•  Buhari: party’s success responsible for its crisis  
  •  Oyegun in emotional farewell speech, says ruling party now strong, vibrant   
  • Three wounded in fracas among Delta delegates   
  • Conflicting Unity lists fly around  
  • nPDP vows to continue agitation after convention  
  • PDP mocks APC, calls convention a charade

Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin

Former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole was yesterday in Abuja elected national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the second elective national convention of the party. Oshiomhole’s election came through affirmation following the withdrawal of other chairmanship aspirants a few days before the convention.

In his address at the opening of the convention, which took place amid internal dissensions, President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to aggrieved members to be patient, saying the party will soon resolve the disagreements. Buhari assured that the party will emerge from its present challenges stronger and more vibrant.

Outgoing National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, gave an emotional farewell speech in which he admitted that his tenure was turbulent. But Odigie-Oyegun said the party had become stronger on his watch.

That was as three people were wounded in a fight among delegates from Delta State, and lists bearing names purporting to be consensus candidates, called Unity list, were bandied about at the venue of the convention.

In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, yesterday, the leader of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) bloc within APC, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, said his group will continue with its agitation for better treatment even after the party’s national convention. Baraje stated this in a statement by his media office.

However, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed the ruling party’s convention as a farce, alleging that open intimidation and physical assault on aspirants and delegates confirm Buhari’s desperation to grab the APC presidential ticket by all means. PDP made the allegations in a statement by its nnational publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.

The chairman of the APC national convention committee and Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar, who moderated the election process, asked the delegates to affirm Oshiomhole’s election through a voice vote and they did.

Oshiomhole’s affirmation came shortly after Buhari delivered his speech in which he pleaded with delegates to support the party’s consensus arrangement.

The president said, “I want to assure everyone here that despite a few lingering issues with the congresses in some states, our great party will emerge stronger after this convention. The unresolved cases we have are the price we have to pay for success, as everyone wants to be associated with a winning team. I am imploring all those with grievances to keep faith with the party until we put things right.

“The adoption of consensus as a first option is commendable and the process has led to a lot of healing and cohesion across the states and the zones, and where elections are inevitable, I have been assured that the process adopted will result in clear and undisputed results. Again I am appealing to all contestants to keep faith with the party.

“May I, therefore, appeal to all to put our great party ahead of personal considerations and to accept the outcome of the exercise in good faith. You are all important to our party’s progress and all must come together to ensure success in the forthcoming polls so as to enable us to continue the good work we have been doing for our fellow Nigerians.”

In his parting address, Odigie-Oyegun acknowledged rifts within his executive, saying, “We provided the kind of leadership that has brought this party to this point today, a strong party, a united party. There were divergent views here and there. The essence is that the APC is, at the end of the day, a strong party, a passionate party, a party that believes in its vision and the vision of the president for this country.”

He said, “The reality today is that of a party that is stronger in its committed resolve to make greater gains for the good of the country. This is very colourful.”

He said he enjoyed a close working relationship with Buhari.

The outgoing chairman praised the vision of the APC founding fathers, including Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, Prince Tony Momoh, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, and leaders of factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the new Peoples Democratic Party.

He said his exit from the leadership of the party marked the end of an era which was best left to history.

“Phase one of this party is over and phase two is about to begin and it is my hope that at the end of today, we would have elected a worthy successor to carry on the battle and the leadership struggle of the party.

“I wish my successor a very best of luck and wish him fare weather and for the rest, we leave to history,” said Odigie-Oyegun, who lost his bid to get a one-year extension of his tenure before dropping his interest in seeking another term.

“I will end by saying that Shakespeare told us generations ago that the world is a stage and that all of us are actors in this stage. We make our entrances and in due time, our exit. Today, I am making my exit from the honour that you have bestowed on me to lead you for four years,” he stated.

Following Oshiomhole’s emergence through affirmation, many other offices, such as national welfare officer, financial secretary, zonal woman leader (North-central), ex-offio members for North-central and North-west, the zonal woman leader (South-south), were declared unopposed, as aspirants withdrew from the contest.

Another aspirant for National Vice Chairman (South-west), Akin Akinlerure, withdrew from the race thereby making the coast clear for the lone contestant, Mr. Kole Oluwajana, who was returned by affirmation.

Two other aspirants for national secretary, Kassim Imam and Waziri Bulama had earlier withdrawn, thereby making way for the incumbent, Mai-Mala Buni to emerge through affirmation. Also the lone challenger for National Legal Adviser stepped down for Babatunde Ogala from Lagos State.

Duro Meserko, who was vying for the office of the National Publicity Secretary, withdrew from the race, thus leaving two other contestants, the incumbent, Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi and Lanre Onilu.

As voting for the remaining offices of the party commenced, Buhari was the first to cast his vote, followed by governors who were called up in turns. After the governors, came the turn of delegates from the various states.

However, just as the delegates were about filing out to vote, there was fracas at the Delta State pavilion, which left three persons badly wounded. The injured persons were promptly helped to a waiting ambulance belonging to the Federal Road Safety Commission and taken to a hospital for treatment.

THISDAY gathered that trouble broke out when two factions of APC in Delta State loyal to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Olorogun Otega tried to assert themselves.

Similarly, just as the voting process got underway, there emerged two versions of consensus lists titled “Unity List”. The lists were said to be sponsored by members of the National Working Committee (NWC) seeking re-election. The intense lobby from agents of the two sides was about blowing up into an open confrontation before the organisers asked security agents to arrest the situation.

Chairman of the subcommittee on security and governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, went on to the podium and directed all delegates to go back to their various stands. He warned that the security agents will arrest anyone who had not been accredited to be at the convention venue. 

nPDP to Continue Agitation

Meanwhile, Baraje has vowed that nPDP would continue its agitation for justice for its members in APC.  

A statement by his media office said, “We want to appreciate the entire Nigerians and our supporters and we want to let them know that our struggle is still on course and until the party addresses some of the major areas of concerns that will make life easy for Nigerians, we remain undaunted.”

Baraje said nPDP members decided to attend the APC convention because, “They want to demonstrate to the world and entire Nigerians and, particularly, to their supporters, that they are loyal to the party.”

He, however, said their attendance of the convention “does not mean that all the group’s grievances stated in their letter had been addressed. We still believe that our loyalty should be demonstrated, that was why we attended the convention.”

The statement further said, “The fact that we were able to attend the APC convention and the convention is going on well is not an interpretation that the suffering of the masses had been alleviated and is not an answer that the security in the country, which has been seriously jeopardised is being addressed. It is not a pointer to the fact that youth unemployment and human capital development are being addressed.”

PDP Mocks APC, Calls Convention a Charade

PDP described the APC convention as a charade and an assault on the sensibility of Nigerians. A statement yesterday by Ologbondiyan said, “Nigerians are invited to note that some of the officials preferred, particularly, the national chairman, are individuals overburdened by heavy corruption allegations, and whose expected investigation and prosecution have been traded for a presidential ticket for President Buhari.

“The world observed with shock how aspirants and delegates who dared to raise questions were manhandled by thugs and intimidated by security operatives.

“It is instructive to state that the APC convention directly reflects the confusion, intimidations, violations and descent to fascism, that have characterised governance in our nation in the last three years,”

PDP further stated, “While we urge Nigerians and the international community to mark the desperation in Mr. President’s camp, for which they are bent at destroying our democracy, it is clear that with the character, personality and outlook of the incoming national executive of the APC, the party has been finally sunk by President Buhari and his power hungry cabal.”