The controversy that trailed the adoption of direct mode of primaries by stakeholders within the APC in Bayelsa State has thrown up issues and the preparedness of aspirants ahead of the November 16 governorship election in the state. OSA OKHOMINA examines the game plan and struggle to control the party.
When some members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State predicted that the main opposition, the All Progressives Congress, lacks the capacity to defeat the party in the forthcoming governorship election, many laughed it off due to the victories recorded by the latter during the last State and National Assembly elections.
But the rowdy nature of the stakeholders’ meeting of the APC held on the 16 July, 2019, showed a party divided along three lines of support for the former Governor Timipre Sylva; the immediate past minister of state for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and a former member of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Council, Engr. Preye Aganaba.
The meeting, which was convened by the state chairman of the party, Jothan Amos, however, lived up to its billing with party leaders poised to struggle the party’s flag to contest the governorship election.
The gathering of the party leaders, according to political analysts, also showed the dominance, grip and control of Sylva over the party affairs despite the appreciable incursions made by the Senator Heineken Lokpobiri campaign organisation into the State Executive of party and members.
The atmosphere of confusion and lack of proper organisation emerged from the beginning of the meeting at the party secretariat with the atmosphere charged and rowdy. Some non-card ca Aganaba Aganaba rrying members of the party had infiltrated into the hall and refused to leave when called upon.
It ended on a sour note with Amos putting the question to the already rowdy meeting, some shouted Direct Primaries and others just kept shouting ‘No!No!!No!!! And everyone left the venue.
Many of the party supporters at the meeting, however, agreed that the direct mode of primaries would allow a wider participation of all party members. All speeches and comments on the alleged illegality of the conduct of Amos were shouted down by supporters who were allegedly at the meeting for the purpose. The meeting and comments made were later turned into observations and other issues by supporters of Sylva and Lokpobiri.
The arrival of Aganaba also led to a brief interruption of the meeting with security operatives refusing to allow him access into the meeting despite the intervention of a former Chairman of the party, Deacon Joseph Fafi. After much protest and near fisticuffs by his director of Youths Mobilization, he was allowed access.
Amos, while delivering his opening remark, told party faithful in attendance that the stakeholders’ meeting was summoned to discuss the mode of party primaries and suggested that it would be direct primaries to sustain the tempo of the party successes from the last National and State Assemblies elections.
Also buttressing the position of the state chairman, the member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Southern Ijaw Constituency, Preye Oseke, called on the members of the party to remain calm as the decision on mode of primaries should not be allowed to divide the party.
Oseke reminded party faithful that the issue of mode of primaries is a constitutional matter and that it is at the discretion on the chairman of the party to put the question before the stakeholders, stating “there is no need for us to quarrel over the issue of Direct or Indirect primaries. We have all agreed that we have a common goal which is the fact that restoration government must go.
“As politicians, we can fight and disagree, but we know that we have a common goal. Now, it is a better chance, we must put our house in order.”
The leader of the APC in the state, Sylva, also spoke on the need to remain calm and insisted that Bayelsa was not the only state having governorship election this year and saw no reason for rancor, noting that: “this is not the way of the APC, something has crept into it. APC is a family. I have said it times without numbers that whoever wants to aspire, can aspire and the party is to ensure that we win in the November 16 election.
‘’We should not start insisting on procedures, I cannot attend a meeting of party family and be insisting. This is a family meeting and you cannot be insisting. Contact your people in Kogi State, nobody called them from national to insist on procedure. It is a simple process and should not be a rancorous meeting.”
The state secretary of the party, Alabo Martins, later told newsmen that the major resolution of the meeting agreed on the Direct mode of voting for the Governorship primary of the party.
In their separate reactions, Aganaba and Lokpobiri argued that the meeting ended in a stalemate because the chairman of the party, failed to follow due process at summoning stakeholders meeting and adoption of the mode of primaries for the party.
Aganaba, who spoke through the director-general of his governorship campaign, Nestor Binabo, said ‘though the meeting ended in a stalemate, “even with a consensus pattern, we will carry the day. Bayelsa people want us and we know.’’
He said, ‘’the chairman of the party did not handle the matter well. The State Working Committee of the party should have drawn up an agenda and bring it to the stakeholder meeting for adoption and discussion. This process was not followed. And the meeting was technically unconstitutional according to the APC constitution”.
In his position, Lokpobiri, through the director of Media and Publicity of his governorship campaign team, Perez Peretu, said the meeting ended in a stalemate and that the APC state chairman needs to summon another stakeholders meeting, Even if we disagree, we will eventually agree.’’
‘’Many of the SWC members kicked against the action of the state chairman and accused him of not summoning a meeting of the party exco to discuss and adopt the mode of primary before the stakeholder meeting.”
At the end of the meeting, the party leadership in their resolution, a copy made available to Leadership newspapers and signed by the chairman, Jothan Moses and the secretary, Alabo Martins, explained that the direct mode of primaries was chosen because “In all the previous primary elections, direct primaries was adopted from Presidential, National Assembly and State Assemblies elections leading to an impressive performance and victory.”
The resolution, which was addressed to the national chairman of the APC, also had signatures of notable members of the party in the state, stated that in pursuance of the directive by the national leadership of the party, “the State Executive Committee, aspirants and critical stakeholders of the APC Bayelsa had a meeting on the 16th of July, 2019 at the state party secretariat.”
Like in the appeal of the member of the House of Representatives from Southern Ijaw constituency, Oseke, pleading with members and aspirants not to leave the party if aggrieved, many followers are holding their breath on the outcome of the controversial stakeholders meeting.