Kogi: More troubles for ruling party

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Fresh troubles in Kogi State Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) over the right State Executive Committee suggests that former reconciliatory committees to resolve varying interests in the state may not have achieved much, reports Assistant Editor,  Dare Odufowokan

THERE is no respite yet in the supremacy battle ongoing in the Kogi State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Rather, the troubles within the party heightened during the week as forces loyal to Governor Yahaya Bello failed in their bid to take over the leadership of the party following a botched attempt to get the Haddi Ametuo-led State Executive Committee suspended by the zonal leadership of the party.

While the national leadership of the party wasted no time in intervening in the fresh rumpus, the two factions within the party, made up of those loyal to the governor and those opposed to him, have renewed their supremacy battle in earnest with party members across the state left to pitch tents with either of the two camps. While Ametuo and his supporters are opposed to what they describe as the dictatorial tendencies of the governor, the Kogi Central Vice Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Ahovi, leads the governor’s loyalists.

The Nation learnt that both camps organised meetings for the weekend with a view to plan new strategies to be deployed in the unending battle for the soul of the party ahead of the 2019 Governorship Election. Governor Bello, who is seeking re-election, fears that he may be denied the party ticket by the Ametuo-led leadership of the APC in the state. As stated by party sources, the APC chairman and his group are loyal to the political family of Hon. James Faleke, Bello’s rival for the ticket.

“Although the crisis in the party started even before this government came to be, it has been further compounded in recent times by the struggle for the governorship ticket of the party. It is public knowledge everywhere in Kogi that Hon. Faleke will struggle for the ticket with Governor Belllo. It is also common knowledge that Bello is not in the good books of the leadership of the party in the state as presently constituted.

“This is why there has been relentless effort by the governor’s camp to change the leadership at all cost. It is for the same reason that other party chieftains, like Faleke and Melaye, have been working hard to ensure that the executive committee is neither dissolved nor suspended by any organ of the party. That also explains the uproar that greeted the reported suspension ordered by the North Central zonal leadership during the week,” our source explained.

Deputy Chairman of the party, Osune Shuaibu, while speaking on the latest developments within the party, urged party organs to intervene urgently to promote party supremacy in the state ahead of the 2019 governorship election. As stated by him, the leadership of the party in the state is determined to prevent any individual or institution from hijacking the structures of the party.

It would be recalled that the National Vice-Chairman (North-Central) of the party, Zakari Abdullahi Ede, had on Thursday, announced the expulsion of its Kogi State Chairman, Haddi Ametuo, and 38 others from the party. As stated by the letter announcing the expulsion, the members were axed following the allegation of gross misconduct and anti-party activities leveled against them.

Ametuo, who has been embroiled in a bitter face-off with Governor Bello over control of party structures for more than two years, and others, were accused of working against the interest and progress of the party in Kogi State. The list of the sacked executive officers also includes some local government officers of the party who were allegedly found guilty of working against the interest of the party.

The zonal leadership of the party in the North Central claimed that it had set up a fact-finding/investigative panel which looked into allegations against the affected party officers. Ede announced that he decided to uphold the report of the committee which recommended the removal of the affected officers. Expelled along with Ametuo were more than two-third of the members of the Executive Committee, including the Deputy Chairman, Treasurer, Legal Adviser, Organising Secretary and many others.

Botched plot?

But hours after the news of the suspension of the SEC became public, the embattled Chairman and his executives on Friday, rejected the purported suspension and their reported expulsion from the party. This development further compounded the confusion rocking the troubled state chapter of the ruling APC. Ametuo insisted he is still the Chairman of the APC in Kogi State.

As stated by him, the action never emanated from the national leadership or any of its organs so empowered to do so. The SEC admitted that there are issues within the party in Kogi and the NWC has directed a committee to investigate the issues and make recommendations. It added that the national leadership has not been appropriately briefed on the outcome of the committee’s work and, therefore, has not taken any decision.

The state leadership asked members of the party at all levels to desist from taking unilateral actions that are likely to further jeopardise the on-going peace process.

But supporters of the governor are determined to ensure that the alleged suspension of Ametuo and others stand. A close political associate of the governor in Lokoja stated.it is in the interest of the party for Ametuo and others to be relieved of their current positions. “That is the only way to bring peace to the APC in Kogi State. There is no sense in keeping people who always disagree with the governor in charge of the party as 2019 draws nearer,” he warned.

Disturbed by the new twist to the unending squabble within its Kogi State chapter, the national leadership of the APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, promptly dismissed reports that the State Executive Committee (SEC) has been suspended. As stated by him, the now controversial suspension order did not emanate from the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party or any of its organs vested with the constitutional power to do so.

Abdullahi, who made this known to journalists in Abuja on Friday, said: “Our attention has been drawn to a story on a National Television that the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi State has been suspended. We want to state that this action does not emanate from the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party or any of its organs so empowered to do so.

“Although, there are issues within the party in Kogi State and the NWC has empowered a committee to investigate the issues and make recommendations, the NWC has not been appropriately briefed on the outcome of the committee’s work and therefore has not taken any decision. In this wise, we affirm that the State Working Committee of APC in Kogi State, led by the Chairman, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, remains the only recognised executive committee of the party in the state until the appropriate organ of the party decides otherwise in accordance with the procedure laid down by the party constitution.

“We wish to affirm that whether in Kogi or elsewhere, the NWC will ensure that justice is done to all concerned and will be guided by the constitution of the party and the best interest of the party. At the moment, we believe this action, purportedly sacking the Kogi executive, is prejudicial and incongruous with the party’s desires for reconciliation. We enjoin all party members at all levels to desist from taking unilateral actions that are likely to further jeopardise the on-going peace process.”

The Nation learnt that the Ede-led zonal leadership is expected to explain the rationale behind its controversial move to expel prominent chieftains of the party in Kogi State at a time the leadership of the party and other organs of the APC are working hard to reconcile aggrieved chieftains and members across the country. “The zonal Executive Committee is answering questions about the order as we speak,” a party source added.

Many efforts at peace

The latest promise by the national leadership of the party to look into the causes of the crisis rocking the Kogi State chapter of the APC will not be the first time it will be making effort to restore peace to the troubled chapter. In 2016, a committee, which was chaired by Prince Tony Momoh, former Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was constituted.

Other members of the committee were John Shagaya, Barnabas Gemade, Ahmed Aboki and Olubunmi Adetunbi. The National Chairman of the APC, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, while speaking at the inauguration of the committee, had said, “It is clear that in a few of our states, we have fairly serious issues to contend with  Kogi, Bauchi and to some extent in Kano.

“The party’s National Working Committee decided to select some of the very best that we have to help us unravel the problems in these states and also make serious reconciliation efforts. Kogi is an equally very challenging assignment in the sense that it has a history behind it. The circumstances that led to the emergence of the Governor of Kogi State have also to be considered a factor.

While what became of the report of the Momoh Committee remains unknown till today, the party again in 2017, set up a seven-man Reconciliation Committee to resolve the crisis rocking the Kogi State chapter of the party. The seven-man committee is chaired by Idris Garba, while the party’s Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom, is the secretary. Other members are Don Etiebet, Patricia Etteh, Rufai Garba, Umar Lawan Kareto, and Joe Orji.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the committee at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja, Odigie-Oyegun thanked members of the committee for agreeing to serve the party. He insisted that the party’s leadership wanted peace and settlement in its Kogi State chapter, noting that they were ready to give every possible opportunity for a settlement.

“What triggered the events in Kogi was very tragic in their nature. So for us as a party, we are bending over backwards to say, ‘yes we understand your feelings. We understand what you have been through, we understand the work that you have put in to get the APC elected; we understand also that God who disposes of power, brought somebody at the last minute to be the beneficiary of all the work and labour that everybody obviously has put in.

“So, we are bending over backwards and we have assembled this very top-level team so that those on the ground there will see that we mean everything we say when we say ‘we want peace in Kogi State’. So, your responsibility is a very great one.

“The issue now is really to call just the principal groups and say look, this has to stop, how do we go about it,” Oyegun had said.

But if the recent development within the party and the events that followed it are anything to go by, it appears neither the fact finding committee, nor the reconciliation committees Oyegun inaugurated and mandated to restore peace to the APC in Kogi State achieved much. Expectedly, the inability of the party to put its house in order is seen by many as a threat to its chances at the 2019 General Election.

– The Nation

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