The razzmatazz surrounding the just concluded national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have come and gone but in this piece, ANDREW ESSIEN gives a report of subterranean happenings at the August assembly.
The national convention of the APC came with it an understandably infectious excitement, partly because the protagonists and antagonists of the leadership of the party at all levels would have their day to settle their real and perceived scores.
To forestall any unforeseen circumstances, security agencies had completely shutdown Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the convention a day before they gathered, ostensibly to forestall any untoward security breach even as all access routes to the venue were cordoned off.
Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu and a contender to retain his position had given assurances as to the party’s preparedness, saying the APC realized the essence of conducting a free and fair convention and has left no stone unturned in ensuring its success.
His words: “The party is fully ready for this convention, and we have put every machinery in motion towards successful convention, to realize the objectives of the party. We did it before and us shall do it again”.
At another level, contenders were neck-deep in moves geared towards convincing delegates to vote for them from the national to the zonal offices. Those against them were also busy addressing pressmen as to why some candidates should not be returned.
The offices of National Organizing Secretary formerly manned by Senator Osita Izunaso and the the Woman Leader, also formerly occupied by Haj. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, both of who were reported to be at loggerheads with their state governors but latter were also bent on seeing loyalists replace them. They eventually lost their seats.
Another issue that generated serious concussion was a supposed ‘unity list’ which entered various levels of concern from party stakeholders especially from the South east and South south geo-political zones. At some point, Chairmen of the APC in the South-east went to the level of urging President Muhammadu Buhari to disassociate himself from the purported list in circulation, threatening that his re-election bid was at the stake in the region.
The state chairmen which included Chief Ben Nwoye (Enugu State), Eze Nwavhkwu Eze (Ebonyi State), Donatus Nwankpa (Abia State) and Emeka Obasi (Anambra State).
While speaking with newsmen at the APC national secretariat in Abuja a day before the convention, four out five state chairmen from the South-east said any attempt to ignore the earlier endorsement of the outgoing national officers for re-election would be an aberration on their part.
Speaking on behalf of the chairmen, Chief Ben Nwoye said it was not possible to have a ‘unity list’ ahead of last Saturday’s convention without considering the interest of South-east people in the ruling party.
“You cannot have a ‘unity list’ when one geo-political zone is not considered, that is a mis-normal. You cannot consider that to be a ‘unity list’. If you meet in a hall where you have just governors and South-east has just one governor, and that one governor is the only opinion you took out of 5 states and you produce a list, that is not a ‘unity list’.
“In fact, that is a disunity list and the only way you can correct the disunity list is through democratic list. If that individual is popular, they take on and they show up instead of canvassing and waiting for former this and former that, making phone calls to people that if they produce this so called ‘unity list’ which I tag disunity list, it will cause Mr. President the election in South east, it will cause disaffection.
“We are doing this not because of us. You cannot disregard Jim Nwobodo, you can’t disregard Orji Uzor Kalu, Ogbonaya Onu, Chris Ngige, Martin Elechi, Sulivan Chime, Andy Ubah, Ugbo Orji, Benjamina Umagimoju and state chairmen. These are great leaders”, he said.
The morning of the convention was everything people thought it would be security wise. Mean-faced, gun-wielding security men fenced of the venue providing various levels of security. The early morning rains did not deter delegates and dignitaries who thronged to the convention ground even as mild dram occurred at the entrance of the gate when the security details of the outgone national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun were physically restrained from entering. It got physical until cooler heads prevailed but not after a few punches had been exchanged.
As those controlling traffic surged at the gate, the security men resulted to shocking persons they considered to be trespassing with stun-guns. Some prominent dignitaries that had arrived included Govs Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi). Others were Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), and Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Arriving to a rousing welcome, the only aspirant to the office of the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and his wife had already taken their seats. Though cabinet ministers were not delegates to the national convention, some of them were however in attendance as “observers”. Some of the early arrivals were Abdulrahman Dambazau (Interior), Osagie Ehanire (Minister of state, Health), Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture) and others.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was slated to arrive by 1:00pm later arrived at about 3:00 pm in with his vice president, Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Bukola Saraki and House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara too.
Outside the venue convention ground, protest by delegates raged even as President Muhammadu Buhari pleaded that members “keep faith” with the ruling party. The aggrieved, mainly from Zamfara State, were barred from accessing the venue of the event, a move that infuriated them. They staged a peaceful demonstration around the Federal Secretariat that housed the Square, declaring the whereabouts of state chairman of the party, Alhaji Surajo Garba Mai Katako Gusau, was unknown.
Inside the venue, some delegates engaged in a free for all, throwing punches at each other as Buhari delivered his speech. The fight first broke out among delegates from Imo state who used fists, brooms and other items freely. Delta state delegates took up the fight and several people sustained injuries in the free-for-all that ensued. It took the efforts of combined Security officials who moved to the spot to stop the fracas from degenerating further.
Fresh fight broke out again early Sunday morning at the Delta stand where voting was still in full force. Chairs, tables and sticks were seen flying in different directions as argument broke out at the stand.
A man who was seriously beaten and wounded was seen being dragged out of the arena by security agents. The reason for the pandemonium was not readily ascertained but it was gathered that it may not be unconnected with the tightly contested seat of the National Organizing Secretary in which Izunaso and the Imo State governor, Rochas Okoroacha are interested parties.
At the end of the day, eight out 21 members of the outgone National Working Committee (NWC) got re-elected while 13 others did not make it. But losing out big to Okorocha’s candidate, Barri. Emmanuel Ibediro, for the position of National Organising Secretary was Senator Osita Izunazo, who obviously opposed by the Imo state governor.
Former NWC members who were lucky to be re-elected included the National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni; Deputy National Chairman (North), Sen. Lawan Shuib; National Auditor, Chief Judge Moghalu; National Publicity Secretary, Malam Abdullahi Bolaji; National Vice Chairman (North-east), Mustapha Salisu; and National Vice Chairman (South-east) Emmanuel Enekwu. Others included National Vice Chairman (South-south) Hiliard Eta and National Vice Chairman (North-west) Inua Abduljardir.
Other national officers elected included: Deputy Legal Adviser, Ado Oguta; National Treasurer, Adamu Fanda; Deputy National Financial Secretary, Sunday Jacob Chukwuma; National Woman Leader, Salamatu Umar Elijah; Deputy National Woman Leader, Barrister Ndoma Oye; National Youth Leader, Abubakar Shuaib and Deputy National Youth Leader, Hafiz Bolaji among others.
Earlier, the convention committee chairman and governor of Jigawa state, Abubakar Badaru, had announced that 26 positions were contested unopposed while 26 positions had also been won and lost. The supremacy contest between factional delegates from Imo state loyal to Governor Rochas Okorocha and his Deputy, Eze Madumere/Osita Izunaso faction practically delayed conclusion of the APC national convention. Both groups fielded candidates for the post of National Organizing Secretary with Izunaso refusing to bulge and Okorocha’s candidate refusing to step down despite pleas by party leaders, especially those from South east, for both factions to reach an amicable settlement.
The party was also at a loss on how voting could take place by Imo delegates when both factions were present at the convention and each claiming to be the authentic state executive while using huge connections to Aso Rock, governors and outgoing party leadership to influence decision-making.
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