There have been intense manoeuvring and intrigues in the Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from members who are trying to outsmart one another in a bid to take control of the party and produce the governorship candidate ahead of the election scheduled for October this year.
Though political campaign is yet to commence in the state, those who eye the governorship ticket have created division in the party.
For those who have been following the political trend in the APC, the division is not a new phenomenon. After the successful merger of the defunct the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu and Barrister James Ocholi have been locking horns over who becomes party leader in the state.
Since then, the party has been sharply divided as those who are in Ocholi’s camp and some of the new decampees do not regard Audu as the leader of the party.
The party has been operating based on loyalty to legacy parties that merged. Members who came from the CPC were sympathetic to Ocholi, while those in the ACN group were sympathetic to Audu.
Those who came from other parties either followed Audu’s group or Ocholi’s group.
As a result of the situation, the CPC group has Muhammed Mabo as their chairman, while the ACN group picks Alhaji Hadi Ametuo as the party chairman. But they were later reconciled by the party’s national leaders. Hence, Hadi became the chairman in an election supervised by the officials of the party from the national headquarters without the presence of factions.
The division was brought to limelight again during the primary election to pick candidates for the National Assembly and State Assembly elections as election materials were said to have been hijacked by Audu’s group, being led by Dino Melaye.
The primary elections were said to have been conducted in Lokoja and Okene, as the party members were ready for a showdown if they were shut out in the polls.
But the crisis was not glaring during the Presidential and National Assembly election as the Muhammadu Buhari wind of change swept the state like hurricane.
The division was also relegated during the 2015 general elections because there was no governorship election in the state. Sunday Trust learnt that the Buhari factor motivated the success the party achieved in the election of federal lawmakers as the Presidential and National Assembly elections were held the same day.
At present, the frenzy of Buhari factor has faded away. The governorship election has re-awakened the division in the party as many party faithful are opposed to Audu’s governorship ambition in the party.
As a result of the division, they have been engaging themselves in a media war in their attempts to win the party leaders at the state and national levels to their side, a development, analyst believes, would either make or mar the success of the party during the governorship election.
The first bullet was fired by the self-acclaimed Kogi elders from Abuja through one Isa Sani Omolori who accused Audu of destroying the party.
The elder under the aegis of the All Progressives Elders Vanguard called on the party and President-elect Muhammadu Buhari to save the party from imminent collapse under the leadership of Prince Audu.
They claimed that Audu had hijacked the party machinery to his benefit, warning that the APC would lose the goodwill it enjoyed during the presidential election if Audu was not called to order.
However, another group loyal to Audu, Confluence for Change, responded, saying Prince Audu is the leader of the APC in the state.
The group said, in a statement signed by its chairman, Isah Ibrahim, that Audu had remained a rallying point for the APC not only in Kogi state but in the North Central zone.
Also, thousands of youths from the 21 local governments of Kogi State staged a peaceful rally at Murtala Muhammed Bridge on Abuja-Jamata-Lokoja Road in support of the governorship ambition of Prince Audu.
The APC youth Leader, Omale Moses, who led the rally, said since the former governor left office, the State had collapsed socially and economically, adding that they wanted him to come and save the state from bad leadership.
However, a chieftain of the APC, Dr Goodman Akwu, kicked against Audu’s return as governor, advising him to look beyond the state.
Dr Akwu, who is the coordinator of APC Loyalty Group in the Middle Belt, said the ex-governor had contributed his quota to the development of the state when he had the opportunity to lead the state twice.
In the same vein, another group, Kogi Renewal Group, kicked against Audu’s quest to get the APC governorship ticket.
The Chairman of the group, Dr. Abubakar Yakubu, told journalists that Kogi needed change but the change the state needed was not the return of Audu to Lugard House.
The group advised him canvass support for other aspirants outside Kogi East senatorial district to become governor in 2016, stressing that Kogi state had been generous with their support for candidates from Kogi East in the last 16 years.
However, a chieftain of the party, Alhaji Linco Ocheje, believed that there was neither a division nor a problem in the APC over who would become the governorship candidate.
He said Audu and any other party member were constitutionally guaranteed the right to vie for the governorship seat in a free and transparent primary election.
He likened the Kogi scenario to the contest among Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso during the presidential primary election when people believed that the APC would have scattered but came out stronger at the end.
In the same vein, the APC chairman, Hadi Ametuo, refused to accept the belief that there was a division in the party.
Ametuo, who was confident that there was no cause for alarm because of his belief that there was no PDP in the state at the moment, said it was normal and constitutional for any member of the party to aspire to get the party’s ticket for the governorship election.
According to him, any member of the party can contest any position in the party as long as he or she is a member. Nobody can stop anyone from contesting the governorship ticket.
He said the constitution allowed those who wanted to contest to do so through the primary election, stressing that those saying somebody should not contest were only making noise because the party constitution clearly spelt it out.
“We won three senatorial seats, six House of Representatives and 11 State House of Assembly seats. More seats will be collected through the tribunal. With the poor performance of the PDP led by Idris Wada, it would be an easy ride for the APC,” he said.
But pundits say the election would have been a ‘work-over’ for the APC in the state due to the perceived non-performance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government and the people’s disenchantment occasioned by the 40 percent cut in workers’ salary, non-payment of salaries to teacher and local government workers.
One APC member, who simply called himself Habibe, said there were three groups that were responsible for the current division that had threatened the party.
According to him, one of the groups believes that Audu is no longer sellable and as the leader of the party, he should not contest the primary election, but produce a younger one.
The second group, in his words, believes that the governorship candidate should come from either Kogi central or western senatorial district, arguing that the eastern senatorial district has been the one steering the number one seat, while the third group believes that Audu is the only party member that can wrestle power from the PDP and put the state on the right pedestal.