The All Progressives Congress’ decision to pick Yahaya Bello as a replacement for its governorship candidate in Kogi State, the late Abubakar Audu, has led to violent protests in the state.
A newspaper had on Saturday reported that the APC had picked Bello as a substitute for Audu, who died on Sunday shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the November 21 governorship election in the state inconclusive.
The report sparked protests in Ajaokuta area of the state by youths of Igalaland where Audu hailed from.
The youths were said to have expected that either Audu’s son, Mohammed, or another person from Igalaland would replace Audu.
They marched along major roads in Ajaokuta area, sang war songs and carried placards of different inscriptions denouncing Audu’s replacement with Bello.
The enraged youths made bonfire and later blocked the Itope-Ajaokuta Bridge, which is along Ayangba-Ajaokuta highway, causing gridlock.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read, “Do not betray Audu because he is dead”, “Audu invested much for APC unity and progress”, “It is injustice to replace Audu with a non-Igalaman.”
Many motorists and commuters were said to have been stranded for hours while the blockade lasted.
The intervention of security operatives, who made the protesting youths to stop their siege on the bridge, later restored normalcy to the area.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. William Aya, confirmed the protests in a telephone interview with our correspondent.
He stated that the Police quickly moved to the area to restored law and order.
He said, “The Area Commander and the Divisional Police Officer with other policemen moved to the area and made the youths to disperse.
“Normalcy has been restored while normal movement and business activities have resumed.
INEC had on Tuesday written the APC, asking it to submit a substitute for the late candidate. The party had said that it would hold a fresh primary to choose another candidate.
But Bello, who was the first runner-up at the APC primary, was reportedly picked by the party leaders on Friday.
Faleke rejects Bello
However, Audu’s running mate, Mr. James Faleke, rejected the party’s decision to pick Bello.
Faleke, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, faulted the decision of the APC to pick Bello as a replacement for Audu.
He also claimed that Mohammed Audu is one of his main backers in his quest to assume the office of governor of the state.
There have been calls by some political groups for Mohammed Audu to replace his father as the APC’s candidate for the December 5 supplementary election fixed by INEC.
On Thursday, Faleke, who is against the supplementary poll, had in separate letters to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, demanded to be declared as the governor-elect for the state.
The letters were written on his behalf by his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
Asked specifically whether or not he would support Mohammed to replace his father, Faleke expressed surprise that such an idea was muted in the first place.
He stated that Audu’s son could not replace his father because he (Faleke) and Mohammed were already working together on the demand that INEC should declare Faleke the governor-elect.
He also criticised his party’s decision for agreeing to be part of the upcoming supplementary election by choosing Bello “when the APC has already won clearly.”
Faleke spoke further, “Audu’s son is with me, so what are they talking about? You have also seen what the party did. What the party did and the clamour for my late boss’ son to succeed him are not in line with the law; so none of that will stand.
“And regarding my late boss’ son, we are working together. He is with me on this issue. I have given my final stance on this issue and there is no going back. INEC should declare me as the winner of the governorship election. That is where we stand.”
APC’s choice, a moral burden — Audu’s group
Also, Head of Media, Abubakar Audu/James Faleke Campaign Organisation, Dr. Tom Ohikere, warned the leadership of the APC not to take any action capable of plunging Kogi into crisis.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Ohikere, who gave the warning in Lokoja on Saturday, advised Odigie-Oyegun not to allow any selfish interest to ruin the party.
He also warned the APC leadership not to misrepresent the party as an Islamic organisation, saying the APC was founded for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion.
He described the decision to replace Audu with Bello, who came second in the primary, as “illegal and moral burden” on Odigie-Oyegun and other members of the National Working Committee.
Ohikere also described the comments made by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, on how to find replacement for the late Audu as “pure script reading.”
“I do not agree with the AGF on his position regarding the nomination of another candidate by the APC.
“I however agree that supplementary election can be conducted by INEC. Surprisingly, all these arguments seem to have overlooked the provisions of Section 187 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended,’’ he said.
He said Faleke was an associate candidate in the governorship election and should be allowed constitutionally to become the party’s candidate.
“Faleke was not just a candidate of the APC in that election, but has acquired vested rights in the results declared to simply nominate a running mate who will conclude the process along with him,” he said.
Ohikere advised the Minister of Justice and the national leadership of the party to suspend their on going move to undermine the provisions of the law on selfish grounds for the sake of peace and unity of the state.
We will abide by party’s decision — Kogi APC spokesman
The Kogi State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Abdulmalik Suliaman, on Saturday said the choice of Bello was an act of God.
Responding on how the APC leadership should compensate the Audu camp by either appointing Audu’s son or any other associate, Sulaiman said the party’s leadership would always do the right thing.
He, however, said the camp was more preoccupied with the seven day prayer for Audu on Sunday (today) and would later meet to take a formal position on the party’s decision.
He said, “Choosing Bello to us is an act of God. We must abide by the party’s decision. God gives power to whoever He wishes to give. It is a party affair and the party will always do the right thing. The party has taken a decision or done its own and we must abide by it.
“The leaders have a way of solving problems. I believe everything will be okay. The leaders will always do. The Audu camp will meet on that. Presently we still have the seven days prayers coming up tomorrow (Sunday), it is very important to us. We need to offer more prayers for our departed icon. After the prayer we will meet.”
No replacement for Audu after Tuesday, INEC tells APC
INEC on Saturday indicated that it would not allow the APC to replace its late governorship candidate after Tuesday.
Information reaching us from Abuja states that the party had yet to notify INEC of any decision with respect to a replacement.
When contacted, INEC’s spokesman, Mr. Nick Dazang, said as of Saturday, the commission had not received communication from the APC concerning Audu’s replacement.
He said, “I have reached out to the Director of Political Party Monitoring, but as I am speaking to you we do not have any such communication (a name of the party’s choice). Don’t forget, the party has up till December 1 to submit a name.”
We are still consulting — APC
Also speaking on the issue, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, said, “We have heard rumours but I can tell you that we are still consulting. The party will take a position and make that position public on Monday. We appeal for patience.”