* Kogi East to continue protests over Mohammed * Okun elders back Bello; Alli, Ugbanne escape lynching

FILE: The late Prince Audu Abubakar, former governor of Kogi State and All Progressives Congress candidate for governor pictured during a campaign rally
FILE: The late Prince Audu Abubakar, former governor of Kogi State and All Progressives Congress candidate for governor pictured during a campaign rally

AS the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) meets today to formally announce a substitute for its flag-bearer in the inconclusive Kogi governorship elections, the late Abubakar Audu, there are emerging questions begging for answers if a satisfactory solution is to be found to the constitutional crisis triggered by Audu’s death.

For example, at what point did Audu die? Did the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) receive information of his demise before declaring the election inconclusive?

Commentators have blamed the INEC for relying on the total number of registered voters in the 91 polling units where balloting was nullified instead of factoring in the number of those that collected their permanent voters cards or were actually accredited for the cancelled votes before declaring the election inconclusive.

Things took a violent turn yesterday, as the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Senator Ahmadu Ali and Senator Nicholas Ugbane, narrowly escaped being lynched by irate youths at Ogbonicha during the Eighth Day Fidau prayers for the late Audu.

No reason was however given for their action, even as James Faleke the running mate to late Audu was understood to have been warned to stay away from the prayers.

As allegations of partiality against the electoral umpire continue, the ruling APC is being accused of delaying the collation and announcement of the results of the governorship election immediately it learnt that Audu was in critical health condition late in the evening of Saturday, November 21, 2015.

But INEC has reacted in a statement by its Deputy Director in charge of publicity, Nick Dazang in which it dismissed the allegations as “wild” and “which should be left in that realm.”

Meanwhile, the APC in Kogi State may never be the same depending on how its national leadership handles the protests by its Kogi East Senatorial zone members over who replaces the late Audu in the December 5 extra polls.

One of the power brokers of the party from Ankpa axis Alhaji Ibrahim Linko Ocheje threatened that protests in Kogi East would continue so long as justice was not seen to be done on who replaces the late Audu.

The APC stalwart who is rooting for Audu’s son, Mohammed as replacement for his father, said more than 50 per cent of the votes that gave APC the lead came from Kogi East, adding that Audu’s popularity and dedication brought the victory.

Hence, he said that the son should be the right replacement.

Mass protests had greeted the rumoured emergence of someone else as replacement for Audu in the December 5 elections in Kogi State.

Still, members of the Okun Elders Forum in Okun area of the state have declared Alhaji Yahya Bello their preferred candidate to fill the vacuum created by Audu’s death.

The forum in a statement by its spokesman, Chief Funsho Atale, made available to reporters premised its position on the need to move the state forward and in tandem with democratic principles.

Atale said: “The elders took the position in the interest of the party, Kogi State and Okunland.” The elders, including Chief P.S. Alabi, Chief Remi Ogga and Dele Abu, urged the leadership of the APC to align various interest groups to rally support for the candidature of Bello and ensure victory for the party during the rescheduled election slated for Saturday.

The intrigues that may have played behind the scenes suggesting foul play in the controversial decision to return the election as inconclusive came to light in a statement signed by the Head of Media of the Audu/Faleke Campaign organisation, Dr. Tom Ohikere, stressing that Audu on his dying bed urged support for his running mate.

Ohikere explained that despite the last request of the late APC flag-bearer, some stakeholders in Abuja began subterranean moves. He also made a veiled reference to the contentious tribunal ruling in Taraba State governorship election petition filed by Hadjia Jumai Alhassan.
“It has been a grand conspiracy between the party leadership and the presidency to ensure that a particular interest is factored into the replacement for the late Prince Abubakar Audu.

“ Let me open up: Our political mentor and father, the Prince Audu on his deathbed, gave instructions to us, that should he not make it, the baton must be transferred to his running mate, Faleke, who he said was capable of carrying on with his vision.

“I want to categorically tell you that the party executive’s conspiracy started when they heard that Prince Audu was dead, and in an ulterior move to prevent… Faleke from stepping in, the INEC returning officer, was quickly directed to declare the result inconclusive.”

Ohikere added that the legal position put forward by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Malam Abubakar Malami, (SAN) to the effect that INEC has constitutional cover to order a substitution of the dead flag-bearer even when more than 87 per cent of the electoral process had been covered by the Audu/Faleke joint ticket, exposes the hidden script by the presidency and INEC.

The media campaign coordinator noted that if the election would be concluded with a supplementary election, the provisions of Section 187 (1) of the constitution, should be upheld by allowing Abiodun Faleke to complete the process on the basis that “a state governor shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of governor who is to occupy the office of deputy governor.”

Speaking to The Guardian on the telephone, Ohikere asserted that if the initial process of the Kogi governorship election should be inherited by both INEC and the political parties, APC should adopt Faleke stressing that “it is not in doubt that at the time of the occurrence of the death of Prince A. Audu, Hon. Faleke had acquired vested right to the votes cast in that election alongside his party (APC).”

That position, he added, followed from the fact that in the Kogi State governorship election of November 21, 2015, Faleke was a candidate and the election having proceeded and results released or declared before the demise of the main candidate, the associate candidate must, constitutionally, be entitled to step into the shoes of the deceased main candidate.

Contacted, the acting Publicity Secretary of APC, Timi Frank, said the party would come out with what should be considered its comprehensive stand on the Kogi election pointing out that he would not preempt the party to validate speculations and conjectures in the name of speaking for the party.

PDP has already gone to challenge the powers of INEC to order a substitution of dead candidate as well as conduct of supplementary election after substantial part of the balloting had been undertaken.

The Special Assistant to the President on Media, Malam Garba Shehu, could not be reached for reaction at the time of filing this report as his phones were either switched off or out of coverage area.

The Guardian checks revealed that the protesters in their large numbers caused serious gridlock over the Itobe Bridge along Anyigba-Itobe-Ajaokuta-Okene federal highway. The traffic jam which lasted for upward of about four hours forced some motorists to turn back while others continued their journey via the waterways at Shintaku.

The protesters, it was gathered, explained that they could not idly watch a situation where the governor, speaker of the State House of Assembly and the chief judge of the state would all come from the same zone.

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