With few months to the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi State, the state governor, Yahaya Bello, who is seeking reelection, has practically abandoned governance and has temporarily relocated to Abuja to lobby President Muhammadu Buhari, first lady Aisha Buhari and other leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Bello, who was sworn in as the fourth civilian governor of Kogi State on January 27, 2016, was picked by the leadership of the APC to replace the late Abubakar Audu, the original party’s candidate who died before the governorship election held on November 21, 2015 was concluded.
Audu was leading the candidate of the PDP, former Gov. Idris Wada, before the election was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Many had thought the late Audu’s running mate, James Faleke, a serving member of the House of Representatives, would replace him, but the party’s leadership led by its former national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, opted for Bello, who emerged first runner-up in the party’s primaries.
Since assuming office, he has been having running battle with some stakeholders in the state especially those who were aggrieved with the manner with which he emerged as the beneficiary of the late Audu’s ticket.
Sources also alleged that aside issues of unpaid salaries which has given Kogi a negative image amongst the 36 states in the country, the governor is also in the habit of fighting everyone, especially the leadership of the party in his state, House of Assembly members and serving federal lawmakers.
Sources in the state told Daily Independent that since the conclusion of the presidential election which was won by President Buhari, the governor is rarely seen in the state as he has practically relocated to Abuja where he is lobbying major stakeholders in the party as well as those in the presidency to give him a soft landing.
It was also reported that while Adams Oshiomhole was favourably disposed to direct primaries which was adopted by the party in the just concluded elections, the embattled governor was canvassing for indirect primaries where selected delegates will vote.
According to a source, “Right now, Governor Yahaya Bello has temporarily relocated to Abuja over his ambition to secure a second term ticket. Governance in Kogi is at its lowest ebb now. He promised new direction when he was sworn-in but right now, there is no direction at all.
“There is this fear that APC leadership under Adams Oshiomhole will adopt the direct primary method, where all the party members will vote to elect their governorship candidate. I think that is what the governor is trying to prevent now, even before INEC announces a date for the election.”
According to another source, who is a member of the state’s House of Assembly, “Bello is fighting different people in the state. There is this impression that he is not popular among the citizens, both young and old, especially the civil servants who constitute the majority of the people in the state.
“There are several petitions against him written by members of the APC to the party secretariat in Abuja. The crux of the petition is that APC will lose woefully in the state if they field him as the candidate. They said even if he rigs the election, he cannot win. The situation is that bad.
“He is close to the first lady, Aisha Buhari, and he is using that to lobby the president. You hardly find him in Kogi these days”.
However, speaking with our correspondent, Onogwu Mohammed, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, denied the allegations, saying the governor has remained in the state and even canceled a trip with President Buhari to Jordan in order to attend to security issues in the state.
“That is a lie from the pit of hell concocted by the imagination of those who are only interested in spreading falsehood. Governor Yahaya Bello was billed to travel with Mr. President to Jordan alongside with Governors Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo and Badaru of Jigawa State.
“The governor has been on the ground in the state since last week and has not traveled to Abuja. He had to cancel that trip to Jordan with President Buhari because from the security reports he gathered, there was a plot to threaten the peace of the people of Omala Local Government Area.
“So, he canceled that trip and has been on the ground in Kogi State. He held meetings with the various security agencies in Kogi. Based on the meeting, the security apparatus in Kogi moved to Omala Local Government Area and they were there till yesterday morning until they repelled the attack.
“The governor is presently in the state, coming to office, attending to issues that border on the well-being of the people of Kogi State. To say the governor has relocated to Abuja because of the second term is a lie and should not be taken seriously by well-meaning Nigerians.
“Yahaya Bello is not after the second term in office. He is not desperate about getting himself a second term ticket by relocating to Abuja. He is assuring himself of a second term ticket by giving the people of Kogi State good governance”.
When Daily Independent sought the position of the APC national chairman on the issue, one of his aides said he is not concerned with the issue at the moment, adding that the focus of Oshiomhole now is the issue of the National Assembly leadership so that the mistakes of 2015 will not repeat itself.
“The national chairman takes matters as they come. The Kogi election will come up later in the year. What is pressing now is the issue of the National Assembly leadership which will take place in June”, he said.