Newspaper readers would have noticed the following headlines all through the week: ‘Faction calls for cancellation of Gombe APC Ward congress.’ ‘One killed, five arrested over Bauchi APC Congress.’ ‘Disquiet in Bayelsa APC over ward congress.’ ‘Rep seeks dissolution of APC in parts of Lagos.’ Senatorial Aspirant’s House set Ablaze over Edo APC Congress.’’ ‘‘Oshiomhole Explains Ward Congress Cancellation.’’ The above are newspaper headlines days after the ward congress of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. The story is the same all over the country. A shameful replay of imposition, manipulation, rigging and poor planning. For the party, it has been a week of trying to mend broken fences and those that are about to break.
A member of the party and representative of Ifako-Ijaye Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, and deputy chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Hon. Abayomi Ogunnusi, was the only notable party leader who has been ‘bold’ enough in the state to condemn the exercise. Yet, from one local government to the other, it is tales of discontent, protests, violence, imposition and open brigandage. Ogunnusi said there would be massive crisis in the party if results of the congress in some wards and local governments were not cancelled.
“The massive protests across most of the local government areas are a proof of the sham congresses held in the state. In my ward, Ward C in Ifako-Ijaiye, the congress did not hold due to fights among members over allegations that some people wanted to manipulate the polls. I personally sent in a petition over it and will oppose any result issued from that ward or any other where congress did not hold. The violence that trailed the congress is a warning that the people are no longer ready to accept rigging or manipulations of any form,” Ogunnusi had stated.
Out of the 377 wards where congresses election were held on 5 April, the committee saddled with the responsibility of conducting the exercise declared re-run in 102 wards, slated for 10 April.
Across the state, it has been protests galore this week. A party member from Ikeja Local Government, Great Jonathan, from Ward B, who led the protest, wondered why his ward was excluded from the list of where there would be re-run when congress did not hold there.
“We sent in our petition just like others and we are shocked to see the publication this morning announcing re-run in some wards and excluding our ward. We will go to any level to protest this marginalisation,” he said.
It was a different case for Benson Adepoju, from Kosofe Council Ward F, who said their protest was for their being included in the re-run after the committee had issued them return certificate for winning in the congress. “We held congress in our ward and we received the certificate of re-runs dully signed. What is amazing today is that we saw our ward in the list of wards for re-run and no one is explaining it to us.”
Demola Doherty, a former chair of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government, said of the seven wards in the area where congresses were not held, only one was slated for a re-run. “There was no congress in any of the seven wards in the council. Based on our protest over last Saturday, they included just ward C2 for re-run which is unacceptable to us.”
In Bauchi, one person was killed during the congress in the state while in Edo State, the house of senatorial hopeful, Theophilus Okoh, was torched during the exercise. Hoodlums, loyal to those who lost out during the congress, were said to have invaded Okoh’s house around 2a.m and set the house on fire.
The cause of this entire furore, according to sources, was the fact that legacy parties in areas and states they are strong wanted to ensure that only their original members emerged party leaders. This was the cause of the crisis in Lagos and other places.
Again, this has brought to the fore the chicanery across political parties in the country. The ruling PDP is known for imposition and impunity, at least in the estimation of the APC and even ordinary observers. Now, if the APC, the only alternative to the PDP could not organise a rancour-free ward congress, it remains to be seen which change the party will offer if saddled with the responsibility of holding power at the centre.
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party has been gloating and celebrating the controversial congress describing the entire exercise as a huge embarrassment to democracy, the big show of shame that the All Progressives Party, APC, passed off, as ward congress.
“It is an irony that a party that daily claims it is on a mission to rescue Nigeria could not even conduct its own congress,” the PDP said.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, on Monday, gave the APC a heavy knock for the mind-boggling tales of imposition, cronyism, thuggery and general disdain for the elementary principles of democracy witnessed at the congress. The PDP said, “The savagery witnessed in the exercise which came eight months after the registration of the party, offers a glimpse into the confusion and brutality that will be the order of the day if the APC is allowed to hold power in 2015.
“A passerby would have thought the so called APC congress was a meeting of thugs as detailed hooligans took over the process on the directives of their party overlords and dealt harshly with members who dared to contest for positions already appropriated to handpicked stooges of the owners of the party. From Lagos to Borno, Rivers to Zamfara, the story is consistently the same; a tale of cronyism, thuggery, violence and general disregard for the principles of democracy.” The PDP declared triumphantly that the congress have not only exposed the APC as a disorganised party but also a “camp replete with political vampires ready to devour even their own.”
The party said it was now very clear to other members of the so called ‘Legacy Parties’ that ganged up with the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, to form the APC that ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’.
“Not only did those from the old ACN emasculate their so-called partners, but also they did so in the most uncivilised and barbaric manner, deploying thugs, and using official state apparatus to ensure that they had their way.
In states where the owners of the party felt they could not have their way, the process was manipulated to create confusion resulting in the shelving of the exercise. For instance, while the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, was announcing that the congress would go on nationwide as planned, the APC chairmen in Rivers, Plateau, Bauchi and the FCT announced the postponement of the exercise in their state,” the PDP alleged.
According to the PDP, the situation was so bad that the congress was cancelled in Adamawa and Katsina while in Kano and Sokoto, there was no voting as both states chose their ward officials via a strange ‘consensus’ option.
“These are the ‘progressives’ and ‘democrats’ that want to rescue Nigeria,” the PDP mocked. Stating that the APC has no business in a democracy, the PDP said the opposition party should be honourable enough to commence the process of its own disbandment.
“This is the same party that called the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, names and asked for the resignation of its board over the conduct of the Anambra elections due to slight hitches experienced in that exercise. Will the APC now be honourable enough to call for its own disbandment seeing as they have experienced not slight, but massive hitches in their own congress? If the APC cannot manage its own internal affairs, how can it manage a country as complex as Nigeria?” the PDP queried.
At the end of the day, it will come down to Nigerians having to choose between the two side of a rusty coin, irrespective of how one party tries to airbrush itself from the other. There is no difference