The intrigues and plots in Kogi House

After he failed in his bid to stop the inauguration of Governor Idris Wada last January, it became obvious to many that the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Abdullahi Bello was a marked man. His end came sooner than expected on Tuesday when his members pushed him out of office.

THE long suspense over alleged plots to sack Hon. Abdullahi Bello as speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly came to a climax on Tuesday with 17 members of the House endorsing the sack of the former presiding officer.

As the plot orchestrated by a group of lawmakers styled the “Progressive Integrity Group” came to a finale this week, Speaker Bello was said to have been planning his own masterstroke – an indefinite suspension of House sittings.

Sacked speaker, Bello (r) ponders his future as Wada smiles

However, before he could put his act together, his adversaries struck on Tuesday before his own scheduled resumption today.

Bello’s troubles had been predicted since January 28, 2012, the date of the inauguration of Governor Idris Wada.

Following the Supreme Court judgment voiding the extended tenure of the immediate past governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) had issued a statement directing the Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly affected by the judgment to take over as acting governors.

Kogi was, however, generally seen as an exception given that as at that time Kogi already had a governor-elect in the person of Wada who was elected in the gubernatorial election held in the previous month.

While Bello, Wada and the Idris were waiting for the inauguration of Wada in the Government House, Lokoja that morning Adoke issued his statement which immediately changed Bello’s disposition as he now angled to be inaugurated as the acting governor. Just like Bello, the state chief judge, also recoiled and withdrew himself from the Government House once Adoke issued the statement.

An irate Idris was now compelled to get the President of the Customary Court to swear in Wada who Idris had supported to the hilt to succeed him.

The chief judge after withdrawing swore in Bello as acting governor according to Adoke’s order leading to a situation where the state had two governors at the same time.

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Bello’s action immediately brought an ethnic tinge to the unfolding drama. Bello, the chief judge and Adoke who is from the state are all Ebira in the Kogi Central senatorial district, a section of the state that had for long desired but been unable to upturn the dominance of the Igalas in the production of governors of the state.

The legal vacuum arising from the Supreme Court judgment was considered as an opportunity for the Ebiras to for once have a governor. For two or so days the speaker held forth giving orders as acting governor and often countermanding orders also being given by Wada. That was until the presidency stepped in and prevailed on Speaker Bello to surrender to Wada.

Besides, Bello’s action was also seen as another strategy adopted by Wada’s opponents to stop his dream of becoming governor. It was no secret that while the former governor had adopted Wada as his successor that Bello on his part was a strong supporter of Alhaji Jibrin Isah, popularly known as Echocho. Isah won the first primaries and was on his way to becoming governor before the extension of Idris’ tenure by the Court of Appeal paved way for the later to change his disposition towards Isah leading to the adoption of Wada.

Following the incidents at the inauguration, the chief judge and the speaker separately visited the new governor during which they pledged the collaboration of the judicial and legislative arms of government with the new executive governor.

For a time it seemed as if the fracas had been forgotten but in politics where enmity is easily cloaked in the garbs of officialdom, many knew that Bello was a marked man.

The speaker did not even help matters with his sometimes belligerent actions towards the new executive governor.

Even worse, there were also perceptions that the speaker was not carrying along all the members of the House leading to the formation of dissent in the House. It was this perhaps that helped the Progressive Integrity Group to consolidate in the House. The more Wada settled in office, the more it became clear that he could not work with Bello as speaker and by August the tension was already brewing with allegations of the governor mobilizing forces against the speaker.

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Liaison officers

When in June the governor appointed liaison officers to the twenty one local government areas of the state, the speaker kicked against it; saying the House did not recognize the appointments.

The last strike that broke the camel’s back was Bello’s decision to fight the political strength of the former council chairman of Okene local government, Yahaya Karaku who is a strong ally to the former governor, Idris

Bello’s opposition to the choice of Karaku as liaison officer was a reminder to Wada of Bello’s strong opposition to his (governor’s) emergence when Bello supported Isah during the PDP party primaries.

Bello had caused the House to go on a long adjournment in August perhaps hoping to use the opportunity to buy time.

The break trained the parties for a pitched battle that saw the deployment of assorted carrots and sticks. While Bello’s opponents alleged that a N15 million bribe was offered to those who supported theimpeachment, it also emerged that the former speaker’s opponents also sought to break his defence by poaching from his camp.

The former majority leader, Hon Yakubu Yunusa considered  as a rallying point for the Speaker’s group was allegedly offered the position of deputy speaker if only he would abandon Bello. Yunusa demurred and so was swept away with Bello.

Another strategy also used against Bello’s camp was to threaten members of the House who were formerly local government chairmen with threats of investigation by anti-graft agencies. It was not as if there was no support for Bello. Just last Saturday the minority leader, Hon Afolabi Oluyori at a press conference boasted that those using money to induce signatures against Bello would fail. “Who are those in this integrity group? We are the ones who have integrity. They are being sponsored by the governor and other external forces. They will fail by the grace of God” he said.

The House Committee Chairman on Information, Hon. Seidu Salihu Akawu, also noting the ethical motiff of those supporting the speaker, said: “We are not out for any monetary gains. How much are they going to give us? Money is useless in this struggle. All we are after is the development of the state and the independence of the Assembly without any external interference” he noted.

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The special adviser to the
governor on media and strategy Mr. Jacob Edi, however, denied the governor role in the matter, describing his boss as a firm believer in the principle of separation of powers. “The removal of the Speaker was done by the state legislators. It was their decision and their move, the signature of the governor was not on the list, I wondered why he is being accused of such now when it was obvious it was the house that was divided against itself” Edi submitted.

But not many believe. The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) speaking through its state chairman in Kogi Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, said the House described the move as diversionary and an act of vengeance.

Having guts to wrestle power

“With this move, we believe the governor is out for vengeance against the speaker for having the guts to wrestle power with him after the Supreme Court order.  The leader of the ‘Integrity Group” Chief Paul Gowon, however, denied the involvement of external influence as he said the group was not used by the executive to remove the Speaker as being alleged. Rather, he said they were out to check what he called the excesses, high handedness and the speaker’s alleged bias towards some members, saying that they had every right to do what they did as elected representatives of their people without being pushed by anyone.

While Bello has rejected his removal as illegal and a nullity, Governor Wada was not mindful in congratulating the new speaker, Hon. Lawal Jimoh also from Okene where Bello is from.

Others elected were Hon. Christopher Atule, Deputy Speaker; Aliyu Akuh, Majority Leader; Sunday Shigaba, Minority Leader while Suleiman Babadoko is the new chief whip.

Governor Wada has assured them of his blessing. It was something that Bello never sought or got.

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