Sun news——A new dimension yesterday crept into the crisis trailing Kogi State governorship election when Dr. Tom Ohikere, the media aide to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, said his principal endorsed his running mate, Hon. James Faleke of All Progressives Congress (APC). He warned the APC not to set the state on fire with Alhaji Yahya Bello emerging as the party’s replacement for Audu.
The late Prince Audu, who died last Sunday, was leading Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by 41, 000 votes in the November 21 election. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the exercise inconclusive, ordering a supplementary election to take place on December 5, 2015 in 91 polling units across 18 local governments.
The APC picked Alhaji Bello in a primary ordered by INEC. This is even as the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Philip Salawu, asked INEC to declare him winner because he “didn’t spend a dime” during the election.
It was celebration galore at the Central senatorial district and parts of Lokoja over the weekend as Bello’s kinsmen were jubiliating over his nomination as the APC standard bearer by the National Working Committee (NWC).
But in a swift reaction to Bello’s alleged nomination,the Head of Media, Prince Abubakar Audu/Faleke Campaign Organisation, Dr. Ohikere, warned APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to avoid any act capable setting up the state on fire.
Ohikere, at a press conference yesterday in Lokoja, equally accused President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly injecting northern agenda, where all his governors in the 19 states must be Muslims.
According to Ohikere, the Presidency and APC leadership cannot feign ignorance of the provision of the law, where a running mate to a deceased candidate in an ongoing election steps in as the party’s flagbearers.
“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 November 22.”
“The state will not only catch fire, but the late Prince Audu will rise from the grave and unleash terror on anyone involved in this conspiracy.
“Let me open up to you now. Our political mentor and father, the late Prince Audu on his dying bed, gave instruction to us (his followers) that should he not make it, the baton must be transferred to his running mate, Faleke, whom he (Audu), said is capable of carrying on with his vision.
“I want to categorically tell you that the party/executive’s conspiracy started when they heard that Prince Audu was dead, and in an ulterior move to draft a non-Muslim (Faleke), to step in, the INEC Returning Officer, was quickly directed to declare the result inconclusive.”
Ohikere, who stressed that the Attorney-General of the Federation’s (AGF) observation was a pure script reading, said: “I do not agree with the AGF on his position regarding the nomination of another candidate by the APC. I, however, agree that supplementary election can be proceeded with by INEC.
“I am amazed by the shades of opinion canvassed by several leading legal icons on this seemingly thorny issue. Some have called for fresh election, others have argued otherwise, while some have posited that the victory of APC should be wholesale, donated to PDP’s Capt Wada.
“Surprisingly, all these arguments seem to have overlooked the provisions of Section 187 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. This provision states:
“In any election to which the foregoing provision of this part of this chapter relates, a candidate for the office of governor of a state shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor who is to occupy the office of Deputy Governor;……,” Ohikere said.
Meanwhile, Faleke had last Friday written a letter of protest to Chief Odigie- Oyegun rejecting Bello’s replacement for the late Prince Audu. He rejected his being asked to be Bello’s running mate, saying he would not participate in such arrangement.
In a related development, Governor Wada said yesterday that the votes of Audu, his main rival in the poll, “died with him”. In a statement, Wada, who had earlier expressed reservation over INEC’s directive, accused the commission of doing “a hatchet job”.
He said being the only surviving candidate with the “majority of lawful votes cast”, INEC ought to issue him a certificate of return. Whatever votes Audu scored in the election died with him,” read the statement signed on his behalf by Phrank Shaibu, his Chief Communications Manager. Wada described as “specious” INEC’s argument that APC’s right to substitution was sustained by the Electoral Act, saying the electoral body should know that it is for the court, not the commission, to determine which course of action is effective or not.