No fewer than 44,045 delegates will on May 26 elect candidates in 28 states where governorship elections will take place next year.
The states, where the primaries will hold include Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states.
However, findings by our correspondents showed that there would be stiff contests in Kano, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Niger and Benue where there were struggles for the control of the party’s structures.
On Wednesday, the ruling party, which earlier scheduled its governorship primary for Friday, shifted it to May 26.
Already ahead of the primary, there was violence in some chapters of the party on Wednesday over the election of delegates for the governorship primary.
In the guidelines contained in the governorship nomination form, the party mandates aspirants and their supporters “to accept the outcome of the primary and support whoever emerges as the APC candidate.”
The Chairman of the Kebbi State screening committee, Osita Okechukwu, in Abuja disclosed that 44,045 new delegates would elect the APC governorship candidates.
According to him, five delegates will be elected per ward in all of the 8,809 wards in the country for the governorship primary while three new delegates will emerge from each of the 774 local governments for the presidency.
He added, “Those five delegates per ward will go to the state and elect the governorship candidate. We are going to elect three delegates from each of the 774 local governments who will then elect the Presidential candidate.
In Rivers State, the crisis between a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and a former federal lawmaker, Senator Magnus Abe, heightened the tension in the party ahead of the primary.
Amaechi, Abe factions disagree over congress
Abe is contesting the APC governorship ticket with the Amaechi-backed aspirants, Tonye Cole and Ojukaye Amakiri.
Speaking on the governorship primary, the spokesman for the APC faction backed by Amaechi, Dr Chris Finebone, told The PUNCH that the group was ready for the shadow election.
“Yes, we are very ready for the governorship primary. You know we have concluded the congress. So, we are ready,” he stated.
But a former Chief of Staff of Rivers State Government House and ally of Magnus Abe, Chief Tony Okocha, said no congress was held on Wednesday.
He said ordinarily the delegates that would have emerged in the ward congresses on Wednesday and Thursday were the ones that should have voted in the governorship primary.
“So, you can’t build something on nothing. As far as we are concerned today, no congress was held. And we are contesting that to the high heavens,” Okocha stated.
Amaechi, Abe supremacy battle results in gunshot, chaos
Earlier on Wednesday, heavily armed policemen dispersed the APC members loyal to Abe, who were protesting the alleged hijacking of the state House of Assembly aspirants’ screening and delegates election by Amaechi.
The Abe supporters, who gathered at the state party secretariat along Woji Road, GRA, Port Harcourt, alleged that the national committee members designated to conduct the screening were lodged in a hotel in the metropolis at the instance of Amaechi.
The situation worsened as they marched to the secretariat bearing placards with inscriptions such as, ‘APC Rivers where are our forms’, ‘2019 will repeat itself in Rivers again’ and ‘APC Rivers, no lesson learnt’, among others.
They accused the leadership of the party of hijacking materials for the ward congresses held on Wednesday.
As the protest festered, heavily armed policemen drafted to the secretariat started shooting sporadically into the air to disperse the protesters.
Several security patrol vehicles and an armoured personnel carrier arrived afterwards shooting live bullets and tear gas canisters leading to a pandemonium.
Hundreds of the pro-Abe loyalists including aspirants took to their heels alongside journalists who had arrived there to cover the event.
About 30 minutes later, members of the screening committee arrived at the venue and drove into the state party secretariat with heavy security protection.
The gate of the secretariat was shut and over 100 fierce-looking armed policemen alighted from various vans and blocked both ends leading to the party secretariat.
One of the aspirants for Khana Constituency II, Rivers State House of Assembly, Moses Salvation, alleged that he caught members of the national screening committee talking with an aspirant loyal to the former minister.
But the Publicity Secretary of the APC loyal to Amaechi, Finebone, said the mission of youths who protested at the secretariat was unknown.
He stated, “We hope to find out the purpose of the gathering at the state secretariat gate, as soon as we are able to identify the leader of the mob if any.”
An Abe loyalist, Okocha, said he was a victim of the violence by the security agents.
Okocha said,” I am equally a victim of the brute force procured by Amaechi and his likes. I feel for you all, but especially thank God that no injuries were sustained.”
In Sokoto State, a governorship aspirant, Balarabe Salame, who alleged rigging of delegates’ election was almost lynched at the venue of a meeting the screening committee held with stakeholders at the party secretariat.
There are two factions of the APC in the state: one headed by a former Governor of the state, Aliyu Wamakko and the other led by Senator Abubakar Gada.
No fewer than seven chieftains of the party including its governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, have joined the race.
Others include the former Minister of Transportation, Yusuf Suleiman; a member of the House of Representatives, Salame; incumbent Senator representing Sokoto East senatorial district, Abdullahi Gobir; Ambassador Faruk Malami Yabo and Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar Gumbi.
One of the aspirants, Salame, was ferried out of the meeting with the delegates after a mob attempted to attack him.
The aspirants had alleged that delegates for the primary had emerged before elections.
Salame alleged that three local government areas had already elected their delegates long before their (committees) inauguration.
“I was reliably told that delegates from Gada, Illela and Gwadabawa had already emerged. I came with somebody who can testify to that,” he alleged.
Salame, who belongs to a faction opposed to Wamako, made the allegation shortly after the chairman of the committee and former deputy governor of Borno State, Alhaji Abubakar Ali Jatau, spoke.
But the chairman of the panel clarified that the election materials only arrived on Wednesday “So there would not be any election without these essential materials,” he said
As Salame was about to leave the venue of the meeting, some boys attempted to mob him, but he was rescued by security agents.
Efforts to speak with the chairman of the party in the state, Isa Sadiq Acida, to react to Salame’s allegations were not successful as he couldn’t respond to his calls as of the time of sending this report. Acida is backed by Wamako.
But a member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed all the allegations.
He said the executive members of the party only kept quiet at the meeting simply because of the need to maintain peace.
He, however, assured that the candidate of the party would emerge through popularity and not by selection or intimidation by anyone.
Although the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, has already anointed his deputy, Dr Nasiru Gawuna, as his successor, other aspirants are contesting the primary.
They include the Senator representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin; Inuwa Waya, who recently resigned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as Group General Manager in charge of shipping and a House of Representatives member, Ibrahim Sharada
Abdullahi Mohammed, one of the supporters of Gawuna, in an interview with The PUNCH expressed optimism that with his endorsement by the governor, Gawuna would win the primary.
But a supporter of Jibrin, Tela manaja, said the senator would clinch the governorship ticket in view of his popularity.
No fewer than 12 aspirants have been cleared to contest the primary in Benue State. They include Rev Father Hyacinth Alia, a Catholic priest and don; Professor Terhemba Shija as well as a former Chief of Staff to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terwase Orbunde, who recently defected from Peoples Democratic Party to the APC.
A media aide to Alia, Donald Kumun, in a chat with The PUNCH, said, “He is someone who has made his mark in the state and has no stain, unlike those who have worked in government before and people look them with disdain.
“The advantage the APC has in having Fr Alia as a candidate is that people of the state need someone who can change the narrative and bring sanity, trust and accountability into governance.”
However, a media handler of Orbunde who did not want to be named, debunked the insinuation that Ortom’s former aide was a mole in the APC.
“Orbunde’s chances are as bright as anyone else. He is not like rocket science but someone you cannot wave aside. He has a support base in the PDP which he may use alongside what he meets in the APC to sweep the carpet from the PDP.”
Aspirants including the party’s governorship candidate in 2019, Chief Adebayo Adelabu; and the Senator representing Oyo Central, Teslim Folarin; a former Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof Adeolu Akande; Dr Azeez Adeduntan and Hakeem Alao are contesting the primary in Oyo State.
In Niger State, although there are about 10 candidates, the tough battle will involve a newspaper publisher, Idris Malagi and a member of the House of Representatives, Umar Bago
APC denies zoning Presidency, approves revised timetable for NASS, governorship primaries
Meanwhile, the APC has said the National Working Committee never made a decision on zoning.
This is even as the party adjusted the timetable schedule of activities for the House of Assembly, National Assembly, governorship primaries and appeals by aggrieved aspirants.
This was disclosed by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, on Wednesday at the APC Secretariat in Abuja.
The development came three days after the party officially denied speculations making the rounds that it was planning to revise the timetable of the primaries.
According to him, “There’s no such decision (zoning) made by the National Working Committee.”
Morka’s statement connotes what many political observers have earlier feared – the party’s presidential ticket may return to the North
Continuing, Morka disclosed that the APC had approved a revised timetable schedule of activities for the House of Assembly, National Assembly, governorship primaries and appeals that arise from the exercise.
“Our governorship and House of Representatives primaries will now take place on Thursday, May 26, 2022. The Senate and House of Assembly primaries will now take place on Friday, May 27, 2022.
“The election appeals for governorship and the House of Representatives will now take place on Friday, May 27, 2022,” he said.
The publicity secretary stated that while the appeals for the Senate and House of Assembly primaries would take place on Saturday, May 28, the special convention and presidential primary will take place between the May 29 and 30.
On the mode of election, Morka said that they would be contained in the guidelines that would soon be issued.
The chairman, however, declined to comment further on when Nigerians should expect the zoning arrangement from the party.
As tension continues to mount over the APC primaries, many aspirants are beginning to fancy their chances at the upcoming convention.
The party had failed to announce the results of last weekend’s screening of governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives aspirants on Monday as expected.
Despite waiting till late in the night, journalists left the APC secretariat disappointed.
However, our correspondent gathered that the APC had cleared 145 governorship aspirants for the Friday primaries.
Also, of the 351 aspirants who purchased senatorial nomination forms, 340 got a clean bill of health.
In the same vein, a senatorial aspirant from one of the South-West states, who picked the nomination form, failed to appear before any of the three screening panels at the weekend.