Between Bello and Achuba, Who Will Eat the Humble Pie?

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Prior to his swearing-in as the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Elder
Simon Achuba, was actively involved in the 2015 gubernatorial victory of
late Prince Abubakar Audu and Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, as he was
among the major forces that delivered victory for the All Progressives
Congress (APC). Achuba did not only deliver his local government,

Ibaji, to his party, he was also a team player that saw to the
emergence of the APC. However, he became an enemy to some after he
accepted to deputise Governor Yahaya Bello after the demise of Audu,
when Faleke declined to be the deputy governor. Faleke’s decision was
then criticised by some party faithful who believed that the
Lagos-trained politician should have accepted the position in the
interest of Audu/Faleke political family. As some analysts have argued,
the ongoing impasse between the governor and his deputy should by now
rub on Faleke should he have accepted to serve under Bello as deputy.
His long time political experience and integrity would have been smeared
beyong redemption. Achuba, since assuming the position of the deputy
governor under Bello, has begun to deem out his political patronage and
goodwill.

Many see his acceptance to serve as deputy as an act of betrayal
against the Audu/Faleke group, which he is suppose to stand with. His
current political fight against his principal did not come to many,
particularly the Audu/Faleke political family as a surprise, as they
believed that he deserves the humiliation he is currently facing.

Arguably, Achuba is the most experienced politician among the New
Direction crop of politicians in Bello’s government, given that he had
been holding political positions since 1999. Before Now Until he became
the deputy governor, Achuba was an active and vocal member of the state
House of Assembly representing Ibaji Constituency under the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP). He later left and joined the defunct Action
Congress of Nigeria (ACN), where he served as Director General to the
late Audu’s campaign organisation. When Audu lost the gubernatorial
election to governor Idris Wada in 2011, Achuba went back to his former
party, PDP, where he was appointed chairman of an agency under Wada’s
government.

As if he had the premonition that Wada’s government would come to an
abrupt end, Achuba again joined the APC to support the election of Audu
in 2015. Unfortunately, Audu could not benefit from his victory as he
gave up the ghost just after the election, on the eve of his victory.
Immediately Bello was sworn in, Achuba was appointed deputy governor not
minding the impending ridicule his appointment may come with. The
genesis The beginning of Achuba’s travails was when he decided to prove
his political know-how in the New Direction circle. As some of his
supporters argued, Achuba should have known that the only way to be a
team player in the Bello government was to play along with them, even
when things were getting awry between the government and the people.
Though the embattled deputy governor did not agree with that assertion,
he believes that his albatross is his stance on the plight of workers.
He once told journalists that his issue with the governor started when
he advised that workers in the state were key to any progressive
government and that they should be given their entitlement as and when
due.

“When I brought the issue of workers welfare to the governor, he
treated it with less importance and I told him that if doesn’t need them
(civil servants), he should scrap them (the civil service) and let us
do their work.” “Nobody in this government can say this is the nominal
roll of the state civil servants, and for the government claiming to
have cleared all workers salary with the N30.8 billion last tranch of
the bailout, it is not true. “The only sector the Kogi State Government
is no longer owing salaries, is the political office holders’ sector”,
the deputy governor said.

He also carpeted the government for seeing payment of salary to its
workers as an achievement, stressing that any government celebrating
payment of salary to its workers, is not a serious government. “It is
the duty of any individual who has the responsibility to discharge, to
be mindful of human welfare. Every labourer deserves his wage to say the
least, and boasting of salary payment by any governor or any
organisation is to say that, that government is no longer functioning
well. “If people have worked for 30 days, you should pay them their
salary and get on to do whatever other responsibility you have to do.”

Save my soul Saturday Telegraph further gathered that the stance of
the deputy governor over the plight of the state workers brought a deep
crack within the New Direction government, as his security details and
entitlement were withdrawn. In an SOS message, Achuba who said water and
electricity to his official residence were cut-off, cried out to
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to save
his life and those of his family members. He further pointed out that,
should anything happen to him and members of his family, Bello and his
government should be held responsible, stressing that the insecurity in
kogi was no longer about armed robbery, kidnappings and ritual killings
but about the fear of gunmen allegedly loyal to the governor, who
attacked perceived enemies of the governor. “People of the state are no
longer safe, as expression of contrary opinion would invoke the gunmen
anger.

In a democracy, the people are free to exercise their fundamental
human rights without harassment and intimidation”, Achuba had said while
advising his boss to toe the path of honour by delivering good
governance to the state and not embark on wide goose chase. Achuba also
urged the IGP, DSS and other security agencies to beam their
searchlights on the state and put an end to the political violence and
intimidation going on there. ‘You’re crying wolf’ But the governor
through his Chief Press Secretary, Mohammed Onogwu, denied  the
allegation of threat to life levelled against the governor by Achuba.

In a statement, which described Achuba’s allegations as bogus, the
government said it was blackmail to wrongly accuse the governor. “The
Kogi State Government is appalled that a deputy governor, who should
epitomise leadership and good example in all senses, could descend so
low to employ smear campaign against the person of Governor Yahaya Bello
and we state without equivocation that Achuba has no shred of evidence
for his reckless surmising, which is nothing but a scripted venture in
ruinous adventure.

We do not train assassins, as such, the state government or her
personnel cannot be involved in sending assassins to murder any human
soul, let alone the deputy governor of our dear state. “Despite these
unsubstantiated ramblings however, we deemed it fit to clear the air by
letting the general public know that the Kogi State Government will not
be dragged into any form of political gerrymandering concocted for the
furtherance of any person’s political interest or notoriety.” The
governor asked Achuba to bring evidence of his claims or desist from
making further spurious allegations.

“We warn Mr Simon Achuba who is known to history as a man whose
affinity for violence is unparalleled not to judge us by his own
standards. The report of the Kogi State Government Commission of Enquiry
on the Iyaño Ethnic crises in 2017 is still fresh in our memories. “The
government led by Bello, therefore, rejects the futile attempt at
seeking to link it to any assassination attempt on the deputy governor
and we advice that people desist from seeking political capital from
scenarios they imagine would advance their parochial cause, no matter
how banal such causes may seem.

“Nigerians and Kogites in particular are aware that it is not in the
character of the administration to persecute perceived opponents let
alone the second-in-command of New Direction team. We have remained a
model for peaceful engagement and political dialogue. Any inclination at
portraying us otherwise will not be acceptable,” the statement added.
Legal battle On his unpaid renumeration, Achuba employed the service of a
popular human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), to impress on the
governor to pay him his entitlement. Achuba through Falana gave the
governor a seven-day ultimatum to pay the outstanding allocations due to
his office.

The total amount owed the deputy according to Falana’s ultimatum
notice is in the sum of N819, 709, 980, for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 memo
approval. Falana had in a letter dated July 17, 2019, said the
accumulated statutory allocations the state government had withheld,
which included travel allowances, hotel bills, pledges and outstanding
monthly impress and salaries due to his client as the deputy governor of
the state amounted to N819, 709, 980, 00. “If our client’s request is
not granted within seven days of the receipt of this letter, we have our
client’s instructions to seek redress in the National Industrial Court.

It is     hoped that Your Excellency will not allow our client to
resort to litigation in respect of this matter as that may embarrass the
government. “Our client has informed us that your administration has
consistently refused to give approval for the release of funds for the
smooth running of the office of the deputy governor even after memos to
that effect have been approved by your office. In particular, the
statutory allocations approved for the office of the deputy governor had
been withheld by the state government since 2017.” “These said
statutory Allocations are duly captured in the Kogi State Appropriation
Laws of statutory allocations of 2017, 2018 and 2019 supported by
various memos sent to your office since 2017, which were duly approved
without cash backing till date.” “Notwithstanding the fact that the
statutory allocations have been illegally withheld, our client has
continued to carry out his functions as the deputy governor of Kogi
State. Inasmuch as our client is prepared to continue to discharge the
enormous responsibilities of his office, he is currently hampered by
lack of funds, which has wide ranging implications for the state even as
it prepares for the forthcoming gubernatorial election.

“In view of the foregoing, we have our client’s instructions to
request Your Excellency to use your good offices to ensure the immediate
payment of the withheld statutory allocations legitimately appropriated
for the office of the deputy governor of Kogi State since 2017,” the
letter read in part. Suspension The deputy governor’s war against his
boss had hitherto generated serious reaction and condemnation from the
governor’s beneficiaries who would rather see Achuba booted out of
office. The state chapter of the APC, which ordinarily should mediate
between its members, suspended Achuba for alleged anti-party activities
before, during and after the 2019 general elections. Achuba was also
accused by the party to have engaged in actions that constitute
embarrassment to   the APC family in Kogi state. The state chairman of
the party, Hon. Abdullahi Bello, who addressed journalists said the
party had received several petitions from stakeholders in Iyano ward of
Ibaji Local Government Area where the deputy governor hailed from,
alleging that Achuba had discretely and openly worked for the candidates
of the opposition parties during the presidential, national and state
assembly elections.

He added that the activities of Achuba during the last elections was
against the candidates of the APC which he is currently enjoying as
deputy governor of the state The chairman noted that the report of the
disciplinary committees constituted by the Iyano ward and Ibaji Local
Government chapter of the APC, to probe the crises in the area allegedly
indicted the deputy governor and also recommended his suspension to be
followed by expulsion if he did not show any remorse. Bello who stated
that the State Working Committee (SWC) of APC, having deliberated on the
recommendations of the disciplinary committee of the party in Iyano
ward and Ibaji Local Government branches of the party, said the state
chapter of the APC had resolved and upheld Achuba’s suspension till he
responded to the letter that the party would serve him.

“As we are all aware, the APC does not condone acts of indiscipline,
indiscretion and anti-party activities from any party member, no matter
how highly placed. His series of reckless, damaging and unsubstantiated
allegations against government of the state was an action that
constitute a serious violation of Article 21A(ii), (v) and (vii) of the
APC Constitution, amounting to acts of disloyalty and embarrassment to
the party” he stressed, adding that the decision of the SWC would be
communicated to the NWC.

Impeachment notice

As it stands, the embattled deputy governor’s position is currently
hanging in the balance, following the move allegedly sponsored by the
governor to remove him. Also the kogi State House of Assembly, which had
commenced the impeachment process on the deputy governor for his
alleged actions and utterances in public domain, accused Achuba of gross
misconduct. The impeachment process was in reaction to a petition
signed by 21 members of the House which was presented at the floor of
the House by the House Majority Leader, Hon. Abdullahi Bello
representing Ajaokuta constituency.

The petition read in part: “We, the members of the Kogi State House
of Assembly have in the past few weeks and days watched keenly the
actions and utterances of the deputy governor, both in public and on
national television with regards to the government of Kogi State, the
governor, and other key officials of the state government especially the
allegations of crimes, financial misappropriation and non performance
levelled against them.

“It is our belief that these actions and utterances of the deputy
governor amount to gross misconduct in the performance of the functions
of his office” The petition also alleged that a committee set up to look
into the Iyano crises in Ibaji Local Government, made some finding that
indicted Achuba over his actions in relation to the escalation of the
crisis. “It is our view that the deputy governor is guilty of gross
misconduct and he ought to defend himself and or substantiate all these
allegations” The state Chief Judge, Nasir Ajanah, had constituted a
seven-man panel to investigate all the allegations against the deputy
governor, as directed by the state House of Assembly.

The seven-man panel has Mr. John Baiyeshea (SAN) as chairman while
other members are; Hajiya Bilikisu Abdulmalik Basher, Mr. William A.
Aliwo Esq., Canon Z. A. Asun, Alhaji Isa Adeboye, Mr. Muhammed A. Aikoye
and Mr. Ada Shaibu. Mr. Bamidele Aina Esq., the DCR Special Duties at
the High Court will serve as the panel’s Secretary. While inaugurating
the panel, Justice Ajana said the appointment was in pursuant to section
188(5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as
(amended). He said that the members were appointed with the knowledge
that they were people of unquestionable character and integrity, urging
them to carry out their duty without fear or favour.

“You have been asked to investigate the allegations against His
Excellency, the deputy governor of Kogi State in line with Section 188
of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The basic rule of fair hearing must be sacrosanct in your
proceedings. I have no doubt that you will discharge this duty, which
you owe God and Kogi State meritoriously”, Ajanah added. As argued by
some Kogi residents, who support Bello, the storm gathering against
Achuba should not have come up if he had been a team player and refused
to be an advocate of the people, especially civil servants.

The heap of allegations on the deputy governor can only be justified or otherwise by the seven-man panel, who are seen as men of integrity. The questions begging for answers include; whether the state government is owing workers salaries. Has the deputy governor been paid his wages and entitlements and is Achuba’s life under threat? Only time and the panel can tell.

Credit: New Telegraph
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