Reported cases of violence and protests marred Saturday’s conduct of congresses in 34 out of the 36 states of the federation by the governing All Progressives Congress.
While Ogun and Osun states recorded clashes between suspected thugs and loyalists of factional leaders, there were speculations that the exercise was suspended in Oyo State following reports that congress materials were forged by unknown persons.
Parallel congresses reigned supreme in states such as Osun, Ogun, Kwara and Enugu. In Ogun, hoodlums attacked the venue of the factional congress being held by loyalists of former governor Ibikunle Amosun in Abeokuta.
Pandemonium broke out when armed thugs invaded the Ake Palace ground, venue of the exercise, shooting indiscriminately into the air forcing party members to run for dear life.
One of our correspondents who was at the venue shortly before the violence started, gathered that the venue had earlier been sealed by the police, but was later reopened.
Amosun’s loyalists had barely settled for the business of the day when the thugs invaded and launched an attack.
Members of the state chapter of the transport union were accused of perpetrating violence. The policemen drafted to the venue to ensure peace were overwhelmed.
Some of the party loyalists resisted the thugs and also charged towards the policemen whom they accused of failing to perform their duty.
Police reinforcements later arrived and started shooting into the air to disperse the crowd who had then become unruly.
However, the MKO Abiola Stadium, where loyalists of the state Governor Dapo Abiodun held their congress was generally peaceful.
The two factions later held their congresses and announced parallel executives as members of the State Executive Committee after declaring that the leaders emerged via a consensus arrangement.
Abiodun’s loyalists announced Chief Yemi Sanusi as the new APC state chairman while Amosun’s loyalists picked Chief Derin Adebiyi.
A similar situation was recorded in Osun State as loyalists of the state Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, and those of Interior Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, clashed.
Two persons sustained injuries when suspected thugs clashed with another group of armed men near the entrance of the venue of the parallel congress held by Aregbesola’s loyalists.
Trouble started when at about 12:50pm, Aregbesola’s loyalists under the aegis of The Osun Progressives, started their congress. Gunshots rent the air forcing party members, residents and passersby to scamper for safety.
A car with about five armed occupants was seen driving along Osogbo/Gbongan Road heading towards the entrance to the venue of the congress.
It was learnt that another armed group stationed outside the venue of the congress resisted the invasion which led to a fire fight that left two persons injured.
Men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who were also at the scene, also shot into the air to scare the invaders and restore normalcy.
In a statement issued after the confrontation, the state chairman of TOP, Adelowo Adebiyi, said, “Two members of the APC, Adedapo Atobatele and Ismail Akinyede, were directly shot by hoodlums, allegedly led by a notorious thug, at the state congress of the party held at Ogo-Oluwa, Osogbo.
“Atobatele and Akinyede were shot in the leg and arm. The thugs invaded the premises of the state congress with about eight vehicles.”
He said officers of the NSCDC repelled the attackers. The faction later announced Mr Rasaq Salinsile and Lani Baderinwa, as the state APC chairman and secretary respectively.
However, the governor’s loyalists returned the incumbent state APC chairman, Mr Gboyega Famodun, for a second term. The congress leading to his election was conducted by a committee headed by Mr Gbenga Elegbeleye. The event was held at Osogbo City Stadium.
Soon after the congress, the governor, while congratulating the new party executive, appealed to party members to extend the support they had been giving to his administration to the new leaders.
He said, “I appeal to you to extend the same to the newly-elected party officials. I appeal to those who lost out not to lose hope. I assure you all of a better tomorrow. The APC emerged on the strength of unity and progressive ideals. We are still committed to these ideals regardless of some of the narratives making the rounds.’’
Also speaking at the event, the congress committee chairman, Elegbeleye, announced that voice vote was adopted for the congress due to the large number of the accredited delegates, which he put at 1,840.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that Aregbesola, Senate Spokesman, Ajibola Basiru and the senator representing Osun West Senatorial District, Adelere Oriolowo, were among party leaders absent from the event.
Aregbesola’s Media Aide, Sola Fasure, could not be reached for comments on the reason for his principal’s absence. A response to a text message sent to his mobile was still being awaited as of the time of this report.
When contacted, the media aide to Oriolowo, Niyi Isamotu, explained that his principal was out of Osun Stater on an oversight function.
Similarly, the state Commissioner for Local Government, Taiwo Akeju, said Basiru was the chairman of Delta State Congress Committee, held the same time Osun held its own.
Parallel congresses were equally held in Abia State where two factions announced separate chairmen, secretaries and other party officials for the state.
A faction of the party led by Chief Ikechi Emenike elected Mr Enyinnaya Harbour as state chairman. The faction announced that Harbour polled 1,260 votes out of a total number of 1,277 to emerge victorious. The event was held at Ugwunchara suburb of Umuahia, the state capital.
However, another faction of the Party led by the APC Caretaker chairman, Chief Donatus Nwankpa, held its congress at the indoor sports complex in Umuahia Township Stadium.
In Niger State, two groups of state executives emerged from separate congresses held by factions of the APC in the state, in Minna.
Aggrieved party members held a separate congress in Tunga-Minna while loyalists of Governor Sani Bello held theirs at the Legbo Kutigi open field also in Minna.
The aggrieved faction of the party announced Nasiru Ubandiya as the new state APC chairman at a time supporters of the governor had yet to commence accreditation.
When the governor’s loyalists eventually held their congress, they announced Aliyu Jikantoro as the new state chairman.
The governor, alleged to be worried at the turn of events, arrived in a coastal bus through the back gate after which he spent about 20 minutes and left the venue without leaving the vehicle.
It was gathered that he later returned in his Black bulletproof Sports Utility Vehicle to continue with the exercise.
Parallel congresses in Akwa Ibom
The crisis rocking the opposition APC in Akwa Ibom State played out during the conduct of its state congress on Saturday.
One of our correspondents reported that while the group loyal to the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill conducted its congress at the Kara Event Centre along Stadium Road, the Senator Akpan John Udoedeghe-led group elected its officials at Sheer Grace Centre, Uyo the state capital.
Speaking during one of the congresses held at Kara Event Centre, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Major Gen Mohammadu Buhari (retd), on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, said the different congresses were working for the party’s interest.
He stated that people must always disagree to agree amongst themselves, adding that at the end of the day APC would be positioned to take over the Hilltop Mansion House in 2023.
Loyalists of the Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq and those loyal to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, conducted parallel congresses and elected state party officials in their separate APC secretariats in Ilorin, the state capital.
While the governor’s faction elected Sunday Fagbemi as chairman, the minister’s faction retained Alhaji Bashir Bolarinwa, a former factional APC chairman as the new state chairman.
Fagbemi, at the congress attended by the governor, Speaker, Yakubu Salihu-Danladi, three senators and other officials elected on the platform of APC, pledged that his team “would lead by example and work with everyone to strengthen the party.’’
In the minister’s faction, Bolarinwa alongside other new members of the executive, emerged through an affirmative process in a congress held at the party’s secretariat, located along reservation road, GRA, Ilorin.
Exercise postponed in Oyo
The APC Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee announced a postponement of the congress in Oyo State.
The postponement was announced at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan by the congress official.
The party’s spokesperson, Dr AbdulAzeez Olatunde, said the postponement followed a directive from the party’s national secretariat.
Olatunde said “The congress has been postponed and we have to get another date from the national executive of the party.
“There are some people that are supposed to do screening of the aspirants and they have not concluded the process. And after that, we have to get all the zones into agreement and sensitise them on the consensus arrangements.
“Up till this morning, Oke-Ogun 1 zone has yet to resolve on the person to occupy the chairmanship position zoned to the area.’’
Also, Alhaji Abu Gbadamosi, a chairmanship aspirant, told journalists that they would abide by the party’s position, saying the party’s rules and regulations were supreme.
Gbadamosi urged members of the party to be patient and endure for the party to reach its destination in 2023.
It was gathered that the party’s CECPC had also directed the state congress committee to return to Abuja for further directives.
Our correspondent learnt that the suspension became necessary to ensure credibility of the process that would lead to the emergence of new leaders in Oyo State.
In Lagos, 35 out of 36 candidates were returned unopposed.
The Chairman of the Election Organising Committee, Adebayo Adelabu, said this at Onikan Stadium, Lagos Island, where the congress was held.
Present at the congress were party leaders which included Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat and the lawmaker representing Lagos Central district, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, among others.
Adelabu said, “35 out of the 36 positions were returned unopposed. Although 37 forms were received for the office of the state chairman, only two candidates were screened for the position. One candidate was disqualified, so the committee was left with the option of one candidate for the position of the chairman.”
Thereafter, a former Commissioner for Rural Development in Lagos State, Cornelius Ojelabi, emerged as the APC state chairman.
The lawmaker representing Eti-Osa 2 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Gbolahan Yishawu, described the APC congress as a demonstration of internal democracy.
Earlier, the Lagos APC had released the list of its consensus executive council members where Ojelabi was penned as the state chairman to replace the former chairman of the party, Mr Tunde Balogun.
The Katsina state chapter of the party also elected its officials via consensus.
The new executives have Alhaji Sani Ali-Ahmed as chairman and were sworn in by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, El Marzuq Ahmed.
A similar situation played out in Edo State where Col. David Imuse was returned as the state party chairman via consensus.
Addressing party delegates earlier, the Chairman of the Congress Committee for Edo State, Alhaji Ahmed Ramalan, said their mandate was to conduct a free and fair state congress to elect a state executive to run the party for the next four years, noting that their primary task was to return the party to power in the state.
An aide to the state Governor, Ben Ayade, Alphonsus Eba, was elected as the new state chairman along with 35 others through consensus. The 2,300 delegates from the 18 local government areas in the state affirmed their election via voice vote.
Until his election, the new chairman was the Director-General of the Due Process office.
The Chairman of the seven-man state Congress Committee, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, called for the voice vote which was resoundingly in support of the 36 executives who had earlier been picked through consensus.
He said the consensus option was in accordance with Article 20 of the party’s constitution.
Malami said, “APC’s constitution recognises consensus. The exercise was conducted with utmost transparency. APC is more transparent. The party is committed to serve.”
The immediate past governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and the board chairman of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Ifeanyi Araraume, were absent from the APC congress held across the state.
At the congress held in Owerri, the state capital, Governor Hope Uzodimma’s aide and long-time loyalist, Macdonald Ebere, was elected as the state chairman.
Ebere, a native of Owerri in Owerri municipal council, was the General Manager of Imo Environmental Transformation Commission under the Uzodimma administration.
While congratulating him, the Uzodimma said, “I want to urge you not to betray the confidence reposed in you by the great people of Imo State.
“Go out there, carry out your political evangelism, and preach a good message. Tell the story the way it is and our party will grow from strength to strength.”
But Okorocha said that he was not aware that APC held any congress in the state. Okorocha’s media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, who spoke to one of our correspondents said, “We are not aware that there was an APC congress in Imo State. What they did today was a birthday party. As long as we are concerned, Dan Nwafor is the authentic chairman of the APC in Imo State.
Amaechi’s loyalist, Beke, wins chairmanship in Rivers
A loyalist of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Mr Emeka Beke, was elected as the new APC chairman for Rivers State.
However, a loyalist of Senator Magnus Abe, Golden Chioma, who initially joined the race, withdrew, describing the exercise as a sham.
The Chairman, Rivers APC Congress Screening Committee, Dr. Abubakar Idris, delegated from the National Secretariat who announced the results, said Emeka Beke polled an overwhelming 1,575 votes of total 1,615 accredited delegates to beat Chizy Nyeomasila who scored eight votes and Japhet Ogbueri with zero vote, stating that there 32 ballots were voided.
Beke, in a brief speech on behalf of the new executives, pledged to give his best to ensure that the party takes over power from the wrestle power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state come 2023.
But Chioma, who boycotted the exercise at the last minute, expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise, saying, “I think the congress is not right at this point.
“We have also complained to the National Secretariat of our great party that there was no ward congress in Rivers and I am of the opinion that you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.’’
Besides, congresses were peaceful in Sokoto, Gombe, Katsina, Ekiti, and other states where party officials emerged via consensus. In Ekiti, the state Governor, Kayode Fayemi, while congratulating the new officials said, “This has been a remarkable event and it has gone on peacefully.”
Consensus in Borno, Gombe
The APC in Borno returned all the 36 members of the outgoing state executive for a second term.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the election conducted through affirmation was led by the Chairman of the Congress Committee for Borno, Alhaji Uba Maigari.
Thirty-six Gombe State executives were elected through voice affirmation from 712 delegates. The election through consensus was held at the Pantami Stadium on Saturday.
By Daud Olatunji, Bola Bamigbola, Tunde Oyekola, Hindi Livinus, Dennis Naku, Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, Abiodun Nejo, Romoke Ahmad, Victor Ayeni, Olaide Oyelude and Adeyinka Adedipe