Saturday, January 9, 2016

Kogi governorship impasse and the way forward for Igalas

I woke up this morning with a very heavy burden on this subject matter and decided to relieve the burden and as well seek for way outs from my brothers and sisters on this platform. 

A lot have been said but I dare say we are yet to see a win-win solution especially as far as the Igalas are concerned. I will like to present my intervention below and plead that you painstakingly go through it.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, please permit me to recall the following:

That the election was held on 21/11/2015 and that the election was declared inconclusive on Sunday 22/11/205. 

That from most of the legal opinions on the situation presented by the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the peculiar situation of death DURING an election was never contemplated nor provided for by both the electoral Act and the Nigerian constitution. 

That the supreme court intervention/interpretation may be needed and/or INEC provide their own way forward based on may be 'the doctrine of necessity'. 

That the gap between APC and PDP being 41,353 is less than the total registered voters of 49,953 in the 91 polling units where supplementary elections are to be held on 5/12/2015. And that INEC has adivised APC to bring a candidate to replace Audu for the election.

I understand too that PDP has gone to court for its candidate to be declared the winner of the election having scored the second highest vote after the APC and APC candidate having died. 

I understand too that Faleke, Prince Audu's running mate, has written to INEC for him to be declared winner having lost his 'principal' to death. I understand too that Kogi East APC has endorsed Mohammed Audu as a replacement for his father and understood too, though not too sure of this, that Kogi state APC have submitted Yahaya Bello's name to INEC as its replacement having come second to Audu in the original APC primary. 

I equally heard that they were protests by the Igalas on the alleged choice of Bello.

I want to state at the onset that all humans and almost all of us on this platforms (including myself) have sympathies for one candidate, party or the other but irrespective of these leanings, I would appeal to us to look at this intervention from a very neutral perspective.

The obvious: By my reckoning, if the supplementary election is to proceed as directed by INEC it is only an academic exercise and to fulfill all righteousness. 

This my position is informed by the fact that the 91 polling units in question are spread across 18 or 19 LGAs of the State's 21 LGAs with Dekina having the highest of over 20,000 when Ogenigwu's 17,000 plus is added to Anyigba's and others. 

The 49,953 represents registered voters and not those that have collected PVCs and therefore entitled to vote. That assuming that none of these voters have died since voters registration that produced them, that none will be indisposed by way of sickness, etc on the day of the election and that none would have traveled out of his/her domain on that day, it will take a turn out of over 82% of these registered voters and all, not even a single wasted vote, would have to vote for PDP for the current results to be upturned in favour of PDP. 

For me, this may be more difficult than the biblical camel passing through the eye of the needle. As a result of this position of mine, which all may not agree with, and assuming that supplementary as against fresh elections are to be held, my discussion here will centre on APC and not PDP.

The options: Many have argued that a total fresh elections would have resolved the quagmire than supplementary election as one candidate's votes cannot be 'inherited' by another person. 

The argument against this however by the opposing views is that votes are for the party and not the candidate (a chicken versus egg situation, which is older?). For me what we are in now is like the famous devil's alternative - whatever action is finally taken people must go to court for ultimate resolution either between parties or intra-party. 

Some of the arguments for and against the replacements whose names have been mentioned are:

Mohammed Audu. That the governorship candidate before the death was from Kogi east and that Kogi east have the right to replace Audu senior with Audu junior or whoever it deems fit from the same Kogi east. 

Opponents of Mohammed Audu's candidature argue that he did not participate in the original primary and that its is not a family or hereditary matter like traditional stool for Mohammed to inherit his father's candidature. Whether he has the capacity and competence to govern the State is another kettle of fish.

James Ocholi. James Ocholi participated in the primary that produced Audu and if participation in that primary is the criteria, he sure qualifies. But the argument against him using the criteria is that he was not the runner up to Audu. 

Others argue that since he already has a role at the federal level, the Igalas should consider other candidates except if he were to be given the nod by the party hierarchy irrespective of the position he took in the original primary. 

I will personally add that except if he is unanimously agreed upon by the party with minimal friction to conclude the started electoral process, resigning his current position to contest, may be, a fresh primary whose outcome is not guaranteed, may not be a wise decision as they say a bird in hand is more than many flying out there.

James Faleke. Faleke has written to INEC to be declared winner. For me, and I may be wrong, this is in tandem with the saying that attack is the best form of defense. He may just be safeguarding his deputy candidature position by so doing so that whoever is ultimately taken to replace Audu would still consider him a running mate. 

Most legal opinions are to the fact that since APC was not DECLARED winner before the demise of Audu, that he may not have much say and that he was only an appendage and not an equal opportunity situation with the 'principal'.

Yahaya Bello. He is the runner up in the primary that produced Audu and so would seem the right choice to replace Audu. But major arguments against him are alleged anti-party activities. 

That he was alleged to have gone to pick SDP ticket but dropped the idea after being advised that the winner will either be PDP or APC. That he was never involved in the APC campaign and that he worked for and delivered his LGA to PDP. If this allegations can be proved, I guess it is a fertile ground to skip him and consider the next person but even at that I am told no Igala candidate came third.

Jibrin Isah. Some have argued that Jibrin has been struggling for this position since 2011 and he should be considered a good candidate because of the generation to which he belongs and the fact that James Ocholi already has a federal role. 

But the main argument against him is that he just came into APC and should not reap where he did not show. That he was not an APC member when the original primary was held. That he can only contest on the same footing with others if a fresh APC primary is called for to replace Audu but I think with only 5 days to the supplementary election a fresh primary may not be feasible.

My view: I would want to say first and foremost that our lack of unity is a major cause of the problem we are in. People have argued severally, that our political leaders are selfish and do not groom successors. I cannot agree less. 

What is the point presenting a litany of candidates from the same place for the same position in a primary instead of agreeing to present a common front and one person. The last time I checked about five candidates contested for APC governorship primary from Dekina LGA alone. But this is not the time to cry over spilled milk but to proffer solution.

Joshua did call for a round table to discuss Igala nation's economic and political agenda. This call cannot be more apt at any other time than now. But for me that is in the medium to long term. 

What do we do in the immediate? Under the current dispensation, the position of governor, deputy and speaker of the house of assembly are spread between the three senatorial zones. If PDP or APC was to win under the happenings before Audu's death, this status quo would have been maintained as the two governorship candidates and deputies were from Kogi East and west respectively and the sitting speaker is already from Kogi central. 

A situation where Bello (plausible and very painful as it were) becomes the governor from Kogi central with speaker from there already and deputy from Kogi west, will be most painful and unbearable. 

Some may argue that one is already given up on the fight by settling for this position but I don't know what your take are. Some others have argued that power is set to shift, may be, through the back door and that we have held power for 16 years without doing much with it and that it should therefore shift to try the other people. 

That Kogi should be considered an equal opportunity State. I PERSONALLY do not align with this argument. That we have had power and didn't do much with it in the past does not mean that we would not do something with it tomorrow. In Benue, for instance, there is no way an Idoma man can ever think of governing the State and hence have resigned themselves to making impact from the National level. What makes ours different?

The solution to this problem will definitely be political and that whatever decision is ultimately taken, some other persons (inter or intra-party(ies)) will be aggrieved and most definitely will resort to litigation. My final submission is that we do not have time on our hand. 

While we await the medium to long term startegy/solution and while we explore the possibility of getting an Igala to repalce Audu in APC, our people should immediately make demands on Bello and Co on our conditions for conceding the position, if we must. 

We should have a fall back position. We must obtain assurances. The time to make demands, in case our fears come to pass, is NOW. Let those that are key to decision making in the party act now without an element of delay as a stitch in time, they say, saves nine. 

By John Oyidih
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