Sequel to the objections raised by the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Governorship Primary Elections Committee, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, as well as some of the aspirants and their delegates, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has ordered a fresh poll to be conducted in the state to determine its candidate for the December 5 governorship election in the state.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had earlier been reported as nullifying the primaries which purportedly held Tuesday, September 22 because of the widespread violence and irregularities that characterised it.
Rising from its meeting in Abuja, Monday, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party resolved to cancel and reschedule the exercise. Former governor, Timipre Sylva had been declared winner after Governor Oshiomhole had been escorted out of the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa venue by men of the Joint Task Force, JTF, to avoid being attacked by thugs. 14 of the aspirants, including Chief Timi Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, had walked out of the venue in protest.
It was clear to close observers of the exercise that if due process had been followed, Alaibe would have won the election.
Chief Odigie-Oyegun, also confirmed that the exercise had been moved to another venue at a date yet to be determined by the party.
“The primary has been rescheduled; it had to be called off due to security challenges,’’ he said, adding that the leadership of the party would meet to choose a new date for the exercise.
“Mr Sylva can go to court because that is what the court is meant for,” the chairman said on Monday in Abuja, adding: “We had serious security challenges and the process did not meet the standard which this party has set for itself.
“We have no alternative but to stop the process by ensuring that the chairman of the panel was moved out of the venue with the help of security agencies. We decided thereafter that there should be fresh primary.
“We have written to INEC on our decision to conduct fresh primary for the Bayelsa governorship election on Tuesday. We are getting in touch with the Inspector-General of Police and all other security agencies to assist us in ensuring effective security.”
Narrating his ordeal after escaping a mob attack by thugs, Oshiomhole had, while speaking to journalists in Benin, accused Sylva of threatening his life and that of other members of the committee, and bringing thugs to the venue of the primaries to scuttle the exercise when it became clear to him that he (Oshiomhole) was not ready to bend the rules to suit his purpose.
“I was appointed along with six others to conduct the Primary election in Bayelsa State. The exercise took place on Tuesday, but somehow, thugs took over the venue of the exercise. They prevented the actual delegates from participating and accessing the venue of the exercise. As a result, we could not proceed with the exercise.
“The committee was virtually held hostage, including myself and this exercise was supervised, unfortunately, by one of the aspirants and unfortunately, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylvia who said to my face and the committee that we could not leave the venue of the conference unless we carry out the exercise without accreditation as prescribed by the National Secretariat.
“It is important to note that the National Secretariat has long adopted a standard national guideline for the conduct of gubernatorial primaries and these guidelines were used effectively in Kogi State and it produced an outcome which all the aspirants in Kogi gubernatorial elections were quite happy with.
“The key issue in these guidelines, as stated by the party, is that delegates as contained in the list in the custody of the secretariat have to be identified either through the Permanent Voters Card which contain the photo, I.D and other details or the National Identity card or the International Passport. This was to ensure that proper accreditation was done.
“The integrity of an election rests primarily on the integrity of the electoral process. Once the accreditation process suffers any defect, as they say, you cannot build something on nothing. Whereas all the aspirants agreed with this guideline, it is only former Governor Timipre Sylva who rejected this guideline.
“He accused the National Secretariat and my humble self of formulating the guideline in a way that will frustrate his ambition. Every effort was made to reassure him and to direct his attention to the fact that the same guideline has been used in Kogi and they are standard guidelines that will be used in all future elections of the party.
“To my shock, former Governor Sylva told me that we cannot leave the place unless we are ready to conduct the election without recourse to accreditation as prescribed by the party and of course, I was not in the position to amend the guideline nor was I ready to submit to intimidation. It then became clear that he had mobilised his thugs, and the thugs clearly in collaboration with the Police took over the stadium, because the Police simply left the gates open.
“Former Governor Sylva insisted that it is the State Secretariat and not the National body that should conduct the primaries and that it was wrong for the National body to conduct primaries without involving the state leadership of the party and therefore, as far as he was concerned, we must proceed with the election without complying with the guidelines of the National Secretariat.
“When it became clear that our lives were under threat, I had to call Abuja to prevail on the Joint Task Force (JTF) to provide me with security to enable me leave the venue of the primaries because thugs had effectively blocked the gates under the instructions of Mr. Sylva.
“I have since forwarded our report to the National Secretariat namely that the primaries could not be conducted because of these and several other malpractices. Several people were apprehended with fake clone PVC Cards which they wanted to use to replace the actual delegates and they were handed over to the Police and curiously, the Police released those who were so arrested and allowed them to continue to harass and intimidate not only the committee but other aspirants. For me, this is most unfortunate.
“APC as a party has shown through the way in which the Presidential Primaries was conducted and primaries held in other states including Lagos State that the rules of our party are meant to be obeyed and we believe in internal democracy and the only way to service internal democracy in the party that is committed to change and is absolutely against corruption is to ensure that there is proper accreditation and that delegates have free and a conducive environment to exercise their rights to vote for a candidate of their choice.
“Unfortunately, by the way Sylva conducted himself, he showed that he has no faith in democratic process because he continued to insist that he founded APC in Bayelsa state and therefore cannot understand why those who didn’t found the party have the right to contest election on the platform of the party.
“I was the Returning Officer in that primaries and I functioned as the Chairman of the Election Committee. The next person is the Secretary. Neither the Secretary nor myself announced any result and of course, it is customary that in any election conducted, the winner of the election is issued a Certificate of Return.
“As far as I know, no such certificate was issued. So if a member of the Committee purports to announce any result, that is his own funeral. That does not in any way alter the rules of the party. There is no doubt that there was no election.
“If as a Governor, I had to seek the intervention of the Army, and under siege, I had to ask Sylva if I was kidnapped, and if the ransom was that I conducted a primary without accreditation, then the basic requirement for a free and fair election, whether primary or popular is that those participating must have free access for accreditation and for voting. When these are lacking, you cannot make something out of nothing.
“Sylva can do anything that he has chosen to do, but that does not mean it is the due process which the party is committed to,” Oshiomhole had said.
Prior to election proper, three of the aspirants including Chief Ndutimi Alaibe had called for the cancellation of the primaries over irregularities and violence.
The aspirants who spoke at the venue of the primaries said that the poll was marred by violence and widespread irregularities.