By Stanley Sunday
Hundreds of protesters on Monday stormed the headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to demand that the party does not allow Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state contest the November election on its platform.
The protesters who were mostly card-carrying members of the party who came all the way from Lokoja and other parts of the state, said another term for the governor would put a nail on the coffin of workers who have suffered untold hardship in the last four years.
They said allowing Bello to pick the ticket of the party is the easiest way to lose the state to the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The agitators displayed posters bearing various inscriptions like ‘Second term ticket is death sentence for workers in Kogi’, ‘We demand freedom from the diabolic and wicked GYB’, ‘Presidency, save Kogi from Bello’, ‘Bello, stop giving guns to our youths’, ‘GYB, where is our money’, ‘Give us direct primaries’ and ‘Buhari, please stop Bello’, among others.
The protest however came to an abrupt end when thugs suspected to be loyal to Governor Bello, stormed the secretariat with police patrol vans and other unmarked cars, and threatened to attack any protester in sight.
“Nobody can stop Governor Bello’s re-election. All those opportunists that voted for Atiku Abubakar during the presidential election are now coming back to decide who will be the governor of Kogi. Why are they protesting in Abuja instead of coming to the state? These stupid protesters are lucky we did not meet them here,” they said, disrupting the protesters, human and vehicular traffic at the entrance gate of the secretariat.
Speaking earlier to newsmen in an emotion-laden tone, the coordinator of the anti-Bello protesters on the platform of Concerned APC members, Jubril Yusuf, said: “We are here to place before the Nigerian public the plight of the people of Kogi State since 2016 when Yahaya Bello became the governor of the state. We have also come here to call on all men and women of conscience to put pressure on the leadership of our great party, the APC, to provide a level-playing ground for all aspirants on the platform for the governorship ticket of the party.
“This level-playing ground will be provided if the party organises direct primary for the governorship ticket. Since February 2015, payment of salaries and pensions has become optional and not a priority. As a result, workers and pensioners are being owed many months of paid salaries and pensions.
“It is only when workers are paid that other citizens in the state will be able to sell their goods and services.
Consequently, the economy of the state has been grounded. Many businesses have folded up and potential investors have been avoiding the state like a plague. Virtually all the indices about the state are negative. Among the workers of the state, cooperatives and thrift society contribution used to be a survival strategy.
“From their contributions, they borrow money to pay the school fees of their children, pay medical bills when necessary, repair their vehicles, pay their rents, etc. This survival strategy has been destroyed because when salaries are not paid, no deductions go to the cooperatives and therefore no loans, soft or emergency is possible anymore.
“Many parents withdraw their children from schools. Private schools in the state have had particularly tough times under these unwholesome circumstances; outright begging has become the lot of otherwise decent, hardworking and proud people of the state.
“In these circumstances, countless numbers of people have died untimely, and many others have out of the nightmare they have been going through, become disoriented emotionally, some others have become vegetables just waiting for anything, any consequence,” he said.