Tension Trails APC Primary In Bayelsa | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Tension Trails APC Primary In Bayelsa

Posted: Sep 22, 2015 at 6:53 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Igoniko Oduma, Yenagoa

Palpable tension characterised Tuesday’s primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, for the Bayelsa State governorship election slated for December 5.

Signs that the APC primary would be tension-soaked were observed shortly after the accreditation of delegates started.

The seven-man panel for the APC primary led by the Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, had a tough time trying to midwife a peaceful atmosphere to conduct the exercise.

The accreditation of delegates, which began at about 9 a.m., was suspended after it was marred by protest by some aggrieved governorship aspirants, including Timi Alaibe, Ebitimi Amgbare and  Preye Aganaba.

The panel had finished accrediting delegates from Brass Local Government Area and was midway into accrediting delegates from Ekeremor Local Government Area when the process was stalled by confusion.

It was gathered that only 80 out of the 1,508 delegated expected to elect one of the 19 APC governorship aspirants as the party’s candidate had been accredited before trouble broke out.

Alaibe, Amgbare and Aganaba had in their protest faulted the accreditation process, complaining that non-delegates with cloned cards were accredited as delegates.

They called for the outright cancellation of the accreditation process and insisted that it was fraught with irregularities.

But another aspirant, former Governor Timipre Sylva, insisted that the accreditation process was credible and that he had no issues with it.

However, Oshiomhole arrived the arena at 11:20 a.m.

Following the growing tension and the crisis of confidence trailing the committee, Oshiomhole intervened and called a meeting of the panel in the arena.

This was followed by another meeting at 12:50 p.m. between the panel and the aspirants. While the meeting was going on, sporadic gunshots were heard outside the area at 1:25 p.m.

Amgbare told reporters in an interview after the meeting that the process had been hijacked by a body other than the Oshiomhole-led committee.

He stressed that fake delegates and “all manner of characters” rather than genuine delegates had been smuggled into the arena for the primary.

“That is not how to do it. The only people that should be in this arena are the genuine delegates, the aspirants and, of course, the security personnel.

“We need to conduct this primary in a free, fair and transparent manner so that everybody will be satisfied with the outcome,” he said.

Sylva, who also spoke to reporters, expressed concern that with the accreditation suspended, the primary might last into the night and power would become an issue.

He said the committee was going to address the aspirants again at 2:30 p.m. on the outcome of its meeting.

Alaibe complained that the process was characterised by intimidation and harassment of delegates.

By 3:30 p.m. when the committee had not called back the aspirants for the second leg of their meeting, hundreds of Sylva’s loyalists breached security and forced their way into the arena and surged towards the podium where Oshiomhole and other panel officials were conferring.

The development escalated tension in the arena forcing the other 18 governorship hopefuls to hurriedly vacate the arena.

The youths chanted solidarity songs for Sylva and condemned the committee for adopting the use of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) for the primary.

They particularly accused the Edo State governor of comprising the process, saying “we want to vote, Oshiomhole we want to vote.”

It was observed that the security personnel watched the unfolding chaos helplessly.

Amid the rowdiness, some of the Sylva boys activated the public address system, picked up a microphone and openly accused Oshiomhole of compromising the process.

While the situation lasted, Sylva, the state Chairman of APC, Tiwei Orunimighe and a member of the party’s Board of Trustess (BoT), Peres Peretu, who are Sylva’s foot soldiers, were seen engaged in a chat with Oshiomhole.

Twice the violent prone youths breached security to gain entry into the arena and twice Sylva and Orunimghe personally intervened, speaking even in Izon language with the activated public address system to calm the youths down and asked them to leave the stadium for the accreditation to start again.

“If you don’t go back, we can’t start. If you don’t go back we can’t start,” Sylva told his supporters who retreated.

But by 4:30 p.m., Sylva and his supporters had taken over affairs at the arena as they ordered non-accredited delegates and journalists covering the primary to leave the arena.

At about 4:45 p.m., Oshiomhole and the panel members were escorted by several security operatives, including police, soldiers and men of the Department of State Services ( DSS) to the gate of the arena, accompanied by Sylva and his loyalists.

Under full security protection, the panel re-commenced the accreditation with Orunimighe conducting the process and directing the delegates to “cast your votes and leave this arena”.

As at the time of filing this report voting by delegates had just begun.