ABUJA – Despite what appears to be an imminent victory for Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State in the forthcoming All Progressives Congress (APC) indirect party primaries in the state, a combination of political intrigues from leaders of his party and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are desperate in shaping their political fortunes ahead the 2023 general elections, may conspire to deny the governor the party’s ticket to contest the governorship election on November 16, this year, HeadlineNews365 has gathered.
This insight comes at the heels of further revelations on the cause of the ongoing quarrel between Bello and his deputy, Simon Achuba, who alleged on Thursday that the governor was after his life.
He had also accused the governor of owing him a backlog of salaries and entitlement totalling N819 million.
Though the state government clarified that N786 million had not been approved, it maintained that the case was not peculiar to Achuba alone.
But, the open disagreement between the governor and his deputy underscored a festering rancour between both men which started long before the last general elections.
HeadlineNews365 gathered that Achuba had been a strong associate of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
“Achuba was asked by his principal never to put his loyalty to the party and government in doubt going into the last general elections,” explained a party source.
It was alleged that security reports to the governor detailed series of secret meetings between Atiku and Achuba in the run-up to the election early in the year.
The deputy governor was also alleged to have made contributions not only to Atiku electioneering, but openly expressed sympathy for Senator Dino Melaye, Bello’s political adversary.
Through the deputy governor and Melaye, an arrangement was allegedly brokered between strong elements in APC and PDP that the opposition party would field a weak candidate if APC’s indirect primaries would favour Admiral Jibrin Usman, leading contender for the ruling party’s ticket for the Kogi State governorship election.
But, in the deputy governor’s defence, one of his aides, who pleaded anonymity, said that Achuba had been a politician and a business man with extensive contacts and friends.
“The deputy governor, like every other politician in APC, including the governor, did not start life as an APC politician. We were all once somewhere and had to move to our current party. What really matters is whether the deputy governor has supported his current party and principal well enough or not. I believe he has; and you can ask the governor,” the source said.
Sunday INDEPENDENT gathered that the opposition to Bello, even within his party, had not been relenting.
For instance, Admiral Usman was alleged to have offered N18 million ($50, 000) each to APC stalwarts in in Kogi State and Bello’s camp to sway them to his side ahead the party primaries.
The APC hierarchy had recently settled for indirect party primaries to pick its candidate ahead the November election, a decision Usman and some party bigwigs in the state had kicked against.
Bello had told the public that he was willing to abide by the party’s decision.
However, his opponents in APC and PDP had reportedly doubled down, renewing strategies on how best to deny the governor the party ticket. As gathered, the strategy they came up with was to re-explore previous contacts they had in Bello’s government.
One of them, as reliably gathered, was Achuba, Bello’s deputy, with whom he had not enjoyed the best relationship. Achuba’s recent claim of unpaid salaries was said to be a reflection of his frustration under Bello.
“All political officers in Kogi, including the governor himself, is owed money. Achuba’s case is not an exception and we all understand that money was not available to make the necessary payments. If workers can be owed and only recently paid off their backlog, what about us,” explained a cabinet staff who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Senator Melaye was believed to have had extensive contacts in Bello’s government on account of their past relationship while he was in APC.
The governor, Sunday INDEPENDENT learnt, had conceded seven council chairmen, office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and four commissioners to Melaye.
Bello and Melaye reportedly fell apart after both men could not agree on the choice of a certain local government chairman.
While Bello allegedly said his choice was informed by the need to reward a strong party stalwart, Melaye, eportedly insisted that since the local government in question was within his senatorial District, he should dictate the tunes.
Despite nominating candidates to the slot given to him, Melaye had begun the long battle of wits with Bello over the governor’s decision to override his choice.
But so far, Melaye’s nominees appeared to have remained steadfastly with Bello. Particularly, Folasade Arike Ayoade, the SSG, a nominee of Melaye, had stuck with the governor.
Explaining this to Sunday INDEPENDENT, the state government source said the SSG had on more than one occasion, told the Melaye that she should be left out of politics and be allowed to concentrate on her job.
The Kogi election matters were also believed to have been taken to the APC national leadership, especially those with interest in 2023 general elections.
Though former Lagos State governor and APC leader, Bola Tinubu, and APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, were believed to be behind Bello, traducers and factional oppositions within the ruling party were said to have begun persuading the party leaders to swing support to Usman on two grounds.
“There is a steady rumour being whispered in the ears of Tinubu that Bello might pitch his tent with Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State governor, ahead 2023 presidential election,” said an APC national officer.
Tinubu is reportedly eyeing the presidency in 2023. Though not initially in love with Bello at the beginning of his tenure, Tinubu was said to have become fond of the Kogi State governor on account of steady grasp on power, selflessness and fearlessness in tackling political opposition, both in the state and at national levels.
Not relenting also, there were efforts at weakening Presidency’s support for Bello. One of such plans was to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the governor not to recontest like it was done to former Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, at the instance of Tinubu.
Their argument was that PDP still posed a lot of threats in Kogi and having Bello contest under the banner of APC might confound the ruling party’s chances.
However, this argument had met with brick wall in the Presidency on the account of how the APC performed in the state in the last general elections under Bello.
The APC not only won the presidential election, it also swept all state House of Assembly seats, further strengthening the party in the state.