The outcome of the recent All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries for the March 3, 2018 local government elections is causing ripples within the party. Patrick Ochoga Writes.
Ahead of the March 3, local government elections in Edo State, an uneasy calm pervades the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The intrigues that trailed the party’s primaries which produced candidates for the 18 local government councils and 192 wards across state, have left some party faithful and observers perturbed over the potency of internal democracy in the party.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) a major component of the APC in Edo State, rode to power on the popular slogan ‘let the people lead’ in 2008.
Prior to the coming into power of the ruling APC, the party criticised the then ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for not having a tradition of internal democracy, enthroning impunity and glorifying godfatherism.
In fact, former governor, Adams Oshiomhiole, through out his eight year tenure sustained a vigorous campaign against any anti-democratic tendencies in the state.
But that philosophy is now faced with the challenges following the primaries in the APC. 10 years down the line, the APC in the state is now caught in a web of alleged injustice, political gangsterism, abuse of laid down constitution and party guidelines.
The initial party’s guildeline that barred aspirants that had held political o ces at the local government levels as directed by governor Godwin Obaseki was considered by many as not only undemocratic by abuse of fundamental rights of citizens to participate in a popular democracy.
The decision was however greeted with strong resistance which saw the leaders of party’s caucus, led by Oshiomhiole, rejecting that decision thereby opening up the political space for all aspirants to contest.
However, the conduct of the APC primaries in some local government areas as observed by LEADERSHIP Friday was marred by irregularities, following the outright imposition of candidates by the some powerful forces within the party.
In Owan East, local government area, leaders of the APC lambasted the Edo State Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon Phillip Shaibu, for conducting parallel primaries in the locality
The APC leaders insisted that the only recognized primaries was the one conducted in Afuze, headquarters of the local council where Mr. Victor Ohiosumuan, emerged as the party’s candidate. They added that the illegal primaries presided over by Hon Shaibu at Warrake which produced Andrew Osigbe was nullity.
Unaware of the said parallel primaries at Warrake, two members of the panel, Pastor Isigbe Kadiri and Yakubu Jarafu, a security personnel, and party chieftains from the local government including member representing Owan federal Constituency and Deputy Whip of the House, Rt. Hon Pally Iriase, and Majority Leader of Edo State House of Assembly, Hon Folly Ogedengbe, who is a member representing Owan East Constituency waited patiently waiting for the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Barr. Emmanuel Agbale, who was the leader of the primaries committee. But he didn’t show up.
Speaking to newsmen in Afuze after the party primaries, Organizing Secretary of the APC in Owan East, Mr. Fred Uanzekin, alleged that the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, hijacked Agbale, who was assigned to conduct the primaries in Afuze.
Mr. Uanzekin said party executives from 10 Wards gathered at the venue of the primaries waiting for Agbale for over 10 hours before they heard that a “kangaroo” primaries has been conducted in Warrake.
He faulted the deputy governor for allegedly plotting take over the leadership of Owan East when he was yet to take full control of Estako West where he hails from.
He said, “You can see for yourself. We have been here and nothing is happening. The Deputy Governor hijacked and kidnapped Agbale to Warrake tô conduct a parallel primaries. Our recognized leader is Pally Iriase.
“We held meetings where we agreed on consensus that Hon Victor should be the Chairman but only one ward disagreed. We said they should come for full primaries but they ran away.”
The party leaders from the local government subsequently staged a protest to the party secretariat in Benin, accusing the deputy governor of hijacking primaries.
Roland Edeki, who spoke for the party leaders, stated “the said Andrew Osigwe has no result from his polling unit in the last governorship election which is in contrast with the guideline in eligibility for the LGA election. Again, the LGA caucus has earlier zoned the chairmanship to ward 03 which has never produce the chairmanship before and Hon Andrew is from ward 04.
“More so, at Afuze mini stadium 10 wards out of the 11 wards that made up of the local government were present. Only Warrake ward 11 was absent for a reason best known to them.
“We are optimistic that APC as a party would put a stop to this undemocratic practice perpetuated by the Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu before our party is immersed into serious crisis. The impunity must not be allowed to continue”.
But the state party chairman, Hon Anslem Ojezua, said the party is still receiving reports from local government areas of the state and had received several complaints bothering on the conduct of the primary.
“ I want to say that the deputy governor is not one of those sent to supervise the primary. However, to a large extent the primary across the state was peaceful. I am surprised this is coming from Owan East local government that use to be the most peaceful. I am disturbed by this development,” he said.
As it is now, the parallel congress held and presided over by the deputy governor is tearing the party apart as majority of the party leaders are poised for a major showdown if what they considered as an outright rape of democracy, abuse of due process and agrant disregard to party guidelines, is not urgently addressed.
When contacted, the chief press secretary to the deputy governor, Musa Ebomhena, however absolved his principal of any complicity in the alleged hijack of the primaries, pointing out that where the primaries held was the approved venue.
But it was not all trouble for the party, as there were also successful outcomes in other local governments.
Daughter of late former governor of the old Bendel State, Madam Eghe Ogbemudia, emerged chairmanship candidate of the party in Egor Local Government Area.
She emerged candidate via a consensus of the party members, after the leadership of the party in Egor, led by House of Assembly member, Crosby Eribo and former Deputy Governor, Chief Lucky Imasuen, adopted her as their candidate.
Similarly, Chairman of the Edo State Football Association, Mr. Frank Illaboya, was elected the party’s candidate for Owan West local government Shaibu area in a unanimous decision.
In Oredo, which is governor Godwin Obasekiś Local Government, Jenkinns Osunde, emerged chairmanship candidate after the governor’s younger brother, Tom, withdrew from the race to obey the decision of the leaders.
In Ikpoba Okhai, where the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie is the leader, Dr Eric Iyobosa Osayande, emerged as candidate, while Destiny Enabulele, emerged as chairmanship candidate in Ovia South West.
In Orhiomwon, the home of another former Deputy Governor, Dr Pius Odubu, Mr Sylvester Okoro picked the ticket, Etsako West (Musa Yakubu). In Igueben, Mr. Josie Ogedegbe, was elected through a rmation as the party chairmanship candidate while Ms. Patience Oboh, was elected vice chairmanship candidate.
The state secretary of the APC, Lawrence Okah, hailed the exercise, saying that “APC has demonstrated that it is a peaceful party where even when leaders disagree on issues, they will de nitely agree without carrying guns. We are happy with the process and we are set for the election”.
However, some aspirants who lost out in the exercise are considering seeking redress in the law court, it was learnt. Some of them have complained over the way and manner the consensus arrangements were reached, a development that might spark a fresh crisis for the ruling party if not properly addressed.
Even as concerns of internal squabbles still loom in the APC, the opposition PDP had headed to court and instituted legal action to challenge the proposed Edo local government election by the Independent Electoral Commission set up the APC.
PDP went to court over what it described as illegality by the APC government over the amendment of the electoral law by the state assembly and the constitution of members of the EDSIEC. They last week announced their withdrawal from the Council election.