KOGI ELECTION IMPASSE: Protests over Audu’s replacement
Protests rocked Kogi State, yesterday, following a report that a candidate had been picked by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Saturday’s governorship supplementary election outside Kogi East, dominated by Igala people where the Prince Abubakar Audu, the late candidate of the party, hailed from.
The report had said, yesterday, that the APC leadership had picked Audu’s closest rival in the party’s primary ahead of the Kogi governorship election, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to replace the deceased in the supplementary election.
Separately, the APC leadership denied that the party had given the governorship ticket to Bello.
Bello is Ebira, from Kogi Central, while the Igala people are rooting for one of their own and Audu’s son, Mohammed, to pick the APC ticket.
Protesting youths of Igala extraction, yesterday, blocked River Benue Bridge, to drive home their demand that Igala should get the APC ticket.
They threatened to destroy the bridge at a location called Itobe.
There were similar protests in Ochadamu in Dekina Local Government Area and Idah.
Meanwhile, youths of Kogi West, under the aegis of Okun Youths Forum, cautioned against throwing the state into crisis on the grounds of a non-Igala emerging as the APC candidate for the supplementary election.
At press time, police were said to be battling to disperse the protesters who took over River Benue Bridge as they grew in number.
The protest caused traffic gridlock on both sides of the bridge as motorists could not proceed.
One of the leaders of the protesters said any attempt by the Ebira to take power through the backdoor would be vehemently rejected.
“We voted for the late Prince Abubakar Audu, an Igalaman. We didn’t vote for Yahaya Bello. Bringing in an Ebira man to replace an Igala will lead to chaos. The Okun and Ebira will need to wait for their time. APC should retrace its steps”, he said apparently referring to the purported nomination of Bello as the APC candidate.
At Ochadamu Junction leading to Anyigba, the nerve centre of Igala commerce, bonfires were seen on the road.
Some youths were also sighed protesting on the streets of Anyigba, Ajaka, Abejukolo, Ankpa and Ogbonicha, the home town of Audu.
The protest assumed riotous dimension at Idah where the youths were heard chanting, “No Mohammed Audu, no supplementary poll,” in their local dialect.
Also, the homes of those they claimed were trying to trade Igala interest were targeted by the protesters.
A leader of the youths told Sunday Vanguard they will make Kogi ungovernable if Mohammed did not replace his late father as the APC governorship candidate.
Okun back Ebira
However, the Okun Youths Forum, warned against throwing the state into crisis just because a non-Igala was going to be governor for the first time in the history of Kogi, saying the choice of Bello was constitutional.
The group called on the Igala to wait till 2019 when they would have another democratic window to be governor.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard in Lokoja, the spokesman for the group, Adebayo Aaron, said Kogi is a collective enterprise belonging to three senatorial districts. He said the three districts are equal partners.
Also, yesterday, a chieftain of APC, Dr. Ohikere, warned the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, against any act capable of setting the state on fire.
Ohikere, who was the Head of Media, Audu/Faleke Campaign, during a press conference in Lokoja, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of injecting what he described as a northern agenda into the Kogi election.
Ohikere said the Presidency and APC leadership were fully aware of the law, that a running mate to a deceased candidate in an election should step in as the party’s flag bearer. “But it has been a grand conspiracy between the party leadership and the Presidency to ensure that a Muslim is used as a replacement to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, who died on the 22 of November,” he said.
“The state will not only catch fire, but also the late Prince Audu will rise from the grave and unleash terror on anyone involved in this conspiracy.”
The APC rebuttal
In a related development, the APC leadership said, yesterday, it had not settled for Bello as replacement for Audu in the supplementary election, saying a decision will be taken tomorrow (Monday).
The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, told Sunday Vanguard the APC was yet to decide on Audu’s replacement.
“We are still consulting on the issue. We would take a final stand on the issue of Audu’s replacement on Monday and we are definitely going to issue a statement on the issue”, he said.