Some All Progressives Congress governorship and state Houses of Assembly aspirants in Ogun, Rivers, Sokoto, Lagos and Osun states have called for the adoption of direct primary to elect the party’s candidates in the 2023 elections.
The aspirants, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Tuesday, alleged that governors and some ministers hijacked election of delegates, who would vote at Thursday’s governorship and Houses of Assembly primaries.
They, therefore, called on the national leadership of the party to cancel the delegates’ elections and adopt a direct primary on Thursday.
The PUNCH had on Thursday and Monday reported that the election of delegates in Rivers, Sokoto, Benue and Rivers was characterised by crises with factions rejecting the results.
In the Rivers State APC secretariat, there were gunshots by the police, who dispersed supporters of a governorship aspirant, Senator Magnus Abe, who alleged that a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, hijacked the congress.
Four governorship aspirants in Ogun State —Owodunni Opayemi, Adekunle Akinlade, Modele Sarafa-Yusuf and Biyi Otegbeye— in a petition to the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, obtained by one of our correspondents on Tuesday, demanded a direct primary for the shadow election that would hold on Thursday.
The APC in the state is divided into two groups with one loyal to the incumbent Governor, Dapo Abiodun, and the other led by his predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun. The party structure is however controlled by the governor.
The four aspirants in the petition they jointly signed alleged that forms were not made available to “non-loyalists of the powers-that-be. This, Sir, is unconstitutional, unfair and undemocratic.”
They stated, “We, therefore, write to state our preference for the direct primary mode in Ogun State for a free and credible primary election.
“The chairman may wish to know that echoes of the disputed 2018 primaries are still being heard in the state and the division in the Ogun State chapter of the APC has yet to be healed.
“The party members across the divide are therefore desirous of having their voices heard in the next elections.
“We also wish to appeal to the chairman to appoint an independent and impartial arbiter to superintend the direct primary election in Ogun State for transparency and fairness.”
In a related development, the National Association of Nigerian Students on Tuesday accused the leadership of the APC of turning a deaf ear to the petitions written against Abiodun.
NANS in a statement signed by its National Public Relations Officer, Victor Ezenagu, knocked the APC for failing to take action.
Several attempts to get reaction from the leadership of the APC in the state failed as the chairman, Yemi Sanusi, did not reply to a text message sent to his mobile line. Several calls to his line were not answered.
But Abiodun, on Tuesday, breezed into the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja.
Abiodun was warmly received by the APC National Chairman who subsequently ushered him in for a closed-door meeting.
Efforts made to speak with the governor after the one-hour meeting proved abortive as he ignored the journalists and entered his car and left the premises.
Abe’s faction demands direct primary
The APC faction loyal to Abe called for the cancellation of the delegates’ elections and demanded a direct primary.
A chieftain of the party and former Chief of staff, Rivers State Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, in an interview with The PUNCH on the telephone on Tuesday, said the group had petitioned the national leadership of the APC.
He stated, “We have done that in black and white, besides the peaceful demonstration that took place in Port Harcourt. The other thing I would want anybody else to do is to find out from INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) if actually, that congress held.
“INEC’s role in that congress is not even to observe but to monitor. In other words, INEC was an integral part of that exercise. Find out from INEC if it actually monitored any exercise in any of the local government areas.”
Asked if his faction would demand the cancellation of the process and demand for direct primary for governorship should be held, Okocha answered in the affirmative.
He stated, “That is our position because there was no congress. That congress was supposed to throw up delegates that would have voted for aspirants to become candidates.
“To that extent, there is a lacuna. So, what is best as it were is to carry everybody along in a direct primary election to select the governorship candidate for the party.”
The state spokesman for the party, Chris Finebone, said he knew nothing about what the Abe camp was talking about, insisting that the entire processes were very transparent.
“The entire processes were very transparent and open and the congress took place,” he said.
Also, a Sokoto State governorship aspirant, Balarabe Salame, told The PUNCH that he and five other contestants had petitioned the national leadership of the party.
He said out of the seven APC governorship aspirants in the state, six of them were not in support of the delegates that emerged from the congress. He, therefore, called on the party to go for a direct primary.
“I don’t understand how it is going to be but the point is we are not satisfied with the delegates that emerged. The party is working for someone and we all know whom they are working for.
“If the party does not do the right thing, anything can happen. I only pray that the situation of Rivers or Zamfara does not repeat itself in the state here.”
Primary committee: Lagos APC kicks as group alleges Sanwo-Olu’s brother’s inclusion
In Lagos State, the National President of the APC Professionals for Change, Hakeem Ogunsanya, expressed its dissatisfaction with the inclusion of a man it alleged is Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s elder brother in the APC primary committee.
In a statement issued by the group, signed by its Publicity Secretary, Bayo Aderibigbe, and made available to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, the group alleged that many individuals in the committee had strong ties with some of the contestants, thus allowing them to play the role of umpires could jeopardise the interest of other aspirants in the race.
The Chairman of APC in Lagos State, Cornelius Ojelabi, had on Monday inaugurated the committee, which is to be headed by the APC Zonal Organising Secretary, Lateef Ibirogba.
But the group flayed the state chapter of the party for setting up the committee, saying it was a usurpation of the functions of the national body, which is constitutionally empowered to perform such duties.
The other committee members include Olayinka Oladunjoye, Bola Badmus-Olujobi, Hakeem Odumosu, Gbolahan Idris, Adebayo Sanwo-Olu, Sodiq Ademola, Oluremi Shopeyin, and Muritala Seriki.
“The committee’s composition shows the desperation of some aspirants to subvert the process in their interest. We have some elements in that committee who have close ties with some aspirants. It beats my imagination that our great party in the state could appoint the governor’s elder brother to the committee that will conduct an election in which he is a contestant; this is like taking impunity to another level. What signal are we giving to other aspirants in the race? This is an aberration that shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
However, the group charged the party’s national leadership to dissolve the Ibirogba-led committee and reconstitute another that would reflect neutrality in fairness to all aspirants.
Reacting to the statement, the Lagos APC Chairman, Ojelabi, who spoke briefly with our correspondent, said the sequence of events outlined in the party needed to be understood.
Describing the group’s statement as false, he stated it was never the responsibility of the APC state chapter to form the committee as the power was only vested in the National Secretariat of the party, where the members were formed and inaugurated before being sent to report to their respective states where they would coordinate the primaries.
He said the committee was only received and introduced ahead to help prepare the ground for successful and hitch-free primaries, being unfamiliar with the structure of the Lagos State’s federal and state constituencies. He maintained that the said Adebayo Sanwo-Olu had always been a state executive, “Notwithstanding, the claims of his alleged ties are unfounded and cannot be established,” he added.
Ojelabi said, “I urge all party delegates to discard the statement and go on and cast their votes for the aspirants of their choice, without influence or fear, urging them to be calm and maintain orderliness during the process.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said he had no knowledge of the statement yet and did not know the organisation. He added that such a statement could not even be addressed to the governor. “There are no groups in the APC,” he said.
Reacting to the statement, the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said there could be no reaction from the state government as it amounts to nothing and that the person bears the same name as the governor doesn’t make them brothers.
Oyetola, Aregbesola’s camps disagree
The Publicity Secretary of Aregbesola’s faction in Osun APC, Abiodun Agboola, while speaking with one of our correspondents, warned that the group would resist any attempt to impose fictitious names as delegates.
Agboola alleged that, last week, some men loyal to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola compiled the names of the delegates that would vote during the primary election to elect the party’s candidates at the House of Assembly primary taking place on Thursday.
He stated, “We are in the dark regarding the primary that should hold this Thursday. No directive from the national headquarters. No delegate congress took place in Osun. What we have is that a group loyal to the sitting governor sat in the Government House and wrote delegates names and submitted them to Abuja.”
But reacting, the state Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, dismissed the allegations, saying the election of delegates was held across the state between Monday and Tuesday last week.
He also said the exercise was monitored by INEC and advised against spreading unfounded allegations in a bid to score a cheap political point.
The Niger State APC is also in crisis over the alleged tampering with delegates’ lists by some members of the party executive to favour some aspirants.
Nine governorship aspirants, in a letter to the state governor, Abubakar Bello, alleged that some people had tampered with the party’s delegates’ list.
Umar Bago, on behalf of other aspirants including Alhaji Ahmed Muhammad Ketso, Professor Mohammed Yahaya, Mohammed Nda, Idris Usman Makanta, Engineer Sani Ndanusa, Muhammad Rufai, Dr MK Muhammad, and Alhaji Idris Ruga, warned those involved.
APC adjusts primaries timetable for fourth time
The APC the National Working Committee has again adjusted the released timetable and schedule of activities for the Governorship, state House of Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives primaries making it the fourth time the party would carry out the adjustment.
Unlike in the previous schedule of activities, the primary for the 340 senatorial aspirants that was slated for Friday, May 27, would now hold on Saturday, May 28.
The primary for the House of Representatives aspirants, earlier scheduled for Saturday, May 28 has been shifted back to Friday, May 27.
Primaries of the 145 governorship and state House of Assembly aspirants remain the same – Thursday, May 26.
While apologising for the last-minute adjustment, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, disclosed that “the special convention for the Presidential Primary will be held as scheduled on Sunday, May 29 to Monday, May 30, 2022.”
The Head of Department, Political Science, University of Lagos, Prof. Derin Ologbenla, in an interview with The PUNCH, said it was too late for the party to organise a direct primary.
He stated, “It is too late to organise a direct primary because the party did not start the process on time. They have to submit the names of candidates to INEC which they are struggling to meet. The President’s delay in signing the amended Electoral Act is also a factor. They were waiting that he would sign last week but he didn’t sign.
Even if he signs it tomorrow, it can’t meet up or take effect, it is the laws that existed before that will apply.
“The political parties, especially the two major political parties will not meet up with INEC’s deadline. And they want INEC to give them an extension of time to submit the various aspirants for various positions. Some of them are still hoping that the President will sign the amended electoral law.”
Buhari holds marathon meeting with governors, NASS leadership
As he prepares to travel out of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday had a closed-door meeting with the governors and members of the National Assembly in the State House.
At the end of the meeting, the parties kept sealed lips on what they discussed.
A source at the APC secretariat, however, told our correspondents that it bordered on talks around the coming primaries and the need for consensus.
This is even as he disclosed that the outcome of today’s meeting with the President would determine the direction of the primaries and the new date for the postponed presidential screening.
A meeting of the APC governors took place late last night at the Kebbi Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro.
The source also stated that Buhari might likely meet with the presidential aspirants again tonight since he is travelling tomorrow.
“Baba seems to be travelling too much these days. It is hard to tell whether that is also part of his strategy to avoid giving in to some unusual demands ahead of the primaries.
“The dual citizenship issue is a tricky one I am sure even the publicity secretary may be unwilling to address. First, we have to determine what the constitution says about it. If it is against it, the party won’t concede to it as well.
Morka himself has always maintained that the party will be consistent with the letters of the constitution,” he said.
On former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the source said their forms were in the custody of the NWC.
Lagos aspirants threaten court action
An APC governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Wale Oluwo, warned the ruling party not to rely on the elected delegates’ list to conduct its primaries.
In a chat with The PUNCH on Tuesday, he described the delegates’ elections in Lagos as a sham and a fraud and threatened to go to court should the party proceed with the list for the Thursday governorship primary.
Oluwo, who is the chairman of the Akinwunmi Ambode Campaign Organisation, and a challenger of Governor Sanwo-Olu, said, “For the whole of Lagos State, we have a minimum of two contestants per slot in every ward. Then, for Lagos West particularly, we have three contestants per slot. So, how can one particular group come up with their own delegates and take it to the field and conduct an affirmation.
“What they did was an affirmation. Affirmation only happens when only one person has obtained form or if more than one person obtained the form and others stepped down. Then, you affirm by voice note. But when you have two to three people and you still do voice affirmation for one delegate of your own side, and they want to rely on that for a governor? The APC will not have a governorship candidate the way they are going. In so many states, the APC should be very careful, particularly in Lagos; the party will not have a governorship candidate.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the state chairman of the APC, Cornelius Ojelabi, proved abortive as calls to his line were unanswered as of press time. A text message sent to his line was also not replied.
Also, efforts made to speak with Morka on the demand of the aspirants in Ogun, Rivers, Osun, Sokoto and Lagos states proved abortive.
As of the time of filing in this report, he neither picked the calls nor replied the SMS of one of our correspondents.