Kogi: A Governor without Deputy

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Bello

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Yahaya Bello ascends the seat of governor in Kogi State, on Wednesday, January 27, without a deputy governor and amidst uncertainty as to how long he will remain in office because of the several cases in court challenging his legitimacy

By Olu Ojewale  |  Feb 8, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

JAMES Abiodun Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, made good his promise on Wednesday, January 27. He refused to show up to be sworn-in as deputy governor to Yahaya Bello, who was formally sworn-in as governor of Kogi State. Consequently, Bello has become the only governor in history of Nigeria to have been sworn-in and now serving without a deputy.

Apparently, there had been several attempts to reconcile the two politicians, but without any success. Faleke is insisting that he is the rightful owner of the seat being occupied by Bello because he was elected alongside the late Abubakar Audu, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, before his sudden death before the results of the November 21 gubernatorial election was announced. But the party gave the ticket to Bello in view of the fact that he participated in the primaries in which Audu emerged as the party’s candidate. He placed second.

Hence, Bello was formally sworn-in as governor by Nasiru Ajana, chief judge of Kogi State, at a ceremony held at the main bowl of the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja, capital city. The 25,000 seat stadium was filled to capacity as people from different parts of the country and all walks of life witnessed the enthronement of the new administration in the state.

In an emotion-laden speech, Bello quoted copiously from the inaugural speech of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” just as he pledged that his administration would be modelled after that of Buhari.

Expectedly, Bello paid tribute to the late Audu, who he described as an icon, whose foresight and doggedness paved the way for the “victory we celebrate today. Continue to rest in peace, my leader.”

He also paid glowing tribute to the leadership of the APC, especially Bola Tinubu, national leader of the APC, who he described as the most singular successful politician of the current democratic dispensation.

Beyond the rhetoric, Bello is unlikely to seat pretty until all legal issues regarding his emergence as governor are trashed out.

In the time being, the Kogi Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal has onerous task of deciding who actually owns the mandate from which he has benefitted. Faleke is challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at the election tribunal asking that it should reverse its decision which rendered the November 21, 2015 governorship election inconclusive. Besides, Faleke wants the tribunal to declare him the winner of the election of the November 21 governorship election, saying the election had been won and lost and that since it was a joint ticket and that the proper thing to do was for the co-pilot to take over the flight following Audu’s death on the day he was to be declared the winner.

Idris Wada, immediate past governor of the state and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has also approached the tribunal to ask it to return him to office based on the reason that Bello was not on the governorship ballot before the election and that votes scored by the late Audu were not transferable. Wada and his party have argued that since the APC candidate died before the conclusion of the election the proper thing for the INEC to do was to declare him, as the candidate with the second highest votes as the winner.

The former governor similarly wants the tribunal to determine if Bello is qualified to be declared governor when he had not taken part in all the electoral processes. He is claiming that the INEC contravened the electoral law by accepting to replace the late Audu with Bello.

The PDP candidate, in his petition at the tribunal, argued against the declaration of Bello as winner of the election, based on the outcome of the December 5, 2015 supplementary poll. Bello polled 6,885 from the 13,000 voters who turned out to vote in 91 polling units across 18 local government areas for the residual election. Wada, whose initial score rose to 204, 877 from 199,415 after the supplementary poll, believes it will be illogical for Bello to be declared the winner. He has thus, asked the state election tribunal to declare him the winner on the account that Bello, who, was not on the ballot as at the time he (Wada) polled 199,415 on November 21, 2015, could not dislodge him with 6,885 votes from the supplementary election of December 5, last year.

Further, the former governor also alleges that Bello went into the supplementary polls without a running mate, noting that Faleke withdrew from the race before the election.

Indeed, Faleke had written to both the leadership of the APC and INEC that he was not interested in being a deputy to Bello. He did not take part in the supplementary election, which held on December 5. But according to lawyers the notification had come outside the time frame allowed by the law.

In his letter, Faleke alleged that, “Bello has since the conduct of the primary, abandoned the party, took the party to court and worked for the PDP, thereby causing the party (APC) to lose at his (Bello’s) polling unit and repeated same feat at the ward level where the APC scored 1,146 to PDP’s 2,058.”

This prompted Audu/Faleke campaign organisation to describe the choice of Bello as Audu’s replacement as the zenith of reward for disloyalty. Besides, the organisation claimed that a reconciliation meeting convened by the APC leadership after the primaries was spurned by Bello. He claimed that the late Audu had a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and that he would not sit on the same table with him. It described as an irony of fate for Bello, who made reconciliation impossible to turn around and inherit the victory of a man he scorned.

Hence, the thinking in some political quarters is that Bello has reaped where he did not plant. Such impression is expected to work against Bello, who may be bogged down by the burden of litigation in his for three months in office as he continues to face questions of legitimacy.

In any case, opinion is divided on the legitimacy of the new Kogi governor and this is likely to remain until it is resolved by courts. As it is, many of the party chieftains believe that the APC national leadership robbed Faleke to pay Bello. The development has apparently divided the party and unless there is an out-of-court settlement, Bello’s attention is expected to be divided between being state governor and following the litigation against his governance.

Faleke is believed to enjoy the support of Tinubu. Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to the former Lagos governor, is leading the team of lawyers representing him in the matter. He is relying on Section 181 (1) of the Constitution that says: “if a person duly elected as governor dies before taking and subscribing the oath of allegiance and oath of office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in , the person elected with him as the deputy governor shall be sworn in as governor and he shall nominate a new deputy governor who shall be appointed by the governor with the approval of a simple majority of House of the Assembly of the state.”

That notwithstanding, the lawyers are also divided on the matter as Bello, Faleke and Wada are parading teams of senior advocates of Nigeria who must have been telling their clients that they have a good chance to win in court.

Onyekachi Ubani, a human rights lawyer, said it was apparent that the law did not envisage what happened in Kogi. Ubani said that the INEC and Abubakar Malami, attorney general of the federation, should have saved the country the current legal tussle if they had approached the Supreme Court for interpretation of the law before asking the APC to pick a candidate to replace Audu. He said he expected the case to go all the way to the Supreme Court for settlement.  This means that Nigeria is expected to see legal fireworks as the case unfolds.

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