EMMA ALOZIE looks at how the internal crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress, APC in Bayelsa State is seriously damaging its chances of unseating the PDP
Bayelsa State is a known enclave of the Peoples Democratic Party, the immediate past ruling party at the centre. Time was when the most important ticket in the state used to be the PDP’s ticket. Time was when a PDP ticket in the state meant a certain victory, but all that has changed with the change in government at the centre and the growing political awareness of Nigerians who want the alternative.
But, Bayelsa is still a deeply PDP state. Going into the December 5 governorship election, the All Progressives Congress, APC, being a party at the centre is set to give the PDP a good run. It received members from the PDP in droves, to the point that even the state chairman of the PDP defected to the APC. To underscore the hope, chances and popularity the party garnered in the state just between May and August 2015, about 19 governorship aspirants successfully bought, completed and returned expression of interest and nomination forms of the party.
The party had all the hopes to unseat the PDP, especially with the expected federal might. But that was all until the primary election to choose the party’s candidate. All hell was let loose. It was violence galore that the chairman of the committee sent by the party’s national body to conduct the primary election, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State claimed that it took the intervention of men of the Joint Task Force to whisk him away from the Samson Siasia stadium, when violence broke out.
It was alleged that one of the contestants and the former governor of the state, Timi Sylva compelled other members of the election committee to declare him winner. Based on the report of Governor Oshiomhole, the national body of the party cancelled the result. Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank dismissed the primary election, alleging that Mr. Sylva held a member of the Election Committee under hostage to declare him winner.
“I am speaking as a concerned citizen of Bayelsa that this primary is not acceptable anywhere. In a situation where all other aspirants walked out of the venue and a particular aspirant put a member of the primary election committee under duress to declare him winner, while the chairman and secretary of the committee were not present. I believe the party will soon come up with a position on that fraud called primary election and schedule a date when an acceptable primary election will hold.”
However, in a swift reaction, Sylva’s Campaign Organisation took a swipe on both the national leadership of the party and Governor Oshiomhole, saying that the national chairman of the party does not have the powers to cancel the primaries. “We want to state categorically that since the primary election was conducted according to the rules and duly won by Sylva, he remains the candidate of the APC in Bayelsa State and any statement to the contrary is mere rumour.
“The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, does not have the powers to unilaterally annul a state primary election. We are even shocked that he allowed his name to be used when he has not even received the report from members of the electoral panel.
“Beyond the electoral panel’s report, there is also an Appeals Committee, which has the responsibility to examine complaints arising from the primary election. It is only after the Appeals Committee has concluded its job that the National Working Committee, NWC, will meet to consider all reports from the primary, including those of the security agencies.
“There are seven members of the panel. Let us say Governor Adams Oshiomhole has submitted his own report through the pages of newspapers, there are six members left and the NWC has to sit and debate the reports. Oshiomhole lied that the election was marred by violence. There are pictures and videos to prove that he lied. There are pictures and video to show that Oshiomhole presided over the election and handed over the exercise to the Secretary of the Panel on the excuse that he was going to eat.
“It should also be pointed out that only Oshiomhole left the venue of the election and that the remaining six panel members and INEC officials remained in the venue till the winner was announced. Oshiomhole must answer some questions relating to his conducts, which completely compromised his position as chair of the election panel. Right from the beginning, it was obvious that Oshiomhole was working towards a pre-determined answer, unfortunately for him, the will of our people prevailed.
“Lastly, you cannot abort a baby that has already been born. The APC governorship primary has been concluded in Bayelsa State, a winner has emerged, and the winner is Sylva. We therefore ask our teeming supporters to remain calm and ignore the rumour that a new primary is being scheduled for early next week,” Sylva’s campaign said.
Though, the party’s decision to cancel and reschedule the election prevailed, but the crack had already appeared. Timi Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and top contender for the ticket stepped down, citing what he called party interest. “For the sake of our party, I withdraw from the APC governorship primary.
“As one of such leaders who took that historic decision, I thought of giving a further bite to my burning desire to extricate the state from abysmal leadership failure. Therefore, my aspiration to be governor after series of consultations was to rekindle our collective hope and lift the state beyond its current state of decay under the PDP.
“Regardless, I am not oblivious of the fundamental fact that we all need a virile, united, cohesive and collaborative APC to bring about our desires to fruition. Not only do we need this, APC deserves every sacrifice, including personal interests, to arrive at the envisaged destination come February 2016,” he said.
The crisis in Bayelsa’s APC did not end with the partial resolution of the primary election logjam. In fact, after Sylva was officially recognized by the party, the crisis snowballed, now in a larger scale. At the centre of the current crisis is the state chairman of the party and a close ally of Sylva, Tiwe Orunimighe.
Sylva was said to have promised him the running mate ticket of the party. This promise was said to have spurred the man to action to work for the emergence of Sylva as the party’s flag bearer. However, soon after Sylva was declared the winner, the music changed. He announced an 80 year old retired educationist, Wilberforce Igiri, as a preferred running mate and Tiwe Orunimighe and his people swore not to have any of that.
The supporters of Tiwe are saying that they won’t allow Sylva to short-change Tiwe because according to them, Tiwe did much to support Sylva in clinching the governorship ticket.
There are fears that out of annoyance, the party’s supporters loyal to Alaibe may have decided to support the incumbent governor in order to get back at the party for the way it failed to call Sylva to order.
Going into the December 5 election, it would be apt to say that APC had its chances but allowed internal squabbles to rob it of its chances.