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Disqualify Audu and Declare Me APC Candidate, Yahaya Bello Petition Appeal Committee

Yahaya Bello - APC Gov Nomination Form

Consequently, Alhaji Bello is demanding that he be declared the authentic APC candidate for the November 21 Kogi State governorship election.

Abubakar Audu was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on March 28, 2013 before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on alleged embezzlement of public funds, his is trial ongoing.

Yahaya Bello, who came a strong runner-up in the contested election contends that Audu's criminal trial disqualifies him in view of the Federal Government policy of ridding society of corrupt practices, citing APC constitution as well as the existing laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibiting Audu from seeking public office while on trial for corruption and abuse of public trust.

Material facts were alleged to have been suppressed while several anomalies characterized the whole process. According to Bello, such handling rendered Audu's election a travesty of justice.

In a petition filed by his lawyers, Griffin Partners, and addressed to the Kogi State Governorship Congress Appeal Committee of the party and signed by Oluwafemi O Olugboyega, Bello referred to the case of Honourable Aro Samuel Bamidele who had been so disqualified from seeking the party's ticket for the senate on the grounds that allegations of corruption subsisted against him.

Bello's lawyers argued: "It is common knowledge that Prince Abubakar Audu and a co-accused were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday, March 18th 2013 before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on a 36-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N10,965,837,040.00 (Ten Billion, Nine Hundred and Sixty-five Million, Eight Hundred and Thirty-seven Thousand, Forty Naira)."

Continuing, the lawyers maintained "that the trial of Audu and his co-accused is ongoing before the said Court as of the date of the screening by the Screening Committee of the APC and till date."

Bello believes that "the mantra of change" on whose crest APC rode to power as well as "its manifesto which are primarily based on the principle of transparency, accountability, probity and the assurance of an active war on corruption" require that "the APC…be manifestly seen to be working towards the achievement or realization of these ideals hence the party must not be seen to lend its reputable name and machinery to supporting people of questionable character or people who have been indicted by the EFCC or that have pending criminal cases in Court."

Furthermore, Bello insists that "in practice and as a principle the party usually disqualifies persons who have been indicted by the EFCC or have criminal cases against them in Court from participating in party primaries. This is due to the risk such candidates present to the party if they are eventually found guilty and the negative perception of the party which fields such a candidate."

Illustrating this principle, Bello referred to the recent case of an aspirant, Honourable Aro Samuel Bamidele who was disqualified based on his self-confessed indictment by the EFCC and the criminal case pending in court against him.

Bello is therefore demanding to know "why Prince Abubakar Audu was not disqualified based on the same rationale", warning that "it would be suicidal and antithetical for the APC to field a candidate who has been indicted for corruption and who has a appending criminal case in that regard in Court maintained by the APC-led Federal Government through one of its agencies."

Citing other considerations germane to Audu's candidature as well as weighing his legal capacity to stand election in the current dispensation when the war on corruption has assumed global attention and the fact also that Audu was a member of the Board of Trustees of the APC which he calls "the highest decision making body of the party", a position he maintains Audu still holds, Bello said this state of affairs "imputes monumental favouritism and bias on the part of the Kogi State APC Screening Committee and indeed impugns the entire process of Audu's emergence as the flag bearer of the party in the upcoming gubernatorial election in Kogi State."

According to him, "in a contest such as this there must be equality of arms; all parties ought to be afforded equal opportunities and provided a level playing ground to ensure the fairness and justice of the process", arguing that a situation where an Aspirant by virtue of his position is privy to official information and insider information with regard to a process or contest which he is to participate in impugns the integrity of the entire process and has occasioned a miscarriage of justice."

On the foregoing grounds, Bello called for the immediate disqualification of Audu a for a substitution of Audu's name with his own name as the authentic flag bearer of the APC in the November election, Audu having been disqualified on both legal and moral grounds, according to him.

The fiercely contested election that witnessed intrigues and outright betrayals has elicited widespread disillusionment among a broad spectrum of Kogi citizens who feel shortchanged in their consuming thirst for the change that occurred at the federal level heralding probity, accountability, fairness, and transparency in the newfound way of progressive governance.

It would be recalled that, Alhaji Bello, reacting to the election within hours after its conclusion had observed that "the contest has shifted to the intellectual sphere."

But whether President Muhammadu Buhari will choose to insist on maintaining party principle and practice or simply elect to stand aloof in this quagmire is anybody's guess. In the meantime, Kogi citizens are cuddled together with bated breath, hoping for the best.

– Salihu Eneojo

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