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Intrigues that stalemated Ekiti APC governorship primary

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Until last week Saturday, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State always saw themselves as member of one indivisible family, united in words and action. But that camaraderie took a flight with the violence that stalemated the primary to elect candidate for the July 14 governorship election.

The build up to the primary had signaled that the party was heading for a crisis with 33 aspirants vying for a ticket.

Although the Southwest leadership of the party held a meeting with them in Lagos where they promised to be fair and transparent with the process, the meeting could not prune down the number of aspirants.

Expectations by some members that their leadership will separate “contenders from pretenders” evaporated as all the 33 aspirants that paid N7.5m to the national secretariat of the party were cleared for the primary, leaving delegates to determine their fate.

Their campaign to sell themselves to the delegates had been subtle, polite and devoid of blackmail but that changed as soon as the former Governor of the State and current Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi joined the race.

The texture and messaging of their campaigns were directed at decimating Fayemi who was seen as a threat to their ambition.

An open letter was written to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on Fayemi to drop his ambition, but when there was no response from the President, some of them threatened a legal action and armed themselves with the White Paper released by Governor Ayo Fayose that alleged Fayemi of misappropriation while in office.

But the powers that be in APC seemed to have made up their minds to leave the delegates to decide who will fly the party ticket.

Indeed the delegates became “kings” and the most sought after. An aspirant on Friday searched all major hotels in Ado Ekiti looking for all delegates from his local council.

He did not see them as they have switched off their phones. He only saw them singing praises of his archrival as they were entering Oluyemi Kayode Stadium on Saturday morning. The message was very clear to him.

Another aspirant was alleged to have offered N20,000 to each of the 2,000 delegates as “transport fare” after holding meeting with them only for the delegates to stop accepting his phone calls.

Accreditation of delegates began as early as 8am with election Committee headed by Nassarawa State Governor, Tanko Al Makura in control of the situation. By 12pm the weather changed for a downpour that lasted for almost two hours.

The flood disturbed the security arrangement and gave opportunity for some hoodlums to gain entrance into the stadium.

When the election process resumed, the atmosphere had become tensed. Though the party thugs did not have access to the ballot papers, they became willing hands for some agents that seemed to have a premeditated plan to make the primary inconclusive.

As soon as the agents were called to the voting arena, some of them began to foment troubles. They initially insisted that they will not allow voting to take place until they were satisfied with the number of accredited delegates and checked the ballot papers to confirm their authenticity. Al Makura explained to them and all delegates that 2,618 names were on the voters list but 2,409 were accredited to participate in the exercise.

Voting started with the special delegates and members of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, which went well with some of the aspirants exchanging banters.

But trouble started when delegates who could not see well were asking agents and security officers to assist them identify their aspirants in the ballot paper before thumb printing.

Senator Ayo Arise’s agent initially objected to it but other agents cautioned him that that was the agreement of the aspirants with the electoral body at the meeting held on Friday that elderly people or those with impaired vision could seek assistance of the agents or security officers to identify the name of the aspirant they wanted to vote for.

Delegates from the first local council cast their votes without much ado but by the time delegates from the fifth council cast their votes, Fayemi’s name was coming more frequent than others.

Temper rose and some agents could no longer control their emotions. They overpowered the security men and smashed one of the ballot boxes on the floor. Commotion set in, staccato of gunshot rented the air and delegates fled the stadium.

Following the development, some agents allegedly loyal to Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Arise, Hon Femi Bamisile and other strong contenders in the race, started shouting and calling Fayemi unprintable names. Efforts made by Al Makura to calm down frayed nerves were rebuffed.

They accused an agent to Fayemi, Samuel Abejide 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.
 
Police and other security agents made reinforcement and drafted amoured carrier to the stadium to bring the situation under control. Police shot sporadically into the air when the situation was escalating to scare the violent protesters.

However, ecurity agencies arrested  one man for allegedly trying to grab the ballot box and  he was stripped naked  and was taken to their custody in handcuff..

The Director General of Babafemi Ojudu Campaign Organisation, Chief Ranti Adebisi complained that the process has been heavily compromised.

According to him, “The guideline stipulated that each aspirant can only bring in four supporters, but Fayemi brought many. His agents, including 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.”

Also, an APC chieftain, Mr. Femi Afolabi alleged that the process has been compromised by some security agencies, which he said were dictating who they should vote for after authentication.

But Fayemi’s agent said it was a gang up against the Minister that led to the spurious allegation, accusing those peddling rumour as enemies of APC.

He said, “There was an agreement among aspirants during their meeting with the electoral committee 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”.

One of the aspirants, Hon Bimbo Daramola who spoke to the newsmen said the heavy downpour that halted the accreditation process allowed the process to be compromised.

He denied a gang up against Fayemi saying it was presumptuous for anybody to assume that the former governor was leading adding that all aspirants would still work together after the primary to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the ‪election.

Meanwhile, Fayemi, has condemned the development saying the party does not deserve the type of ridicule which the shameful act of the hoodlums subjected it to. 

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, inka Oyebode, Fayemi said the disruption of the primary was the height of desperation on the part of some aspirants, who having seen defeat staring them in the face, conspired together to ensure that the exercise was not concluded.

He said, “It is quite painful seeing some desperate elements trying so much to rubbish the party we all laboured to build to national reckoning, out of share lust for power.”

On his part, Chief Segun Oni said that the whole world watch the Ekiti APC displayed shameful acts.

He said that what happened was the result of the alleged impunity and attempt to compromise the exercise by a particular aspirant who he did not mentioned. Oni lamented that some people who displayed the penchant for rigging made democracy very sour and uninteresting.

“People would have thought I will nominate somebody for the committee conducting the primary, but I didn’t do that only for us to find that the secretary of the committee was nominated by an aspirant.

If we are going to a contest and one of the contestants nominated the referee, is that fair?

He called on the National Working Committee (NWC) to probe the incident and find out who actually manipulated the process which led to the shameful outcome of the primary.

He alleged that after serious complaints by aspirants about the closeness of one of the aspirants to the secretary Mallam Mogaji Aliyu, he was dropped as secretary but remained member of the committee.

Apart from the secretary, Oni said that the compromise might have festered to the security agencies, which are allegedly believed to be working for the aspirant.

Meanwhile, Ojudu has denied allegation that he and Daramola masterminded the violence describing it a spurious and senseless.

Addressing journalists in Ado Ekiti, Ojudu said that he never exhibited any desperation and that accounted for why he didn’t go to the election venue with party supporters.

“I even hate seeing thugs around me. They said I was desperate; let us ask ourselves, who among the aspirants took delegates to Igbara Oke and Owo in Ondo State to camp?”

Another strong aspirant, Opeyemi Bamidele said, “It was a sad moment. What pervaded my thought was the time and energy put in this party. I believe we have past this stage. I felt that that tragic development was avoidable.

The event of Saturday must be taken as a wake up call. It is obvious that the leaders in the Southwest cannot sit back and fold their hands. They must wake up and step in.”

It was however learnt that some of the aspirants were making contact and arranging a meeting on ‪Sunday evening to possibly salvage the process.

Whichever way the meeting end, the party is racing against time, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed ‪May 14 as the deadline for the conclusion of party primaries.


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