•Stakeholders in fight to finish in states
By Emma Amaize, Clifford Ndujihe, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Bashir Bello, Chioma Onuegbu & Shina Abubakar
THE cracks on the walls of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, widened aftermath weekend’s ward congresses, across the country.
Some party stakeholders are in a fight-to-finish for the control of the party’s soul in many states of the country.
Following the intrigues that hallmarked the congresses, which claimed one life and injured many in Ekiti; parallel exercises in Lagos and Ogun, and bickering in Akwa Ibom, Osun and Delta, among other states, the pro and anti-Mai Mala Buni-led national leadership stakeholders, have returned to the trenches.
Whether or not Buni, who is the governor of Yobe State, should remain as the chairman of the APC National Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee is a question that is tearing the ruling party apart.
The 3:4 minority judgement of the Supreme Court in the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State versus Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP, which said Buni should not hold elective and appointive positions at the same time going by the APC and 1999 constitutions is at issue.
This was the reason those opposed to Buni wanted the ward congresses postponed and a new leader appointed to organise it to avoid litigation that could hurt APC’s electoral fortunes in future as was witnessed in Rivers and Zamfara in 2019.
However, the party hierarchy insisted on proceeding with the ward congresses and read riot act to dissenters who hold parallel congresses or open parallel offices.
The contentious issue played out in the congresses as most of those opposed to Buni-led caretaker committee ‘’lost out” adding fodder to the festering crises in many states.
As it is, the congresses have invigorated the battle for the soul of APC in the states. In Akwa Ibom, the secretary of the caretaker committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Ita Enang and Group Captain Sam Ewang, retd, have scores to settle.
In Delta, Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, and some leaders of the APC in Delta Central are squaring off against those led by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege; and in Kwara, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is pitted against Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. The governor’s camp had the upper hand in the ward congresses.
Also, in Ekiti, Senator Dayo Adeyeye is fighting to stop the Governor Kayode Fayemi’s camp.
Crisis in Abia
The congress widened the rift between the factions of the party in Abia state.
While the Chief Ikechi Emenike faction said the congress held in all the 17 council areas of the state, the Hon. Donatus Nwankpa lamented that the committee sent to conduct the congress disappeared as they were still waiting for them at the party secretariat in Umuahia.
Chairman of the Chief Emenike faction, Chief Enyinnaya Harbour told Vanguard that the congress was held as the congress committee went round some wards and monitored the congress.
He added that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Police also monitored the congress.
His words: “The congress held and is still going on, by the end of today. It is in the news that the congress held in all the wards and the congress committee from Abuja went round some wards monitoring the congress. The INEC and the police monitored the congress.”
However, the Nwankpa faction while briefing journalists at the APC secretariat in Umuahia, stated that the committee absconded from the assignment, stressing that their conduct shows that of people who came to destabilize the party and create confusion.
Complaints in Delta
Despite complaints of hijack of the Ward Congress in Delta State by some high-profile power brokers, top rank leader, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, said, weekend, that the congress was peaceful.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, and other leaders of the party from Delta Central Senatorial district had expressed dissatisfaction with the entire process.
Senatorial chairman of Delta North caretaker committee of the party, Ogbueshi Ben Onwuka, in a protest letter to the national secretariat, said: ‘’APC Delta North Senatorial District had watched actions and activities leading to the purported ward congresses. The district, which hosts the APC Delta State Secretariat received confirmed reports of hijack of the ward congress materials directly from the Ward Congress Committee (WCC) delegation sent from the APC headquarters in Abuja to oversee the process.”
“According to the APC three- man WCC officials, they were accosted by a certain official, who claimed to be the state organizing secretary in the escort of armed security men at Asaba airport.
“Curiously, investigations of the APC, Delta senatorial office revealed that the said hijacked congress materials were in the custody of a pressure group in the state, loyal to a very top party leader.
“The same group and the leader were said to have convened cluster of incongruous meetings across the state and purportedly constituted themselves as ward executives from the supposedly ward Congress.
“APC Delta North senatorial district , however, wishes to state clearly that there was no ward congress in the nine (9) local government areas of the zone as the ward congress materials were reportedly hijacked from the APC Ward Congress Officials from Abuja at the Asaba airport.”
However, Senator Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North District and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, said the successes recorded at the rancour-free ward congress was an indication of APC coasting home to victory in 2023.
“Success of the congress is dedicated to the doggedness of members of the party. The resilience and commitment is unquantifiable. The turnout is massive and all encompassing. It was a huge success across Delta State,” he said.
Senator Nwaoboshi commended the high political maturity displayed by APC party members, especially at ward five in his Ibusa hometown, saying: “The congress has produced a new set of executives across the State. The exercise was no victor, no vanquished.”
“We have shamed our critics, going by the peaceful conduct of the ward congresses. It is a natural rule that in every contest, there must be a winner.
Nwaoboshi said that the APC National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) has set up a Congress Appeal Committee to consider complaints from members, and ensure that equity, fairness and justice prevail.
At Oghara axis in Ethiope West local government, Delta Central senatorial district, a leader of the party in Oghareki ward 10, Chief Daniel Okotie, also said: “I am particularly happy for the large turnout of delegates in the election. It was a free and fair process. I am expressing my unalloyed appreciation to the members for doing the needful by coming out en mass to elect those that will lead us to victory in subsequent elections in the state and Nigeria in particular.”
Caretaker Committee chairman of the party in the area, Comrade William Deniran, said: “With the peaceful conduct of this election, we are sure of wrestling the state from the ruling party in subsequent elections.”
Ethiope West local government area INEC representative, Mrs Omor-Avwebor Grace, commended ‘’all those that participated in the election for their peaceful conduct which resulted in a successful exercise.”
Due process not followed in Kano – Aliyu, national chair aspirant
A stalwart of the party, who is aspiring for the position of national chairman, Ahmad Mansir Aliyu, complained that due process was not followed to select consensus candidates in Kano State.
Aliyu who spoke to newsmen at his Tarauni ward in Tarauni Local government area of Kano decried low turnout recorded during the congress. He said the low turnout was due to the fact that party members were aggrieved with the procedure for selecting the consensus candidates.
“Stakeholders have pronounced that we should have a consensus candidate and by virtue of our party constitution (2014 amended party constitution), consensus has been explained in Article 20 that all party members at the wards should come out and select or elect their leaders at the ward level. But if you look at it, few people just came out for the consensus and the leadership has been taken.
“The party constitution has explained how consensus should take place, so we have a procedure. The turnout is low because some party members have pulled out or some aggrieved members are annoyed with the procedure.
“So I call on the party stakeholders at national or state to make sure that we follow the party constitution and procedure so that we have progress in the party.”
Fresh controversy in Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom State chapter of the APC is enmeshed in a fresh controversy following the ward congresses, which appears to have brought to the fore the division and lingering supremacy battle between key stakeholders of the party in the State.
Presently, key leaders and stakeholders struggling to be in control of the soul of the Akwa Ibom APC are Senator John James Akpanudoedeghe (National Caretaker Secretary), Senator Godswill Akpabio, (Minister Niger Delta Affairs ministry), Senator Ita Enang (Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta), and Group Capt Sam Ewang (Rtd) among others.
A faction of the party had on Saturday stormed the party secretariat, located at 149 Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo, calling for the cancellation of the ward congresses.
They alleged that the National Caretaker Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedeghe, had “fraudulently manipulated the lists to include only his loyalists and supporters as candidates for the wards congress and even the chapter congress.
Also, a statement on Saturday, by “Concerned APC Stakeholders” alleged a deliberate attempt by Akwa Ibom State Caretaker Committee led by Dr. Ita Udosen to cause disunity and disaffection in the party, stressing that the massive protest by party members and the shutting down of Secretariat speak volumes about the committee’s ineptitude.
The group said unfortunately, the desperation of both Ita Udosen, and AkpanUdoedehe, which assumed feverish dimension in the build-up to the congress and eventually snowballed into full blown crisis that led to massive protest and shutting down of the party state Secretariat in the early hours of Saturday.
The statement reads in part: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Leader of the party in Nigeria to call to order the Akwa Ibom APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Dr Ita Udosen who has shamelessly been operating as though he is a domestic staff of Senator John Akpanudoedeghe.
“We unanimously reject in totality the deployment of Senator John Udoedehe’s man Friday and apologist, Mallam Shehu Sheriff from Abuja to superintend over the conduct of ward Congress in Akwa Ibom State.
“Recall that Shehu Sheriff was the same fellow who, on Udoedeghe’s bidding, was drafted to Akwa Ibom during the APC membership revalidation exercise and his ignoble activities led to disenfranchisement of very many APC faithful in the state.
“In furtherance to their blatant impunity, the Dr Ita Udosen led APC Caretaker Committee in concert with the Shehu Sherrif delegation purported to appoint ward Congress Committee members for the conduct of the party congress with100 percent of the so-called committee members drawn from Udoedehe’s campaign/support group. This is totally unacceptable
“Information is rife that premeditated results have been prepared for onward submission even when they did not conduct the party congress anywhere in the 329 wards of Akwa Ibom State.
“We therefore call on Leaders of the party, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta, Sam Ewang, Senator Ita Enang and others to rise to the occasion and take charge of the processes to ensure that all party members, stakeholders and other leaders are united to forge a common ground in order to unite the party for victory come 2023 general elections.”
However, in a swift reaction, the State Publicity Secretary, Nkereuwem Enyongekere, insisted that the reports submitted by party agents assigned to execute the exercise at the different ward centres across the state showed the exercise was peaceful, successful, free, fair and credible and that majority of party members were satisfied with the outcome of the exercise.
“For the records and emphasis, we wish to state that congresses to elect party ward officers and delegates at the ward levels by our great party nationwide held yesterday, July 31, 2021 and in Akwa Ibom State, at all the 329 ward centres known to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The party now belongs to the people from the grassroots, semi-urban and at the urban levels. We can therefore guarantee that the claims contained in the statement, are fallacious and mischievous targeted at mudslinging party officials and leaders.
“It should be dismissed by the general public. As a party, we are willing to listen to genuine grievances, if any of our party members is against any aspect of the Congresses”, he stated
Enyongekere, urged party members to channel such grievances to the Congress Appeal Committee when constituted for necessary remedial actions as stipulated in the party Constitution and congress guidelines instead of the current mischievous effort aimed at inciting party leaders against one another and portraying the party and its leaders in bad light.
“Against many spurious claims in the Press Statement including but not limited to the falsehood that Alhaji Yusuf Sheriff Banki, Chairman of the APC Ward Congress Committee (WCC) in Akwa Ibom State was Chairman of the Membership Registration and revalidation Committee and currently compromising results of the Congresses; that remains false and misleading.
“Senator Abubakar Girie was the Chairman of the said Committee and every member had a chance to revalidate and register new members during the exercise. At the close of that exercise, APC recorded membership strength of over 700,000.
“We caution our party members against making unguarded and unsubstantiated utterances against the party leadership and warned that we shall not hesitate to activate disciplinary actions against any party member spreading false claims to rubbish the integrity of the just concluded exercise”, Enyongekere stated.
Stakeholders of the party under the aegis of “APC Elders Forum” led by member of Board of Trustees APC, Group Captain Sam Ewang , retd, had on Friday passed a vote of no confidence on the state Care-taker Chairman, Dr. Ita Udosen, claiming that he was playing the card of Senator Akpanudoedehe by manipulating the exercise and doctoring the candidates’ lists in his favour.
The elders drawn from across the 10 federal constituencies in the state had expressed lack of faith in the exercise and called for the anomalies to be addressed before the exercise.
Contacted, Group Capt Sam Ewang corroborated their earlier decision, adding that there was no ward congress in the state.
SWAGA callsfor fresh APC congress in Ekiti
The South-West Agenda for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, SWAGA, in Ekiti State, yesterday, rejected the outcome of Saturday’s ward congress of the APC in the state, describing it as undemocratic and charade.
National Chairman of the group and former Minister for Housing, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, at a press conference in Ado-Ekiti, called for the immediate cancellation of what he described as a sham and a fresh one be arranged to allow eligible members of the party to exercise their membership right.
Adeyeye said: “The manner of the conduct of the congress was nothing near all democratic norms as it was warped, disorderly, and perverse and can only pass for a charade.
“As witnessed on Saturday, the presence of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, officials was not felt at the congresses.
“In most of the centers, members of the Tokan-Tokan group took over the INEC job. The presence of the law enforcement agents was also very insignificant. We witnessed a situation where people waited agitatedly from dusk to almost dawn, in a decoy deployed to frustrate voters.
“We also recorded a situation later in the day where the Tokan-Tokan group, hand-picked some loyalists and were moving them from one Ward to the other, in a save-face measure to give a semblance of congress.
“We are miffed by this level of desperation and wanton electoral recklessness. If it will take killings, wounding of over a hundred of our members and all sorts of violence, for the Tokan-Tokan group to succeed in an intra-party contest, what are we going to witness in a general election?
“It is disheartening that those charged with the responsibility to strengthen our party in Ekiti are rather pillaging and giving it all sorts of bad names on the track of violence. If we lost three lives in the Ekiti East bye elections and this again in an intra-party affair, then there is still more to be done to lead us to the right path.”
Osun APC caretaker chairman, scribe disagree over exercise
In Osun State, the Chairman and Secretary of the party, Prince Gboyega Famodun and Alhaji Rasaq Salinsile, disagreed over the outcome of the exercise.
While Salinsile alleged compromise on the side of the congress committee from the National Secretariat, Famodun said the exercise was peaceful across the 332 wards in the state.
According to Salinsile, officials of the INEC were not in about 80 percent of the venues of the congresses across the state, hoodlums invaded some other centres thereby preventing the process from taking place.
“In many ward collation centres where the exercise ought to have taken place, hoodlums invaded the venue and attack party supporters while the venues where the exercises were peaceful, INEC officials were not present.
“The results of the exercise which was conducted peacefully in so many wards could not be submitted because the congress committee did not come to any of the wards. However, there is provision for what to do about that in our party’s constitution, which we will follow to the latter.
“Like we said earlier, the committee from Abuja did not consider meeting every stakeholders, it restricted itself to the government house and met with those that are friends of the Governor and few other leaders, while it left over 70 percent of stakeholders on the fringe” Salinsile said.
However, Famodun, who spoke through his Media consultant, Kola Olabisi, said the exercise was generally peaceful in all the wards across the state.
“The Secretary of the party wasn’t shut out of the congress process as the state secretariat of the party is opened for party activities, every day. The ward congress was peaceful, credible, flawless and acceptable across the state as it was attested to by the members of the state National Committee of the APC for the congress, led by Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye who supervised the congress exercise in all the wards”, Olabisi said.
Why we held parallel congresses in Lagos — Group
Also, a group in Lagos APC , Lagos4Lagos, has explained the reason it held parallel ward congresses in the state.
Recall that despite controversy trailing the legality of conducting ward congresses of the ruling APC, nationwide, party faithful and members, on Saturday, participated in the exercise in Lagos State, which the party leaders described as very “peaceful.”
Members turned out en mass for the ward congresses held across the 254 wards of the 20 Local Government Areas, LGAs and 37 Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs in the state, in what was called “ratification of consensus candidates,” in accordance with the decision of the party leadership.
The exercise which was supervised by the National Committee members, led by Dr. Muhammed Bashir, across the local governments, had a group within the fold, Lagos4Lagos, led by Dr. Babajide Adediran, popularly called “Jandor,” holding another parallel ward exercises in few other designated centres.
Bashir, speaking on the exercise, commended members of the party for their peaceful conduct during the congresses which he said was hitch-free.
At the Lagos4Lagos congresses held at Osolu Village in Osolu Primary/Junior High School, Badagry Division, Mr. Tajudeen Dosumu, emerged as the new Chairman of APC.
Adediran, speaking on the parallel exercise said: “At ward G of Ojo Local Government, bonafide members assembled to observe their affirmation of new officers. We discovered that forms for positions by interested candidates were hijacked at the office of the governor after certain guidelines had been given to whoever has interest in elected positions from the state party which we paid for and all our queries on the issue could not be answered by the Bashir- led committee during last Friday stakeholders’ meeting.”
Also speaking, the Principal Coordinator, Lagos4 Lagos, Mr. Bode Makinde, described how important the Saturday congress was to the group.
He said: “We want to prove to the whole world that Lagos4Lagos is popular and we want to deviate from the old order and showcase our strength in all the wards in Lagos State for internal democracy to play its role in APC, and to have an edge because we have a large membership strength in all the 245 wards in Lagos state.”
Meantime, Caretaker Committee Chairman, Lagos State chapter of APC, Tunde Balogun, said no parallel congress was held in the state on Saturday, maintaining that members of the party agreed and went for a consensus arrangement to elect 37 Exco members each in all 245 wards across the 20 local governments in Lagos.
Balogun said this while reacting to the rumour of parallel congress, even as he maintained that the consensus arrangement adopted by the state chapter of the party to elect its officials was sanctioned by the APC National headquarters.
Speaking further on the parallel exercise purportedly held by some party members, Balogun said he was not aware of such, but quickly counselled that people should stop emphasizing things that would create problems in APC.
He said rather they should concentrate on things that would make the party cohesive, and not emphasising a particular candidate or person trying to do something outside what was agreed upon.
Also commenting on the exercise, caretaker Publicity Secretary of the state party, Mr Seye Oladejo, said, “It’s devoid of incidents as the consensus arrangement as provided for by our constitution, encouraged by the national headquarters and endorsed by the large majority of the leadership and membership of Lagos State APC was affirmed at the various venues of the ward congress across the state as witnessed by INEC, security agencies and other stakeholders.”