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Kogi 2019: Bello on the edge over appointment of minister-designate

The nomination of Mrs Ramatu Tijjani as minister from Kogi State by President Muhammadu Buhari has put Governor Yahaya Bello in a more difficult position.

Ms. Tijjani is a former national women leader of the All Progressives Congress from Koton Karfe in Kogi West.

Bello on the other hand did not support the nomination of Tijjani. He sent the name of the former Minister of State for Labour, Mr Stephen Ocheni.

Ocheni is from Kogi East, the Igala speaking area of the state. Igalas form the majority ethnic group in the state and they want to return to the helm of affairs.

In order to make his second term bid less difficult, Bello’s preference was Ocheni who is Igala. Unfortunately for him, President Muhammadu Buhari chose Tijjani. Now the Igalas are asking what is left for them.

Since the creation of the state in 1991, Bello is the first democratically elected governor that is not from Kogi East. Prince Abubakar Audu from the eastern part of the state was the first civilian governor of the state in 1992 under National Republican Party (NRC). In 1999, Audu was able to return under on the platform of All Nigeria’s People’s Party (ANPP). He had a smooth ride back to Lugard house because his main opponent, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, was from the western part of the state.

The crux of the matter is that the Igalas have lost out of Buhari’s cabinet. Now they are gunning for the number one seat in the State.
Bello who is unhappy with Buhari’s decision is not willing to give up his seat easily. Business Hallmark gathered that he is ready to fight tooth and nail to ensure and he gets re-elected.

First he would have to battle to secure the ticket of his party, the APC. With the National Working Committee of the party announcing the adoption of indirect primaries in Kogi, the coast looked clear for Bello in spite of the protests against the decision.

However, Buhari’s choice of minister from Kogi has sent a mixed signal to Bello and his supporters. They are wondering why Buhari shunned Bello’s man, Ocheni and opted for someone else. Is Buhari aware that this could alter the political calculations in Kogi?

Speaking with a political analyst Enejo Shuiabu, he said “I don’t think they (APC) have plans to replace Bello with some else. It would read meaning to this ministerial nomination from Kogi West if they decide to change the primaries to direct one. So far it is still indirect primaries they want to conduct, Bello has the upper hand.
The only problem here for Bello is that Buhari does not understand the state. Choosing someone that is not Igala to be minister will make it more difficult for Bello to win even if he emerges APC flag bearer.

“Bello understands that politics is local that was why he sent the name of an Igala person to Buhai. But Buhari chose someone that is not Igala as minister. I think at this point, changing Bello would be the best option for APC. I am not a politician and I don’t belong to any party. This is just my honest opinion.”

Bello has burnt bridges across the divide. When he emerged as governor in 2016, many people were hopeful that he would make a difference given his relatively young age. Barely a year in office he fell out with stakeholders in the state. The Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Dr Ado Ibrahim was not left out as he also fell out with the governor.
To compound his problems, he has added the deputy governor Simon Achuba to his growing list adversaries.

Achuba recently accused the governor of abandoning his office. He said the governor owes his office the accumulated sum of N819, 709,980. The sum is the accumulated statutory allocations which included hotel bills, pledges, travel allowances and outstanding monthly impress and salaries which had been withheld from the deputy governor’s office since 2017.

In the letter, dated July 17, 2019, he accused Bello of refusing to give approval for the release of funds for the smooth running of his office. He warned that failure to grant his request for the withheld allocations, would force him to seek redress in the National Industrial Court.

Their fight got messier recently as the deputy governor alleged that Bello is planning to send gunmen to assassinate him.
While addressing the media last week, said “I want the police, SSS, IGO to know that if anything should happen to me, my family and aides, the governor should held responsible,” he said.

Political analysts are of the view that the APC would find it very difficult to win the election in the state with Bello as candidate of the party. Apart from the fact that he is from a minority ethnic group, there is a general consensus that he has not performed well in office. His recent fight with the deputy governor who is from Igala land has made matters worse.

Bello will be up against two very prominent persons from Igala land. Sanni Lulu a former chairman of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF and Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, a former Chief of Naval Staff.

Bello’s major opposition is Usman Jibrin. Apart from Jibrin being from Kogi East, he has the backing of some stakeholders of the party. It is also believed in many quarters that the national women leader, Hajia Salamatu Bewa is a strong backer of Jibrin.

According to a reliable source, Jibrin is the preferred candidate most of the stakeholders both at the state and national level of the party.

A member of the APC in Kogi who pleaded for anonymity said, “The People’s Democratic Party PDP is likely to settle for a candidate from the eastern part of the state. It would be a huge mistake for the APC to settle for Bello. One of the reasons Bello is being considered is because he is bribing members of the National Working Committee with so much money. Another thing is that most of the people at the top don’t understand Kogi politics. They don’t know that Bello is unpopular. If my party is serious of winning Kogi, they have to deny Bello the ticket.”

Meanwhile, the factional state Chairman of the APC in Kogi State, Abdullahi Bello has insisted that there is no going back on the decision of indirect primaries taken by the NWC of the party.
Bello say’s APC’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had made a pronouncement that the Kogi APC primary election would be by the delegate system.

“We have resolved on the indirect method or what is also known as the delegate system, and it was ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. There is no going back,” he said.
Time will tell if the President’s decision to nominate Mrs Ramatu Tijjani from Kogi West would affect the outcome of the governorship election in Kogi

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