Last Saturday, the All Progressives Congress(APC) held its ward congresses throughout the country but the exercises was marred by violence, alleged rigging and sundry malpractices in some states as ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU reports
Perhaps, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was not in Nigeria when the ward congresses were held throughout the country on Saturday. Last Sunday, immediately after the election, he had described ward congresses as open and transparent in a statement signed by his Media Office. In addition, Tinubu also said that APC had demonstrated that it is a law-abiding political party during the exercise. According to him, party members queued up behind whoever they wanted and there were no pre-ordained candidates. In retrospect, it seemed that Tinubu spoke rather too early as reports of violence, manipulations and rigging trailed the APC ward congress that held nationwide.
Significantly, the party headquarters got feelers of what transpired during the congresses but unlike Tinubu, it didn’t try to paper over what happened. In a statement, National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi, a day after the event, had appealed to aggrieved party members to seek redress at the various appeal panels. Last Monday, the panels have started meeting to listen to complaints, grievances and alleged infraction of party laws. From Lagos to Rivers states, including Imo and Kano states, as well as Adamawa and Jigawa states, the aggrieved are many and dispensing with their cases many take a while.
Thugs disrupt election in Lagos wards
In Lagos state, the congress was marred by pockets of violence in some centres and the heavy downpour in other areas prevented a large turn out of party members. At ward F4 in Ishaga area of Isolo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), eyewitnesses said that thugs emerged from nowhere and caused chaos, as the electorate ran for safety. Similarly, pandemonium broke out at Alagbeji ward, in Oshodi/Isolo LCDA, when a faction of the party felt shortchanged in the scheme of things, as it mobilized supporters and disrupted the exercise. According to one Elder Jaiyesinmi, a political leader in the area, the chaos that ensued put many of the party members in disarray. Narrating what led to the chaos, Jaiyesinmi said that they were initially told ‘’that the materials to be used were still on the way, not knowing that some people have started organising themselves elsewhere.’’
In other places, the exercise ran smoothly but it started late and the heavy down pour disrupted the process. In many centres in Ifako/Ijaiye, Agege, Alimosho, Surulere, Shomolu, Mainland, among others. Consequently, the collation of results was also delayed. Similarly, at Ward C, Badagry, a fight reportedly ensued when some party members noticed that the accreditation list had been tampered with.
However, in many other places, the process went on smoothly as the contestants were able to reach consensus.
Kano: Kwankasiyya hold parallel congress
In Kano state, the feud between Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, his predecessor, reared up its head last Saturday as reports indicate that two congresses were held. Alhaji Haruna Umar Doguwa, chairman of the Kwankwasiyya-led faction claimed that parallel congresses were held in all the 44 local government areas. Doguwa explained that his faction ‘’secured forms form the APC national headquarters for the aspirants that come through us and they made payments through banks. They brought their bank tellers to us as evidence of payment and we allowed them participate in the congress.”
The factional chairman promised to also conduct the local and state congresses as scheduled in the time-table released by the APC national body. Thereafter, the faction will submit the results of the ward, local and state congresses to the party headquarters in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution, Doguwa had reassured.
However, the Chairman of the seven-man Kano state congress team, Chief John Halims O. Agoda, disputed Doguwa’s claims. Agoda who was sent by APC national headquarters, said he was not aware of any Kwankwasiyya-led parallel congress. Posing a rhetorical question, Agoda said ‘’where did they conduct the congress? Here we are at the APC secretariat conducting the coordinating the congress. Unless the national leadership of the party has sent another team to conduct another congress in the state, we are not aware of the APC Kwankwasiyya’s congress.”
No election held in River state
In River state, no election held in the 319 wards of the 23 local government areas of the state, according to Senator Magnus Abe. In a statement, the senator who represents Rivers South-East Senatorial District, said that aspirants paid the prescribed fees and were issued tellers. However, they were not allowed to purchase forms and participate in the exercise. The senator, who is also a governorship aspirant, alleged that the leadership of the party in the state went against the ward congress guidelines, by refusing to allow party members to participate in the exercise.
According to him, ‘’we had a South-south caucus meeting, where it was agreed that every leader should call all leaders of the party to an all-inclusive meeting between Thursday and Friday, where all issues including how to guarantee fairness and transparency in the exercise will be discussed and agreed upon. It was further decided that party members should be briefed by the congress committee from Abuja before the commencement of the exercise. None of that happened in Rivers State; rather, party men and women were asked to go to their wards and wait for the congress.” Abe called on APC national leadership to intervene as what happened was a fight against internal democracy.
However, before the national leadership could intervene, some party men took the law into their hand and vandalized the state secretariat in Port Harcourt, over allegations of high handedness. At once, accusing fingers were pointed at Senator Abe. Significantly, the senator said he had no link with the perpetrators of the attack. According to him, ‘’how can anybody just conclude that they were my supporters? It cannot be completely correct to say that those who attacked the party office are my supporters simply because we share similar sentiments.’’
The senator claimed that he had never supported violence in politics and would not do so for any reason.
Thugs invade Oyo APC secretariat
Like River state, thugs also descended on APC secretariat of the ruling party and for this reason, the congress didn’t hold in Oyo state. Around 11 am, the thugs had attacked the state office as soon as Alhaji Musa Haliru, chairman of congress committee and his members were about to conduct the election. The thugs, according to eyewitnesses, chased away the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central) and Honourable Adedapo Lam Adesina.
Later, the party chieftains re-grouped at the Oyo state Police Command to review the security situation. Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Chief Akin Oke, the state chairman of the party and Communications Minister, including Senator Sunmonu and Hon Adesina were all present at the police headquarters. At the meeting, Alhaji Musa vowed that no amount of threat will deter his committee from performing its job. He challenged the party bigwigs that ‘’ whoever said he has followers should go and test his popularity. ‘’ Musa said that the Directorate of State Security(DSS) and the commissioner of police have been put on notice to deal with any breach of the law. Responding, the governor sued for peace and that APC is one family in Oyo state.
Party members carry placards in Kwara
At Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, a faction of APC took to the streets to protest their alleged exclusion from the ward congresses. The aggrieved, according to reports, also carried placards with different inscriptions like, “we say Yes to internal democracy in our party”, “APC is a political party and not a one man party”, “They know us to be supporters of PMB”, “Here in Kwara, no Internal democracy” among others.
Alhaji Abdulganiy Saka, the factional secretary, had complained that since they joined the party about four years ago, they have been refused membership registration despite working tirelessly for its success in past elections. According to him, an ex House of Representative member and Special adviser to the Senate President, Alhaji Mashood Mustapha, former Speaker of Kwara state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Issa Benjamin, S.Y. Abdullahi, and Alhaji Abdulganiyu Cook Olododo are among his members.
“Basically, we are here to tell the world that since our defection in 2015, we have not been given membership cards till now. If all of us have been following the trend of events in Kwara politics, when we enter into local government election recently, the outcome of the election shows the world(that) people really love President Muhammadu Buhari in the state. But the hand in which our party are in the state made most of the politicians run away from our party,’’ Alhaji Abdulganiy further clarified.
Aspirants, committee trade accusations in Katsina
In Kastina state, some aspirants alleged that the ward congresses were marred by irregularities. In particular, Hassanu Isah, Abubakar Damale and Abu Awwalu told newsmen that the electoral officials that were sent from APC national headquarters, were hijacked by government officials. According to the trio, ‘’these officials sat in the government house and other undesignated venues and filled the result sheets with the names of people selected by government officials’’.
However, the chairman of the state ward congress election committee and Deputy National Treasurer of APC, Barrister Zakari Tanko had dismissed the claim. Categorically, he said that the election was smooth and rancor-free throughout the state. According to Barrister Tanko, the committee has not received any complaint from any local government in the state. The committee chairman also said that ‘’we are open and transparent, free and fair to all, the APC is a party built on such tenets, if you have complain table them we are ready to entertain them.’’ Tanko explained that since they arrived Katsina state, his committee had not visited Government House.
Governor Okorocha cries foul in Imo
Conversely, it was Governor Rochas Okorocha that complained in Imo state over the congresses. The governor, in a statement signed by Sam Onwuemeodo, his Chief Press Secretary, ordered for the arrest of APC congress committee members who were sent to conduct the exercise. Specifically, Okorocha expressed regret over the role of Senator Osita Izunaso, the National Organising Secretary, over the whole saga. The governor accused Izunaso of not being able to divorce his local and personal political interests from his official responsibilities as a member of National Working Committee(NWC).
However, both the state Chairman of the party, Dr Hilary Eke and the State Organising secretary, Dr Clement Chijioke Anozie, said that the congresses were successful in all the 305 wards in the 27 local government areas of the state. In particular, Dr Eke said that the exercise held after initial hiccups over the whereabouts of election materials and the disappearance of a key figure in the exercise under whose custody the election materials were put. Afterwards, the chairman said that he did not receive any complaints from any ward about the exercise.
Speaking in the same vein, Organising Secretary Anozie said he was in good stead to report about the success of the congresses because all the wards reported to him. He pointed out that no other person could talk authoritatively on the exercise except the National Working Committee.
Peaceful congresses in Sokoto, Yobe and Bauchi states
In Sokoto state, election of leaders at the ward congress was done by consensus. According to Governor Aminu Tambuwal, the entire state is one political family and for this reason, stakeholders met and decided on who should emerge as party ward leaders. Significantly, the Chairman of APC ward and local government congresses committee, Alhaji Isma’ila Nda Hussaini commended APC members for the peaceful ‘conduct’ of the congresses.
Similarly, the exercise was peaceful in Yobe state as the congresses were conducted by consensus in all the 178 wards across 17 local governments. Speaking to newsmen in Damaturu, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadijah Bukar Abba Ibrahim, confirmed that the party executives were returned through affirmation.
In Bauchi state, it’s the same story of peaceful and successful ward congresses. Chairman of the congress committee, Dr Tony Macfoy, said party executives were elected in 221 wards in the state and that the committee was yet to officially receive any complaint or report of irregularities from any individual or groups. According to him, ‘’the exercise was peaceful. There was no protest, no placards. I thank party stalwarts for the cooperation given to us during the Congress.’’
However, the senator representing Bauchi North, Senator Nazif Gamawa had alleged the committee failed to conduct the election on Saturday as scheduled but delayed it until Sunday.
The next round of elections will be the local government congresses and may be, the party will learn from its last mistakes or even make new ones as the APC inches towards the national convention.