Kogi Ministerial Slot: Subtle Battle for Late Ocholi’s Replacement

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The need to fill the Kogi state ministerial slot rendered vacant by the untimely death of the late Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, is at the root of a growing agitation in the north central state as prominent party chieftains and other interested individuals are said to be positioning either themselves or their candidates for the plum job amidst growing complaints that the state is being shortchanged by the absence of its representative in the federal executive council..

According to reliable party sources, several meetings have been held and several correspondences and emissaries sent to President Muhammadu Buhari by the political class in the state on the urgent need to replace Ocholi with another nominee from the state in accordance with the federal character principle being applied in the appointment of ministers.

This followed what some people described as a long wait by the people of Kogi state to have a representative in the FEC since Ocholi’s demise earlier in the year. “There is a growing agitation for a new minister to be appointed from Kogi into the federal executive council. The continued absence of one is not helping the ruling party nor the state as many feel we are being marginalized,” a source told The Nation.

Also, it was gathered that there is an ongoing subtle struggle among groups within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on how the replacement for the late minister should emerge. While a camp loyal to the governor want him to be allowed to nominate a candidate, the old Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) bloc within the party are kicking against that.

Similarly, various geo-political zones in the state are said to be angling to get the replacement nominated from their zone. The Nation gathered that the people of Igala are determined to have the slot, citing marginalisation in state and federal appointments since the commencement of the new administration.

During the week, elders of the Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), added their voices to the agitation for the vacant position to be filled without further delay.They called on President Buhari to see the need for a replacement for Ocholi who died as minister of state for Labour and Employment.

In a letter signed by Isa Sani Omolori on behalf of Kogi State’s APC Elder’s Vanguard, and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the elders expressed concern that many months after the sudden death of the minister who represented the slot of Kogi State in line with the principle of Federal Character, a replacement is yet to be made.

They however argued that since the late James Ocholi was of the defunct Congress For Progressive Change, CPC, it will only be fair that the slot is retained by the CPC in the state. They specifically urged the president not to appoint someone who is not a member of the CPC as Ocholi’s replacement.

The statement reads, “Since the demise of our beloved minister, James Ocholi, there has been a general clamour for his replacement from various interest groups in Kogi Sate, but there is need to be aware of the gentleman agreement reached during the formation of APC, chaired by late Prince Abubakar Audu.

“Since James Ocholi of blessed memory is only few months into his tenure, it is only fair, that his slot goes back to CPC. A meeting of CPC was convened and we zeroed on three CPC members from the three senatorial districts. Also, any appointment should recognise the geographical equation for equity.

“The President is urged to be guided by the agreed zoning formula of sharing political positions in the state as fashioned by the late party leader, Prince Abubakar Audu.”

Consequently, the elders listed three nominees from which President Buhari should choose the replacement, among whom are Alhaji Idris M. Usman, state coordinator, Buhari Solidarity Organisation (BSO) who they said has been in the opposition for the past 17 years, Mallam Ahmed Kokoli and Hon. Jibril Yusuf.

Also, the Senator representing Kogi central senatorial district, Senator Ahmed Salau Ogembe, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to fill the ministerial vacuum as soon as possible in the interest of equal representation of all the states of the federation.

According to Ogembe, “the people of Kogi State appreciates President Mohammad Buhari for considering one of us capable as a minister of federal Republic of Nigeria in person of Mr James Ocholi,(SAN) the late minister of State for Labour. Unfortunately the cold hand of death snatched him away from us since February”.

In a statement by the Senator, he called on Mr President to as a matter of urgent national importance, fill the vacuum created by the death of Ocholi almost seven months ago. He regretted that in the last few months Kogi State’s  seat in the federal Executive Council, earlier occupied by the late Ocholi, has been vacant.

Ogembe also appealed to the President to please consider the principle of federal character and ensure that Kogi state is represented in the federal executive Council. The Senator drew the attention of President Mohammad Buhari to section 147 sub-section 3 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which provides that Mr. President shall appoint one minister from each state.

Comrade Musa Ali Otigba, a chieftain of the APC in the State and the North-central National Leader of Coalition of APC Support Groups, also confirmed the growing agitation when he lamented that the people of the state, especially the Igallas, are pained at the exclusion of the state from the federal executive council.

“It’s been more than five months since the death of Barrister James Ocholi, leaving Kogi State without a representative in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The Igala people have gone through so much political troubles and pains since the beginning of this administration. At first, it was the death of Prince Audu, as the people were waiting to celebrate the victory of the man they had come out in their large numbers to vote for in the November 21 governorship election. Few months after that, we also lost another credible son of ours, a father and the leader of the APC in Kogi State, a minister of state for labour and employment, Chief Ocholi. It has been over five months now since that time and we are yet to get a replacement.

We, the Igala people, are the 7th largest ethnic group in Nigeria. We constitute over 60% of the voting population in Kogi State. The Igala man is all over the country. When I went to Kano, I saw an Igala man in the campaign team. Also, I saw them in Oyo, Osun and Lagos states. We gave our support to President Muhammadu Buhari and we are still supporting the government.

We are appealing to the president to consider a replacement for Ocholi. We are going through so much pain. One of such pain is the fact that right now, the Igala man has no representative in the government at the federal level,” he said.

Credit: The Nation

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