The All Progressives Congress governorship primaries held on Thursday deepened the crises in the party’s state chapters as some factions held parallel congresses while others boycotted the polls entirely.
Some aspirants in Ogun, Lagos, Rivers, and Ebonyi states in separate interviews faulted the delegate lists used for the primaries.
While opposing factions in Akwa Ibom State held parallel primaries, aggrieved aspirants and party chieftains boycotted the shadow elections in Rivers, Sokoto and Delta states.
Some of the aspirants threatened legal actions and warned the party against any action that could lead to the nullification of the primaries.
The ruling party is currently battling crises in states including Rivers, Ogun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Osun, and Sokoto where factions are battling for supremacy.
Factions of party in some states rejected the election of delegates for the governorship primaries, alleging that the exercise was hijacked by governors and ministers.
Abe shuns Rivers primary
Before the commencement of the Rivers State APC primary in Port Harcourt on Thursday, a governorship aspirant, Magnus Abe, who is leading a faction opposed to the one headed by a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, withdrew from the exercise.
Abe’s ally and former Chief of Staff, Rivers State Government House, Tony Okocha, in a statement, described the process as skewed and biased.
The statement reads, “I have been receiving a myriad of calls from our colleagues concerning the National Assembly and governorship primaries of our darling party, the APC.
“Please kindly take this as an official statement that we are not participating in an already skewed, biased, and prejudiced process in Rivers.”
Later on Thursday evening, Abe denied a report that he had dumped the APC.
He, however, vowed to challenge the outcome of the indirect primary mode adopted by the Amaechi faction.
He stated, “Everybody knows that in a delegate election if you’re not included in how the delegates are chosen; if the process of choosing the delegates is not inclusive; if it is not transparent and not fair, the outcome of what the delegates will do is not expected to be any different from the process that produced them.
“Like I said at the beginning of this whole thing when I declared, I said I will not just accept the outcome of any process that is not just, fair, equitable and inclusive.
“The indirect primary being conducted today (Thursday) by the former Minister of Transportation and his cronies in the APC in Rivers State does not meet that standard.
“ And for that reason, while I have decided not to withdraw out of respect for the party, I want to say clearly that I will not accept the outcome nor will I be bound by it,” Abe stated.
The State APC Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, who is in Amaechi’s camp, said on the telephone that Abe’s political sojourn would soon end.
Tonye Cole, a Lagos-based businessman, and ally of Amaechi won the primary. Cole polled a total of 986 votes to defeat Ojukaye Flag Amachree, Seconte Davies, Ibinabo West, and Benrard Mikko, who scored 190, 47, 43 and two to come a distant second, third and fourth respectively.
Abiodun wins in Ogun
In Ogun State, two aggrieved aspirants, Adekunle Akinlade and Biyi Otegbeye, complained of being sidelined, claiming that the delegate list was not made public before the commencement of the election.
The aspirants said they would participate in the primary because of their loyalty and respect for the leadership of the party.
Both Akinlade and Otegbeye, said this on Thursday in a press statement they jointly signed, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent.
Both aspirants are loyalists of a former Governor of the State, Ibikunle Amosun, who is opposed to the incumbent Governor, Dapo Abiodun.
The aspirants said a formal complaint had been sent to the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
While faulting the choice of the chairman of the election committee, Wale Ohu, Akinlade, and Otegbeye recalled that it was the same man who conducted the wards, local government, and state congresses of the party in the state.
They added that the three congresses he conducted ended in controversies and according to them worsened the crisis within the party in the state.
They alleged that only one aspirant collected all the delegate forms in the state.
“Against this background, we wish to inform your Excellency that we have no confidence in the choice of Chairman of the election panel and have fears and reservations about the list of delegates to be used for the exercise,”
Later on Thursday, the chairman declared the incumbent governor winner of the primary held at the MKO Abiola Stadium Abeokuta.
The governor in his acceptance speech, described the election as a victory for the people of the state
The state chapter of the party, in a statement by its spokesperson, Tunde Oladunjoye, urged other aspirants to accept the result of the primary.
He stated, “Only one person can occupy the seat of a governor at a time. We, therefore, urge loyal party members to cooperate with the winner.”
Oladunjoye described the victory of Abiodun as “a deserved vote of confidence in the state’s helmsman for the peace and progress he has brought to the state since he assumed office on May 29, 2019.”
Sokoto aspirants shun primary
Two aspirants, Senator Abubakar Gada and Balarabe Salame at a press conference in Sokoto, warned the party against a repeat of the 2019 incident in Zamfara State in Sokoto State.
In 2019, the Supreme Court sacked the APC candidate, Muktar Idris, who won the governorship poll, and declared Bello Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate winner.
On Thursday, Gada and Salame insisted on a direct primary to elect the Sokoto State governorship candidate of the APC.
The aspirants said anything done contrary to the request might spell doom for the party, saying such an exercise could not stand the test of the law.
They stated, “The Chairman (the national chairman) should recall that only a few days to the primaries a pronouncement was made by the Sokoto Federal High Court with a confused pronouncement that is neither here nor there.
“Consequently, to put the party in a strong position, six out of seven aspirants formally requested direct primary as contained in the electoral act 2022 as amended”
“We however vowed to be on the side of the law by deciding to keep away from the charade about to take place in the Sokoto State APC.
“We make bold to submit that whatever happens in the course of this so-called exercise cannot stand the text of the law, thereby putting the state chapter at the highest risk of nullification.”
All efforts to speak to the chairman of the party in the state, Isa Sadiq Acida, were not successful as calls to his phone were not answered as of the time of sending this report.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the party, Sambo Danchadi said the party was busy with the primary.
In Delta State, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege emerged winner.
Omo-Agege, who polled 1,190 votes, was returned unopposed by the 1,235 accredited delegates.
But some of the aggrieved members including the Minister of State for Labor and Employment, Festus Keyamo; Dr Cairo Ojougboh; and a former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Mr Victor Ochei, were absent from the primary.
Lagos gov aspirants threaten legal action
In Lagos State, two aspirants, Abdul-Ahmed Mustapha and Wale Oluwo, protested their exclusion from the primary of the party held at Onikan.
The aspirants in separate interviews said that the party’s Lagos State Governorship Primary Election Committee and its screening committee prevented them from participating in the primary.
They threatened to seek legal action should the leadership of the party fail to address the issue.
Both Mustapha and Oluwo said the process that led to the announcement of Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the primary was not democratic.
The chairman of the election committee and former deputy governor of Borno State, Shettima Yuguda, announced Sanwo-Olu as the winner and claimed that both Mustapha and Oluwo did not participate in the election because they were not cleared by the screening committee of the party.
He reiterated that Lagos APC had 1,225 delegates and 1,198 had been accredited.
“We are aware that three aspirants bought forms for Lagos state. Three accredited for the screening. One was cleared, two were not cleared.
“So, as we speak, the other two aspirants have not been cleared by the screening committee and by the appeal committee.”
However, Oluwo, in a statement he signed and sent to The PUNCH, said the elected delegated were those handpicked by just one of the APC factions in Lagos State, through “a sham delegates congress purportedly held in the 245 Wards of Lagos State on 18th and 19th of May 2022”.
The statement read, “The one-sided congress, which excluded all the other aspiring delegates that bought the APC Delegates Nomination Forms, was conducted in gross violation of the APC Electoral guidelines, APC Constitution, and the Electoral Act. The Lagos State APC State Exco, headed by one pastor Cornelius Ojelabi, is complicit in the exercise of this blatant rape of democracy in APC Lagos.
“We also note that the Screening Committee, which was inaugurated by the APC National Headquarters to screen all Governorship Aspirants in Lagos State, has refused to publish the results of the screening exercise at the time of this press release. The approved Election Guidelines of the APC mandate the Screening Committee to release its results within 24 hours of concluding the screening exercise, allow participating aspirants an opportunity to appeal the outcome of the screening at the APC Screening Appeals Committee.
“I cannot understand why the Screening Committee chose not to contact the aspirants screened by them, either by phone call, text message, written letter, or any other means of communication, considering their decision to withhold the results of the screening. This is a serious breach of aspirants’ fundamental rights to a fair hearing, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.”
Oluwo said he would seek redress from the internal dispute resolution mechanisms of the party, “without foreclosing the enforcement of our rights to seek justice in the Court of Law.”
Also, Mustapha said he was in Abuja two weeks ago for the screening though the result was not announced.
He said the Secretary of the primary election committee, Bashir Mohammed, turned him back on Thursday, saying that he was not cleared and as such cannot be given accreditation access to the venue.
Mustapha said, “We were told that we were not cleared by the leadership of the party, and as such, they only gave accreditation tags to those that were cleared.
“We went to Abuja for clearance two weeks ago. The results of the clearance were not communicated to us.
Continuing, Mustapha added, “I sent a lawyer to Abuja two days ago and we were informed that we were not cleared. One of the members of the screening committee told our lawyer that we were not cleared. I spoke to one of the members of the committee and he said only the people who were cleared will be accredited. I spoke with the chairman of the party in Lagos and he said he did not have control over the accreditation process but only the people from Abuja can clear me. ,,.
A ‘protest letter’ signed by Mustapha’s lawyer, A.A Oloyede, read, “It is our brief that our client who is participating in the APC Gubernatorial Primaries slated for tomorrow (26th of May, 2022) in Lagos State has yet to receive the report of the screening conducted on the 14th day of May, 2022 as at 3:30pm on the 25th day of May, 2022 (Few hours to the commencement of Gubernatorial primaries) contrary to the time-table as released by the party.”
He alleged that his client’s rights had been breached, adding that shutting his client out would amount to mockery of the primary.
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, thanked the people of the state for the confidence reposed in him.
Sanwo-Olu’s opponents, social media aspirants – Deputy chair
But the Deputy state Chairman of the party, Moshood Maiyegun, described the two other aspirants as mere social media aspirants.
Maiyegun disclosed this to one of our correspondents during the primary held in Onikan stadium in Lagos on Thursday.
The deputy state chairman of the party said their absence confirmed the notion held by many party stalwarts that the two were mere social media aspirants. “We didn’t see them, they are just social media aspirants,” Maiyegun said.
Also, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, the Lagos APC chairman, Cornelius Ojelabi, said the two aspirants were disqualified by the national secretariat.
Parallel primaries in A/Ibom
Two factions conducted parallel primaries in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on Thursday.
A fraction loyal to former Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio held its primary at the party Secretariat at Okpo Obot while the one headed by a former National Secretary, John Akpanudoegehe, held its shadow election at Sheer Grace, also in Uyo
In Gombe State, Governor Muhammadu Yahaya, was declared the winner of the primary through a voice vote.
The Chairman of the Governing Council University of Nigeria Nsukka, Chief Ikechi Emenike, won the governorship primary of the party in Abia state.
But an aspirant, Chief Daniel Eke, in an interview with journalists, described the primary as unacceptable.
The incumbent Zamfara Governor, Matawalle, was declared the winner of the primary in the state.Matawalle who contested unopposed got 733 votes out of 735 votes cast.
The Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru, emerged as winner in the state.
Nwifuru, who is supported by the state Governor, Dave Umahi, scored 743 votes to defeat four other aspirants.
But in an interview, Iziriga Raymond, an agent of one of the aspirants, Julius Ali Ucha, rejected the result, describing it as a celebrated fraud.
In Osun State, an aspirant for Ilesa East State Constituency, Damilola Bodunde, said she had no other option than to boycott the exercise after she received strange calls, telling her not to show up at the venue of the primary.