Contrary to expectations, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has adopted the direct mode of primary for the conduct of the governorship primary election in Kogi State on Friday. The ruling party had initially announced indirect primary based on the request of the State Working Committee (SWC), but later reversed itself following protests by aspirants and party stakeholders.
The development is coming on the heels of the unveiling of Usman Ododo, Auditor-General for Local Government by Governor Yahaya Bello as his preferred successor.
In fact many eyes were on the deputy governor, Edward Onoja, Bello’s strong ally, who served as Chief of Staff and, in what observers regarded as ‘power play’ became Deputy Governor after the impeachment of Simon Achuba in 2019.
Onoja was elected alongside Bello for a second term that would end later this year.
Aside from Onoja, Mohammed Abdulkareem Asuku, Chief of Staff to the Governor Bello; David Adebanji Jimoh; a former Commissioner, Asiwaju Ashiru Idris; and Okala Yakubu, were among those who indicated interest to succeed Bello.
In what some observers regard as high level politicking and ‘smart game’ by Bello, the governor was said to have invited all the contenders to a meeting on Wednesday and sought for their cooperation and understanding that only one of them was going to be selected to succeed him.
As such, they were reportedly told to write letters of withdrawal individually, a ‘pledge’ that would show that the eventual anointed person among them would automatically secure their loyalty and support for the flag bearer of the party in the state
The governor reportedly announced his preference for Ododo, from Okene, Kogi central, at a stakeholders’ meeting which was held at the party’s secretariat in Lokoja, the state capital, on Thursday, on the eve of APC gubernatorial primary in the state.
But sources at the stakeholders’ meeting said, the unveiling of Ododo meant automatic stepping down of all others for Bello’s anointed candidate.
A source closer to the meeting told metrobusinessnews (MBN) that the game was clearer to some aspirants even from the previous meeting where all of them were forced to write letters of withdrawal, but with the exception of Ododo, an indication that he had settled for him.
It was further gathered that Bello’s game plan was largely successful when it was obvious that honourable James Faleke, a member of House of Representatives, and a major contender that would have rattled the governor withdrew at the last minute.
Faleke, a close ally of the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, and secretary of Tinubu’s election campaign committee, would have been able to roughen feathers with ‘Abuja might’ to give Bello a serious fight and possibly win the primaries.
Sources say, he’s eyeing Aso Rock now for an appointment and a likely member of the president’s kitchen cabinet.
The development, MBN learnt made the governor opted for ‘a plan B’ with later entrance of some aspirants to ensure split vote and lack of consensus among some seemingly ‘powerful’ regions within the state, during the primaries.
Indeed, the governor was said to be vehemently opposed to direct primary which was the latest option due to alleged manipulation of the delegates’ list, that led to series of litigation and acrimony within the party.
MBN gathered also that Bello is not unmindful of the likely impact of opposition from Kogi east, believed to be the majority tribe in the state and as such it is likely that, either the present senator representing Kogi East, Jibrin Isah Echocho or Edward Onoja, current Deputy Governor, may have been penciled down to deputise Ododo.
If the later happens, it would be a situation similar to what obtained in Kaduna State, where Governor Nasir El-Rufai told Hadiza Balarabe, his deputy, to forgo her governorship ambition and run with Senator Uba Sani, his anointed candidate.
Already Onoja and Asuku have openly accepted the governor’s decision by publicly announcing their acceptance of the decision of the ‘party’.
But, whether the Deputy Governor and the senator, who may be considered for Deputy position are popular among the Igala speaking region of the state in particular, due to alleged ‘bargages’ is what analysts are waiting to see how events play out.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the APC governorship primary Election committee, Zamfara state Governor, Mohammed Bello Matawale, on Thursday advised other aspirants who have not withdrawn from the race to be free to participate in the primary election.
Specifically, the party stakeholders and aspirants had faulted the delegates list forwarded to the party’s national headquarters, alleging that the process for compiling the list was questionable.
However, the party in a letter dated 6th April, 2023 and signed by the Acting National Chairman, Senator Abubakar Kyari informed the Independent National Electoral Commission as well as the 17 aspirants of its decision to adopt the direct mode of primary.It read: “We refer to our earlier letter dated 25th January, 2023, with reference no: APC/NHDQ/INEC/19/023/191 wherein we notified the Commission of the mode of primary election for the conduct of the Gubernatorial Primary Election in Kogi State.
“However, our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has reviewed the modalities for the conduct of the gubernatorial primary election in Kogi State and has therefore resorted to adopt the direct mode of primary election instead of the indirect Mode as earlier communicated.
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“The date for the conduct of the primary election still remains Friday 14th April, 2023. Following the above, there shall be a Special Congress to ratify the candidate with the highest number of votes at the Gubernatorial Primary Election in Kogi State scheduled for Saturday, 15th April, 2023.”
MBN gathered that as late as last night, court injunctions were still flying around alleging exclusion of some aspirants from the exercise by some courts.