Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi state, recently boasted at the special convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that he had moved the state from being dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to “100 per cent APC”.
He was pitching for the presidential ticket of his party at the primary election in Abuja on June 8, promising to repeat the “feat” in the 2023 general election if he was given the chance.
By the time the 63 delegates from Kogi state cast their votes, Bello did not get their 100 per cent.
With 47 votes in his favour, that means he got only 75 per cent — assuming those votes all came from Kogi delegates.
But TheCable understands that Bello might actually have received most of his votes from non-Kogi delegates, going by new facts that are emerging.
Some joked that 47 votes for the 47-year-old governor meant the delegates thought they were celebrating his birthday.
Bello, TheCable understands, did not find the outcome funny, having expended enormous resources on the failed presidential bid and despite having assurances that he would do well.
Although he placed fifth over all, there were no consolation prizes.
What really went wrong? Is Bello losing grip of a party he thought he had firmly under his control?
THE FALEKE FACTOR
James Abiodun Faleke, the man Bello technically displaced to become governor in 2016, is still very much active in the politics of Kogi west.
Faleke was the running mate to Abubakar Audu in the 2016 governorship election but as the results were yet to be officially declared, Audu died.
If the winner had been declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Faleke would have inherited Audu’s victory and become governor.
Faleke, Tinubu’s associate, is eyeing Kogi governorship in 2024, sources told TheCable
Under the Electoral Act which stipulates that anyone who did not participate in the primary cannot become a candidate by default, Bello, who came second at the primary, inherited Audu’s votes.
Faleke felt hard done by, having invested his war chest to help displace PDP in the state.
However, he was seen more as a Lagos politician. It was in Lagos that he made his political mark: he was a two-term local government chairman and is now aiming for a fourth term in the house of reps.
The legislator is one of the associates of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC presidential flagbearer.
After assuming power, Bello took control of the APC machinery, effectively alienating the Audu/Faleke group and keeping Tinubu at bay, according to insiders.
Sources informed The Cable that Faleke, it was, who pulled the rug off the feet of Bello by infiltrating his camp to snatch a sizeable number of delegates.
It is now feared in Bello’s camp that Faleke is gradually taking over the APC structure in the state ahead of the 2024 governorship election — going by the results of the different primaries for the 2023 general election.
“Faleke is a bigger politician than Yahaya Bello. He has taken most of the APC leaders in the state from him, including some powerful people in Bello’s government. Such is his tenacity,” an APC state executive told TheCable.
“It is beyond what happened in Abuja. I can tell you authoritatively that the governor didn’t get half of the 63 votes from Kogi. Faleke moved against him big time to show him he remains the master of the game. A majority of those who won tickets during the primaries are with Faleke at the moment.
“With what is on ground, Bello cannot determine who succeeds him. Even if he asks his appointees to write their children’s names as delegates, they will still vote Faleke at the primary.”
IMPLOSION WITHIN THE GOVERNOR’S CAMP
As it stands, the governor’s camp is seriously divided along interest lines.
His top aides are said to be eyeing the governorship, hence the heavy intrigues around the governor.
Edward Onoja, Bello’s deputy, is his friend and long-time ally who was the chief strategist of his campaign when he ran for governorship. He is said to be interested in succeeding Bello.
His becoming the deputy governor has no doubt reduced his influence compared to when he was the chief of staff to the governor.
Onoja, the deputy governor, hopes to succeed his principal but no one is sure if Bello will support him
Jamiu Asuku, as the new chief of staff, became the centre of influence. Asuku is also said to be interested in running for governorship, a situation that has generated a third force.
The third force is made up of people around Bello who want one of them to be governor come January 2024. They have given the chief of staff a tough fight ahead in order to reduce his influence.
Asuku’s mother has been in captivity for months without any trace in what his associates are attributing to political intrigues.
With Asuku at the centre of assembling delegates, it is not unlikely that some forces might have brought in those they know would not support the governor so as to put the chief of staff in the soup.
HEADS TO ROLL?
There are strong indications that Bello may take drastic decisions in order to retain his control of the state as he is said to have been disappointed by the party leadership and some of his top aides.
“He is considering ringing some drastic changes,” a source in his circle told The Cable.
There is palpable fear within his cabinet as delegates nominated by some of his top aides voted against him.
“The governor has seen clearly the eye service around him and he may have to save his own political future,” he added.
IS THE GOVERNOR LOSING GRIP OF HIS GROUP?
Aside from politics, sources said the key figures in his cabinet have been disobeying his directives for some time. It may owe to the exit-term factor, as some are already building new alliances ahead of the 2023 polls.
Even those thought to be his enemies are now having a handshake with members of his cabinet.
One of the senatorial aspirants from Kogi central is said to be conniving with the party headquarters to annul the primary election, said to have been won by Sadiq Abubakar Ohere, Bello’s former commissioner for works.
Fanwo, the former commissioner for information, lost in the house of reps primary despite Bello’s endorsement
A number of petitions has been submitted to the headquarters for this purpose.
In Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency is another jeopardy, a situation that may spell danger, consequently a healing process is needed and a way out to assuage the APC and people of Ijumu.
In Yagba federal constituency, Kingsley Fanwo, Bello’s preferred candidate and his former information commissioner, lost to Folorunsho Olafemi after some government officials defied the governor and worked against his choice.
In Ankpa federal constituency, it was tough as party stakeholders resisted the election of the preferred candidate of the governor. He was eventually declared winner after an outbreak of violence.
In one of the primary elections in Kogi central, a man was shot dead.
The governor is struggling for the soul of the party in his state, some of his associates believe.
WILL TINUBU’S PRESIDENCY COMPOUND BELLO’S WOES?
With Faleke, from Kogi west, still reportedly interested in the governorship, the victory of Tinubu in the APC presidential primary is the best outcome he could hope for.
If Tinubu goes ahead and wins the 2023 presidential election, Bello will have a big battle in his hands controlling the APC structure in the state and installing his preferred candidate as his successor.
Bello, who refused to withdraw from the presidential primary and opposed power shift to the south, now appears to be mending fences with Tinubu.
The governor not only congratulated Tinubu for his victory, he has gone ahead to donate a campaign office to him.
Will Bello reach a truce with Tinubu and Faleke or anoint his deputy, from Kogi east, to take over from him? Or will he stick to his chief of staff who is from Kogi central like him?
Kogi state promises to be an interesting political chess board ahead of the 2023 elections.