- Committee factions declare Ararume, Ibezim winners
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) may be in for another crisis as factions emerged from the committee set up to conduct the primaries for Imo North senatorial election by the caretaker committee of the party, declaring two aspirants as candidates of the party in the forthcoming by-election.
Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni had appointed a seven-man committee led by Senator Ajibola Bashiru as Chairman, Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Secretary, Senator Jibrin Gada, Hon. Bello Kumo, Alhaji Umar Gana, Mohammed Saba and Prince Godfrey Ejim as members of the election committee for Imo North Senatorial by-election.
With media reports that a parallel primary election was held in Imo North to elect the party’s candidate, the party leadership was forced to issue a statement that it only recognised the Bashiru-led committee, which it said has been vested with the power to announce the winner of the ordinary election.
But there was confusion the next day, Friday, when the Bashiru-led committee submitted its report to the committee and declared Mr. Frank Ibezim as winner, while the Gana-led faction declared Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as the winner.
Briefing journalists at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, Bashiru commended local APC leaders for their support in providing logistics as well as the people that worked with the committee in the 64 wards of the six local government areas, which he said made the election free, fair and without rancor.
The chairman noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and other security agencies monitored the primary election, adding that the committee did not receive any adverse report of violent incidents.
“Although we had a seven-man committee, since yesterday afternoon (Thursday), I have not set my eyes on three members of the committee and as you know the rule of committee, it is operated by a simple majority. I am the chairman and I have a secretary and 2 other members with me, which helped us to form a quorum to be able to do our work.
“The work started with the seven members until about noon yesterday (Thursday) after the election was almost completed in all the 64 wards, where the election was held. The report we presented showed the composition of the committee and the engagement of stakeholders in Imo State.
“At the end of the exercise, the result was announced publicly in the presence of INEC and Police at Okigwe, the Senatorial headquarters of Imo North Senatorial district. Everything was done in the public glare. We submitted our result to INEC.
“At the end of the day, the aspirant that got the highest votes is Hon. Frank Ibezim and he is the person declared as the winner in my capacity as the chairman of the election committee and his name has been submitted to the Organising Secretary of our party,” Bashiru stated.
He stressed that the committee had also sent a copy of its report to the election appeal committee, should there be an appeal emanating from the exercise, adding that it equally submitted the report to the police and INEC before the committee left Imo State.
Asked why the committee held parallel elections, Bashiru said he didn’t make himself the chairman, and asked the journalists to fact check with the party leadership.
“It is not what you report that matters. Any reasonable person does not enthrone himself or herself. I did not make myself chairman of the committee. I received a letter from the organising secretary. You can ask him who is the chairman of the committee. I don’t want to comment on information you people can fact check. I was handed letters of other members of the committee.
“Yesterday (Thursday) the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yekini Nabena issued a statement that there was no parallel congress and that it was the committee set under my leadership that is recognised. I think that settles that.
“I am not the one to answer the question of parallel elections. Go and meet the national chairman of the caretaker committee or the national publicity secretary of the party. I have a letter appointing me as the chairman and I just entered the Organising Secretary’s office whom I personally handed the followings to him: 64 results sheets for the wards, six local government results sheets and one central collation sheet for the district and I handed over the result sheets to him. So, go and ask the other group where they get what they are parading as a result?
“Ask who collected election materials from the Organising Secretary? Find out if the election materials were given to any other person other than Senator Ajibola Bashiru. I know I collected the materials physically and not through a courier.
“It is sad that the issue of criminality will arise. The proper person to ask if you doubt the authenticity of what I have done as chairman is to ask if the party appointed Senator Ajibola Bashiru as chairman and Chief Samuel Oguku as Secretary.
“When the report of parallel elections was broken, I just laughed. I have pictures on my phone of the people claiming we had parallel elections. We sat together and held meetings together with the Commissioner of Police of Imo State.
“The stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, they were in attendance, where I spoke. So, I don’t know at what point in time the parallel election was held. I say it with all honesty that as at noon yesterday (Thursday) the committee still met to review before we were about to proceed to the field. As at the time we were to proceed to Okigwe, they disappeared.”
Asked also if there was a crack in the committee, the chairman said he was not aware of any problem, dispute or rancour, but added that suddenly, he couldn’t see the three members.
“We went to check their rooms, as I talk to you now, I have not set my eyes on them. If there was a dispute, they should be able to tell you (media). They should tell you where they went, when you see them. I reported them to the police that I can’t see them.
“We checked their rooms where they left the television sets there on, we had to break into the rooms for fear that nothing untoward had happened to them. They absconded and four of us were on ground to do the work and you know that four is greater than three. In our party, the day will not come when three will be greater than four.”
But a member of the committee and a factional chairman, Gana, while speaking with journalists in Abuja, said he was at the party secretariat to deliver his assignment from Imo North senatorial by-election, saying the exercise was free, fair and without molestation.
“You know in politics no matter how many people that are contesting, only one person is going to emerge as the flag bearer. So, in our own case, there were eleven people that contested for the Imo north senatorial seat, Okigwe is the name of the headquarters of the zone.
“We were able to do our best by moving around the six local governments under the zone and we were able to at least supervise about 15 polling units among the local governments. In fact, the election was peaceful and at the end of the day, the ward returning officers submitted their results to the local government returning officers, who then returned their results to us and we announced the results.
“So, after all these exercises we had senator Godwin Ifeanyi Ararume emerge as the winner of the primary election. Anything short of this is not acceptable, because I am in the field. We went to the field, so other people will claim we have done this or done that but in life whatever you do there is a judgment.
“Some people are making a lot of noise about the election in Imo state, I was there live and I can show you many evidence that I attended the primary live and it was done successfully. We have just submitted our report to the headquarters of the APC and they have acknowledged it. So, we are waiting for the day of the election,” he said.