…Saraki v Lai Mohammed, Dogara v Bauchi Gov, Ajimobi v Shittu, Okorocha v Deputy, others in focus
…Every parallel congress illegal, unacceptable – Party spokesman
When the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) earlier in the year decided not to hold state congresses and national convention of the party to elect new leadership of the party to take over from the current executives, it was because of their fears that so close to election, if anything goes wrong with the congresses and convention, it could spell doom for them in the 2019 election.
But, when President Muhammadu Buhari later overruled them and insisted that the congresses and convention must hold owing to fear of a possible backlash, the party leaders were then torn between the rock and a hard place, as apprehension rose over a possible looming crisis. Now, the fears of the leaders seem to be coming to pass.
Now, the state congresses of the party on Saturday, has ended in predictable confusion in many states, with the crisis rocking the party, prompting parallel state executives in at least 12 states and crisis and court action, causing a postponment of the congress in two others, though it was largely peaceful gatherings.
It was, however, not so in Ondo State where the division between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and some National Assembly members and other stakeholders escalated to violence that led to the thorough beating of as many as 50 journalists, politicians and observers by thugs.
A member of the House of Representatives, Bamidele Baderinwa, was stripped naked and bludgeoned with machetes by the thugs at the rival congress.
Osun State Commissioner for Regional Integration, Bola Ilori, who is from Ondo State, was among the victims who got a taste of the beating by the thugs.
There were, however, largely uneventful congresses in several other states including Borno where all former officers were returned unopposed, a development that kept the structure of the party in the hands of Governor Kashim Shettima.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was, however, not so lucky as stakeholders opposed to his ascendancy ignored a last-minute court order to elect a new executive for the state chapter of the party.
Okorocha, who ignored the congress to inspect projects in Okigwe, termed the stakeholders, led by his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere and former Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as cowards.
The Imo State congress is made worse as the status of the wards and local government congresses held in the state is unclear due to conflicting claims by critical stakeholders who are at each others’ throat over the congresses.
Stakeholders in Delta and Rivers states were also enmeshed in intrigues and in some case outright crisis.
The Olorogun Otega Emerhor-led tendency in Delta State was outfoxed after his one-time protégée, Prophet Jones Erue, was returned as Chairman in a congress staged by the Great Ogboru/Ovie Omo-Agege tendency despite announcements that the congress had been postponed.
Parallel executives emerged in Oyo, Kwara, Lagos, Enugu, Adamawa, Bauchi, Ondo, Delta, Zamfara, Kogi, and Abia among others.
In Lagos, the mainstream of the party joined Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and all National Assembly and state legislators elected on the party platform to elect a new state executive with Alhaji Babatunde Balogun emerging as Chairman.
The state congress was supervised by Senator Uche Ekwunife, chairperson of the three-man congress committee delegated by the national secretariat.
The gathering of the prominent members nonetheless, a group, under the aegis of “Right to Choose Coalition,” and other amalgamated groups, convened at the Airport Hotel, Lagos where a parallel state executive with erstwhile Vice Chairman, Central, Fouad Oki, emerging as Chairman.
In Kwara, which like Lagos did not record a division in the ward and local government area congresses, also witnessed a division after some stakeholders, led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, conducted a parallel congress.
But the mainstream of the party converged with Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, all members of the National and State Assembly and major stakeholders at the the Banquet Hall, opposite Government House, Ilorin.
The congress returned Alhaji Isola Balogun Fulani as Chairman and all the other 34 members of the former executive.
The congress turned bloody in Ondo State as thugs invaded the parallel congress held at the BTO Event Centre, Akure.
The thugs, numbering no fewer than 25, chased the delegates out of the hall, destroyed the ballot papers, and upturned the tables, chairs and electronic equipment in the venue.
Baderinwa, representing ldanre/lfedore Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives was thoroughly beaten.
He was stripped by the thugs while his orderly fled the scene. Senator Ajayi Boroffice and a former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Alli Olanusi, who belong to the faction and were on their way to the congress, made a quick u-turn following the disruption of the state congress.
Also attacked were Mr. Bola Ilori and other party chieftains, including Tolu Babaleye, ldowu Otetunbi, the candidate for the Publicity Secretary of the faction, Leye Akinola and the Director General of the Segun Abraham Campaign Organisation, Eko Davies.
Journalists who were wounded include the state Chairman of the NUJ and state correspondent of Thisday, James Sowole, Damisi Ojo of The Nation, Bamigbola Gbolagunte of the Sun, Sunkanmi Elujoba of Adaba FM, and Olumide Abudu of Radio Nigeria Positive FM.
Plans by the national leadership of the party for uniform fresh ward and local government congresses in Rivers State were unsuccessful after allies of the Senator Magnus Abe-led group boycotted the fresh ward congresses, after obtaining a court injunction against it.
Those aligned to Abe said they kept away based on the court injunction against further congresses pending the court hearing on the dispute coming up in June.
In Ebonyi State, parallel congresses were held with associates of the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and those of Senator Julius Ucha converging in two different venues.
It was the same tale of acrimony in Oyo State where parallel executives were elected at different congresses, separately championed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu.
At the Ajimobi-led congress, held in Adamasingba Stadium, and graced by the panel from the national secretariat, were former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, former Senate leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, Senator Fatai Buhar, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), and Prince Akeem Adeyemi among others.
At the Liberty Stadium, where Shittu and others aligned to him, converged were Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, Dr. Busari Adebisi, Prof. Adeolu Akande, and Dr. Ismail Adebayo Adewusi, among others.
In Enugu, violence marred the primary election as delegates and notable bigwigs of the party narrowly escaped attack at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium venue of the primary.
The primary election which was made to produce state executives was disrupted midway into the accreditation of delegates by thugs allegedly led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, on his arrival at the venue.
It was gathered that the quick intervention of security operatives and some party officials prevented members of the congress committee and INEC officials from being mobbed by the suspected hoodlums.
Party members, who also escaped unhurt, include former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, immediate past governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, and the National Vice Chairman of APC, South-East, Emma Eneukwu.
Others are former Commissioner in Enugu State, Hon. Joe Mammel and the state chairman of the party, Dr. Ben Nwoye.
All the dignitaries were already seated at the Indoor Sports Hall of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu, venue of the congress while the delegates were being called in when the Minister in the company of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reforms, Juliet Ibekaku, stormed the venue at about 2pm.
The thugs, who chanted praises of the Minister, chased away the delegates at the Congress.
Onyeama said the development made him to report to President Muhammadu Buhari who was silent, and that being the case, he resorted to self help.
Our correspondent gathered that the thugs overpowered the policemen at the entrance of the stadium and moved into the Indoor Sports Hall, with the Minister and Ibekaku.
On sighting the dignitaries at the high table, the thugs went haywire, and scattered all the seats already arranged for the delegates, local government by local government.
As the rampaging thugs moved towards the high table, security operatives quickly whisked the dignitaries away to save them from harm.
With the dignitaries, the accredited delegates out of the way, the Minister and his group took control of the venue and held a factional congress.
In Adamawa State, parallel congresses were held by camps loyal to Governor Mohammed Jibrilla and his predecessor, Murtala Nyako and sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal.
In Anambra State, stakeholders, however, returned the immediate past executive based on consensus.
In Bayelsa State, the congress was postponed as a result of the party’s inability to access the venue scheduled for the congress, as the state governor, Seriake Dickson, was alleged to have prevented them from using it.
However, following the crisis that marred the Enugu State congress on Saturday, it was rescheduled for Sunday where the party chairman in the state, Dr. Ben Nwoye, was re-elected for a second term in office.
Nwoye was re-elected by about 2,000 accredited delegates from the 17 Local Government Areas of the state on Sunday at the concluding part of the state congress of the party, held inside the Indoor Sports Hall of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.
It would be recalled that the exercise had earlier commenced on Saturday, but midway, political thugs stormed the venue and violently chased everybody away.
But, the congress was however reconvened on Sunday morning as directed by the APC National Secretariat to conclude the exercise.
Under the watchful eyes of the five-man congress committee led by Pastor Charles Brown, INEC and relevant security agencies, Nwoye, the State Secretary, Robert Eze; Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Kate Ofor and other members of the executive were returned unopposed for a second term.
Meanwhile, the APC has declared that any form of parallel congress held during any of its congresses is an exercise in futility.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Bolaji Abdullahi, made this known in a statement while reacting to news of parallel congresses in some states.
Bolaji, in his statement, emphasised that the only congress recognised by the party is that conducted by the congress committee in accordance with the constitution.
He said, “The party’s position is that there is no such thing as parallel congress. The only congress recognised by the party is that conducted in accordance with the party constitution, which was organised by the congress committee charged by the party to organise such congress.
“We therefore regard any so-called parallel congresses as exercise in futility and attempt to cause confusion in the party.”
” Just imagine the situation where the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara and his group have to file a legal action at the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the party congress in Bauchi. The legal action is against the Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar. This is not healthy for the party.
The APC also reiterated that any party member who has any genuine grievances regarding the congresses should channel such through the appeals committee in their respective states.
Reacting to the development, a chieftain of the APC, who would not want his name mentioned, attributed the crisis across the states to the ambition of the leaders of these factions of the party.
The APC chieftain, who spoke in confidence said: “The main cause of these problems of the APC leading to the parallel congress is the ambition of the arrowheads of the parallel congresses who are either angling to be president of the country, but are beginning to see the futility of their ambitions.
“It is an open secret that Buhari will most likely retain the ticket of the party or those who wish to be governors of their various states, but the incumbent governors, some of whom are in their first terms and have made it impossible for them to realise their ambition or for those on their second terms, they have other persons besides them in mind to replace them.”
He reasoned for instance that the problem in Kwara State is the attempt to strip the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, of power to control the state executive, so that he will not have the home support for his perceived presidential ambition to challenge Buhari in the primary of the APC for the 2019 election.
He further reasoned that realising that he has been made bare because of the obvious fact that the party will not allow him to return to the seat of Senate president in 2019, Saraki has decided to do whatever it takes to hold on to the structure of the party in the state, and perhaps use it as a bargaining platform for his ambition when the time is right.
He also reasoned that the ambition of Madumere in Imo State and that of Araraume to succeed Okorocha in 2019 and the common desire to frustrate the governor’s plan to install his son in-law as the next governor of the state is propelling both the deputy governor and the former senator into building their own structures outside that of the governor towards achieving their goal.
The same scenario, he reasoned, is playing out in Lagos, where Dr. Muiz Banire is believed to be behind the factional executive; Oyo, where Shittu is behind the factional executive or Bauchi, where the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, is said to be the man behind the scene, the reason is the same, governorship ambition in 2019.
He, however, cautioned the leadership of the party to be careful in handling the crisis, as the future of the APC, especially with regards to the 2019 race is tied to how the issues arising from the congresses are handled.