By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Atabor Julius in Lokoja
• Says he’ll not be Bello’s running mate
• Audu’s death a new chapter in our constitution, says Wada
As the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) meets today to take a final decision on who it shall field to replace the late Alhaji Abubakar Audu who died before the conclusion of the Kogi State governorship election, his running mate, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, has rejected his nomination as the probable running mate to the party’s purported choice to replace Audu, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, for the supplementary election slated for Saturday.
Faleke, in his second letter to the APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, dated November 27, 2015, restated that he should be considered the governor-elect following Audu’s death.
THISDAY learnt that though the APC leadership may have settled for Bello, who polled the second highest number of votes after Audu during the party’s primary before the governorship election, it will meet to consider all options and take a final decision on its nominee before submitting a name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this Monday in order to beat the deadline given by the commission to submit the name of Audu’s replacement.
However, Faleke in the letter conveyed his disapproval of Bello’s purported nomination and copied INEC.
In the two-page letter he personally signed, Faleke unequivocally declared that he was not interested in surrendering the mandate that the people of Kogi State bestowed on the Audu/Faleke joint ticket at the November 21 poll, stressing that he remained the governor-elect.
He described the party’s decision to nominate Bello as the candidate in the forthcoming supplementary election as “illegal and unlawful”, noting that it “is neither in your interest nor that of the party in particular and the public in general to lord illegality on the people of Kogi State”.
Faleke, however, expressed optimism that the party’s leadership would resolve the nomination issue in the shortest time, warning that failing to do so might force him to seek redress in the court of law.
He asked the party’s leadership to treat his letter as a confirmation “to dissociate myself from this unusual and strange supplementary nomination of my humble self as the running mate to Bello. This is also to serve as a notice of rejection of the purported and illegal nomination of myself as running mate to Bello”.
He pointed out that he was neither consulted nor informed by anybody before his name was submitted as a running mate “to a man who has since the conduct of primary, abandoned the party, took the party to court and worked for PDP, thereby causing the party to lose at his (Bello’s) polling unit and repeated the same feat at the ward level where APC scored 1,146 to PDP’s 2,058”.
Faleke added: “While it is true that the said Bello participated in our party primary, it is trite that a party primary is conducted to produce a candidate and once a candidate is produced, the congress being an ad hoc tool of the party for that purpose should automatically extinguish.
“It is clear from this injustice that our party is on the path of rewarding disloyalty and discouraging loyalty through this act of impunity for which we all fought the PDP. It may also interest you, Mr. Chairman, that the said Bello, since the conduct of the primary, has been aloof from the party’s activities as it is on record that he did not attend a single meeting or campaign rally of the party.”
He reminded the APC chairman that following the demise of his principal after the announcement of results from the polling units, wards and local governments areas of the state, the APC had the highest number of votes of 240,867 against the PDP’s 199,514, thus creating a difference of 41,353 votes between the two leading parties.
He said: “I therefore remain fully committed to that joint ticket which received the blessing of the party leadership including your good self evident from your attendance at the campaign rallies to ensure total victory for our great party through which the people of Kogi State massively and overwhelmingly voted for us.
“On the strength of this, I hereby state clearly that I remain the governor-elect of Kogi State on the platform of our great party. I believe in the leadership of our great party to resolve this in the shortest possible time, failing upon which I shall be forced to seek redress in the court of law.”
Prior to the current letter to Oyegun, Faleke had written a letter to INEC last Thursday informing it that any attempt to conduct a supplementary poll would amount to the commission breaching and flouting the constitution.
Faleke also wrote to his party urging it not only to support him to actualise the mandate already given to the APC under the joint ticket of himself and the late Audu, but to also distance itself from the “Greek gift” given by INEC that allows the ruling party to conduct a fresh primary to select a candidate for the supplementary poll.
Sources close to Faleke informed THISDAY that the latest letter, notwithstanding, he has already instructed his lawyers led by Mr. Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to file his case in court today, but will withdraw it if APC yields to his demands.
A source also confirmed THISDAY that should APC settle for Bello, Faleke will not stand in the supplementary election as his running mate, since he has already rejected the post and has made it abundantly clear to the party and INEC that the poll is unconstitutional and unlawful.
But APC’s leadership, according to sources, has defended its selection of Bello on the grounds that it was the best option to take under the prevailing circumstances, as any attempt to conduct a primary would entail giving INEC the requisite 21 days notice, which is not feasible.
A reliable party source said that the leadership took many issues into consideration in arriving at the choice of Bello, one of which was that he participated in the party’s governorship primary where he came second, while Faleke’s non-involvement in the primary was considered a legal impediment which the party could not ignore.
“We had to consider two available options, which are that we either say, let’s allow the deputy candidate inherit it or get the man who came second in the primary to succeed him.
“But the first option fell short of meeting the legal requirement. So we had to consider the other alternative to go back to the validly held, above board, and transparent primary to pick the runner-up as a replacement,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Ichalla Wada, has described Audu’s death as adding a new chapter to the nation’s constitution, noting however that he died a fulfilled man.
Wada made the remarks at the eighth day fidau prayers for Audu held on Sunday at the late candidate’s country home in Ogbonicha in Ofu Local Government Area of the state.
The fidau prayers were presided over by the Chief Imam of Ankpa Central Mosque and the state Chairman, Council of Ulamas, Alhaji Suleiman Adams, who led 211 other Imams from across the state and Abuja.
However, the event was temporarily halted when angry youths on sighting Chief Ahmadu Ali, former National Chairman of the PDP, began to pelt his car with stones, causing severe damage to the vehicle. Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane was equally manhandled by the mob.
It took the efforts of the security operatives to whisk them away to safety.
Wada, who was represented by his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi, said: “When great men die, comets fall”, stressing that the greatness of Audu even in death, had altered the nation’s constitution.
The governor said the government and people of the state were yet to come to terms with the death of the former governor, describing him as a politician whose influence cut across the country.
While commiserating with Audu’s family, he urged them to be consoled by the legacies he left behind.
He added that the former governor’s legacies in development which
cut across all sectors of the state would be remembered at all times and prayed for his soul to rest in eternal peace.
In his sermon, Sheik Shehu Sadiq from Abuja called on those in authority to contribute their quotas to making the society a better place for all and advised politicians to emulate Audu who was selfless in service.
Prominent among those who graced the prayers were the governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, members of the National Assembly, and people from all works of life.
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