Confusion mars APC primaries

The Governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Bayelsa State was, yesterday, characterised by confusion,controversy and alleged hijack of the electoral process from the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole-led Electoral Committee.

Former Governor of the state Chief Timipre Sylva won a parallel exercise organised by the state executive of the APC without Oshiomhole and some members of his committee with 726 of the 807 votes cast.

He was retunred as winner by Mr. Nelson Alakgba, a member of the primary committee.

Timi Alaibe, who was not present scored four votes.

How first exercise was aborted

The original exercise ran into trouble early in the day over acccreditation before  Oshiomhole arrived  at about 12 noon

Oshiomhole tried to calm frayed nerves by meeting with his committee members and later with the aspirants to fashion the way forward but was held hostage by irate party supporters, who invaded the Samson Siasia Stadium venue of the primaries and insisted that the abandoned accreditation of delegates be completed and election conducted.

Tight security

Though there was tight security at the venue, some delegates were attacked by suspected thugs as they made their way to the venue.

A total of 1,508 delegates were expected to participate in the exercise and only about 80 delegates from Brass and Ekeremor had been cleared and seated at their council stands, when the matter degenerated.

How trouble started: Trouble started following complaints and objections by three of the aspirants,Timi Alaibe, Ebitimi Amgbare and Preye Aganaba, that the Oshiomole-led Committee had lost control of the process, citing alleged hijack by the state executive of the party loyal to Timipre Sylva.

According to them, many of the delegates being cleared were in possession of cloned  identification papers against the committee’s requirements of an International Passport, National Identification Card and Voters’ Card.

It was gathered that before 8am, thugs invaded the entrance of Samson Siasia Sports Complex, Yenagoa and attacked some party chieftains. The chaos was blamed on the absence of Oshiomhole, the chairman of the Electoral Committee, who arrived at about noon.

Oshiomhole came in the middle of the confusion, two minutes after one of the top contenders , Chief Timipre Sylva, arrived. Oshiomhole immediately intervened and held a meeting with members of his committee. After meeting his committee members, he also met with all the aspirants leading to speculations that the primary could be cancelled.

Before the arrival of Governor Oshiomhole, the trio of Timi Alaibe, Preye Aganaba and Prince Ebitimi had called for the postponement of the exercise, citing alleged irregularities and intimidation of delegates by hired thugs.

Exercise fraught with irregularities –Alaibe

Alaibe said: “The rancorous accreditation process leading to the primaries was fraught with irregularities, violence, intimidation and complete disrespect for aspirants, agents and party officials. This is an enactment of negative issues for a party that stands on the mantra of change. I think something is missing somewhere and we need to get it right.

“Some of us, as aspirants had some delegates who are loyal to us threatened, beaten and wounded since morning. We have a quite number of people who are not delegates, the real delegates are outside. Some of the fake delegates have identity cards that are cloned.

“I believe we need to put a stop to this process. We are going to meet with the chairman of the committee and we are going to ask for a cancellation of this process to start at some other time so that they can get the security dynamics right and the process and methodology of primaries right. “We are disappointed that this can happen in an internal family arrangement. For some of us, this process cannot continue and we cannot continue with this process because there are a lot of irregularities and I am totally discontented.”

Amgbare concurs

Corroborating Alaibe, another aspirant, Prince Ebitimi Amgbare, who also called for the cancellation said: “As a matter of fact, I am the reason for this event holding here today. I cancelled the elections that was held in 2007 when I contested with Sylva and that is why we have this isolated elections in Bayelsa State. And if we cancelled an election because it was not properly organised, I believe that this primary should be better organised.

“The process has been hijacked and the secretary of the committee has lost control because the chairman is not here. We know the style and character of Adams Oshiomhole and  I am sure that if he was here early, he would have held sway. And because he is not here, it is affecting the process, but as far as I am concerned, we cannot go on with this process because it will lead us to nowhere. I stand to say that as it is today, this process must stop.”

The process is unlike APC – Aganaba

Another aspirant, Preye Aganaba, said the process of the primaries is unlike what the APC is known for, describing the process as a far cry from what obtained at the Lagos convention that produced the party’s presidential candidate.

His words: “I am ashamed today that the APC would be organising a primary in this way, because I was a member of the last presidential primaries in Lagos and we had a successful convention and when the winner emerged the other aspirants supported the candidate but the process today is flawed. It is a pity that most of the delegates that have been accredited are all fake.

Cause for alarm

“I want to join other aspirants to ask for a cancellation immediately because this is unlike APC. I toiled, sweated and paid for this party to be established in Bayelsa state, and if I am asking for this you should know how pained I am,” Aganaba protested.

No cause for alarm –Sylva

But former Governor Timipre Sylva said there was no cause for alarm. He said there was no cause for the cancellation of exercise, adding that he was hailed by the people because of his outstanding credentials.

His words: “I am not an agent and if there are people with cloned cards, we will make sure they are arrested. I was part of the arrangements put in place. Among all the aspirants, l am the only one with the credentials; someone who has done a term here.”

19 aspirants meet Oshiomhole, accuse state chairman of bias

At the meeting between Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the 19 governorship aspirants, the aspirants accused the state executive committee led by the State Chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimigha of hijacking the process and encouraging the rowdy invasion of the election venue by suspected thugs.

Amgbare, who confirmed the issues raised, said the conduct of the State Executive was biased and a deliberate show of support to a governorship aspirant.

Fireworks scare: As the aspirants and members of the primary committee were holding a meeting with Oshiomhole, sporadic fireworks rent the air outside the venue close to the fence of the Samson Siasia Sports Complex, causing panic among delegates and officials. It, however, took the prompt intervention of security operatives to calm the situation.

Oyegun designed primary to fail – Sylva

While the governorship aspirants were asked to wait for the final decision of the Oshiomhole Committee, Sylva was agitated and was heard complaining to the National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hillia Ettah, that the process was allegedly designed by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to fail.

Holding of primaries

“Tell him (Oyegun), he has compromised. In short, I will tell him that he has compromised. The process was designed to fail and to deny me of my gains in the party,” he said.

Shortly after, the gate to the venue was forced open by irate youth, who were insisting that the primaries must be held.

Many of the aspirants were seen leaving the venue out of security concern as the police were struggling to maintain law and order.

Delay unnecessary –Igoli

The only APC member in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Sunny Igoli, who spoke to newsmen, said the delay in the election process was unnecessary as the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole cannot deny that the use of party registration card is not admissible for use in the poll.

Igoli said, “even Oshiomhole did not use PVC during his own primaries. Why is our story different? We built the party and know our members. The rules were outlined for aspirants but the delegates have their rights too. And they have demanded that the party registration card be used.”

Soldiers rescue Oshiomhole

The electoral committee chairman, was however rescued and taken out of the venue by armed military personnel at about 4.50pm.

Thereafter a parallel governorship primary was held by the State Executives of the party without Oshiomhole and some members of the Electoral Committee. Sylva won the exercise in a landslide.