The All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary election in Ekiti State was on Saturday disrupted by some party members and delegates, who alleged that the process was manipulated and compromised.
The aggrieved members claimed that the delegates were been manoeuvred and tactically induced to vote in favour of a particular aspirant and this did not go down well with them.
Delegates from about four out of the 16 local government areas of the state were yet to vote before the shadow election was disrupted.
The disruption came after special and statutory delegates, comprising former governors, former senators, former members of the House of Representatives, state working committee and party stalwarts had voted.
Some of the party members alleged to have destroyed the ballot boxes and paper were arrested by the law enforcement agents on ground.
Others were seen in and around the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, where the election was held chanting all manners of slogans to deride the process.
While most party members and delegates said the process must be stopped at that point, some others insisted that the process must continue.
Accusations and Counter-accusations
Agents of some strong contenders fingered the security agents of allegedly compromising the process in favour of a former governor and Minister of Steel and Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Trouble started at about 5.30pm when some agents raised observations about how the process was allegedly compromised, accusing some security agents of dictating to delegates who they should vote for.
Police and other security agents shot sporadically into the air when the situation was escalating into a full scale war among the camps.
Efforts made by the Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura, to calm frayed nerves were rebuffed.
Fayemi’s agents were also accused of dictating to delegates who to vote for and also writing the serial numbers of their ballot papers to authenticate who they actually voted for, probably for pecuniary gains after the poll.
The agents’ protest had attracted their principals and other interested parties, who joined the fray and made spirited efforts to grab the ballot boxes to stall the entire process.
Sachets of water were thrown indiscriminately by delegates, while also chanting derisive songs against the former governor.
Attempts to snatch ballot boxes containing already thumb printed ballot papers were rebuffed by the DSS and the police and other sister security agencies.
Security agents also arrested one man for allegedly trying to grab the ballot box and he was stripped naked and taken into their custody.
The Director General of Babafemi Ojudu Campaign Organisation, Chief Ranti Adebisi, complained that the process had been heavily compromised
He said, “The guideline stipulated that each aspirant can only bring in four supporters, but Fayemi brought many.
“His agents, including the DSS, were issuing cards to delegates to fill when they vote for him, so that they can later come for the money he promised them.
“I contested against Fayemi in 2007 and I know what I am talking about. The process has been compromised. Even, Fayemi has been bragging around that he is a friend to Alhaji Al-Makura, so we are disappointed that this could happen.”
A chieftain of the party, Mr. Femi Afolabi, alleged that the process has been compromised by some security agencies, whom he said were dictating who they should vote for after authentication.
But Fayemi’s agent, Mr Samuel Bejide, said it was a gang-up against the minister that led to the spurious allegation, accusing those peddling the rumour as enemies of APC.
He said, “It was a proviso that if you are a delegate who can’t read and write, you can call any of the agents. When they saw that I was the one being called, they started feeling the heat and they were determined to disrupt it.”
The delegates had defied the heavy downpour that lasted for about two hours to elect the flag bearer of the party for the July 14 election.
Earlier, before the commencement of voting, Al-Makura had announced that the number of accredited delegates that would vote in the primary was 2,409.
The statutory number of delegates in Ekiti APC was 2,618, but the number dropped on account of deaths, defections to other parties and inabilities to fill some vacant positions.
Voting commenced at about 3.30pm after a torrential and stormy downfall had delayed the exercise for over an hour and nearly destroyed the tent erected in the heart of the stadium where Al-Makura and members of his committee were to be seated.
Party leaders and aspirants, who had voted as automatic delegates included, former Governors Niyi Adebayo, Bamidele Olumilua, Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi; also Babafemi Ojudu, Femi Bamisile, Opeyemi Bamidele, Bamidele Faparusi, Gbenga Aluko, Bimbo Daramola and Ayo Arise, among other gubernatorial aspirants.
After the party stalwarts had voted, the Chief Jide Awe-led State Working Committee, SWC, members also followed suit after which ward and local government delegates from Ekiti East and Ado local government areas took their turns.
Al-Makura had apologised for the delay caused by nature (rainfall).
He said, “We are about to start the voting now, we are sorry for the delay and we also commend you for your understanding.
“Let me plead with delegates to be orderly. All the 33 aspirants that you have paraded are eminently qualified to lead Ekiti. So, be rest assured that no fake delegate will vote here and no eligible one will be disenfranchised. We are beginning with authentication of the accredited delegates after which we shall give you the ballot to cast your votes.”
The national leadership of the party however described the disruption of the exercise as regrettable, adding that the issue has been resolved amicably with hope to continue the exercise where it stopped.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, responding to the disruption of the exercise in a statement noted that, “The situation in Ekiti is regrettable. The issues have been resolved and it is our hope that the exercise can now continue where it stopped.
“The primaries chairman has spoken to the National Chairman after consulting with the aspirants. The position is that the process should resume as quickly as possible. The issue of indefinite postponement does not arise”.
Party Reads Riot Act
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the governing party, after noting the position of the committee set up to investigate the case however cancelled the process even as it announced yesterday a new date for the conduct of fresh primary. The date was later shifted to today.
The party’s leadership also dropped the secretary of the primary committee for being close to one of the aspirants even though no account of wrongdoing was levelled against him.
Arriving at the decision after series of high level meetings between Monday and Tuesday, the party barred the agents of aspirants who were identified to have disrupted the process from further participating in the primary election in whatever capacity.
Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s spokesman at a news conference said “the existing primary election committee is maintained, except the secretary, who will now be substituted”.
He said the committee secretary was never indicated for compromising the process but that “ virtually all aspirants complained that the secretary has a close relationship with one of their colleagues and so we decided to drop him in order to guard the integrity of the process and not because he was found to have compromised”
According to the party, “All identified unruly agents that participated in the suspended primary election of 5 May, 2018 are disqualified from participating in the rescheduled primary as agents. Accordingly, the following individuals are hereby disqualified from participating as agents or partaking in the rescheduled primary in whatever capacity; Ayodeji Omowaye, Rotimi Faleye, Kayode Afolabi, Oladele Ademola Samuel, Oyetunde Ojo, Akintade Olayisade and Temitope Adewumi.
“All agent tags must bear the name of aspirants they represent. All agents in the rescheduled primary election are hereby barred from coming to the voting arena with their mobile phones”.
Other decisions reached by the NWC are: “Security agents from other states will be mobilised to secure the venue and officials in the rescheduled election. One person would be appointed subject to the consensus of all aspirants to assist persons with disability and illiterate voters. All aspirants must not leave their sitting position unless with the approval of the primary committee”.
“All aspirants would be held vicariously liable for the conduct of their agents. Names of the following aspirants would now be written in the following order as stated below: Ajayi Olatunji Olowo and Olubunmi Kayode
“The NWC condemns the disruption of the primary of 5 May and resolved that all found culpable, directly or indirectly will be punished in accordance with the relevant provisions of the party constitution”.
Party Leaders Move For Reconciliation.
Also as a way of ensuring that the party has a successful outing today, some of its national stalwarts from the South -west during the week took a major step to resolve the crisis that resulted from the last Saturday’s exercise.
The meeting which was ostensibly to arrive at a consensus candidate so as to boost the party’s fighting power ahead of the elections had in attendance former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former governor of Osun state, Bisi Akande, who met with all the 33 aspirants contesting the party ticket in Ekiti State.
The meeting which held at the Lagos State Lodge in Abuja, also had in an attendance former governor of Ekiti, Niyi Adebayo, former governor of Ogun state, Segun Osoba, and many other APC South-west leaders.
Speaking with newsmen after a closed door meeting which lasted three hours, Akande said the resolution of the meeting would be communicated to the party.
Akande said: “We took a decision on what will be the best advantage to our party and the country. Consensus is already written in our constitution and it is an option. Also primary election is already in our constitution. But what we want is the general happiness of the leaders of the party, the contestants and our party.”
On whether the aspirants agreed to step down for one of them or not, he said “that option is given to them, but it requires them going back, think about it and inform us.”
Ojudu Quits Race
Meanwhile, barely 48 hours to the rescheduled primary, the special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on political matters, and a leading aspirant in the race, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, withdrew from the exercise.
He announced his decision on Thursday while addressing reporters in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
Ojudu explained that he took the decision for the sake of peace in the state chapter of the APC, adding that he was withdrawing since the race had turned violent and messy.
Ojudu, however, declined to announce his support for any of the remaining 32 aspirants, even as he called on his supporters to remain calm in the interest of peace and be assured of brighter days ahead.
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