The All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State chapter, has recently been embroiled in crisis arising from the conduct of primaries for the nomination of chairmanship and councilor candidates for the July 22, Local Government polls in the state. But is it anything new?
By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Gbenga Oke
THE All Progressives Congress, APC on Sunday said it had submitted its approved candidates for the forthcoming Local Government elections to the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC.
The announcment by the chairman of the Primary Election Panel, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi brings to an end agitation by some party members for the complete democratisation of the nomination process.
Party leaders including a former governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the incumbent governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode had at a meeting of stakeholders last May at the party secretariat urged party members to work round the clock to ensure that the party wins all available elective positions in the July 22 Local Government elections.
At that meeting, Tinubu while commending party members for supporting Ambode in the 2015 elections, urged that candidates produced by the party should similarly be supported in all positions. He recalled how the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and former President Goodluck Jonathan desperately moved to take over the State by spending huge cash, but that the APC stalwarts resolutely stood their ground and ensured the victory of the party.
Crisis was, however, triggered when Tinubu at the forum, announced the decision of party leaders to stick to an earlier agreement to allow 18 immediate past chairmen who were promised automatic ticket for their efforts in rebuffing the PDP.
Tinubu, while urging members to accept the decision of the party, however, directed party leaders in all the 57 councils to give special concession to youths and women. He particularly, urged members of the party in Surulere to give peace a chance and drop all forms of public disorder.
The decision, however, did not go down well with some aspirants who grumbled that they had spent fortunes in pursuing thier ambitions. These set of group clamoured for primaries election and not selection, as it were. Similarly, Ambode while attributing his success in the 2015 gubernatorial election to the dedication of party members and chieftains, especially Tinubu, he charged them to rally around the party yet again to ensure victory for the APC in the polls.
“I want to implore all of us, whatever it is that would have transpired, it is very clear that this coming LG elections is all in your hands; just the same way we have done in the last two years, my call to all members of our great party is that all 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas must be won by APC without exception,” the Governor urged.
Noting that there were challenges and issues that had emanated in the run up to the primaries, Governor Ambode, nonetheless urged members to stand by the decisions of the leaders, which according to him would bring about the best for all. “A whole lot of things have happened; it is left in the hands of Asiwaju to proclaim the way forward for all of us. So, whatever direction Asiwaju says we should go, we would go,” he said.
The governor’s plea nonetheless, the mutterings subsequently, snowballed into a major crisis last Saturday, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, during the chairmanship primary to elect candidates for the polls which ended abruptly, following a violent protest that erupted midway into the exercise, in spite of the heavy security presence. Those aggrieved against the decision of the party to impose some aspirants as candidates vowed not to accept the imposition. The Chairman of the Elections Committee, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, was also attacked with his top taken off by angry supporters, who accused him of impartiality. Security officials later forced him out the grip of the angry youths and whisked him away.
The crisis was precipitated when aggrieved supporters of aspirants from Surulere, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos Mainland, and Mushin went on rampage to protest against the names of candidates being read out by Afikuyomi for endorsement as consensus candidates.
A party member simply identified as, Mr. Wale Tokunbo while speaking with newsmen shortly before the violence broke out condemned the substitution of Mr. Tajudeen Ajide who contested for the chairmanship of Surulere Local Government Area.
Irate youths amid growing concerns went ahead to burn some sections of the Amuwo-Odofin LGA over what they termed “imposition” of a particular aspirant as candidate.
In certain quarters, it is claimed that the imposition of candidates may affect the chances of APC at the polls, but that claim is dismissed by some leaders of the party who say that nobody will be imposed on the electorate.
Even before the primaries, various groups like Lagos Democratic Forum had cautioned APC against imposing any candidate on the party.
According to the group, “ APC, as a progressive party, is supposed to be a model of democracy. Candidates of the party must emerge as the popular choices of all registered and qualified members of the party, voting freely.
It will be recalled that the APC lost significant proportion of seats it held in the past to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP at the State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives on account of what some claimed was due to the imposition of candidates. A chieftain of the party who spoke on the condition of anonymity said APC has shown it lacks democratic tendencies with the development.
According to him, “We cannot continue to impose candidates on the people and you expect them to just sit and watch especially when it comes from a party that preaches change. This development is very sad and we hope the leaders of the party will do something urgently to enshrine democratic tendencies within the party.”
The crisis later degenerated last Monday into more violence during the primaries at 377 wards to elect councillorship candidates.
The affected councils include; Ejigbo Local Government Area, Ikeja, Shomolu, Mushin, Oshodi-Isolo, some parts of Agege and Amuwo-Odofin. In Shogunle Area, one of the leaders of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Rasaq Bello, popularly known as “Hamburger” was killed by a rival group on account of alleged differences.
Protesters hold staff hostage
The uproar witnessed in the chairmanship and councillorship primaries forced aggrieved stakeholders to converge at the state secretariat last Tuesday.
They stormed the secretariat and sacked staff and party officials present. It took the timely intervention of men of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, to restore normalcy.
One of the councils where the primary election recorded smooth exercise was the Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area, LCDA, I old Alimosho. The Sole Administrator of Egbe-Idimu LCDA, Mr. Yakub Salami, described the exercise as peaceful.
According to him, the reason for the success recorded was mainly due to series of stakeholders’ meetings held earlier where consensus candidates had already been selected. In his reaction, Chairman, APC, Lagos State chapter, Otunba Henry Ajomale declined comment said: “At the appropriate time, I will make my comment on the conduct of the whole exercise.”
APC leaders summon all-inclusive emergency meeting
In an apparent bid to find a lasting solution to the crisis, party leaders met last Wednesday, in Ikeja GRA. It was gathered that in the spirit of “no winner no vanquished” the leaders were able to resolve the matter. While the earlier decision stays, aggrieved were offered various positions to pacify them. According to the state APC Acting Secretary, Hakeem Bamgbala, “There is no cause for alarm. We are gradually resolving our differences internally.”
With the crisis in the ranks of the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, might be expected to clinch some major positions at the LGA elections. Though the PDP is also embroiled in its own crisis, analysts say if PDP is able to put its house in order, it might benefit from the APC crisis.