovered that one major thing that Kogi lacked was good governance. We are on a journey towards a greater destination “.
But months later, the state council of the Nigeria Labour Congress began a running battle with the government. The battle culminated in eight long weeks’ strike. In spite of the breakdown in government due to the strike action, Bello refused to bulge. He refused to enter negotiations with the labour leaders. The people began to groan as the continued to bite strike.
It took the intervention of Adeyemi again to stabilize the state.
In his commitment to resolve the industrial crisis, the senator. at the sixth week, initiated a meeting with leaders of labour in Lokoja.
After that, he expanded the meeting to include the deputy governor, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly and other stakeholders. After five consecutive meetings, labour called off the strike.
While residents heaved a sigh of relief, same cannot be said for the APC in the state. The feuding camps in the party continued their war such that on KABBA Day, Melaye and the governor engaged in a face-off. Their supporters also turned on one another. Melaye was pelted with stones and water sachets out of the venue, while the governor made a detour without reaching the venue.
Since then, every effort made by the party for the governor to reach out to Kogi West senatorial district had met a brick wall. Again, Adeyemi paved the way for him last Tuesday.
The APC had planned a rally for President Muhammed Buhari and Bello. But the rally was almost hitting the rock. Hon. James Faleke had dissociated himself from the rally while Melaye was indifferent to it.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that it took Adeyemi six days of lobbying to make the rally a reality.
Leaders of the APC in Kogi West at the rally endorsed Buhari for a second term ahead of the 2019 general elections. They also adopted Bello as the sole Kogi APC governorship candidate in the next round of election into Lugard House.
Party leaders, including Adeyemi, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Mathew Kolawole and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mrs Folashade Ayoade, also received over 5,000 decamping PDP members into the APC, at a rally in Kabba, the headquarters of the senatorial district.
Bello, who was on hand to receive the decampees, said the decision they have made was the right one, and called on them to work for the victory of the party at both the national and state levels.
Bello took time off to react to the allegations of double registration leveled against him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), describing it as the handiwork of his detractors, who he said colluded with the compromised staff of the electoral body. He said that the electoral commission goofed on their stand against him because he was not in the country but outside Nigeria on a medical vacation.
“They can’t proved it. Just like when I started my campaign and they alleged that I did not have certificate, I proved them wrong. On this too; I’m certain I will triumph. Let’s all wait and see”, he said.
The governor also said come 2019, the APC will win resoundingly in all elective positions in the state.