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Revisiting APC’s crash in Delta State council poll

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Flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Rumpus Over Mistimed Boycott
There was an admixture of fear, fair access, protests, thuggery, boycott and vote buying. But, amid all those contrasting qualities, the major opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) crashed out of the recent Local Government Council poll in Delta State.

On March 6, 2021, when the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, (DSIEC), conducted election for Chairmanship and Councillorship positions into the 25 Local Government Councils of the state, expectations were high. Deltans anticipated that the two major political parties, APC and the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would test their popularity at the grassroots.

The outcome of the contest suggests an anticlimax, but the sweet-sour experiences linger. And, as both the governing and opposition parties, PDP and APC, engaged in blame game, midway into the exercise, APC threw in the towel, even when its foot soldiers were still slugging it out in the “battle field” to get victory.

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Collegial Contestants
ACCORDING to DSIEC, a total of 11 political parties participated in the council poll. The list of participating political platforms released by the Director of Information and Publications, Mr. Arubi Orugboh, indicated the parties to include, in addition to PDP and APC, New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP); All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA); African Democratic Congress, (ADC); Labour Party, (LP) and Social Democratic Party, (SDP).

Others were Boot Party, (BP); Accord Party, (AP); Action Congress, (AC) and Allied Peoples Movement, (APM). Despite that impressive number of contending parties, most were not competitive.

Orugboh explained that DSIEC was adequately prepared for the election. He disclosed that the commission conducted the election with 8,273 trained adhoc staff, stressing that apart from the 25 chairmanship positions, 500 councillorship candidates were elected. Incidentally, all the 525 positions were won by PDP.

Midway into the election, APC, perhaps, sensing that some novel games were being played by the umpire and PDP that were at variance with the rules, immediately pulled out of the race.

Why did the party take such a sudden decision? In a statement, Delta APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Sylvester Imonina, explained: “Taking such decision, was a good omen for us and a move to tell the world that the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and DSIEC were evil machinations to deprive Deltans of their rights to choose who to lead them at the local government level

“The concerns raised by our party days ago, DSIEC, PDP and Governor Okowa have done the evil they know how to do best. A day before the election, at DSIEC headquarters, Asaba, Delta APC representatives were not allowed to take statistics of materials DSIEC was transporting to the different LGAs in the state.

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“This is despite the insistence of the party’s representatives that it is the right of political parties to inspect and confirm what material is meant for “what and where.”

Divided By Accusations
Checks by The Guardian showed that as at 11 am on Election Day, materials that were purportedly transported to DSIEC offices at the LGAs and some Police Stations were yet to be distributed.

Imonina also disclosed that in Burutu and Patani Local Government Areas, election materials were not taken to anywhere near the Local Government Areas. “At LGAs, where materials were purportedly taken, there were no results sheets. This to our mind is evil. There cannot be elections without results sheets,” he declared.

In Ethiope East, unconfirmed reports had it that although materials were purportedly taken there, there were also no results sheet. Also, in few places in Asaba and the hometown of the governor, where what looks like “elections materials” were taken to, there were no election result sheets too.

APC disclosed that information at their disposal was that DSIEC in connivance with PDP and the governor directed that apart from selected places, where there shall be stage-managed elections, it was their plans that there should be no release of election materials to any Ward.

APC members and Deltans, who believe in democratic tenets, have been at different DSIEC offices and Police Stations, where election materials were supposedly kept, but nothing was happening.

In other words, APC claimed, results are being written in undisclosed homes and offices with the connivance of security men.

Meanwhile, some APC members and leaders, who peacefully protested the undemocratic vices going on in different DSIEC offices and Police Stations were intimidated, harassed and humiliated.

In particular, at the Police Station in Ozoro, Isoko North Local Government Area, on the instigation of PDP leaders in Isoko North, some APC stalwarts were arrested and kept in police Cell by the Divisional Police Officer and men under his control.

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Imonina explained that in view of those braches, “Delta APC hereby boycott the charade called Delta State Local Government Council elections.” He expressed regrets that the decision might be painful in view of the huge resources already committed by the party and our candidates to the project of making Delta State a better place.

Nonetheless, the party urged its members to be peaceful and law abiding in bringing to the attention of Deltans and Nigerians, the murder of democracy by DSIEC, PDP and Okowa.

However, in a swift reaction, PDP, through one of its leaders, a former member, House of Representatives, Amaechi Mrakpor, said APC is crying like abandoned baby seeking for food.

Mrakpor likened APC’s complaints to a confused farmer trying to reap where he didn’t sow. He said APC did not prepare for the election or campaigned for vote to win.

Also, the state commissioner for Basic and Secondary Schools, Mr. Patrick Ukah, corroborated Mrakpor’s assertions, saying, “There is no APC anywhere in Delta. They are either in Abuja or in the air, but certainly not in this state. I cannot see them here in Okpanam.”

Also, in a statement, the PDP Publicity Secretary, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, condemned APC’s sour grapes, even as he justified the council poll result. Osuoza stated: “PDP acknowledges the patriotic disposition of Delta citizens as displayed in the just-concluded March 6, 2021, Local Government poll, which made the entire electoral process seamless and peaceful.

“The party congratulates the successful candidates for their emergence as Chairmen, Vice-chairmen, and Councilors. We are overwhelmed by the goodwill and support of the people, (especially) their impressive turn out at their various polling units across the state, which gave PDP its overwhelming victory against the opponents.

“By this resounding victory, the PDP has conclusively established beyond doubt that Delta State is PDP and PDP is Delta. Given the hard work put in by the party and its candidates during the electioneering and the welcome support given by the electorate at the various campaign grounds across the state, it was quite obvious that the coast was very clear for victory.”

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Osuoza noted particularly the painstaking effort of DSIEC in exhibiting uncommon competence and adroit handling of the entire gamut of the electoral process that has culminated in the peaceful conduct of the election.

He commended security agents for doing their best in ensuring that security and order prevailed, before and during the elections, stressing that their patriotic efforts contributed immensely to the success of the electoral process.

“Our amiable governor, Senator, Dr. Okowa, of course, displayed exceptional leadership by providing a level playing field in the build-up to the election, and in particular, for confirming once again that he is indeed a democrat.

“Then, our party faithful and teeming PDP supporters, we acknowledge your support, worth, co-operation, and sacrifice without which the party’s success story at the Local Government election would have been a mirage,” he added.

While insisting that it was a peaceful council poll, the PDP Publicity Secretary assured that “Together, we shall build a stronger Delta and deliver more democratic dividends and prosperity to all Deltans.”

X-raying APC’s Flop
DELTA APC parades a larger than life image in the state prior to the council poll. However, watchers of the state politics believe that PDP commands greater physical presence by parading foot soldiers across the 25 councils, which help it to dwarf APC in all elections.

Not that alone, APC is one of the most disunited parties in the state. This structural instability contributed to its unpreparedness for electoral contests.

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The serial supremacy and leadership battles in addition to allegations of greed among the stakeholders are some of the issues currently rocking the party. With everyone parading as leader, the lack of focus and direction, as well as members’ complaints of lack of stomach infrastructure, compound the woes of the opposition party.

A prominent APC chieftain in the state confided in The Guardian that Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Great Ogboru, the state Chairman, Joe Erue, Victor Ochei and others are the problem. He disclosed that those stalwarts are fighting to hold tenaciously to the leadership position of the party without first, putting their cards together to grab power from PDP.

While describing Ogboru as a serial loser, the APC bigwig disclosed that after contesting on AD (Alliance for Democracy) platform against Ibori in 2009 and in 2003 on DPP (Democratic Peoples Party) and lost, he could not read the handwriting on the wall.

“In 2007 and 2011, he contested against Uduaghan on DPP, he crossed over to LP (Labour Party) and contested against Okowa in 2015 and lost. In 2019, he ran on APC against Okowa and lost again. Now, nobody is interested working with him.

“He uses and abandons us till another election. And, he and Omo-Agege are living like cat and rat today. So, do you expect APC to win an election under this condition, certainly not! So, you see APC members do not have an acceptable leader in the state.

“Every one claims to be leader, they have no sense of direction. Besides, APC leaders and members are easily intimidated by PDP, because APC does not have real men on ground, they can easily be bought with a token,” he asserted.

However, ome political actors in the state believe the fight between Omo-Agege and Ogboru is definitely depleting APC on a daily basis. Both men were at one time allies, but now political rivals, based on their fight to see who gets the 2023 APC gubernatorial ticket.

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The supremacy battle had infiltrated the ranks of their Supporters, and also shifted to the ongoing registration and revalidation exercise of the party. It is therefore possible that just as both men’s personal interests in the Delta State governorship position in 2023 beclouded their sense of reasoning, the council election suffered.

Yet, against all odds, APC leaders from Aniocha North Local Government Area blamed the party leaders for failing to carry them along in the scheme of things. Said the party’s candidate for Issele.Azagba ward 06, Samson Uwandulu: “Now, we are not aware the party boycotted the election, and PDP has stolen our mandate.”

Uwandulu accused DSIEC of favouring PDP despite the fact that he scored a total of 408 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, who polled 317 votes.

Another APC chieftain in the locality, Mr. Gabriel Uwaje, said the people of Issele-Azagba have been restive since the mandate was hijacked. He appealed to the relevant authorities to do the needful, saying the people of Issele-Azagba were not aware that APC boycotted the poll.

As both parties continue to weigh the outcome of Delta LG poll, APC leaders have much explaining to do to their supporters, particularly about what they intended to achieve by announcing the ill-timed boycott without stakeholders’ input.

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