The battle for the APC governorship ticket in Ekiti State at last Saturday’s botched primary was a crisis foretold, writes Victor Ogunje
On Saturday, May 5, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship primary in Ekiti State ended in a fiasco and was suspended and rescheduled to today.
The violence sponsored by some bigwigs, portrayed the APC as a party still operating in an Hobbesian clime, where life was crude and brutish. Th thugs who invaded th venue of the primary took rascality to the extreme, by openly brandishing dangerous weapons and halted electoral process effortlessly and without restraint.
Observers had for long forewarned that the long list of aspirants, numbering 33 jostling for the ticket was dangerous and posed grave consequences for APC.
It was obvious that the inability of the party’s leadership to prune down the number would work against the party.
On that day, dreaded looking party goons took to the field and made a mess of the hordes of security men at the venue by disrupting the poll midway. They smashed ballot boxes to the bewilderment of delegates and that abruptly terminated the process and rendered it inchoate.
From the outset , the party appeared determined to reclaim Ekiti from Governor Ayodele Fayose. The statements made by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi when he declared on April 14 corroborated this assertion. He said: â€œWe shall use local, state and federal might to win Ekiti. This is a task we must achieve.”
Analysts wonder how the party hopes to win when it can’t agree on a candidate.
Before the horrible turn of event, signs were ominous that there was deep hatred among some strong contenders in the race. Several caustic statements posted on social media platforms attested to the war of attrition in APC. Most troubling was the exchange of verbal tirades between Fayemi and Senator Babafemi Ojudu.
Before the botched primary the State Working Committee, led by its Chairman, Chief Jide Awe, was spilt into two factions. Awe is leading the pack of those fingered to be loyal to former Governor Segun Oni while the Secretary, Barr Paul Omotoso and others had coalesced behind Fayemi.
The party leader in the state, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo was alleged to be backing Fayemi and could therefore not legitimately arbitrate among the contending forces. The division became so palpable to the extent that each faction did not trust the other.
It all started like a childâ€™s play at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, venue of the exercise, as agents of some strong contenders alleged that security agencies of compromising the process in favour of Fayemi. Trouble started at about 5.30pm when some agents raised observations about electoral malfeasance being perpetrated by agents of a particular aspirant , accusing the men of the Department of State Services (DSS) of dictating to the delegates who they should vote for. The agents were those representing Ojudu, Senator Ayo Arise, other strong contenders. Efforts made by APC Primary Chairman and Nasarawa State Governor, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura to calm down frayed nerves were rebuffed.
Aggrieved aspirants accused Fayemi’s agent , Mr. Samuel Abejide of dictating to delegates who to vote for and also writing the serial numbers of their ballot papers to authenticate who they actually voted for.
To ensure that the primary went smoothly, Al-Makura had set out stringent rules , which included that an aspirant could only enter with one agent and two supporters. However, all these were violated.
It got to a point, the place became so rowdy and disorderly. Trying to rescue the situation, Al-Makura convened a meeting with the aspirants to get them to behave but this rapprochement failed.
The aspirants stood their ground that the process was allegedly skewed in favour of the minister and should be annulled immediately. Dazzled by this position, Al-Makura hurriedly entered his vehicle and left the venue.
Though, the Nasarawa governor refused to speak, two
aspirants, Bimbo Daramola and Femi Bamisile announced that it was a unanimous verdict at the meeting that the process should be suspended indefinitely.
Daramola said: â€œThere 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.”
Speaking on the perceived electoral heist, the Director General of Babafemi Ojudu Campaign Organisation, Chief Ranti Adebisi alleged that the process was lopsided
â€œThe guidelines stipulated that each aspirant can only bring in four supporters, but Fayemi brought many. His agents, including DSS were issuing cards to delegates to fill when they vote for him , so that they can later come for the money he promised them.
â€œI contested against Fayemi in 2007 and I knew what I am talking about. The process has been compromised. Even, Fayemi has been bragging around that he is a friend of Alhaji Al â€“Makura, so we are disappointed that this could happenâ€, he said.
Reacting, Oni called on the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to investigate the errors that rendered the primary inconclusive.
Oni said the way some people who were discovered to be friends of a particular aspirant were nominated into the Ekiti overnorship primary committee put the integrity of the partyâ€™s national leadership to question.
â€œThose who have penchant for cheating and fraud structured the primary to favour a particular aspirant. I was the APC National Deputy Chairman for four years, I never used my position to influence anything about a primary I was directly involved. When you have penchant for fraud or to cheat the system, it makes democracy looks sour and uninteresting.”
Venting his anger on the shoddy conduct of the primary, Fayemi said: â€œIf the quest for political position is to serve, then one wonders why the desperation being displayed by the likes of Femi Ojudu and Bimbo Daramola.
Fayemiâ€™s agent in the primary, Mr Samuel Abejide, said five local governments had voted before the uprising that led to abrupt suspension of the exercise, saying the results of that already concluded were valid in the face of the law and Electoral Acts.
Stating his own position, Ojudu clarified that he never exhibited any desperation adding that that accounted for why he didnâ€™t go to the venue with party supporters.
He said: 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 security agencies to compromise the system.
â€œI brought him to Ekiti, I did a lot for him to be governor, so I had always known him to be desperate and we were getting video clips about how he offered bribes to delegates and how he was making calls at the election venue to 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 credibleâ€, he said.
Daramola stated his own side of the story, saying the allegation of being desperate to be governor is not only spurious but jejune. He said : â€œNot only that I totally condemn the unfortunate incident which I find reprehensible. But something must have triggered that, that should be of interest to all beyond the press release.â€
The state chapter of the PDP saw a window of opportunity to project itself as the better organised party.
In a statement, the governor, Ayodele Fayose 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 states elections as well as the 2019 elections.”
The APC crisis has been exacerbated by the discordant tunes from the warring factions. Fayemiâ€™s camp was threatening to sue the party if the results of the five local governments thus conducted were cancelled.
They even took a step further by disbanding the SWC and formed a parallel caretaker committee. The party itself had directed that the committee should begin where it stopped while the SWC and other aspirants were rooting for a fresh primary.
The crisis didn’t stop at that. A group of 27 aspirants opposed to the minister’s candidacy and his alleged desperation to get the ticket, warned the Chief John Oyegun-led NWC to disband the Al-Makura-led executive and conduct fresh primary election. This group maintained that Fayemi had infiltrated the committee and nominated some people as proxies, which can’t make the credibility of the results of the five councils that had been conducted before the violence reliable.
They alleged the Al-Makuraâ€™s committee was biased and incompetent.
The aspirants posited that the shoddy way the committee handled the primary caused the violence that marred the exercise.
In a communiquÃ© issued and read by one of the aspirants, Dr. Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, they regretted the unfortunate incident that led to the protest and subsequent disruption of the primary.
They alleged that members of the primary committee, headed by Nasarawa State governor compromised the integrity of the poll and that they said had invalidated its outcome.
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 standardâ€, they demanded.
â€œThey said further: â€œEven many of those in the panel were friends to a particular candidate and this we thought could vitiate the outcome of the election.
â€œWe are determined to win Ekiti but the right thing must be done for a candidate that will command the respect of everybody to emergeâ€, they added.
Supporting the position canvassed by the aspirants, the State Chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe called for the annulment of the poll, saying: “There is no way you can conduct a primary without allowing State Executive Council to have a say.
â€œThe aspirants were not happy. There are lots of lessons to learn as a party. One of the cardinal principles of a free and fair election is for the electorate not to have a doubt. When a system is doubted in an election it becomes invalid.
“When a system is disrupted, it becomes invalid. An invalid primary can’t 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.
“With what happened we believe sincerely the committee is culpable and the security agencies are compromised. So the thugs that disrupted the election some people allowed them in.”
Sensing that there was a gang up against the minister, those sympathetic to Fayemi’s cause besieged the partyâ€™s office to register their disapproval over the conduct of the members of the State Working Committee, led by Awe.
The protesters, who brandished placards of various inscriptions , also passed a vote of no confidence on Awe and party spokesman, Taiwo Olatunbosun, for allegedly supporting one of the aspirants in the race.
The party’s NWC after reviewing the report from Al-Makura agreed that the process had been vitiated and ordered a fresh primary slated for tomorrow.
It was obvious that the inability of the party’s leadership to prune down the number would work against the party