The call for the conduct of fresh primaries in Kogi State has taken a serious dimension. In an exclusive chat with political journalists, Colonel Bello Fadile, a former aspirant in the race to govern the state and also a legal expert sheds light on whether to conduct a fresh primary election or not. Excerpts below.
What do you have to say about the communiqué issued by some gubernatorial aspirants in Kogi State?
Fadile: That was the essence of the meeting we had with the National Secretariat of the party to say that things have changed in the sense that if there is any issue to be discussed, it has to be done within and not on the pages of newspapers. And they were warned to desist from such acts.
Sir, what about the validity of the January Primaries that produced Alhaji Jibrin Isah?
Fadile: Has the ticket been used? And if you say there was a postponement in elections, you might want to ask whose fault was it? The right thing to be done is that Jibrin Isah’s ticket should be reaffirmed because there is nothing in the constitution or the electoral Act that says it should not be. I also think that it is a misconception for the case of Andy Uba of Anambra state to be cited as an example in this instance because in the case of Andy Uba, he got the governorship ticket, he contested for elections and won the elections. He also took an oath of office and he was sworn in as governor and so the ticket was used. But in this case, the ticket has not been used and there is no defect in the ticket because the court validated it. And for that I do not see the sense in conducting fresh primaries because there is a candidate whose emergence as the flag-bearer has not been voided and cannot be voided because it falls within the stipulations of the electoral Act.
What about the time frame for the conduct of primaries and the actual time of elections?
Fadile: Because somebody made a mistake and announced a date and the date was shifted, would you now hold the candidate liable? The electoral Act is very clear as regards this. It states that the parties decide how they conduct their primaries and the electoral Act gave two options: direct or indirect primaries. When you have one aspirant, as in the case in Kogi State now, all you need to do is affirmation. And so under the circumstance that we have found ourselves, we already have a candidate and it is within the prerogative of the party if there is discipline to say gentle men we have a candidate already all we need to do is reconcile. Interestingly the process of reconciliation in Kogi State has already started because the Jibrin Isah ticket meant the position of deputy governor is for Kogi West and speaker of the House of Assembly for Kogi Central and governorship to Kogi East. And the speaker of the House of Assembly is from Kogi Central. Don’t you think we would be inviting chaos if we decide to go back again to conduct fresh primaries?
What about the recent defection of Prince Abubakar Audu to the ACN?
Fadile: The ACN forgot that Kogi is not a Yoruba state. It is also not a homogenous state like most Yoruba states. Another fact is that Prince Abubakar Audu has outlived his usefulness and I don’t think the ACN would want to field such a candidate. I read in one of the dailies that Bola Tinubu asked Abubakar Audu to go and finish his case with the EFCC before he can contest under ACN platform. And I think that may be responsible for why Ubolo Okpanachi is crossing over to the ACN.
Don’t you think internal wrangling in the PDP in Kogi State might affect its chances in the forthcoming elections?
Fadile: Once they instill discipline and the PDP picks an Igala man in the caliber of Jibrin Isah that has tremendous acceptability in the state, they won’t have any problem. That is my own assessment. But again the problem might be amongst the Igalas themselves, especially those that are supposed to be elder statesmen still wanting to be governor.
Do you think Governor Idris will switch support for Jibrin Isah?
Fadile: I don’t see him doing that because it is not in his interest to change side at that critical and late stage. That will not speak well about good leadership because a leader should be firm and flexible, but this situation is not one to bring in the principle of flexibility because there is no obstacle. And don’t forget also that in the affected states; it is only Kogi State that the governor is not returning for a second term.
Are you saying that Jibrin Isah’s ticket is still valid?
Fadile: INEC gives guidelines, but the preparation to the elections is in the hands of the PDP. In this instance, they have chosen 160 days instead of 30 days because the electoral Act stipulates that elections must be conducted 160 days before the expiration of the incumbent and that is the crucial aspect. The electoral Act says elections must be conducted within 160 days or latest by 30 days and in this instance, when the party has a candidate, what they need to do is reaffirm the candidate because they had conducted a primary that was witnessed by INEC and they do not intend to change that candidate. And now I think it is a leadership issue for Governor Idris to call everybody to say that Jibrin Isah is our candidate and we have given him the ticket earlier and it would be unfair and improper and also an act of indiscipline to go against the party directives. And in such case, INEC has no say because it is still within the electoral Act in the conduct of primaries.
In some quarters, it is believed that Jibrin Isah has a case with the EFCC?
Fadile: Jibrin Isah is a prosecution witness in the Afribank case and so he doesn’t have any case.
And so when you say somebody is a prosecution witness, what do you mean?
Fadile: it means that he is simply a star witness that can be relied on. Don’t forget that that the constitution interpreted indictment as only when you are tried by the court of law and given judgment and found guilty. And administrative indictment does not stand as bar under the constitution. It is only a person that is found guilty by the court of law that can be denied running for elective post.
Would it be safe to say that Jibrin Isah,s ticket will be reaffirmed?
Fadile: That is my belief because the law is on his side and the leadership of the party in the state are on his side and it would be in the interest of the leadership of the party at the National level to allow his ticket to stand if they don’t want disaffection in the party because he has his tremendous followership especially amongst the youths and don’t also forget that he also has the support of the House of Assembly, he has the support of the elected members both in the state and federal levels, including senators. They have all endorsed him and come out to say that there is no need for fresh primaries. In truth, I don’t see the PDP conducting fresh primaries in the state. But if they want to lose the elections, they should conduct fresh primaries and see the number of people that will decamp to the opposition.
What do you have to say about AbulRazak Kutepa?
Fadile: Abdul Razak Kutepa can be referred to as a “settler” because his is originally from Bassa but his father was a settler in Lokoja. He cannot represent Kogi West for now because when you are talking about the west, you are talking about the Okuns who are struggling for power rotation and he is not Okun, but Bassa, a minority in Kogi East. So with the present realities on ground and in the event of a power shift, I believe the Okuns will identify who really is or not because this time around, it’s not a question of money.