The internal wrangling that rocked the Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the death of the party’s governorship candidate in the November 21, 2015 election, Prince Abubakar Audu, has assumed a new dimension after the arrest and arraignment of the deceased’s son, Mohammed Audu, for alleged armed robbery and sundry charges.
Recent happenings, especially in the aftermath of the posthumous leadership award bestowed on the late Prince Abubakar Audu by Governor Yahaya Bello are pointers that the crisis of confidence within the APC family is far from over. Stakeholders are expressing concerns over the widening gaps being created between the state governor and some other critical members of the party who now seemed to be working at cross purposes within the same party.
During the 25th anniversary celebration of the creation of Kogi State, held on August 27, the first civilian governor of the state, the late Audu was honoured by the state governor, Bello for his tremendous achievements when he was the governor of the state. The younger brother to the late Audu, Alhaji Yahaya Audu and Hajia Aisha Audu, who happened to be one of the wives of the late Audu, were there to receive the award on behalf of the family.
But the first son of the late Audu, Mohammed issued a press statement, alleging that Bello gave the award because of the pending case at the Supreme Court against his election. The junior Audu had described the said award as ‘self-serving and diversionary’, adding that the governor should rather focus on addressing the challenges of non-payment of salaries to workers in the state. He said that rather than concentrating on the challenges of governance by attending to the needs of the masses, particularly civil servants, Bello had resorted to seeking cheap popularity, through misleading the people that he had the endorsement of the family of the late Audu.
Mohammed Audu in the statement advised Bello to stop seeking for Prince Audu’s family endorsement and allow the Supreme Court to decide the case challenging his election as the governor of the state. However, in a swift reaction, the Kogi State government said the posthumous leadership award bestowed on the deceased APC governorship candidate and former governor of the state had nothing to do with the case at the Supreme Court.
The Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr Edward Onoja, said Governor Bello bestowed the highest leadership award on the late Audu based on a unanimous decision that no past Kogi governor had impacted the state in the area of development in the last 25 years like Audu did.
“It would be surprising for Mohammed Audu to go to press to say the award was diversionary and self serving. How does that serve the governor? Rather, it serves the political family of the late Audu. It serves the memory of the late Audu, it serves the good people of Kogi east and Kogi people in general,” he said.
He noted that it was rather unfortunate and illogical for anybody to think that the award had anything to do with the pending case at the Supreme Court.
“Bestowing award on the late Prince Abubakar Audu has no bearing with the awaited judgement at the Supreme Court. But there are antecedents which are very clear. At the tribunal, it was made clear that governor Bello’s mandate is in line with the law. “At the Appeal, it followed suit… He should not link the award to the Supreme Court, he should rather wait for the outcome of the Supreme Court as he had always done in the other lower courts and has gone back home disappointed,” he stated.
He said besides the recent leadership award, Governor Bello had earlier named the Kogi State University, the highest tertiary institution in the state, after the late Prince Abubakar Audu, to honour and immortalize his memory, a gesture Onoja said should have been appreciated by Mohammed Audu. But there was another twist into emerging political drama following the invitation and detention of Mohammed Audu by the police and his subsequent arraignment in court. Mohammed, who was arraigned before a Lokoja Chief Magistrate Court, was charged with criminal conspiracy, causing grievous hurt, mischief, armed robbery and attempted culpable homicide, contrary to sections 97(1), 248, 327, 298 and 229 of the Penal Code Law.
The prosecutor, Gabriel Otowu Esq., told the court that the Mohammed allegedly committed the offence against his uncle, Prince Yahaya Audu on August 30, in the family house at Ogbonicha, Ofu Local Government Area.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) read by the Otowu, Yahaya Audu had alleged that he and one Ibrahim Imam were in the family compound at Ogbonicha for the 8th day Fidau Prayer of the late Dauda Audu when the alleged offence took place. The FIR stated that hoodlums, heavily armed with guns, cutlasses and axe criminally conspired, invaded his compound, pretending to be visitors, he ignorantly welcome them and they asked him to give them “something no matter how small.”
“As he walked towards his vehicle to give them money, he was attacked from behind with a machete and thoroughly beaten, adding that they inflicted bodily injuries on him and shot sporadically,” he said.
It said that the complainant fell to the ground and pretended to be dead and the alleged attackers attempted to carry him before he ran into the bush and escaped. According to the FIR, the hoodlums broke the windscreen of his Hummer Jeep and made away with his Samsung handset.
Otuwo told the court that the late Audu’s brother complained to the police that prior to his attack, Audu’s son, Muhammed promised to deal with him, calling him a traitor for daring to collect an award on behalf of his late father; and fingered him (Muhammed) as the mastermind of the attack.
The prosecutor who said police investigation led to Muhammed’s arrest and subsequent arraignment said others who carried out the attack were still at large, while investigation was still ongoing In his submission, Okechukwu Ayewu, leading seven other lawyers for the accused urged the court to grant his client bail in line with provisions of 36(5) of the constitution and sections 341(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) Chief Magistrate Alhassan Husaini granted the accused bail in the sum N100,000 and a surety in like sum and adjourned the matter to September 29 for further mention.
But the arrest and arraignment of Mohammed has been generating barrage reactions from family members and the political stakeholders who are accusing the government of being the brain behind the action.
The Faleke/Audu Political Organization, in its reaction, described the arrest and detention of Mohamned Audu, as a “provocative act of executive lawlessness aimed at justifying a predetermined goal of creating an atmosphere of insecurity in the state with the Supreme Court judgement approaching. A statement issued by the spokesperson of the group, Duro Meseko, said it was the height of provocation for the Bello administration to “instigate the arrest of Audu’s son by turning a pure family issue into a big political matter.
“We hereby condemn the arrest and detention of Mohammed Audu in its entirety on trumped up charges and call on the Inspector-General of Police to advise his men to be very careful in dealing with politically sensitive issues in order not to fall prey to executive manipulation,” Meseko said.
He said it was inexplicable that Mohammed who was attending a session of Sharia Court with other Audu siblings on a family matter would also be present in his hometown of Ogbonicha on the same day the alleged incident happened.
In the same vein, the Audu Oyidi Royal Family of Ogbonicha in Ofu Local Government Area, Kogi State has risen in support of Mohammed, describing the development as “political persecution of the highest order”.
In a statement signed on behalf of the family by the Oregoh Attah of Igalaland, the paramount ruler of Ogbonicha, the family lamented the arrest and arraignment of their son on trumped up charges and affirmed their implicit confidence in his unimpeachable integrity. “We are surprised with the news of the arrest and arraignment of the son of our late patriarch, Mohammed on trumped up charges of armed robbery, conspiracy and attempted culpable homicide. “We believe that Mohammed is a responsible man from a respectable background who would do no such thing as to bring disrepute to the name of our family.
The story by his uncle, Yahaya that he was attacked and beaten up and that the attack was masterminded by Mohammed is purely a family matter that should not have been politicized to this extent. “Since the matter is already before a law court, we shall refrain from further comments for now, but suffice to express our utter condemnation of the apparently coordinated media frenzy that attended the arrest and arraignment,” the family stated.
In a related development, major stakeholders of the APC from the three Senatorial Districts of Kogi State also rose from an emergency meeting in Lokoja with a condemnation of the arrest and arraignment of Mohammed Audu.
According to Kehinde Afolabi, who spoke on behalf of the group, it was unfortunate that members of the late Prince Audu’s family were being “hounded and persecuted despite the political nightmare the family is going through”.
“Why would people not allow the soul of the dead to rest well? Prince Abubakar Audu lived and did his best for Kogi State as governor. The least the authorities should do is not to persecute his family members, but to encourage them. Kogi is currently passing through some difficult times politically and we are of the view that all hands must be on deck by the various stakeholders to keep the peace and not to disrupt it,” the statement said.
But the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has denied having any hands in the arrest, detention and arraignment of Mohammed Audu as being alleged. The Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State governor, Mr. Fanwo Kingsley, while reacting to the arrest of members of the late Prince Abubakar Audu’s family said that the governor didn’t order the arrest of anybody.
Mr. Fanwo, in a press statement, said law enforcement agents were free to effect arrest when anyone infringed the law. “If members of Audu’s family run foul of the law, they would not be spared just because they are members of Audu’s family. Nobody is above the law. Even if members of the governor’s family break the law, they will be arrested.
Commenting on the crisis in the party, a member of Board of Trustees of APC in the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi, said there was urgent need to unite all the factions of the party in the state, as failure would portend grave danger in future elections. Olafemi who was former acting governor of the state, described as worrisome a situation where three different factions exist within the party in the state.
He said: “I’m very worried because I knew what it took us to obtain the victory we have for the APC in the state. Some of us sold our property to make sure that we can mobilize support because we did not want to be shamed. “And having achieved that success, it is sad that today, we are in factions. We have the Faleke’s faction, we have the Senator Dino’s faction and we have the governor’s faction. This is the truth and nobody can dispute it. How do you now see your house disintegrating the way it is today?”
From the emerging political drama, it appears that the crisis rocking the Kogi APC is far from being over.
Credits: Itodo Daniel Sule | Daily Trust