Kogi: Coast clears for Bello as Ametuo group withdraws Court case By Omeiza Ajayi

 
Sat Jul 13th, 2019 - Abuja (FCT)
 

If the political atmosphere of Kogi state, especially with regards to the reelection prospects of Gov. Yahaya Bello of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC had appeared hazy or fuzzy, last week’s decision of the National Working Committee NWC of the party to adopt indirect method for its forthcoming primaries appeared to have opened a new vista of hope for Nigeria’s youngest governor.

Gov Yahaya Bello

Often regarded as the “Confluence of Opportunities”, recent political developments in the state had made it appear more as a Confluence of Confusion owing to the crisis in the ruling APC and the inability of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP to get its groove back and provide a formidable platform ahead of the November elections.

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As for the APC, the party had been broken into factions with the erstwhile state chairman, Hadi Ametuo and the current party chair, Abdullahi Bello leading different factions. While Gov. Bello aligned with the Abdullahi Bello group, the Hadi Ametuo group had the backing of some party stakeholders like Sen. Alex Kadiri and others some of who had defected to the PDP before the last general elections. In fact, at a point, Kogi West senator, Dino Melaye belonged to this latter group.

APC NEC position on Primaries

The APC Constitution provides for three modes of primaries viz; direct, indirect or consensus.

On assumption of office, the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC had listed conditions for the choice of primary to be adopted in states for elections. This was announced after a meeting of the National Executive Council NEC of the party on August 30, 2018.

The NEC had adopted the following position:

“Primary elections into all elective offices shall be by Direct Primaries; NEC resolved to adopt Direct Primaries for the nomination of the Presidential candidate and all other Primaries; The Party’s constitution though provides for Indirect Election and Consensus, however, the use of Indirect Primaries is conditional and dependent on logistic impediments; peculiarities and need of a given State that makes it unable to use Direct Primaries.

“The State Executive Committee SEC shall in consultation with aspirants and other critical stakeholders of the Party in a given State forward for the consideration and approval by the National Working Committee NWC, if Indirect Primaries is to be adopted. The adopted mode shall now be applied to all categories of the Party’s Primary Elections i.e. State Assembly, Senate, House of Representatives and for the Governorship Elections.

“The request for Indirect Primaries must be signed by majority of the State Executive Committee and critical stakeholders in attendance at the meeting where such resolution is reached”.

Chaotic Primaries, electoral losses

Comrade Oshiomhole had recently come under increasing attacks for losing some APC states to the opposition, especially with the party’s resort to direct primaries despite the obvious shortcomings inherent in the process. The cases of Zamfara, Rivers and others have been listed as reasons why direct primary is not feasible for the APC as presently constituted.

For the APC, there is a clear lack of an authentic party membership register. After the merger in the lead up to the 2015 general elections, the party had claimed to have 12 million members having reportedly registered no fewer than 100 persons in each of the 120, 000 Polling Units of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. Then mid last year, it decided to embark on fresh registration of new members as well as revalidation of old members, an exercise that saw its membership reportedly boosted to almost 16 million.

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The challenge has however been the inability of the states to come up with a clean copy of the membership register, without which direct primaries as canvassed by some aspirants cannot hold.

INEC weighs in

The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has on its part outlined measures to be undertaken by political primaries to have a recognized primary election, among which is the usage of a valid voter register for such exercise.

Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this recently in Abuja during a postelection review meeting with leaders of registered political parties in the country.

According to him, the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates for the 2019 General Elections was indeed very acrimonious resulting in a number of court cases on the participation or otherwise of political parties and candidates in elections in many constituencies.

Yakubu recalled his earlier disclosure that at the moment, there are 809 cases challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties in regular courts across the country, explaining that the figure is more than the number of petitions challenging the conduct of the main election currently before the Election Petition Tribunals nationwide.

“Where political parties opt for direct primaries, there should be proper register of members otherwise it will amount to conducting an election without the voters’ register”, he declared.

Court case withdrawn

At present, there are about 58 governorship aspirants in the APC in Kogi state out of which 20 of them had petitioned the party’s NWC, kicking against indirect primary.

While they argued that going with indirect primaries was like handing over the ticket to Gov. Bello on a platter, they cited a court case instituted by the Hadi Ametuo group as reason why the indirect method cannot be used. They argued that there are two factions of the party and that the court is yet to determine which of the factions is valid, a development that makes it uncertain as to the choice of delegate list to be used for indirect primaries.

Since the primaries would hold on August 29, the aggrieved aspirants argued that the process could be nullified with the court judgement slated for October 2.

Interestingly, 37 governorship aspirants of the party have also petitioned the NWC, cautioning against a “change of formula in the middle of the game”.

The aspirants who were at the national secretariat on Thursday to submit their petition in support of indirect primaries, urged the party hierarchy not to impose any aspirant on the people.

Spokesman of the aspirants, Comrade Amade Gowon Edime said “it will take a lot of logistic arrangements to organize a direct primary for the over half a million members of the APC in the state”.

On his part, the man who instituted the case ab initio has now announced its withdrawal.

Alhaji Hadi Ametuo faulted other aspirants who had kicked against the use of indirect method of primaries, accusing them of impersonation.

Ametuo said as the erstwhile party chairman, he had personally deposed to an affidavit and instituted a case against the governor’s recognized Alhaji Abdullahi Bello-led Kogi state APC, adding that he has withdrawn the case from court to allow for a landslide victory for the party in the coming elections.

He said; “I am the immediate past state chairman of APC. I am a bonafide member of APC. I built the party in the state. I distanced myself when I felt that I and my people were not carried along. The former national chairman initiated a lot of reconciliation moves but there was no headway. Gov. Bello took it upon himself to initiate peace moves. We met him when he called us on June 26. I and my team met him and he said he is ready to reconcile with us. The next day we met with the stakeholders of the party and explained our position to them.

“I was the one that took the party to court and I said what next after reconciliation? So, I withdrew because I cannot destroy my own party. I single handedly went to the court to file the suit and depose to an affidavit. How can those who who did not initiate the case say the case is still in court?”, he queried.

Gov. Bello on his part said it was criminal for anyone to have gone to court to depose to an affidavit to continue a case that had been withdrawn by the former party chairman.

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“Had Ametuo was the leader of his own group, I don’t want to call it a faction because there were never factions in Kogi APC. But his own group felt aggrieved that they were never carried along in the scheme of things. For us as a party to go into the elections and win overwhelmingly, we has to bring everybody on board.

“The issue of Kogi state APC being in court has been withdrawn. Any body that is parading himself to say that there is a case in court, I will rather advise such person not to tow the path of criminality because you cannot depose to an affidavit in the absence of the right person who is supposed to do so. Kogi state is not known for criminality. APC is not known for criminality”, he added.

The governor advised those who are aggrieved with him to close ranks and join him to deliver the state to the APC during the governorship elections.

Despite assurances by the NWC to look into the petition as submitted by the 20 aggrieved aspirants, there is no full-proof guarantee that the body would reverse itself and go for direct primaries.

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source: Vanguard