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…as court hears Faleke’s petition

KAYODE FASUA & FRANCIS SADHERE

For a while now, the social media has been abuzz with stories of some clash of interests between President Muhammadu Buhari and a national leader of his party, the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; but such insinuations seemed to have remained in the realm of speculations. However, the political conundrum in Kogi State now seems to be lending credence to that observation.

Impeccable APC sources told The Point at the weekend that the Presidency might have succeeded in hijacking the party structures from the claws of the Tinubu camp as exemplified in the firm decision of the APC to stick to the choice of Yahaya Bello as its substitute governorship candidate in Kogi State, following the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, who was its original standard-bearer.

Abiodun Faleke, running mate to the late Audu, who a good number of observers had expected to step into the shoes of his late boss, was surprisingly shoved aside in favour of Bello, who came second during the party’s August governorship primary election.

Although both the Constitution and the Electoral Act make no provision for the death of a candidate in the course of an election, many in the Tinubu camp had thought Faleke would be a natural choice of the party leadership in replacing Audu.

But the party, chaired by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, reportedly toed the Presidency’s line by opting for Bello, citing wise counsel from the Attorney-General of the Federation and other legal luminaries. Faleke, who was already propping up Mohammed, the son of the late Audu to be his deputy, was shellshocked by the party’s decision.

He has, however, vowed never to be deputy to Bello as he remained the governor-elect, and even threatened court action against his party. But it appeared that the party ignored his argument as it had become hamstrung by the fact that the time given it to submit the name of a governorship candidate and the person’s running mate had lapsed at the time Faleke kicked against the choice of Bello.

So, without his consent, the APC had used Faleke’s name for a position he was not interested in, under the circumstance. Faleke, currently representing the Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos at the House of Representatives, has been a long-standing acolyte of Tinubu, whose loyalty paid off with his emergence as a running mate in the Kogi governorship election. He was also at a time the Chairman of the Ojodu Local Government of Lagos State.

BELLO’S DILEMMA

As Bello, the substitute governorship candidate of the APC went round campaigning for the December 5 supplementary poll, one question had unsettled him from journalists: where is your running mate? Certainly, Bello had been unable to provide an answer to this question, as his running mate had actually run away from him.

For the APC, this was an ugly fallout of the death of Audu, who passed away at the dawn of Sunday, November 22. Audu’s death became historic as he was the first Nigerian contestant to die in the course of an election.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission were still counting the results of the November 21 governorship contest, mainly between Audu and Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party when Audu, who was said to have suffered excruciating stomach pains, suddenly died, leaving his supporters and party in deep mourning.

But when the INEC announced the result of the election hours after his death, it was declared inconclusive even though the APC was leading with over 40,000 votes. About 49,000 votes were cancelled in 91 polling units spread across 19, out of the state’s 21 local council areas.

The implication of this was that, while the ruling PDP was on a cliffhanger and would require some miracle to win, the APC was only less than 20 meters to the land of victory.

‘TINUBU IS THE TARGET’

Already, Tinubu’s loyalists in the party have queued up behind Faleke, saying they are optimistic that after a legal battle, he will come out triumphant. One of them, Mr. Dipo Okeyomi, a chairmanship contestant in the Ojokoro Local Council Development Area of Lagos, said the party was totally flawed in the choice of Bello.

Okeyomi, popularly known as ‘Carry Go’, reacted this way: “What the APC leadership has done is simply to build something on nothing, and it will not stand. We know those who are against the choice of Faleke simply because they think he is a Tinubu boy. But for God’s sake, must they stand the constitution on the head because of politics?”

The politician also reacted with a rhetorical question: “If a pilot dies while the plane is air-borne, would

For the concluding part of this story and others, grab your copy of The Point from your nearest vendor

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