APC’s Messy Primaries

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After emerging as the ruling party at the national level, the All Progressives Congress was expected to conduct orderly primaries for all elections. But what transpired during the party’s local council primaries in Lagos last week was a sham, writes Shola Oyeyipo‎.

The peaceful atmosphere in Lagos State was disturbed last week by the primaries held by the All Progressives Congress for election into local councils in the state. This created tension everywhere. Party members were pitched against each other following what some people considered as unacceptable outcomes of the primaries held to elect councilors and local government chairmanship candidates for the July 22 elections.

‎The acrimonious agitations took place in quick successions in practically all parts of the state. The crises have left the party in a state of near-disarray as aggrieved party members called for the reversal of the lists of candidates that emerged from the Saturday, May 27 and Monday, May 29 chairmanship and local government primary elections on the grounds that they were products of a charade as well as imposition by some powerful forces within the party.

What eventually culminated into a statewide crisis started at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere venue of the upper Saturday primary election where party loyalists had gathered to nominate candidates for the 20 local government areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). Violence broke out as delegates and aspirants angrily disagreed over moves to impose some persons as candidates.

Followers of APC activities in Lagos would remember that there had been grumblings among some aspirants who were told to step down for the party anointed candidates after the APC National Leader and godfather in the state, Senator Bola Tinubu, told party stakeholders, about three weeks ago that ex-chairmen in 18 councils would be given automatic tickets to run for the election. All councilors who served one term in the last dispensation are to return as well.

Listed among councils where ex-chairmen are to return are; Ifako-Ijaiye, Oshodi-Isolo, Ikorodu West, Ojodu, Ikosi-Isheri, Surulere, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Coker-Aguda, Agbado-Oke Odo, Onigbongbo, Igando-Ikotun, Shomolu, Eti-Osa and others.

While some agreed with the proposal, even before the primary elections, some party leaders however, protested and kicked against it because they considered the decision an imposition of candidate on the party.

The chairman of the electoral committee for the chairmanship primary, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, had a hard time calling out the names of the consensus candidates endorsed by the party leaders as delegates and aspirants expressed their displeasure with violence. Lagos Mainland, Surulere and Ajeromi-Ifelodun that were not initially parts of the 18 LGAs where ex-chairmen were to return were eventually included. This was also met with protest.

The election venue quickly turned into a battle ground. Election materials were destroyed. Machetes, broken bottles, sachet water, plastic chairs, stones and any other object capable of inflicting injuries were freely used to dispatch everyone from Teslim Balogun venue of the election. A former Lagos lawmaker was nearly stripped naked. He was manhandled. It took the intervention of the police to whisk him out of the venue. It didn’t end at that, efforts of the executive to immediately manage the fracas and prevent it from degenerating into scandal turned futile when aggrieved party members stormed the ACME Road, Agidingbi, Ikeja party secretariat to register their anger and demanded cancellation of all the names that emerged from the consensus arrangement.

Armed with placards bearing inscriptions such as: “No primary at Oriade, “We want primary at Oriade, “We don’t want Ayeola in Ajeromi- Ifelodun,” “The charlatan leader of Ajeromi must go,” “APC leader, let the choice of people count in Oriade,” “We are not happy with Afikuyomi,” “We Don’t want imposition,” “Let my People go!” they stood by the secretariat gate for several hours while they chanted anti-APC leadership slogans.

Their grouse, as seen in all other LGAs and LCDA is that the APC primary elections were fraudulent. Their pleas to the party’s national leader, Tinubu, is that he should intervene and address the injustice perpetuated by some leaders during the primaries.

As at weekend, Ijaiye-Ojokoro was still tension soaked; no name had emerged as the party candidate in the local government and the supporters of the two main contending forces; Olakunle Bakare, who is believed to be enjoying the support of the wife of a prominent Lagos politician and his closest rival, Oladipo Odeyemi (Carry go) believed to be drawing support from Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, are eagerly waiting for a pronouncement. Meanwhile, the latter is already partying in celebration of victory celebrating a victory that was yet to be confirmed.

In Shogunle, Oshodi area of Lagos, the violence that trailed the primary took a more dangerous dimension. Two people lost their lives in attacks and counter attacks. One of them, the chairman of Motorcycle Riders’ Union, Rasak Bello aka Hamburger, was shot dead by some hoodlums who attacked him with guns and broken bottles. Apparently in retaliation, another person whose name was given as Agbetola was killed by a rival group.

For some of the party members, it is the reversal of the entire process or nothing. For instance, one of the protest leaders from Oriade, Comrade Omosona Olakunle, who spoke with journalists explained that the people were simply unhappy over the imposition of a former member of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Ramatalai Akinola Hassan as the local government chairmanship candidate. He said: “The same former lawmaker was imposed in 2011 and 2015 as against a member, Wale Raufu.”

A chairmanship aspirant from Amuwo Odofin LG, Hon. Ajoke Adegeye, rejected what she tagged as “inconclusive” local government primary election that ended in violence. According to her, “there was no primary, what we had was imposition and announcement of list, which negates the principles of democracy that APC preaches. Delegates left their homes as early as 6 a.m. and got to the venue early but the election was not conducted until around 5.30pm when they came to announce a name. We were taken aback by the dictatorship.”

There were unconfirmed allegation that Afikuyomi was working hand-in-glove with former chairman of the local government, Comrade Ayodele Adewale in choosing Valentine Buraimoh as the party candidate as against the wish of the people.

Among those that led the protesters from Ajeromi- Ifelodun local government area, was Peter Aga who said they embarked on the protest to register their grievances on the way and manner one Ayoola Adekunle was imposed on party members as the chairmanship candidate by an APC leader in the area. He said Ajeromi- Ifelodun consisted of two parts, namely Ajeromi and Ajegunle. He lamented that past candidates and office- holders, including current ones have always emerged from Ajeromi which was why they have been agitating for power shift to the other zone, Ajegunle.

As if he envisaged what was likely to happen, the APC National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), in a letter addressed to the State Chairman, Henry Ajomale, warned that the process to select flagbearers for the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos should not be manipulated in favour of certain candidates. He also opposed the decision of the Lagos chapter of the party to conduct primaries election for all the aspirants in a centralised location.

“As the custodian of the party constitution, it is of utmost necessity for me to say immediately that this will not be in consonant with the letter and the spirit of the constitution. The (APC) constitution confers the power to designate the venue of such council primaries in the party executive of the local government”, Banire said, stressing that in other states, local government primary elections were never done in centralised locations.

But as the people continue to express their grievances, finding revealed that while the general belief is that the ex-chairmen were being compensated for their loyalty during the last governorship election that set Tinubu against some of the aspirants and some others are being imposed on the people, truth is that with the current power game at the national level of the APC, nothing can be left to chance because of the perception that the forces that worked to demystify Tinubu in Kogi, Ondo and Edo states are still working to bring the battle to the South-west politician’s door step.

“While I don’t really want to comment on the issues, I will tell you that the real members of the party are not aggrieved in any way and they are working together with the party leadership to sustain the dominance of the party. But let me tell you, some persons who are crying foul are those plotting to hijack power through the back door and that will not happen”, a very reliable APC source said on the ground of anonymity.

Though the councillorship elections in the 377 wards were relatively peaceful compared to the earlier Saturday chairmanship primaries, it was not without acrimonies.

In Ward A in Eti Osa LGA, Hon. Abdullateef Jamiu emerged as the party candidate while majority endorsed the candidature of Hon. Mufutau Ogunderu. In Ward C in Iru LCDA, Victoria Island, Bolaji Madandola emerged as candidate of the party, while Rotimi Ojutawo and Temidayo James were announced as winners of the primary exercise for Ward E and Ward B of the same local council.

The five wards in Egbe Idimu LCDA also produced consensus candidates in the council. The candidates are; Rufai Abidemi (Ward A), Dada Taiwo (Ward B), Olusode Abednego (Ward C), Lasisi Taiwo (Ward D) and Asiwaju Fatimoh (Ward E).

However in Ward G, Ijaiye Ojoko there was no election after one of the aggrieved aspirants believed to have the support of thugs in the area, Aleshinloye, unleased his boys thereby disrupting the election process but eventually Emmanuel Olutu emerged winner and he seemed to enjoy the support of the people.

The Lagos State APC Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Abiodun Salami, who spoke with THISDAY on the latest development on the issues said that many aggrieved party members had submitted people their grievances to the right channel. This, he said, explained while the crisis had greatly subsided.

“Like we have always been saying, we have the machinery in motion as enshrined by the constitution, to resolve all that have been envisaged in a issues crisis situation like this. So if anyone is aggrieved, of course there are processes. Those that are in tune with the workings of the party or what is called the constitution of the party, they have done what they are supposed to do and as you can see the tension is going down everywhere. You have the right to appeal.

“The appeal will look into your matter. Even if you have the barrel of the gun you still have to appeal to the state exco of the party. If you have not exhausted all that you don’t say you are aggrieved. We don’t have any problem so far. Everybody now knows what to do. We don’t have any problem,” he said.

As at the time of compiling the report at the weekend, the Lagos State Primary Election Appeal Committee headed by former deputy governor, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye already has its hand full with petitions coming from several local government across the state from members and aspirants who are calling for a conduct of proper primary.

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As if he envisaged what was likely to happen, the APC National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), in a letter addressed to the State Chairman, Henry Ajomale, warned that the process to select flagbearers for the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos should not be manipulated in favour of certain candidates. He also opposed the decision of the Lagos chapter of the party to conduct primaries election for all the aspirants in a centralised location.