Kogi Primary: APC In Trouble Over Audu’s Emergence | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Kogi Primary: APC In Trouble Over Audu’s Emergence

Posted: Sep 3, 2015 at 12:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

• Protesters Shut Party Secretariat Party Withholds Certificate Of Return They Are Jobless,  Says Ex-Gov

By Rotimi Akinwunmi, 

Abuja

 

The Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) remains in turmoil following protests by aggrieved members who insist that former Governor Abubakar Audu must not be the party’s candidate in the forthcoming November 2015 governorship election.

Audu won the APC governorship primary held in Lokoja, the state capital, between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, polling 1, 109 votes to beat his closest rival, Yahaya Bello, who scored 703 votes and 26 others.

Abubakar Audu

Abubakar Audu

A former Senator, Nurudeen Abatemi, scored 400 votes to place third, ahead of Sanusi Abubakar, who scored 309 votes, while Hadiza Ibrahim, the only female in the group, garnered only four votes.

None of the aspirants immediately raised objection to the conduct of the primary conducted by a committee led by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai.

But the situation has changed thereafter.

Indications that the party had slipped into crisis emerged with feelers showing that members were generally not pleased that Audu clinched the ticket.

Hundreds of aggrieved youths and supposedly party faithful stormed the APC National Secretariat in Abuja, protesting against the prospect of fielding Audu as the candidate for the November election.

The protesters asked the APC leadership to reverse Audu’s emergence and withhold the issuance of the Certificate of Return to him.

Bearing placards with various derogatory inscriptions, the protesters contended that it was a grave error for the party to field Audu whom they believed would be leading the APC into a murky campaign turf with a huge baggage of scandals.

Some of the protesters carried placards against the former Kogi governor’s candidacy, with bold inscriptions like “Kogi State Says No to Audu”, “We need a credible leader in Kogi”, among others.

The former governor who had turned up at the secretariat to collect the Certificate of Return was greeted with wild protests by the aggrieved members.

A mild drama ensued when Audu’s supporters clashed with the protesters in a bid to prevent them from gaining entrance to the secretariat.

Audu was, however, asked to wait till today (Thursday) to allow for the expiration of the period allotted for appeal by aggrieved aspirants by Tuesday midnight, before the Certificate of Returns could be released to him.

The disappointed Audu and his supporters were told by the party leaders that the grace given to other aspirants to submit petition against the primary election conducted by Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led committee, was not over yet.

The grace was to expire by 12 midnight on Tuesday.

Grouse

Speaking on the motive of the protest, the leader of the group under the aegis of “Concerned Citizens of Kogi State,” Suleiman Muhammad, told newsmen that the members concern was the fact that Audu was answering to corruption charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was enough to disqualify him from the contest.

He said the party should have asked of Audu to go clear first of the various corruption allegations against him and his family members, before presenting himself for election.

He said: “We are here to protest against the candidature of Prince Abubakar Audu, under the platform of APC for the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State. We say no to Abubakar Audu because he has N11 billion corruption case with the EFCC, until he clear himself of the case he has no moral right to present himself for an election.

“The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has declared war against corruption. We the concern citizens of Kogi State are in support of his anti corruption move.

“We want to toe the line of the APC Change mantra and we would not support Audu because of his alleged corruption.”

Baggage of Scandals

The former governor, as APC candidate in Kogi, will be facing the incumbent governor and candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Captain Idris Wada, carrying a heavy baggage of scandals.

Audu is currently standing trial for alleged misappropriation of about N11 billion of Kogi State funds during his tenure between 1999 and 2003. He would also have a lot of explaining to do if confronted with the scandal of the N18 million land scam involving his son, Mustapha, and his wife, Zahra, and also the divorce saga between him and his former First Lady as governor, Aisha.

EFCC had in March 2013 arraigned Audu, alongside a former Director General of the Directorate of Rural Development in his administration, Alfa Ibn Mustapha, before an Abuja Court.

The men were arraigned on a 36-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds of about N11 billion before Justice A.O. Adeniyi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Audu and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the charge, prompting the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, to request a date for the commencement of trial.

One of the charges read: “That you Prince Abubakar Audu and Alfa Ibn Mustapha between 2000 and 2002 at Abuja in the Abuja judicial division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory while being the governor of Kogi State and Director General of Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development respectively and in such capacities entrusted with dominion over certain property, to wit, an aggregated sum of N2,877,487,690.88 meant for rural development in Kogi State committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said sum which you falsely claim to be payment made to Aresanmi Technical Industries Limited in respect of the contract allegedly awarded Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development to the said Aresanmi Technical Industries Limited and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code, CAP 532, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.”

Audu was admitted to bail in the sum of N100 million and a surety in like sum.

Earlier in February 2013, the anti-graft agency arraigned Audu’s son, Mustapha Audu; his wife, Zahrah, alongside their company, Constructor Guild Limited, before Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar of an Abuja High Court, Maitama, Abuja for obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of N18 million.

One of the charges against the accused persons read: “That you Mustapha Audu, Zahra M. Audu in your capacity as Directors of Constructors Guild Limited and Constructors Guild Limited on or about the January 7, 2010, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court obtained the sum of N3 million from one Nike Kolawole, under the pretence of helping her to get a four bedroom townhouse at Ruskin Terrace situated at Katampe Extension Abuja which you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3)of the same act.”

The accused persons, who pleaded not guilty to the three- count charge were alleged to have falsely obtained the money in their capacity as directors in the said company from Kolawole under the pretence that they would get her a four-bedroom house at Katampe Extension, Abuja; and another property at Caemly Estate, Idu Sabo, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Although Mustapha was later released on bail, he was initially denied by the court and committed to Kuje prison while his wife, Zahrah continued to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted her.

Audu and his wife, Aisha, who also served as his First Lady when he was governor also fought a bitter divorce suit at the Circuit Court in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States.

Protesters

Reacting to the protest, Audu said the protesters were sponsored goons with nothing tangible to do with their time.

He insisted that the case of corruption against him remained an allegation and can only be said to be guilty of the allegation when a court of competent jurisdiction says so.

He cited series of examples of federal legislators who had cases hanging on their necks at the courts before the election, but we’re not barred from contesting elections just because they had allegations leveled against them.

“Ninety  per cent of people in Senate have cases with the EFCC. For the fact that you have a case with the EFCC does not make you a criminal. I have contested four different election since 2007 and I was not disqualified, so what are they talking about? I contested in 2003, 2007 and 2011, what are they talking?

“The case with the EFCC was in 2003 and since then I have been contesting election. It is those that do not have electoral value that are making noise and using cheap means to discredit me, it is a very unfortunate situation.

“EFFC has so far gone to four different courts in Lokoja and when I want to get judgement they will quickly go to another court and restart the case. They are shopping for where they will nail me.

“This country’s constitution states that one is innocent until a court proves him guilty. They are mischief makers,” he said.