By Onyebuchi EzigboÂ in Abuja andÂ Victor OgunjeÂ in Ado EkitiÂ Â Â Â
In a bid to address the grievances that trailed last Saturdayâ€™s ward congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in several states of the federation, the party has appealed to those with complaints to direct them to the appeal panel.
The party has also directed that its primary for the Ekiti State governorship ticket should continue from where it stopped.
But this bid not go down well with 27 of the governorship aspirants who called for the outright cancellation of the primary and the conduct of a fresh election.
The primary, which held at the Oluyemi Kayode stadium in Ado Ekiti, the state capitalÂ on Saturday, was disrupted midwayÂ by suspected thugs owing to the alleged irregularities that dogged the exercise.
Some agents working for other aspirants had accused the former governor of the state and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of colluding with the security agencies and members of the Governor Tanko Al-Makura-led primary committee to skew the outcome of the primary in favour of the minister.
This came as the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation threatened to sue the party if the results of the inconclusive Ekiti primary are annulled.
Stepping into the imbroglio, however, the state governor, Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) warned the opposition in his state not to turn Ekiti into a war zone, given the violence already displayed by APC members during the primary.
The APC last Saturday had organised ward congresses in 33 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
While the exercise was hitch-free in a few states, there were protests and incidents of violence in many others, resulting in deaths in Rivers and Delta States on the eve of the congresses andÂ on Saturday, respectively.
But in a statement issued yesterday by the partyâ€™s National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, APC hailed the congresses, describing them as â€œhighly successfulâ€.
â€œAPC wishes to congratulate all its members for the generally peaceful conduct of the partyâ€™s ward congresses which took place across the country over the weekend.Â Â
â€œThe party especially commends members who served in the congress committees for their dedication and impartiality.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
â€œWe, however, acknowledge there were some issues arising from the conduct of the elections in some states.
â€œWith this in view, the party had set up various appeal committees which will begin sitting fromÂ Monday, May 7, 2018.
â€œWe, therefore, call on all party members to remain law-abiding and where there are issues, they should seek redress through the appeal committees in their respective states,â€ the party said.
The APC also directed that its primary for Ekiti State governorship ticket should continue from where it stoppedÂ on Saturday.
The national leadership of the APC said that it had resolved the â€œissues and that the election can now proceedâ€.
Another statement by Abdullahi yesterday said the primary election committee had been asked to go back and complete the exercise.
The party said the exercise should be completed as soon as possible but did not give a date for the resumption of the primary.
The APC statement read: â€œThe situation in Ekiti is regrettable. The issues have been resolved and it is our hope that the exercise can now continue from where it stopped.
â€œThe primary election chairman has spoken to the national chairman after consulting with the aspirants.
â€œThe position is that the process should resume as quickly as possible. The issue of indefinite postponement does not arise,â€ the party said.
27 Aspirants Kick
But the statement by the APC contrasted sharply with several of the aspirants, as 27 of the 33 governorship aspirants in Ekiti State yesterday called for the disbandment of the Al-Makura-led committee, alleging open bias and incompetence exhibited in the conduct of the suspended election in the state.
The aspirants posited that the shoddy way the committee handled the primary was what led to the violence that marred the exerciseÂ on Saturday.
In a communiquÃ© issued and read by one of the aspirants, Dr. Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, after a marathon meeting, the 27 aspirants expressed regret over the unfortunate incident that led to the protest and subsequent disruption of the primary.
They alleged that members of the primary committee, headed by the Nasarawa State governor, Al-Makura, had compromised the integrity of the poll, noting that this had invalidated its outcome.
The aggrieved aspirants alleged that they noticed lopsidedness and bias on the part of the committee members, and called on the national leadership to smoothen all rough edges for the poll to be re-conducted.
â€œWe want the committee to be disbanded completely and our National Working Committee should set up a new committee to conduct another primary that will meet international standards,â€ the aggrieved aspirants said.
The also claimed that many of those on the panel for the conduct of the primary were friends of a particular aspirant, who they failed to name, adding that this could vitiate the outcome of the election.
â€œWe are determined to win the Ekiti governorship election, but the right thing must be done for a candidate that will command the respect of everybody to emerge,â€ they added.
They suggested that the fresh primary should be conducted in an enclosed environment to prevent natural occurrences like rain from disrupting the process as witnessedÂ on Saturday.
â€œApart from that, no aspirant should have more than one agent because many of those who gained entry under the guise of being agents to some aspirants were used to perpetrate evil,â€ they stressed.
Also, the state chairman of the APC, Chief Jide Awe, called for the annulment of the suspended primary, saying: â€œThere is no way you can conduct a primary without allowing the State Executive Council having a say in the process.
â€œThe aspirants were not happy. There are a lot of lessons to learn from the process as a party.
â€œOne of the cardinal principles of a free and fair election is for the electorate not to have doubt. When a system is doubted in an election it becomes invalid.
â€œWhen a system is disrupted, it becomes invalid. An invalid primary cannot produce a valid candidate. We want to have a credible election so that the electorate will be able to vote for us at the main election.
â€œWith what happened, we believe sincerely that the committee was culpable and the security agencies were compromised. So the thugs that disrupted the election, it was someÂ Â people that allowed them in,â€ he said.
Fayemi Threatens Law Suit
But even as the party moved to resolve its fractured ward congresses and go ahead with the Ekiti gubernatorial primary, the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation earlier yesterday threatened to sue the APC if the results of the inconclusive Ekiti governorship primary are annulled.
Addressing journalists in Ado Ekiti yesterday, Fayemiâ€™s agent, Mr. Samuel Abejide, said five local government councils had voted before the uprising that led to the abrupt suspension of the exercise, saying the results from the local government areas were valid in the face of the law and the Electoral Act.
Naming them, he said the elections in Ekiti East, Moba, Ilejemeje, Ado and Ijero Local Governments had been concluded when the primary was disrupted.
Other delegates, who expressed their preparedness to sue the party at the press conference included Dada Sunday Ebenezer, Emmanuel Adekunle and Jimoh Azeez.
They said the party owed them a duty to protect the rights of its members, noting that their voting rights should not be an exception in this case.
Abejide also accused the security agencies of being compromised, wondering why the perpetrators of the violence that took place were allowed to go scot-free in the presence of more than 200 security forces deployed for the primary.
Fayemiâ€™s agent also denied allegations that the Al-Makura-led committee had apportioned more than the required number of agents to the minister to the detriment of other contestants, saying this was not possible under the structures put in place at the venue.
â€œWe believe the process of the election was free, fair and credible and that is why the results should be sustained.
â€œIf they knew that they were leading, why should they ask for cancellation?â€ he asked.
Reinforcing the position canvassed by Abejide, Azeez stated that it would amount to an abridgement of the rights of voters if the results from the primary were annulled.
â€œI am a delegate of the APC and I voted during the election. The process in those mentioned local governments was free and fair, so I donâ€™t expect the party to annul it.
â€œShould the party go ahead and do that, I will not hesitate to go to court to seek redress,â€ Azeez stated.
Oyegunâ€™s Integrity at Stake
Also reacting to the outcome of the primary, former Ekiti State governorÂ Â
Segun Oni yesterday, called on the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the National Working Committee (NWC) to investigate the errors that led to the inconclusive primary.
Oni, former APC national deputy chairman (south) and governorship aspirant of the party, said the way some people who were discovered to be friends of a particular aspirant were nominated to the primary committee, calls to question the integrity of the partyâ€™s national leadership.
Oni spoke in Ifaki, Ekiti yesterday while reacting to the violence that marred the APC governorship primary.
Oni, however, saluted Al-Makura for doing a thorough job only for his efforts to be allegedly sabotaged by unscrupulous elements around him.
He described the violence as very unfortunate, insisting that Oyegun must investigate how the secretary of the committee, Hon. Mogaji Aliyu, a known ally of one of the aspirants, was made a member of the panel.Â
Like the aggrieved 27 aspirant, Oni did not name the favoured aspirant.
â€œThose who have a penchant for cheating and fraud structured the primary to favour a particular aspirant. I was the APC national deputy chairman for four years, despite that I never used my position to influence anything about a primary I was directly involved in.Â
â€œWhen you have a penchant for fraud or cheating the system, it makes democracy looks sour and uninteresting.
â€œHow would one feel to get to the field of play and find out that the referee was nominated by one of the teams? We found out that the secretary of the committee was nominated by an aspirant, and Governor Al-Makura later got to know about this and dropped him from functioning as the returning officer.
â€œEven the fraud permeated the ranks of the security agencies. I quite appreciate the fact that violence was not the right way, but it was caused by the pent-up anger.
â€œThat is why the NWC led by Chief Oyegun owes all of us a thorough explanation on how Mogaji found himself on the committee and how to prevent such in the future, except we are hiding under democracy to fool ourselves.Â
â€œWhether I will be governor or not or hold political office in the future, I think enough is enough with respect to the desperation by people to get to certain positions, because we must give confidence to our people,â€ he said.
When asked whether a consensus will be a better option, Oni said he supported the idea but it would be difficult to achieve given the current fierce rivalry among the aspirants.
â€œI support consensus but that is now impossible because the perception of the society makes it difficult for politicians to reach a compromise.
â€œPoliticians are always under pressure from their admirers, so announcing to them that you have stepped down for someone else could create a bad impression for you. It will be difficult to achieve at this level,â€ he noted.
Meanwhile, Fayemi and Senator Babafemi Ojudu, another APC aspirant exchanged barbs yesterday over who was responsible for the disruption of the primary.
Â While Fayemi accused Ojudu and Hon. Bimbo Daramola of being the masterminds behind the violence that caused the suspension of the primary, Ojudu said the former governor was too desperate to get the ticket, saying his antics would fail this time.Â
A statement yesterday by Fayemiâ€™s media aide, Yinka Oyebode claimed that the disruption of the primary election was the height of desperation on the part of some aspirants, who having seen defeat staring them in the face, conspired together to ensure that the exercise was not concluded.
The minister was quoted in the statement to have said that the aspirants had resorted to violence and destruction, having realised that he was already in a clear lead in the five local government areas that had cast their votes.
â€œIf the quest for a political position is to serve, then one wonders why the desperation being displayed by the likes of Femi Ojudu and Bimbo Daramola.â€
But Ojudu dispelled the allegation, describing it as a spurious and senseless accusation coming from those that were averse to democratic ideals.
Addressing journalists in Ado Ekiti on the issue, Ojudu clarified that he was not desperate and that accounted for why he did not go to the election venue with party supporters, saying: â€œI even hate seeing thugs around me.
â€œThey said I was desperate, let us ask ourselves, who among the aspirants took delegates to Igbara Oke and Owo in Ondo State to camp? It was Fayemi. He was the one who compromised the committee and bought over the security agencies to compromise the process.
â€œI brought him to Ekiti, I did a lot for him to be governor, so I have always known him to be desperate and we were getting video clips on how he offered bribes to delegates and how he was making calls at the election venue to the top security brass in Ekiti and Abuja to cheat the system.
â€œLet me tell him, all these antics will not work. The primary will be conducted and it must be free, fair and credible,â€ he said.
But even as the APC governorship aspirants engaged in a blame game over the suspended primary, the state governor yesterday said what was witnessed was a show of shame.
Fayose warned the APC in his state not to turn Ekiti into a war zone, given the violence displayed by its members during the primary.
He expressed concern that the APC could replicate the violence onÂ July 14Â during the governorship election.
According to Fayose, â€œIt is a sad day for democracy in Nigeria, especially from a party in government that prides itself as progressive.
â€œIt is a clear indication that APC will fail woefully in theÂ July 14Â governorship election because apart from its rejection by Ekiti people, the party has become a house divided against itself, its centre can never hold.â€
Fayose, inÂ a statement he personally signed, also said: â€œWe thought that we have gone beyond the era of ballot box stuffing and snatching as well as violence and killings during elections until yesterdayâ€™s show of shame.
â€œThis development should be of great concern to all well-meaning Nigerians as we approach the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections as well as the 2019 elections.
â€œAnother worrisome development is the information at my disposal that the APC is plotting to sponsor thugs to disrupt the PDP primary election scheduled forÂ Tuesday, May 8, 2018, so as to create the impression that violence is common to all political parties.
â€œI, therefore, call on the security agencies to act decisively to nip this sinister plan in the bud. The police should not shy away from its responsibilities.
â€œEkiti was adjudged by the police as the most peaceful state in Nigeria, it must remain so.
â€œIn the last three years, our state has been peaceful and never witnessed any sponsored political violence or killings until this APC desperation set in.
â€œI also call on Nigerians, as well as the international community to focus their attention on Ekiti State from now on.Â Â Ekiti people must be allowed to choose their next governor under a free and fair atmosphere,â€ he stated.