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Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto; Olanrewaju Lawal; Birnin-Kebbi; Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin; Agaju Madugba, Katsina; Ben Dunno, Warri; Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa; George Onyejiuwa; Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri; Billy Graham Abel, Yola; Paul Orude, Bauchi
The last has not been heard of the ward congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held across the nation at the weekend, as fresh drama, intrigues, claims and counter-claims as well as controversies continue to unfold.
Across the six geopolitical zones, it has been mixed emotions, with some applauding the exercise and others dismissing it as a sham.
The exercise turned violent in Bauchi State as suspected political thugs loyal to a faction stormed the Ningi council secretariat of the party at about 6pm on Saturday and set it on fire.
A source revealed that results of the congresses in some wards did not go down well with a faction and so directed the supporters to ensure that ‘justice’ was done.
The state Police Command, through the PPRO, DSP Kamal Datti Abubakar, said one suspect has been arrested in connection with the incidence. He assured that efforts were on to arrest all those who took part in the criminal act.
Efforts to get the state leadership of the APC to react failed as all the phones of those contacted were switched off.
Even Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari is not insulated from the power-play as contending interests have continued to trade words, with some candidates threatening to explore legal means to reverse “this naked injustice.”
A statement by Hassan Isah (Kudu ward, Katsina Central), Abubakar Abdulkadir (Gabas ward) and Abu Awwalu (Rimi ward) urged the APC national headquarters to intervene in the matter.
“What we saw in Katsina State was the hijack of electoral officials sent from the national headquarters of the party by officials of the state government.
“These officials stayed in the comfort of the Government House where they filled the result sheets with names of cronies of government officials,” they said.
But the Katsina State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu, told reporters that he was satisfied with the conduct of the exercise, describing it as “smooth and successful.”
In Imo State, it is confusion and hot exchange between the camp of Governor Rochas Okorocha and that of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu.
The governor has directed the Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike to arrest and prosecute all Committee members that conducted the congress for their alleged role in the missing materials brought for the election.
The governor also charged the CP to set every machinery in motion for the arrest and prosecution of one Mr. Ini Okori alleged to be at the centre of the missing material.
Okori, according to the governor, allegedly escaped with the materials at the residence of the National Organising Secretary of APC, Chief Osita Izunaso before the commencement of the election.
“Izunaso was not able to divorce his local and personal political interests or pursuits from his official responsibilities as the National Organising Secretary of a national party like APC,” he claimed.
The governor noted that if not that he played his role as governor and father, to manage the situation, “the unfortunate role of these people would have thrown the state into a very big crisis which nobody would have been in a position to imagine its outcome.”
However, state Chairman of the party, Dr. Hilary Eke said the Congress was peaceful and successful.
He said Governor Okorocha has not complained to him that it was inconclusive.
Also, Uwajumogu who represents Imo North (Okigwe) and Secretary of National Convention said party members should disregard the misinformation from the Government House that the Congress had been cancelled.
He alleged that Governor Okorocha had hijacked the officials sent from Abuja to conduct the ward Congress and held them hostage at the Government House till early evening apparently to undermine the Congress.
In Kaduna, Dr. Abdurrahman Usman described the controversies that trailed last Saturday’s ward congresses across the country as a hyped plot by some undemocratic forces in the party to elongate the tenure of the current members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
This is even as the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, said there was no congress anywhere in the state.
Speaking with Daily Sun on the outcome of the ward congress, Usman charged President Muhammadu Buhari to take more than a passing interest in the development within the party, insisting that if the party goes to 2019 election this way, it would be dangerous for the party.
“What happened in Kaduna State last Saturday was very unfortunate. They asked people to go to their wards, yet there was no one there to conduct the exercise. Instead, they were somewhere and wrote the names of their preferred persons and came up with the list and claimed there was congress.
“What is happening is a calculated attempt led by some cabal to foist a stalemate on the party, so that in the end, once there are too many complaints, they may call for the cancellation of the congresses nationwide. And when you call for a fresh one, they will say there is no time. All these are hyped plot to elongate the tenure of the members of NWC, a thing President Muhammadu Buhari had kicked against.
“It is unimaginable that a party that came to power on a mantra of change and internal democracy will be involved in this kind of abracadabra. The president, being the leader of the party has to rise up to the occasion, because critical stakeholders are being sidelined from the party. If we go into next year’s election like this, it will spell doom for the party.
“In 2015, what was the margin between Jonathan and Buhari; it was just two million votes. The scenario will be different in 2019 because it will be north versus north, Muslim versus Muslim. These are our concern, these are our fears.
“Imagine, since July last year, we filed a petition against the election that was conducted in Kaduna at the party’s secretariat, till date, we have not heard anything. Whereas, the party’s constitution says that such a matter should be dispensed with within two weeks. This is ridiculous,” Usman added.
On his part, Senator Sani said: “I am just coming back from my state where party congresses were supposed to hold, there was no party congress.”
In Oyo State, Governor Abiola Ajimobi expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conduct of the rescheduled ward congress of the All Progressives Congress held across the state, yesterday.
A statement by the Special Adviser, Communication and Strategy to the Governor, Mr. Bolaji Tunji, quoted the governor as having said that feelers from the five zones of the state suggested that the exercise went without hitches.
Ajimobi described Saturday’s disturbances at the APC state secretariat, which forced the postponement of the congress, as one of those things expected in a political gathering of highly placed political leaders with vested interests.
According to him, followers and supporters of such leaders have been known to instigate crisis in their bid to outdo one another and to impress their principals, who often time were never in support of such violent conducts.
The governor debunked some newspapers report, which claimed that the incident at the APC secretariat was a ‘bloody violence,’ describing it as exaggeration.
Ajimobi said none of the security agencies reported any case of bloody violence, advising political leaders to refrain from heating up the polity with their utterances.
Meanwhile the APC in the state has commended the Ward Congress Committee led by Alhaji Musa Halilu Ahmed for the professional way it conducted its task.
In a statement by Mojeed Olaoya, the party secretary, members across the 351 Wards were also commended for their orderliness in the discharge of their onerous responsibility to elect new executives that would pilot the affairs of the party for the next four years.
The Sokoto congress was peacefully with party opting for consensus arrangement. Chairman of the seven-man monitoring committee of the ward congresses, Alhaji Isma’ila Ina Hussaini, expressed happiness with the peaceful conduct of the exercise.
APC chairman, Suleiman Usman Dan Madamin Isa urged party members to be steadfast ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said they settled for consensus to showcase the level of unity and cohesion among party members in the state.
While the Kwara State chapter congratulated the newly-elected party executive members in the 193 wards, in Kebbi State, aggrieved party faithful stormed the party secretariat in Birnin-Kebbi to protest against consensus arrangement.
The protesters who came from Argungu, Fakai, Zuru, Jega, Augie, Danko-Wasagu and Birnin-Kebbi local government areas armed with different placards such as “We need no consensus but Congress in Kebbi, “We say no to injustice”, “Congress must hold” among others, called for its cancellation.
Appraising the conduct of the election in Warri, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, who voted in Evwreni Ward 8, Ughelli
North Local Government Area, said the exercise was peaceful.
On the uproar over the choice of centres, Emerhor explained that competing interests in the party gave conflicting directives, but the party election guideline stated that the congress committee should decide the venue, and the first option was party secretariat at the ward.
A former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva and Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, also commended the APC for a peaceful conduct of the ward congress.
Sylva, however, accused a state High Court of giving a controversial judgment, which reinstated a sacked APC chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe.
He said the court erred by granting a motion ex parte on a matter that was before the Appeal Court.
He said unfortunately for agents of destabilisation, by virtue of Article 12 of the APC Constitution, a party chairman has no role to play during the conduct of party congresses.
Lokpobiri is of the opinion that APC would be stronger and more united at the end of the congresses.
In Adamawa, there is conflicting report with Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Senator Girei holding counter views.
While Boss expressed satisfaction with its conduct, Gerei said there was no congress.
Speaking in in Yola, yesterday, Boss said: “The process we just commissioned is one of the cardinal processes in deepening democracy in our party and one of the key process that allows our members to participate in developing democracy. After my participating in my ward congress, I visited several other wards and I feel satisfied with the conduct.” He condemned pockets of violence witnessed in some parts.
However, Gerei, one of APC’s stakeholders and former senator representing Adamawa central said: “The elections in Adamawa is referendum that shows that Bindow is an unpopular person and has not been able to command 10 per centof candidates in every ward of the state. It is clear now that any party that gives Bindow its ticket will surely fail.
“In my ward in Girei, the officials on arriving went and locked themselves in a office with the chairman of the local government and later drove off without holding the congress. Members of the Girei community conducted congresses for themselves because the officials were not available to do so. So, they will be at the party secretariat to present the result.”
As at press time, results for the ward congresses in the 21 local governments were yet to be announced.