The All-Progressives Congress chapters in states including Rivers, Benue, Oyo and Sokoto are currently facing crises arising from last week’s election of delegates for governorship primaries holding on Thursday.
Factional leaders and aspirants in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday alleged that elections were not held rather delegates were hand-picked by rival groups.
The APC initially scheduled its governorship primaries for Friday, but on Thursday it shifted it to May 26 following its failure to decide on delegates that would vote during the shadow election.
Recall that congresses in Sokoto and Rivers were rocked by violence on Wednesday.
From all indications with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) delay in signing the amendment to the Electoral Act, only elected delegates who emerged from last week’s congresses would vote at the governorship primaries as the current Act bars statutory delegates from voting at the primaries.
With the impending non-participation of statutory delegates, including the President, the Vice-President, members of state and national assemblies, only five delegates elected from each of the 8,809 wards in the country would vote at the governorship primaries.
The disagreement among aspirants over elected delegates heightened on Sunday as they realised statutory delegates would not vote.
Process skewed in Rivers, no voting, people not allowed to contest – Abe factional chairman
The faction loyal to Senator Magnus Abe in Rivers State said there was no delegate election in the state.
The APC in the state is currently polarised into two factions, one led by Abe and the other headed by a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi
The Abe factional chairman, Golden Chioma, in an interview with The PUNCH, said “You know that in our state we didn’t have a delegate election and we are still fighting that. People that bought forms were not allowed to contest. So, if people were not allowed to contest, it is not a valid process.
“The process was skewed in our state. So, to answer your question, I am not satisfied and you know it. A lot of people bought forms and were not allowed to compete for them. So why should I be happy?
But the state party spokesman, Chris Finebone, dismissed claims by the Abe-led faction that no delegate election took place in the state.
Finebone, who is loyal to Amaechi, told one of our correspondents that contrary to such claims, it was only in one ward in Asari-Toru Local Government Area that election did not hold due to harassment.
“The exercise was peaceful and credible and it was witnessed by INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and security officials in all wards.”
In Sokoto State, the factions loyal to Senators Aliyu Wamakko and Abubakar Gada also disagreed over the congress.
A leader of the Gada faction and governorship aspirants, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, said, “My only grudge is how the delegates emerged in Sokoto State. The party only made use of the loyalists of a faction in arriving at the delegates’ list.”
Efforts to speak to the state Chairman of the party backed by Wamakko, Isa Sadiq Acida, were not successful but the spokesman for the party, Sambo Danchadi, described the situation as a national matter.
He said the party in the state was fully ready for any directive from the headquarters.
A factional leader of the APC in Benue State, Omale Omale, faulted the process of electing delegates.
Speaking to our correspondent in Makurdi, Omale, whose group is opposed to the Minister of Special Duties, George Akume’s faction, said that some people only sat down and picked names of their loyalists and forwarded the list to the state capital.
He stated, “If there is congress, members will participate, INEC and the DSS (Department of State Services) will send representatives but I do know again that we have a very compromising system where INEC which never supervised anything will write a report okaying a congress that never took place. But the point I am making is that there was no ward congress anywhere in the state.”
But the organising secretary of the APC in the state, James Orgunga, said that the party opted for consensus to pick the delegates at the ward level.
Later on Sunday, the Chairman of the Akume-backed faction, Austin Agada, said the party had adopted a direct option for its forthcoming governorship primary.
This is part of the resolution reached at the party stakeholders’ meeting held at City Bay in Makurdi, the state capital on Sunday.
But it was gathered that the Omale faction and a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Barnabas Gemade, were not at the meeting.
When asked why the factional leader and Gemade did not attend the stakeholders’ meeting, the party chairman said there were specific people that were invited to the meeting.
“There were specific people that were invited for the meeting. Omale is just a member of the party; on the Gemade issue, he personally contacted me that he was not given consideration as for delegates and as such excused himself from the meeting.”
In Oyo State, it was gathered that two delegates’ lists were produced by rival factions of the party.
It was learnt that two factions were anxious about the delegates’ list which would be approved at the party headquarters for the governorship primary.
The party in the state is polarised by the governorship ambitions of Senator Teslim Folarin and a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Adebayo Adelabu.
The state chairman of the APC, Isaac Omodewu, is a loyalist to Folarin while Abu Gbadamosi who was elected on the eve of the last national convention of the party in Abuja is loyal to Adelabu.
It was gathered that the two factions submitted separate lists to Abuja but they were not sure which one would be adopted for the governorship primary.
Omodewu declined to speak when contacted on the telephone by one of our correspondents.
He said, “ I don’t want to comment on the list yet because they are still processing it. I will react when the list is out.”
An elderly male voice who answered the call by one of our correspondents to the factional chairman, Gbadamosi, said he was busy.
Subsequent calls to his line were not answered as of the time of filing this report.
Statutory delegates: APC cannot afford to violate the law, Lagos gov aspirant warns
An APC governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Wale Oluwo, said the ruling party could afford to contravene the position of the law.
According to him, the status quo must be maintained as long as the President has not signed the amendment version of the Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly and recognised statutory delegates as voters during primaries, congresses and conventions of political parties.
He, however, declined comments on whether he was okay with elected delegates for the primary.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, said, “It should all be about democracy. Those who will vote are party members whose choice was democratic. The party’s decision is the party’s decision.”
An APC stakeholder from the Alimosho Local Government Area in Lagos, Gbolahan Lawal, faulted the elected delegates list by the party in the state.
“Any congress that does not carry the entire party members along will not be accepted in Lagos State, let us make this point very clear”,
Efforts to get the comments of the state chairman of the APC, Cornelius Ojelabi, prove abortive on Sunday as he neither took calls nor responded to a text message sent to his line.
No life lost in protest – Rivers APC
Meanwhile, the APC in Rivers State has insisted that no life was lost during last Tuesday’s protest by some aggrieved party members who stormed the party secretariat over the alleged hijack of the voting process and materials for the ward delegate congresses.
The State APC spokesperson, Chris Finebone, while briefing newsmen on Sunday said the police had arrested some persons linked to the protest, saying they would be prosecuted after investigations were concluded
Finebone, however, linked the attempted invasion of the party secretariat to supporters of Abe, stressing that the party would not allow a repeat of a similar incident in 2018 where the former party Secretariat was vandalised and property carted away.
The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress on Sunday kept a sealed lip over the crisis rocking four APC states over the controversial delegates’ lists.
The National Publicity Secretary, Felix Mokar, could not however be reached for comments.