By Efosa Egbon
SINCE the inception of the country’s political party system, primaries have been conducted virtually in all the political parties to nominate their candidates for elections. These intra-party elections have been conducted on the field either by direct or indirect primaries or by consensus reached by leaders and aspirants vying for the same position.
Reflecting the “Change” mantra of the All Progressives Congress, APC, it was expected that the scheduled legislative primaries for Edo State would be free, fair, transparent and credible. Sadly, a complete reverse was the case. The primaries turned out to be a sham and fraud with the state government hijacking the process with aspirants it had previously failed to foist as “consensus” candidates as preferred candidates.
The APC primaries for the State House of Assembly, Federal House of Representatives, Senate and Presidential were scheduled between 30th September and October 5, 2019, but due to undisclosed reasons, the schedule was altered aside that of the presidency.
Party faithful trooped out in large numbers on October 5 to exercise their franchise for their preferred aspirants, only for them to realise, while still on the field, that results of all 18 local government areas had been written and submitted to the state party secretariat. This led to mass protests across the three senatorial districts of the state that resulted in the cancellation of the exercise by the party’s National Working Committee, NWC. The legislative primaries were then rescheduled for October 6, 2018.
In Orhionmwon Local Government Area, particularly Ugbeka, Ward 3, two aspirants vying for the Orhionmwon/Uhunmwonde House of Representatives Seat, Mr. Adaze Wilson Imafidon and Hon. Elizabeth Ativie, were ready and at their respective wards, while a party leader absconded with his followers.
The latter primary which many thought would bring about fairness, equity and transparency, turned out to be a bigger sham and fraud. The Edo State governor’s aides across the state and local government councillors served as returning officers to conduct the rescheduled primaries.
Under the intense heat, party members waited at their respective wards for officials who did not show up at the centres to conduct the primaries.
Yet, the preferred aspirants were missing with their followers. Later in the day, news filtered in that results had been ‘collated.’
However, it is instructive to note that the INEC staff who monitored proceedings at Urhonigbe North and South respectively submitted a report which contradicts that submitted by the state government.
On my way back to Benin City from my ward in the evening, I stopped over at Abudu, the administrative headquarters of Orhionmwon Local Government Area, when the news came that results were being ‘collated’ at the council secretariat. An aspirant vying for the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Christopher Ariri went to the council secretariat and was confronted by thugs and security agents while two sitting House of Assembly members, were ‘collating’ results of primaries that was not conducted.
As the APC submits to INEC, names of party candidates to contest legislative positions in the 2019 General Elections, some Edo State aspirants have already petitioned the Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor-headed APC National Appeal Committee over striking irregularities in the direct primaries conducted in the state.
The aspirants have accused some power brokers in the state of being behind the concocted results and other electional fraud in favour of their preferred candidates that marred the Edo Legislative primaries.
One of the aspirants, Mr. Adaze Wilson Imafidon, who is seeking the party’s ticket to contest the Orhionmwon/Uhunmwonde House of Representatives Federal Constituency seat, submitted a petition to the Appeals committee through his lawyers.
According to his legal representatives, Imafidon and Imafidon of Eghosa Chambers, their client resorted to writing the petition to the committee because of the injustice that was done to him and his supporters who are bonafide members of the party. In the petition, he said the purported primary election held in the constituency was a sham.
The aspirant alleged that none of the accredited members of the APC committee sent to the area was present during the purported election in the Orhionmwon/Uhunmwonde Federal Constituency except in Urhonigbe South, where only the INEC went to observe.
“Consequently, it is now beyond contention that the proposed primary election into the Federal House of Representatives in Orhionmwon/Uhunmwonde Federal Constituency, which was slated for Saturday October 6, 2018, and indeed all other APC primary elections throughout Edo State, did not hold to the dismay of our client and his mammoth supporters,” the petition disclosed.
The petitioner insists that any attempt to present any of the aspirants to INEC as winner of the botched APC primary election of October 6, 2018 would be illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
“We, therefore, call on the National Working Committee , NWC, to appreciate the concerns raised above and to do justice as appropriate in the overall interest of the party.”
Another aspirant, Christopher Ariri, who is an aspirant for the Orhionmwon East State Constituency of Edo State, said: “Some of the accredited members of the appropriate committee mandated by the party to supervise and conduct the primary election into the Edo State House of Assembly’s Orhionmwon East Constituency, totally hijacked the process when they noticed our huge support by deliberately declining to count votes cast for us so as to foist on us a situation of complete helplessness.”
This issue if not addressed, could affect APC’s performance in the state and by implication, President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid in the 2019 general election.