BAYELSA APC GUBER: Dangerous Propositions Of A Primary
ALLEGATIONS of hijack, violence and intimidation featured prominently in the stalemated governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Signs that the primary election was headed in turbulent waters emerged shortly after the exercise suffered a shift from Saturday, September 19 to Tuesday, September 22, 2015.
The controversial outcome, which revolved around a former governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, shows that APC seems not to be getting things right in its languid bid to shock the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the governorship election fixed for December 5, 2015. And following the reversal of Sylva’s contradicted victory, things may no longer hold together for the party, even if the former governor wins the rescheduled primary.
Since its creation in 1996, Bayelsa has been having stunted governorships because no governor has completed two terms in office. The first executive governor, Chief D. S. P. Alamieseigha, was stopped midway through his second term in office. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded him, could not proceed further, as providence catapulted him to the presidency as Vice President. The PDP has been the ruling party in the state right from inception of the fourth republic. But the presence of a new mega party, APC, changed things further such that many observers looked forward to a very tough battle in December. But in the failed governorship primary, APC gives the impression that the real battle with PDP, the first after it trounced PDP in the general election, would end up in anti-climax.
In the first place, the fiasco that attended the reversed primary and its outcome have done great damage to the image and reputation of the APC. Secondly, the allegations of use of thugs and breach of the party’s guidelines present a negative characterization of the party, to the extent that most voters in the state would not be so much in a hurry to give its candidate, whoever it might be, benefit of doubt. Again, the management of the primary does not show a streak of excellence, even as it leaves a streak of doubt on the organizational ability of party chieftain charged with the conduct of the primary.
Days before the primary, words started making the rounds that party chieftain in Abuja, had anointed the former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Timi Alaibe to fly the APC flag. Sources disclosed how Alaibe extracted such concession of the party leaders before his much publicized defection from PDP to APC.
Yet, the crowd of governorship aspirants presented a contrary picture. But the fallout of the cancelled primary would sustain the suspicions about an existing underhand plan to shunt Sylva aside from the party’s governorship ticket. This is so because no matter how APC tries to paper over the confusion unleashed on Yenagoa last Tuesday, the founding members of the party may not be comforted to work for the party’s success on December 5, 2015. The utterances of chairman of the seven-man electoral panel foreclosing the possibility of former governor Sylva ever flying the APC, supports the allegation of underhand plot to work for a predetermined outcome.
Most observers and APC faithful predicted that the postponement was to attempt a reduction of the number of aspirants and or facilitate a possible consensus arrangement. But none of those options obtained. Consequently, all the aspirants decided to try their luck.
Apart from Alaibe and Sylva, the former Chief of Staff to Governor Seriake Dickson, Diekivie Ikiogha, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Japan, Emmanuel Otiotio, retired Federal Permanent Secretary and former governorship candidate of Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Imoro Kubor, Senator Clever Ikisikpo, (Bayelsa East, 2011-2015), former members of the House of Representatives, Ogoriba Warman and Enai Christopher; former SSG, Senator Felix Oboro, as well as former commissioners, Austin Ogionwo Febo and Godknows Powell lined up for the exercise. The contest had Tonye Apreala as the only female aspirant.
Prior to the botched primary election, the only person that continued to declare with near certainty that he would clinch the APC governorship ticket, was Sylva. Amidst his optimism, allegations raged about intimidation, inducement, creation of suspicious, influenced list and quarantining of delegates. Worried by the growing threats to the party’s stability, peace and due process in the primary, APC leaders in Abuja held series of meetings with the aspirants. At the end of the day, the names of Sylva and Alaibe, were making the rounds as the top contenders.
The two men were also accused of trying their hands on the delegates’ list. The scramble for delegates was so intense that while Sylva was said to be working through his loyalist, Tiwei Orunimighee, quartered some delegates at Port Harcourt city, the former NDDC chief ferried his delegates to Omoku countryside. At the end of a rowdy day, Sylva emerged winner in controversial circumstances. And the method of his discredited emergence is adding to the growing distance between the former governor and the party.
Opposition To Sylva
THERE is no doubt that the tempestuous primary election would elicit further opposition to Sylva’s second term ambition. For instance, a prominent critic of Sylva, Richard P. Kpodo, had been saying that APC ticket in the hand of the former governor spells danger to the fortunes of the APC in the governorship election. Surprisingly, Kpodo was Sylva’s former security adviser.
However, some APC faithful in the state believed that Kpodo, who did not secure Sylva’s support to be state chairman of APC, was working for Alaibe. As such, some “original” APC members cited the crisis at the National Assembly as a sign of what could obtain in Bayelsa if the members of the nPDP are handed over the party structure and governorship ticket. It was based on this thinking that Kpodo accused Orunimghee of intimidating members to vote for Sylva. “If Sylva is given the ticket of the APC, the APC will scatter and it will lose woefully,” Kpodo said, pointing out that the opposition will rejoice and expect a walkover at the election
As one of the foundation members of APC in the State, Kpodo was one of the few people that were said to have reached out to the national leadership of the party to seriously reconsider the plan to handover the governorship ticket to his former boss. Kpodo went further to address a press conference in Yenagoa, where he declared that Sylva’s candidacy would not sell in the December 5 election.
However, some APC faithful in the state believed that Kpodo, who did not secure Sylva’s support to be state chairman of APC, was working for Alaibe. As such, some “original” APC members cited the crisis at the National Assembly as a sign of what could obtain in Bayelsa if the members of the nPDP are handed over the party structure and governorship ticket. It was based on this thinking that Kpodo accused Orunimghee of intimidating members to vote for Sylva. “If Sylva is given the ticket of the APC, the APC will scatter and it will lose woefully,” Kpodo said, pointing out that the opposition will rejoice and expect a walkover at the election.
The factional chairman contended that defeating an incumbent requires credibility and acceptability, stressing that Sylva had been rejected long ago to the point of being stoned publicly. He explained that the large crowd that turned out to receive the defectors from PDP, were mainly supporters of the defectors since according to him, people are complaining that they do not want Sylva.
Now, after the rescheduled primary threw up Sylva and allegations that he procured thugs and base characters to hijack the primary, there seem to be new converts to Kpodo’s camp. For instance, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, who was an aspirant, was among the first to lay the blame of invasion of the Siasia Stadium by thugs on Sylva’s feet. Ikiogha disclosed that the venue became rowdy when suspected thugs and cultists loyal to Sylva invaded the venue of the primary, adding that the youth were angry that members of the election committee were working against their boss, Sylva. Ikiogha, a former Chief of Staff of Government House, commended the electoral panel for insisting that proceedings be carried on according to the guidelines. He said that it was based on Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s arrival that the primary election was aborted, pointing out that what happened thereafter could not have stood.
Sylva maintained that since the electoral committee was made up of seven members, the exit of one of them left the other six to conduct the primary and declared him winner. He accused Oshiomhole of pitting him with new entrants to the party with the suggestion that he was not receptive to the new defectors. “The only private conversation I had with him was when he walked up to me and asked me if I truly believed he was working against my interest
Apart from sending a report to the National Headquarters of the party describing the orgy of violence planned and the need to cancel the exercise and set a new date, Oshiomhole also alleged that the Bayelsa Police Command was compromised. Though it is not yet clear whether the party would take the rescheduled primary to Abuja or a neutral ground, it would be impossible to have a united front in Bayelsa APC. Much bad blood has spilled. “From the action of the police,” the panel chairman told journalists, “it was obvious that officers and men of the Command compromised the electoral process; thugs still found their way into the stadium effortlessly and disrupted the exercise.”
ON his part, former Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva accused Oshiomhole of “deliberate acts of mischief and lies” in the aborted primary, adding that the Edo Governor created the rowdiness he was complaining of by not arriving early enough to take proper charge. In a statement he issued through Doifie Bukoribo, his media assistant; Sylva also impugned on the integrity of the chairman of the panel, wondering why he should come into the state in a helicopter owned by a friend of one of the contestants. He contended that it was on the request of the Edo Governor that the primary was moved from September 19 to 22 stressing that having been so stretched and with the possibility of another postponement, the delegates protested the prolonged hardship caused by frequent shifts.
Part of the statement read: “The ‘comrade’ was again shifting the goal post, without giving consideration to these hapless delegates. It was that frustration that we were managing. It is so sad that the governor did not appreciate our effort. As chairman of the APC Electoral Committee, Oshiomhole knew full well that accreditation of delegates was to begin at 8am on Tuesday, September 22, but he came to the venue of the programme well past 12 noon. After he arrived at that late hour, he proceeded with a meeting with the committee members and another meeting with the aspirants. He clearly had preconceived plans about the Bayelsa APC governorship primary.”
Sylva maintained that since the electoral committee was made up of seven members, the exit of one of them left the other six to conduct the primary and declared him winner. He accused Oshiomhole of pitting him with new entrants to the party with the suggestion that he was not receptive to the new defectors. “The only private conversation I had with him was when he walked up to me and asked me if I truly believed he was working against my interest. To that I answered ‘yes’. As a man of integrity (?) he even offered to step down as chairman.
If he had stepped down would that have invalidated the primaries?” Sylva queried. While pointing out that he was the one who received the new entrants, Sylva accused Oshiomhole of having a private agenda of excluding him from the governorship race. He maintained that as Chairman of the electoral panel, the Edo governor was not impartial or upright in his handling of the party assignment. He added: “Oshiomhole should not tell lies, if I was not there, contrary to his insinuation that I rented thugs to manhandle him, the crowd would have manhandled him. I personally accompanied Oshiomhole to the gate when he was going to eat…”
IF the so-called visitors end up grabbing the governorship ticket, they would not enjoy the support of the foundation “original members”. APC seems to have shot itself on the foot by the hazy conduct of Bayelsa governorship primary. By not giving serious thought to the enormous possibilities success or otherwise of its outing in the state hold for the party, APC leaders may end up losing the election and its goodwill across the nation.
Coming on the heels of its tempestuous outing in the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari’s vacillation in accommodating other members of the party in the federal government through appointment of ministers and sundry aides, APC may begin its downward slide in the minds of Nigerians. Already, the opposition PDP has begun to taunt APC on account of the governorship primary, describing it as a show of shame. In a statement through the State Secretary, Keku Godspower; Bayelsa PDP decried the “mayhem, bloodletting and the disruption of the existing peace and security in some parts of the State capital, Yenagoa, as a fall out of the APC governorship primaries.” While describing APC, “as a bunch of desperate and power hungry individuals” PDP wondered why a party primary should be greeted by widespread protests, bloody scenes, with people being maimed and even properties being destroyed in the process.”
It’s left to be seen how the party would go about uniting the various interests in the party around whoever would win the governorship ticket. Should Sylva miss out ultimately, he and his supporters would stay back in APC grudgingly in anticipation of any consolation appointment from the federal government. Even if the former governor were rewarded with an ambassadorial posting as being speculated, the APC momentum would definitely lose steam.
Moreover, whatever violence that breaks out in the Bayelsa, during the electioneering or election would be blamed on APC. The party must have earned public hostility to itself because, as the saying goes, a house divided among itself cannot stand!