Chairman of the Election Committee and Returning Officer of the All Progressives Congress Primaries for the December 5, 2015 Gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, has said that former Governor Timipre Sylva is not the candidate of the party for the poll because the primary did not hold, having been disrupted by thugs, who he said were brought into the venue by Sylva to intimidate the committee into doing the bidding of the aspirant.
In another development, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun has said that the primaries held on Tuesday stand cancelled and rescheduled because of the widespread violence that characterised it.
According to Oshiomhole who spoke in Benin, Sylva, invited thugs to the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, venue of the primaries to scuttled the exercise when it became clear to him that he, Oshiomhole was not ready to bend the rules to suit his purpose. The Edo State governor had to be smuggled out of the venue of the event which witnessed chaotic scenes, gunshots and other forms of violence.
It was clear to close observers of the excercise that if due process had been followed, Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, would have won the election.
Oshiomhole said that Sylva directly threatened his life and that of other members of the committee stressing that the committee had reported back to the party headquarters that there must be a fresh exercise to pick a candidate in a free and fair process.
According to him, “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 has 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 Sylvia who rejected this guideline.
“He accused the National Secretariat and my humble self for formulating the guideline in a way that will frustrate his ambition. Every effort 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 votes 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.
“We have since forwarded a report to the National Secretariat in which we suggested that we should arrange a primary, fix another date, arrange the primary that will enable the authentic delegates to be properly accredited in line with the guidelines of the party that we used in Kogi State.
“We cannot as a party use one guideline in one state and amend the guideline to suit another candidate from another state. We have confidence in the leadership of the party that they will do what they have to do to guarantee the rights and privileges of our party members in Bayelsa State to participate freely within the rules of the party in the selection of the flagbearer that will contest the Governorship in Bayelsa comes December. It is now a matter for the party to resolve.
“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.
“If anybody wanted to do a shady job, they will not approach people like me and others to be part of that exercise. I cannot be used for such fraud. As someone who has fought against electoral fraud in Edo State and one that has been preaching “one man one vote”, anybody who knows me well cannot contemplate allowing me to be a member, not to talk of being the Chairman of a panel that is not intended to command confidence.
“We made it clear to all the aspirants, that as far as the party is concerned, winning doesn’t matter, what matters is the process that produces the winner.”
Chief Odigie-Oyegun said in Abuja on Wednesday, that the primary held on Tuesday was cancelled due to security challenges.
“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.
The attempt by the party to conduct the primary at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, on Tuesday was frustrated by fracas involving supporters of most of the 19 aspirants.
The situation led to the walk-out of 14 aspirants, including Chief Timi Alaibe, from the venue after Chairman of the Primaries Committee, Adams Oshiomhole, was reportedly whisked out of the place to avoid being attacked by thugs.
Confirming the postponement of the primaries, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Timi Frank, said the primary did not hold in Yenagoa on Tuesday.
According to Frank, fracas marred the exercise but one of the aspirants and former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, held a member of the committee under duress to declare him winner of the exercise.
Frank said that neither the chairman of the primary committee nor the secretary was part of the purported primary, which he described as “kangaroo primary’’.
He said that the party would soon come up with a position on the primary and a new date for it.
“I am speaking as a concerned citizen of Bayelsa that the purported 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 is unacceptable.
“I believe the party will soon come up with a position on that fraud called primary and schedule a date when an acceptable primary will hold,’’ Frank said.