Audu’s supporters push for son as replacement
There were strong indications on Wednesday that the campaign organisation of the late Kogi State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, was preparing a ground for the emergence of the deceased’s son, Mohammed, as a replacement for his father.
Audu died on Sunday, a few hours after the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the November 21 governorship poll in the state inconclusive.
The deceased had polled 240,867 votes in the election while the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate and incumbent state Governor, Capt. Idris Wada (retd.), scored 199,514 votes, leaving a gap of 41,353 votes between the two leading candidates in the election.
INEC had declared the election inconclusive on the grounds that cancelled votes or registered voters in the 91 polling units, where the exercise did not take place were 49,953, a figure higher than Audu’s lead of 41,353 votes.
A leader of the APC in the state, who confided in The PUNCH, said the dominant view in the organisation was that Mohammed should join the race.
It was gathered that a few members of the group had also suggested that Audu’s running mate in last Saturday’s election, Mr. James Faleke, should contest the primary.
It was gathered that members of the group, which dominates the APC in the state, met on Tuesday night following the party’s declaration that another primary would be held to produce a replacement for the late governorship candidate.
The commission had on Tuesday written the APC, directing it to submit a replacement for the late Audu while the party said it would hold a fresh primary to produce a replacement for the deceased APC standard bearer.
The APC leader, who confided in The PUNCH, said the late Audu’s political structure was still intact despite his death.
He stated that nobody could win the state governorship primary of the APC without the backing of Audu’s supporters.
The source said, “Abubakar Audu’s supporters, including his campaign structure, are rooting for either Audu’s son, Mohammed, or James Faleke for them not to lose out entirely. They are narrowing it to either Faleke or Mohammed because the APC machinery believes that the election has been won. But the party elders and leaders, who worked for him, will be more comfortable with Mohammed.
The spokesperson for the APC in Kogi State, Abdulmalik Suleiman, said, “We are mourning. This is the time for sober reflection and we are praying for our late leader and icon. At the appropriate time, the public will know because APC has a way of solving its issues and problems.”
One of our correspondents, however, learnt that despite the state of mourning in the party in the state, no fewer than four aspirants have started jostling to emerge as a replacement for Audu in the supplementary election on December 5.
These aspirants, it was learnt, included Faleke, who was Audu’s running mate in last Saturday’s poll; Yahaya Bello; a former PDP governorship aspirant, Jubrin Echocho, and Salihu Atawodi.
While Faleke is from the Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi West Senatorial District, Bello is from Okene in Kogi Central.
Echocho, who defected from the PDP to the APC after failing to clinch the governorship ticket of the former, is from Dekina LGA in Kogi East Senatorial District, the same zone as the incumbent governor, Wada.
Atawodi is from Dekina LGA and contested against Audu during the APC governorship primary.
Meanwhile, the National Working Committee of the APC postponed its meeting earlier scheduled to hold on Wednesday.
The National Chairman of the Party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the postponement was to allow key officials of the party to fully participate in the burial of Chief HID Awolowo, who was buried on Wednesday in Ikenne, Ogun State.
The NWC had scheduled the meeting to deliberate on the date and modalities for fresh primary to elect a replacement for Audu.
Despite the postponement of the meeting, a group of youths under the aegis of Kogi Youth Vanguard, stormed the party headquarters to demand that Audu’s running mate, Faleke, be given the mandate to represent the party in the supplementary election.
Leader of the group, Bamidele Peters, who claimed to be from Kogi East, said, “Though we sympathise with the family of the late APC governorship candidate , Abubakar Audu, and the Kogi electorate, who voted for the APC, we feel that this mandate is not just for an individual but the entire party.
“We think the election should be allowed to be concluded and that there should be no replacement for the candidate until after the election. The party will after the election be able to replace its candidate.
“Our own interest under the circumstance is to ensure that the supplementary election is concluded. Even if the party will replace its candidate, it should be after the election; and I feel that if possible, the running mate, Abiodun Faleke, should be allowed to step in to replace the late governorship candidate.
In a related development, the Democratic Peoples Congress has demanded that a fresh governorship election should be conducted in Kogi State following the death of the candidate of the APC.
The National chairman of the DPC, Rev. Olusegun Peters, said this in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday.
Peters said, “The party rejects INEC’s position to continue the November 1 poll by conducting a supplementary election for 91 polling units on December 5, 2015.
“It is inappropriate for INEC to direct the APC to choose another candidate to substitute the late Audu and continue the governorship election when the people voted for the candidacy of Audu and not the yet-to-be-selected candidate the electorate did not vote for.”
According to him, the DPC strongly opposes the attempt by INEC and the ruling APC to impose a candidate on the people of Kogi State in what he described as a violation of democratic ideals.
The party chairman added, “We demand a fresh governorship election that will reflect the will of the people. This is the only way the nation’s frail democracy will be deepened and strengthened to provide its dividends to the long suffering compatriots.”
Meanwhile, a former Governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri, has called on the national leadership of the APC to consider fielding one of the children of the late Audu as a replacement.
In an interview with our correspondent in Calabar on Wednesday, Ebri, who was the governor of the state between 1992 and 1993, said the late APC candidate in the November 21 inconclusive governorship election was fortunate to have adult children, who were capable of filling the vacuum created by Audu’s demise.
Ebri said, “I agree that this is a democracy and not a monarchy; but to my knowledge, more than one of the late Audu’s children have the capacity to take up the ticket. I have seen them and I know them to have the capacity. So, why the party is still thinking of what to do, here is a suggestion – put another Audu in there.
“In 1991, when we were running our elections, Dr. Joe Nwodo was disqualified and the party got his younger brother to replace him. That was Ekwezelieze Nwodo, who did a great job.
“I am sure that the circumstance we have today dictates that we even consider that. By that way, the labour of the late Audu, who had never given up and had sacrificed for his people, will not be in vain.”