Today’s governorship primaries of All Progressives Congress (APC) across the country are likely to exacerbate crisis in the already fractured ruling party.
Already, some states have come up as flash points, where godfathers would be waging epic battles with their liberation-seeking godsons, while in other states, the constellation of political heavyweights and last minute horsetrading is set to throw the politically naïve off balance.
Some of the states, where there are likely to be plenty of fireworks are Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Oyo states. No fewer than 177 governorship aspirants are jostling for the party’s governorship tickets in the 36 states of the federation.
The epic battle, that of incumbent governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode, and challenger, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu was shifted by 24 hours to Monday October 1st, at the behest of the national head office.
The National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, who disclosed the shift in date in Abuja, while inaugurating the panel that will oversee the election in 29 states, explained that the shift was due to logistics reason. Also shifted to Monday, is the primary election in Imo State.
Before the postponement, the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) and other major stakeholders of the party were to converge on the party secretariat on Acme Road, Lagos where they were to endorse Sanwo-Olu as their choice candidate. But the meeting was hurriedly dispersed by the crowd of Ambode’s supporters, who thronged the venue.
However, a member of the GAC, Senator Anthony Afuye, told the gathering that there were consultations with relevant stakeholders of the party, which had in attendance Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and was chaired by the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, where Sanwo-Olu.
While confirming the shift announced earlier by Oshiomhole, Afuye said: “The gubernatorial primary has been shifted to Monday, October 1st, and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat has stepped down, and endorsed Sanwo-Olu. The GAC and other major stakeholders have also endorsed Sanwo-Olu.”
As at yesterday morning, spirited attempts were made to save the incumbent from losing the primary, but in spite of all entreaties, and last minutes intervention by stakeholders, all parties involved in the face-off between the governor and Tinubu held onto their positions.
In another unfortunate scenario for the incumbent, 36 out of the 40 members of the State House of Assembly allegedly pledged their support for Sanwo-Olu at a meeting, yesterday.
Informing the media of his endorsement of Sanwo-Olu in Ikoyi, Hamzat, a former Commissioner for Works under Babatunde Fashola said: “I have resolved to step down from the governorship race in Lagos on the platform of our party and, instead, pool resources together with my brother and friend, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.”
In throwing their weight behind Sanwo-Olu, the lawmakers in a statement by the chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Princess Adefunmilayo Tejuoso said they were in agreement with Tinubu and the GAC, which had earlier endorsed Sanwo-olu for the governorship ticket.
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There are indications that the two factions of the party in Rivers State will settle for parallel governorship primaries. While the faction loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, (that is in support of indirect primary, has endorsed Mr. Tonye Cole), that backed by Senator Magnus Abe, has been urged to come out en masse and choose their candidates, through direct primary in their respective wards.
Though Cole, Dr. Dawari George, and Dumo Lulu-Briggs, have agreed to participate in the indirect primary today, The Guardian gathered that delegates would vote for Cole, who is the preferred candidate of the minister.
But Senator Abe who has vowed not to participate in the indirect primary, said Buhari’s election through direct primary is a pointer that the people have accepted it as a solution and mechanism to ensure that internal democracy thrives in the country.
“I therefore urge all members of our party to mobilise and turn out in their numbers to participate in the direct primaries in choosing a candidate of their choice in tomorrow’s (today) gubernatorial election that will take place in the state” he said.
The lawmaker representing Ikwerre/Emuoha Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives, Chidi Wihioka, on his part said the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) to approve indirect primaries for Rivers State after the National Executive Committee (NEC) had agreed on direct primaries will reduce the chances of defeating Governor Nyesom Wike in 2019.
“We should not dig the grave of our great party of change. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari chose direct primary for the presidential ticket so that no law would stop him. That is the law and you must fulfill the law so that delegates will know that their votes counted.
The Guardian gathered that if the national leadership of the party ignores Abe’s faction, then mass defection from the APC would be inevitable.
The Cross River State chapter of the party is neck deep in crisis in the buildup to today’s primary. First, the party is faced with the issue of zoning while the second is the lingering issue of an authentic state executive, as well as, the method of primary to be adopted.
Of the five aspirants ready for the battle, only John Upan Odey is from the Northern Senatorial District; two aspirants , that is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani and Senator John Owan Enoh are from the central, while the other two, Prof Eyo Etim Nyong and former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke are from the South Senatorial District.
Worried by the emergence of aspirants from other senatorial zones, the people of Northern Senatorial District under the aegis of Cross River North Solidarity Forum (CRNSF), have threatened to vote for PDP in 2019, if the party does not pick its candidate from the north. A similar group from the south in a statement signed by Mr. Ekeng Henshaw and over 30 others also insisted that the next governor for 2019 should come from the south.
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Stakeholders and elders of the party from the zone have equally resolved that the party’s governorship candidate should come from the south.
Another problem facing the APC in the state is the issue of direct or indirect primary. Already two factions exist in the state. The Oshiomhole-led national executive in August sacked the two factional executives of the party led by Ntufam Godwin Etim John, and Dr. Mathew Achigbe, and went ahead to conduct fresh congresses that saw the later emerging the state chairman, and he was subsequently inaugurated.
The John’s group, which is in court already has the backing of Usani, while the Achgbe is backed by Senator Owan-Enoh, former governor, Mr. Clement Ebri, former senate leader and senatorial aspirant, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Prof Nyong, among others.
While Dr. Achigbe’s faction prefers direct primary as directed by the national secretariat, the Etim-led faction is adopting indirect primary rescinding from its earlier position of direct primaries.
In Akwa Ibom State, intrigues and high-wire schemings hold sway as the four cleared aspirants get into the ring.
The aspirants are the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere; Chief John James Akpanudoedeghe; former NDDC Managing Director, Sir Dan Abia, and Dr. Edet Efretuei.
Apart from Udoedeghe, who is from a different senatorial district, the three other aspirants are from Eket Senatorial District. This notwithstanding, some interest groups are insisting that APC should get their candidate specifically from Eket Federal Constituency, comprising Eket, Esit Eket, Ibenno and Onna, and not from Ikot Abasi, where Ekere comes from.
Plans by Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Atuekong Don Etiebet to make Ekere the consensus candidate was rejected outright.
According to the group, the proposed consensus arrangement was condemnable and should be regarded as the personal opinion of the duo and “if there should be a consensus plan, it should be in favour of Eket Federal Constituency to enable them complete their remaining four years. This only will ensure that peace, justice and equity reigns in the APC and the state.”
As fair-minded patriot, they said, Ikot Abasi and Oron federal constituencies that make up Eket Senatorial District deserve their full term of eight years each at the appropriate time.
In view of the endorsement of Ekere at the Eket rally organised by Akpabio and Etiebet, groups in Eket Senatorial District are insisting if care is not taken, Akpabio’s foray into the party will tear it apart and rob it of chances of winning the 2019 election.
Former Governor of Oyo State and governorship aspirant, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala has boycotted today’s primary contest accusing Governor Abiola Ajimobi of imposing one Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe on the delegates.
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He also called on his supporters to stay away from the “sham” and called on President Buhari and other leaders to rescue the party from “the brink of collapse due to the high-handedness and imposition of candidate on delegate.”
Alao-Akala in a press statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Jeremiah Akande alleged that Ajimobi “sent his foot soldiers around to coerce and intimidate delegates to vote for Tegbe against their free will.”
The statement said: “Alao-Akala, a true party man and committed loyalist to any cause he believes in wishes to state categorically that he is not a pushover in the game of politics, and as a well-grounded and groomed politician who has occupied the number one seat of a politically conscious state as Oyo, will not be part of any move or attempt to subvert the true will and wish of the people, by the selfish interest of an Individual.
In Enugu State, the APC has five gubernatorial aspirants cleared to contest the primary. They include Chief Ayogu Eze; Chief Ben Eche; Chief Augustine Akubue; Chief Ifeanyi Nwoga, and Mr. George Ogara. Of the five, none is ready to concede and are set for today’s indirect primary taking place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.
Apparently to reduce the tension that the primary may generate, leaders and stakeholders of the party met with the aspirants for possible consensus. The meeting held at the residence of former governor, Chief Jim Nwobodo, on Friday night to ask all stakeholders and chairmen of party in the 17 local councils to endorse Ayogu Eze as the consensus candidate.
That, however, did not receive the approval of some of the aspirants, especially those allegedly sponsored by other parties.
The Guardian reliably gathered that juicy appointments, contracts, as well as, refund of whatever may have been invested so far were used to woo some of the aspirants to concede to Eze. Another meeting was still on the cards last night to further placate the aspirants.
Barring any last-minute changes, three aspirants would be participating in today’s APC gubernatorial primary in Buhari’s home state of Katsina.
They are Abubakar Ismaila Isa Funtua, Garba Sani Dankane, and incumbent, Aminu Bello Masari.
This is the third time that Isa Funtua would be vying for the gubernatorial ticket, two of which he lost to governor Masari, when they were both members of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Funtua and several APC members formed a faction of the party in the state known as APC AKIDA, due to what they described as “kangaroo congress” that gave birth to present party executive in the state.