Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
An attempt by the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa, Mr Jothan Amos, to railroad stakeholders to endorse the direct primaries method as a precursor to the November 16 governorship election in the state has further deepened the crisis in the party.
The aggrieved party loyalists were said to have expressed anger that rather than allow due process and consultation, the chairman who is allegedly working towards a set objective for one of the aspirants, had refused to discuss the matter with members of the State Executive Committee of the party as well as wait for a written memo from the national headquarters as guaranteed by the party constitution.
It was learnt that while former Governor Timipre Sylva, is favourably disposed to direct primaries, his main rival in the coming poll, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, preferred the indirect mode, thereby setting the stage for a major altercation.
In the latest incident, a heated argument between the chairman and a member representing Ekeremor Constituency 2 in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Wilson Dauyegha, over the appropriateness of the primaries document, led to a scuffle at the Port Hacourt Airport.
In a video that has now gone viral, the lawmaker alleged that the Chairman of the APC in the state was compelling him to sign a document which will effectively back the direct primaries mode against the will of the majority party loyalists. He is later seen tearing the document to pieces.
Explaining his side of the story, the state lawmaker explained that the incident in the video happened at the VIP wing of the Port Harcourt Airport, Rivers explaining that trouble started when Jothan called him after the botched stakeholders’ meeting and requested to see him.
He said: “I told him that it was late because he called me at night. I promised to see him the next day but he said he was travelling to Abuja. I told him we would meet at the airport in Port Harcourt. The next day when I got to the airport, I saw him and went to meet him.
“When I got to his vehicle, a black Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), I saw armed soldiers surrounding the car. The chairman asked me to enter his car. I did. He shut the doors. While in the car, the chairman brought a document and asked me to sign it. The chairman said I must sign the document.
“I don’t know what came over me. I almost sign the document because I was almost completing my signature when I held my pen and told the chairman that I must read the content of the document before signing.
He added: “At that point, I glanced through even as he was trying to intimidate me to complete the signature. I then saw direct primaries in the paper and I screamed and held unto the paper. Having made an impression that could pass as my signature, I had no other option but to render the document invalid.
“All I did was to ensure that there was no impression suggesting that I signed the document. If that document had not been torn, the chairman would have used it against me and my will. I saw his action as undemocratic and I undertook a reasonable action to protect democracy”.
An almost riotous stakeholders’ meeting which held at the party secretariat in Yenagoa, attended by leaders of the party, including the Chairman, Mr Jothan , erstwhile Minister of State Agriculture and Rural Development who’s also a guber aspirant, Lokpobiri, Sylva and Preye Aganaba, also an aspirant ended abruptly during the week.
The disgruntled party members said the Chairman, Jothan, unilaterally and without consultation read out an address urging the attendees to adopt direct primaries.
Spokesman of the Senator Lokpobiri Campaign Organisation, Mr Pere Peretu, told THISDAY that the Chairman of the party in the state breached the party’s constitution by attempting to impose a mode of primaries on the APC without direct instructions from the national executive and also sidelining his Executive Committee Members in the process leading to the decision.
“The meeting ended in a stalemate because the chairman who ought to have met with his working committee to agree on the agenda before coming to the meeting failed to do so. That’s what the constitution says.
“A good number of members of the working committee were opposed to the meeting. When he came up with the issue of mode of primaries, it didn’t go down well with most of the stakeholders and that was the reason the meeting ended in a stalemate. So, there was no decision” he said.
But Jothan, the party chairman, said the meeting did not end in a deadlock, stressing that the direct primaries had been adopted by his party.
“We actually adopted a direct primary model, you know since we used direct primaries during the presidential, National and state Assemblies elections, we also decided that a direct primary model should also be used for our own governorship election.
“So, it is now left for aspirants to go to the different wards to consult with party members who will form the electorate during the primaries.
“You know, we are very careful on what we are doing, so that what happened in Rivers, Zamfara and other places during the last election will not happen here. We want our governorship primaries to be free and peaceful, so the meeting did not end in deadlock, a direct primary model was adopted” he said.