Oyegun Shuns APC Ward Congress as Violence, Protest Mar Nationwide Exercise

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  •  Buhari, Tinubu advice new executives, express satisfaction with congresses
  •   Chairmanship aspirant killed in Delta
  •   Party suspends Ekiti governorship primary indefinitely

Our Correspondents

Protest, boycott, and parallel voting marred a number of congresses held countrywide yesterday by the ruling All Progressives Congress to elect new ward executives for the party. APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was conspicuously absent during the exercise in his ward in Edo State. But in his home state of Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari, who participated in the ward congress that saw the return of key executives, urged the new officers to be diligent and God-fearing in the discharge of their duties.

“I call on you to fear God in whatever you do as we would transit to the next world and account for our deeds before our creator,” Buhari urged party executives elected in his Sarkin Yara A electoral ward in Daura.

The president said his administration was determined to uphold the provisions of the country’s constitution and the rule of law. He stressed the need for Nigerians to play politics with decency and decorum.

In Lagos, APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, lauded the peaceful congress in the state and advised members to conduct themselves according to the rule of law. “I am very happy and proud of our party,” Tinubu stated, adding, “We are demonstrating to the people across the country that we are a law-abiding political party; that we believe in the tenets of democracy and that we demonstrate the openness in the congresses across the country, particularly, I can speak emphatically on Lagos.”

He said members who had complaints about the congress “should write to the party headquarters and just don’t take laws into their hands.”

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode also commended the congresses in the 337 wards in the state. Ambode, who participated in the exercise at Ward A6, Luyepo Primary School, Papa-Epe, in Epe Local Government Area, said, “We are members of the same family and that is why we are doing it in line with our constitution. The party agreed that it is either we do election or we vote by way of consensus and that what we have done peacefully today.” He added, “We know that the APC can get stronger if there is always peace and consensus among all our members. Like in Epe division, elections have been conducted peacefully in all other divisions. This is the most beautiful ward in Lagos State presently.”

The Balogun of Epe and a chieftain of APC, Chief Lanre Razak, said the party had displayed discipline, stressing, “Some people expect that we would have a crisis-riddled congress, but you can see that the whole process is peaceful.”

However, in Delta State, a chairmanship aspirant at Okwagbe community, Jeremi 3 in Ughelli South ward 10, Jeremiah Oghoveta, was stabbed to death during the congress. Oghoveta was allegedly stabbed by one Tete Pippah after an argument involving accusations of hijack of electoral materials. THISDAY gathered that Oghoveta was leaving the scene where disagreement over the alleged hijack of materials had broken out when an attacker stabbed him on the neck and fled.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Delta State, Andrew Aniamaka, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, confirmed the incident, adding that the command had started investigation into the incident.

In a related development, the APC governorship primary held yesterday in Ekiti State ended in violence, which stalemated the exercise organised to pick a candidate for the July 18 election in the state, resulting in its indefinite suspension.

The nationwide APC ward congresses followed the party’s revised timetable released on April 27, which postponed its national convention indefinitely and moved the ward, local government, and state congresses to May 5, May 12, and May 19, respectively. The congresses had earlier been scheduled for May 2, May 5, and May 7, respectively.

While the exercise yesterday was peaceful in some states, in many others, it was chaotic and prone to violent flare-ups.

Odigie-Oyegun shunned the congress at his Ward 2, Oredo Local Government Area, which was conducted by fellow Edo indigene and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission. However, the exercise was peaceful and produced Mr. Osagie Edosomwan as consensus chairman for Ward 2, Lucky Abu as secretary, and Dorcas Ehoghai as women leader, among other elected ward executives.

Edosomwan, who confirmed Odigie-Oyegun’s absence at the congress, described the exercise as “amazing and most peaceful ward congress I have ever seen in my life since I have been doing politics.”

At Oredo Ward 3, former member for Oredo Federal Constituency and former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Mr. Patrick Obahiagbon, said, “The election was peaceful and winners emerged through consensus, except in some contentious areas where we had to do voting. But generally, the election was peaceful.”

Chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, said the process was smooth and “everywhere was peaceful across the state. There was no form of crisis.”

The APC ward congresses conducted in Rivers State witnessed a flare-up of some violence in various places and a re-enactment of the lingering rivalry between Minister of Transport and former governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, and senator for Rivers South East senatorial district, Senator Magnus Abe. Amaechi and Abe blamed each other for the violence and vandalism at the state secretariat of the party in Port Harcourt on the eve of the congresses.

Addressing journalists on the incident, Amaechi accused Abe of being behind the destruction at the party secretariat on Friday. He also dismissed rumours about a court injunction stopping the congresses in the 344 wards across the state, saying the exercise went on successfully with the adoption of Option A-4 as the voting method.

Amaechi had earlier been quoted as saying, “A lot of people are complaining about internal democracy in the APC. So, why are they running away from internal democracy? Let’s go and queue up behind the candidates we want. As early as 6am yesterday, I gathered that thugs had taken over the Rivers State secretariat of APC.”

In apparent reference to Abe, the minister said, “What the governorship aspirant wanted to do was that there should be no congress. He took over the entire secretariat with thugs… If that candidate is popular, why didn’t he ask his supporters to buy forms, go and compete at the wards?”

But Abe stated, “I am amused by some of these allegations and stories that are making the headlines. For the records, the disagreement between me and the minister is political. He is the leader of the party, but he has said publicly on several occasions that he can never support me, that means the entire country knows that he cannot pretend to be neutral in any matter in which my interest and the interests of those interested in me are concerned. But as the leader, it is his responsibility to provide a level playing field for all of us.

“We are politicians, tomorrow when we need voters, who will those people branded as thugs be? People paid for forms, they had their tellers and no one was telling them what was going on, they besieged the state secretariat for explanations. Rather than the leader to come and address them, they brought armed policemen to open fire on innocent party men and women. That is what led to damage at the secretariat.”

The voting process in Bayelsa State went smoothly, despite a controversial court order reinstating a sacked APC state chairman, Mr. Tiwei Orunimighe. Ex-governor of the state and APC state leader, Chief Timipre Sylva, accused the expelled chairman of procuring the judgement to cause confusion on the eve of the ward congresses in the state. Sylva also dismissed the court order as an aberration, saying there is “a subsisting appeal at the appeal court on this matter of chairmanship.” Accompanied by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, and other party leaders, Sylva said those who plotted to disrupt the exercise with Orunimighe’s reinstatement had failed.

The congresses in Ondo State were marred by protests and allegations of thuggery. APC members, including the legislator for Akure South/North Federal Constituency, Hon. Afe Olowokere, accused the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde, of using members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to cause trouble at voting centres. House of Representatives member for Ifedore/ Idanre Federal Constituency, Hon Bamidele Baderinwa, also alleged that some people aided thugs to disrupt the process.

The congresses in Niger State followed a rather strange pattern, as APC returned unopposed all the executives of the party in the 274 wards of the state.

The exercise was peaceful in the 193 wards in Kwara State. Kogi State also witnessed peaceful congresses, despite the rivalry between Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaiye.

But in Ebonyi State, there were parallel congresses by two factions of APC in all the 171 wards in the state, underscoring the lingering disagreements in the party. One faction was led by the state chairman of the party, Hon. Ben Nwobasi, while the other was led by Hon. Eze Nwachukwu. The story was the same in Enugu State, where the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeamah, and Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, organised separate congresses in their native Eke Ward. But across the 260 wards in the state, the congresses were peaceful.

While the exercise was successful in Sokoto State, congresses did not hold in some parts of Kaduna Central senatorial district, where disagreement between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and senator for the zone, Senator Shehu Sani, has been a source of tension.

The congress in Ogun State witnessed the visible absence of a former governor of the state and key leader of APC, Olusegun Osoba. Osoba and Governor Ibikunle Amosun have been at loggerheads for about three years, but there have been attempts to reconcile them.

The congresses were postponed indefinitely in Cross River State after an alleged discovery of irregularities by stakeholders, who said, “This morning at Danic Hotel, Cross River vigilant members of APC discovered already prepared and filled result sheet and other incriminating document in an SUV vehicle parked in the hotel.”

Imo State saw a crisis-ridden ward congress, as hoodlums unleashed mayhem on various voting points and manhandled prominent party members, including the deputy governor, Eze Madumere, and Senator Benjamin Uwajumugo.

 

…Ekiti APC Primary Suspended Indefinitely

Meanwhile, the governorship primary of APC in Ekiti State was saturday suspended infinitely due to violence that erupted following electoral fraud allegations. The crowds at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium venue of the exercise erupted into shouting, heckling, and fisticuffs as agents of some governorship contenders accused security agents of compromising the voting process to favour the Minister of Solid Minerals Development and former governor of the state, Kayode Fayemi.

Chairman of the primary committee and Nasarawa State Governor, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura, who hurriedly left the venue after a meeting with the 33 aspirants, did not officially brief the press on the discussion with the stakeholders. But two aspirants, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, and former Speaker, Hon. Femi Bamisile, said it was unanimously agreed at the meeting that the primary should be suspended indefinitely.

Daramola said, “There was an issue somewhere about the exercise and they raised observation about sharp practices that had compromised the process, which led to protest and the feeling was that the process should be suspended to avoid bloodshed.”

On allegations that a wide lead by Fayemi had prompted the underlying protests, Daramola said, “I don’t believe that is correct. The results have not been counted, so that was an assumption.

“Ekiti APC is not in any way fractured. We are one big family. If Fayemi defeats us, we are all going to back him, because the party is supreme. But this must come through a free, fair and credible process.”

Only delegates from four local governments had concluded their voting before the violence. Trouble started about 5.30pm when some agents raised observations about how the process was being allegedly compromised. They accused operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) of dictating to delegates who they should vote.

Police and other security agencies shot sporadically into the air to try to calm the crowds and prevent the situation from escalating into full-scale hostilities between the camps.

Security agents also arrested one man who was allegedly trying to grab the ballot box.