|Borno Gov, Kachallah, Quits
From Tony Icheku in Maiduguri and Kingsley Emereuwa in Umuahia
Borno State governor, Alhaji Mala Kachallah, has renounced his membership of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) owing to irreconcilable differences with the party's Senate leader, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who yesterday publicly declared his intention to vie for the governorship elections.
Kachallah came under pressure during the week to decamp to another party as it is feared that the entrance of Sheriff into the governorship race will deny him the ticket of the ANPP as the senator controls the party machinery in the state.
Also, Abia State deputy governor, Chief Enyinaya Abaribe finally dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he was elected as he yesterday decamped to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). But the rally to herald his declaration for the ANPP was truncated by the police command which cancelled an earlier permit to the party.
Addressing supporters who trooped to Government House on Sunday night, Kachallah recounted his ordeal during the protracted crisis between him and Sheriff, his former political god-father.
He proffered that the decision of the party leadership to conduct party primaries in the state against the automatic ticket being offered to other ANPP incumbent governors is the worst humiliation he has ever suffered in his political career.
Sheriff and Kachallah fell apart shortly after the governor was sworn-in in 1999. The governor's renunciation of his party membership is a tacit acceptance that a conflict exists between him and the Senator, a fact he has down-played since.
It is being speculated that Kachallah is headed for the newly registered National Democratic Party (NDP) as the state secretariat of his faction of the ANPP has since yesterday been painted in NDP's colours. Sources close to the Government House said the governor will declare formally for the party during the week.
Meanwhile, Senator Sheriff who represents Borno central district said in his declaration speech for the governorship race that no stone would be left unturned to dislodge the incumbent governor whom he said has performed poorly to the embarrassment of the ANPP.
Addressing a large turnout of supporters at Ramat Square, Maiduguri, Sheriff said he was drafted onto the race by his people.
Present at the declaration were presidential aspirants, Chief Rochas Okorocha, Chief Pere Ajuwa, Alhaji Yusuf Ali and representatives of former head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
It will be recalled that in the face-off between Sheriff and Kachalla, the senator who controls majority of the state legislators made it difficult for the governor to get his commissioners approved and his bills passed.
Also, unlike in the Kwara State situation where the ANPP national secretariat supported Governor Mohammed Lawal against his godfather, Dr. Olusola Saraki the party national leadership threw its weight behind Sheriff.
With his decampment, Sheriff becomes the first governor to dump his party in the present dispensation. His action, however, has precedent in the Second Republic when Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Alhaji Abubakar Barde (now late) of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) resigned as governors of Kano and Gongola states and decamped into the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) under whose platform they sought re-election.
It is however not clear whether Kachalla would follow the footpath of Rimi and late Barde by resigning his position on principle after abandoning the platform on which he was elected as governor.
Among those who decamped from the PDP with Abaribe were Hon. Acho Obioma the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Niger Delta and another member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chimaobi Nwakanma as well as a former military administrator of Cross River State, Navy Captain Chris Osondu (rtd).
Speaking at the rally held at the sports field of the Ibeku High School, shortly before the police team came and informed the organisers of the withdrawal of an earlier permit, the deputy governor said the fight to liberate Abia State from misrule has begun with the decampment.
According to Abaribe, after watching the charade that has been going on in the state, "we decided to leave PDP to join the moving train (ANPP) and we are in this party to work and come 2003, victory will be ours."
Speaking later with journalists on the development, the state chairman of ANPP, Chief Emeka Chukwu condemned the attitude of the Nigeria Police and the Abia State government under the PDP which he alleged connived with the state command to frustrate the proposed rally.
According to Chukwu, the state police command which had earlier given the party the permission to hold the rally has no moral justification to later give a verbal order stopping the rally "simply because the PDP wanted to hold their primaries on the same day.
While he assured the decampees that the party in the state would provide a level playing ground for all contestants, Chukwu said ANPP would not zone its gubernatorial seat to any area in the state, insisting that such practice increase the chances of mediocres coming into power.
He also condemned the recent communique issued by the state Council of Traditional Rulers stating that the council has zoned the governorship seat to Abia North and queried how royal fathers whom he described as not qualified to be village heads should be endorsing candidates for political offices.
THISDAY checks reveal that the state police command through the office of the area commander had in a letter dated 21/12/2002 with reference number AB 8250/ABS/ACU/Vol-.1/35 and signed by the Area Commander ACP Sampson Ojo granted the ANPP the approval to hold the rally.
However, in another letter dated 23/12/2002 to the state party chairman and signed by the same area commander, the command said it was withdrawing permission already granted the party and advised it to shift the rally to any other date and inform the command of the new date.