Muhammed Audu’s arraignment and APC travails in Kogi
Party in factions, family divided
Kogi as a state has hardly had a dull moment in recent times and has often been the attraction for the media mainly for what some have termed negative news.
Currently, disagreement in the family of Prince Abubakar Audu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate who died during the election, has snowballed into another crisis for the state and the ruling APC.
The news of the recent arrest and subsequent arraignment of Muhammed Audu, son of late Audu jolted the people of the state, as they could not believe such humiliation could be meted out to him at this point.
The unfortunate demise of Prince Audu and the manner of his replacement by the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello had since factionalised the ruling party.
Of the two major factions the James Faleke/Audu group are bent on reclaiming the mandate allegedly given to the late Audu, hence the litigation; while the Governor Bello’s faction, which has been steering the ship of state, had resisted them.
The Faleke group became the major opposition within the APC in the State even when the rival PDP lost its voice since its defeat last year.
The current crisis was allegedly stoked at the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the creation of the State when the governor decided to honor the late politician with a posthumous award. The first son of late Audu turned down the invitation to receive the award but the younger brother Yahaya and a former wife, Aisha Audu were readily available to fill the vacuum as they claimed to have received the award on behalf of the family.
Going by the publicity given to the ceremony it was implied that Audu’s family had endorsed the Bello’s government. However, in a swift reaction the first son alleged that Bello gave the award because of the pending case at the Supreme Court against his election.
He described the award as ‘self-serving and diversionary’, adding that the governor should rather focus on addressing the challenges of non-payment of salaries to workers in the state.
Muhammed advised Bello to stop seeking cheap popularity, through misleading the people that he had the endorsement of the family of the late Audu. He asked the Governor to allow the Supreme Court to decide the case challenging his election as the governor of the state.
Nonetheless, the governor explained that the posthumous leadership award bestowed on late Audu had nothing to do with the case at the Supreme Court. According to the Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Edward Onoja, Bello gave the highest leadership award to late Audu based on a unanimous decision that no past Kogi governor had impacted the state in the area of development in the last 25 years as Audu did.
“It would be surprising for Mohammed Audu to go to press to say the award was diversionary and self serving. How does that serve the governor? Rather, it serves the political family of the late Audu. It serves the memory of the late Audu, it serves the good people of Kogi East and Kogi people in general,” he said.
He said besides the award, Bello had earlier named the Kogi State University, the highest tertiary institution in the state, after the late Audu, to honour and immortalize his memory.
Just as the altercations continued, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad at the ‘A’ Division Police Headquarters in Lokoja invited Muhammed for questioning. He was detained till the next day when he was arraigned at the Chief Magistrate Court II in Lokoja.
Audu was charged with criminal conspiracy, causing grievous hurt, mischief, armed robbery and attempted culpable homicide, contrary to sections 97(1), 248, 327, 298 and 229 of the Penal Code Law.
The prosecuting police officer, Gabriel Otowu, told the court that the late politician’s son allegedly committed the offence against his uncle, Prince Yahaya Audu, on August 30 in their family house at Ogbonicha in Ofu Local Council.
Okechukwu Ayewu, leading seven other lawyers for the accused, urged the court to grant his client bail in line with provisions of 36(5) of the constitution and sections 341(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
In his ruling, the Chief Magistrate, Alhassan Husaini, granted the relief sought by the accused counsel.
The issue has deepened the internal crisis that has been rocking the APC in the State.
Though the Government has denied having any hand in the arrest, detention and arraignment of Audu, most of his supporters believe every step around the issue was politically motivated.
A socio-cultural group, Uja Ache-Igala, described the arrest of Mohammed and 14 other family members as an “unfortunate development to intimidate the family into abandoning their political struggle.”
A statement signed by the group’s Head of Media and Publicity, Atek’ojo Samson Usman, noted that the arrest of Mohammed and 14 others was politically motivated.
The Faleke/Audu Political Organization, in its reaction, described the arrest and detention of Mohamned Audu, as a “provocative act of executive lawlessness aimed at justifying a predetermined goal of creating an atmosphere of insecurity in the state with the Supreme Court judgment imminent.
The spokesperson of the group, Duro Meseko, said it was the height of provocation for the Bello administration to “instigate the arrest of Audu’s son by turning a pure family issue into a big political matter.” He said it was inexplicable that Mohammed who was attending a session of Sharia Court with other Audu siblings on a family matter would also be present in his hometown of Ogbonicha on the same day the alleged incident happened.
In the same vein, the Audu Oyidi Royal Family of Ogbonicha has risen in support of Mohammed, describing the development as “political persecution of the highest order”.
In a statement signed on behalf of the family by the Oregoh Attah of Igalaland, the paramount ruler of Ogbonicha, the family lamented the arrest and arraignment of their son on ‘trumped up charges’ and affirmed their implicit confidence in his unimpeachable integrity. “We are surprised with the news of the arrest and arraignment of the son of our late patriarch; Mohammed is a responsible man from a respectable background who would do no such thing as to bring disrepute to the name of our family.”
In a related development, major stakeholders of the APC from the three Senatorial Districts of the State rose from an emergency meeting in Lokoja and condemned the arrest and arraignment of Mohammed Audu.
According to Kehinde Afolabi, who spoke on behalf of the group, it was unfortunate that members of the late Prince Audu’s family were being “hounded and persecuted despite the political nightmare the family is going through. Why would people not allow the soul of the dead to rest well? Prince Abubakar Audu lived and did his best for Kogi State as governor. The least the authorities should do is not to persecute his family members, but to encourage them.”
But the State governor, through his Press Secretary, Kingsley Fanwo dissociated the governor from the ordeal of Audu’s first son. He said Bello had no power to stop the security operatives from performing their duties of protecting the lives and properties of the people of the state.
“The arrest of Mohammed Audu was an affair of the late politician’s family. Yahaya Audu, younger brother to the late Prince Abubakar Audu was allegedly attacked and he mentioned the people behind the attack. It has nothing to do with the governor.
“In Kogi State nobody is above the law. Even the governor is not above the law. The law is no respecter of anybody; therefore, anyone caught breaking the law must be made to dance to the music.”
A member of the board of Trustees (BOT) of APC Clarence Olafemi had earlier raised alarm over the existence of three different factions within the party in the state.
Olafemi who was a former acting Governor in the State advised that urgent measures should be taken to unite all factions to avert the grave danger of losing future elections.
“It is sad that today, we are in factions. We have the Faleke’s faction, we have the Senator Dino’s faction and we have the governor’s faction. This is the truth and nobody can dispute it.”
He appealed to all the factions and leaders of the factions especially the Governor to put the party above their personal interests.
Olafemi admonished Bello cannot go to war with people who helped to build the party.
“He should reach out to them. He should engage some of us who took liberal positions on issues, so that we could help to reconcile the various factions.”