The ruling party in Nigeria has struggled to organize primary elections across the country with majority of the states suffering hitches.
The All Progressives Congress on Saturday held its nationwide congresses to elect new executives of the party at ward levels amidst protests and violence.
Leaders of the party across the country mobilised members to ensure that their loyalists were elected but not without stiff resistance from politicians, who belong to opposing camps within the party.
Odigie-Oyegun shuns poll
In Edo State, the congress was held across the 192 wards but the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, did not take part in the exercise at his ward 2 in the Oredo Local Government Area where he registered.
Efforts to reach Odigie-Oyegun for comments were unsuccessful but the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Chris Azebamwan, said, “Chief Odigie-Oyegun has more pressing issues begging his attention than the ward congress.
“That he was not physically present does not mean that he was not part of the process. He was not a candidate at the ward level, so he did not need to be physically present.”
Buhari votes in Daura
President Muhammadu Buhari joined other members of the APC in Katsina State to participate in the ward congress.
The State Governor, Aminu Masari, accompanied the President to the Bayajjida Model Primary School in Daura, venue of the congress.
The President interacted with party members at the venue where he further explained to them why he seeks a second term in office.
The chairman of the APC monitoring team for the state, Mr. Mohammed Zakari, said necessary machinery had been put in place by the party to address grievances and complaints.
Tinubu, Ambode commend peaceful conduct in Lagos
The National leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, applauded the peaceful conduct of the exercise in Lagos State.
He also urged members of the party in the state to report any complaint at the party headquarters, instead of taking the law into their hands.
Tinubu said he was impressed with the turnout of members at the ward congresses.
He said, “I am very happy and proud of our party, the APC. We are demonstrating to the people across the country that we are a law-abiding political party.
“Until the various officials conducting the congresses write their reports, my own decision is to continue to appeal to the party to conduct themselves peacefully and comply with the rule of law.”
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode also commended the peaceful conduct of the exercise across the 337 wards in the state.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna, explained that Ambode stated this while participating in the exercise at his Ward A6 in Luyepo Primary School, Papa-Epe in Epe Local Government Area.
The governor lauded the party members for displaying a high level of maturity in the conduct of the party activities.
Abe supporters protest in Rivers
The exercise was inconclusive as of press time in Rivers State even as supporters of the senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district in the National Assembly, Magnus Abe, protested on major streets of Port Harcourt to condemn the exercise.
The protesters marched through the Eastern Bypass axis of the Rivers State capital, chanting war songs, even as they claimed that (they) Abe supporters were sidelined from the ward congresses in the state.
Abe, in a statement, said there was no ward congress in the 344 wards of the 23 local government areas in Rivers State.
He said there was no stakeholders’ meeting before the scheduled congress as promised by the leadership of the APC in the state.
Abe, who is also an APC governorship aspirant, said the leadership of the party in the state went against the guidelines of the exercise by allowing contestants to pick forms on the day of the ward congress.
Ondo SSG, NURTW boss disrupt poll
In Ondo State, the congress was marred by violence and other irregularities as many members of the party were allegedly prevented from participating in the exercise.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Sunday Abegunde, and the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Mr. Jacob Adebo, were fingered in the alleged irregularities.
Abegunde and Adebo allegedly led members of the NURTW, to some centres in various wards in Akure South Local Government Area of the state, to chase out some delegates who were not loyal to him.
Frantic efforts by one of Punch correspondents to speak with Abegunde and Adebo failed as of the time of this report.
But a member of the House of Representatives from the state, Mr. Afe Olowookere, said the exercise did not hold at his ward.
Olowookere said, “There was no congress in my ward, the SSG and the chairman of NURTW brought some armed NURTW men in buses and chased the legitimate delegates away and replaced them with hoodlums.
“They wounded some members and did not allow the congress to hold in all the centres in Akure South. When we discovered that, we appealed to all our members to leave in order to avoid loss of lives.
“Our members were attacked and wounded. I have called the deputy governor of the state and reported the development to him. I tried to reach Governor Rotimi Akeredolu but I couldn’t get him.”
Dogara loyalists tackle Governor Abubakar
A faction of the party in Bauchi State believed to be loyal to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, alleged that there was a ploy by the state Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, to deny candidates not loyal to him from participating in the exercise.
The Senator representing Bauchi North, Nazif Gamawa, made the allegation while speaking to newsmen at his residence.
He said, “Everybody prepared for the elections. We were fully ready. We paid about N13m to purchase the forms but to our greatest surprise we haven’t got the forms.
“It is also surprising that (members of) the committee charged with the responsibilities of conducting the election were nowhere to be found.”
The executives of the APC in the 274 wards in Niger State were returned unopposed on Saturday.
Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the police and other security agencies, provided security at the venue held in private residences for security reasons.
Osoba absent in Ogun
In Ogun State, the exercise was held in the 236 wards across the 20 Local Government Areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas.
A former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba was, however, absent at his ward around Ogbe in the Abeokuta metropolis.
It will be recalled that some loyalists of the former governor attended a peace meeting with the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at his Oke Mosan, Abeokuta office on Thursday, over the ward congress.
Both camps had agreed to close ranks and be part of the congress.
Addressing journalists on the telephone later on why he was absent, Osoba said, “It is not necessary for me to be at the ward congress.”
Also, Amosun, who addressed party supporters at the Ajura ward in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, urged party faithful to allow peace to reign during the congress, as witnessed in past congresses.
Congress postponed in Oyo over violence
The exercise was postponed to Sunday (today) in Oyo State after thugs disrupted the congress at the party secretariat in Oke-Ado area of Ibadan, with people sustaining injuries.
Trouble started shortly before the exercise started around 10am, as chairs were thrown at members in the hall during a stakeholders meeting while stones were also thrown into the venue by suspected thugs.
The Chairman of the party’s Local Government and Ward Congress Committee, Musa Halilu-Ahmed, said two members of the committee sustained injuries as a result of the attack.
The Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu; Senator Monsurat Sumonu; a governorship aspirant of the party in the state, Adeolu Akande; and some elected federal legislators had to leave the venue for the state Police Command Headquarters in Eleyele area of Ibadan to lodge a complaint with the state Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Odude.
Members of the party later converged on the secretariat under tight security. Signs of cracks in the party became evident with some of the leaders being confronted by supporters despite Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s plea to those on the premises to allow peace to reign and for the meeting to proceed.
The governor said despite their differences, leaders of the party would always be united for the success of the party and for the sake of the electorate who looked up to them.
Son of a former governor in the state, Lamidi Adesina, Dapo Lam-Adesina, who is a member of the House of Representatives, was allegedly manhandled when he returned to the venue by unidentified persons.
Meanwhile, Shittu, Lam-Adesina and Sumonu had alleged that individuals loyal to Ajimobi carried out the attack at the state secretariat, saying they were targeted.
Their accusation was countered by the secretary of the party in the state, Mojeed Olaoya, who said in a statement he signed on behalf of the party that Shittu stormed the venue with 150 armed miscreants to unleash terror on members and disrupt the meeting.
Polls inconclusive in Abia
The Chairman of the APC in Abia State, Mr. Donatus Nwankpa, said the party’s ward and local government congress was extended to Sunday (today) due to a serious tension.
Nwankpa stated this while speaking with journalists at the party secretariat in Umuahia, the state capital.
He said the party leaders in the state met earlier in the day to resolve tension in the party to ensure that the congress was free, fair and credible.
He said, “We had a little tension in the party earlier. So, we thought there was a need for us to address areas of grievances and areas that will bring possible breakdown of law and order, because of what is happening in congress held in other states.”
Crisis mars conduct in Imo
The exercise was marred with crisis and confusion in Imo State as some unidentified thugs attacked the state party secretariat located at Imo State University junction in Owerri.
Apart from the fracas that marred the exercise, there were also allegations of hijacking of electoral materials.
At the height of the crisis, APC officials, posted to the state to conduct the exercise, fled to the police command headquarters in Owerri for refuge.
This is even as party chieftains, including senators Benjamin Uwajumogu, Hope Uzodimma, Osita Izunaso, and Ifeanyi Araraume, protested the development at the police command headquarters.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Chris Ezike, entered into a closed-door meeting with the APC leaders for five hours.
Parallel congresses in Ebonyi, Adamawa
Members of the party in Ebonyi State held parallel congresses in all the 171 wards in the state.
The congresses were conducted by the two rival factions headed by Pastor Eze Nwachukwu and Chief Ben Nwaobasi.
The faction, led by Nwaobasi, conducted its congresses in all the 171 wards across the state, while that of Nwachukwu were at the party’s secretariat waiting for the distribution of congress materials.
Nwaobasi alleged that the seven-member committee, appointed by the APC National Working Committee led by Mr. Ajayi Nicholas, was hijacked by the group loyal to a prominent party chieftain in the state.
Also, in Adamawa State, the Chairman of the state congress committee, Alhaji Musa Mahmud, announced the postponement of the exercise to Sunday.
Mahmud stated this shortly after a meeting with some stakeholders who protested that many candidates had yet to obtain the nomination forms to contest the election.
Some of the stakeholders that protested included a fformer Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal; Senator Abdulaziz Nyako; Sen. Abubakar MoAllayidi; Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Chief Marcus Gundiri.