Observers claim the meetings were part of desperate efforts by the governors to press for special favours in choice of candidates.
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Romanus Ugwu, Abuja, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure and Linus Oota, Lafia
Nine governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari and party National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, behind closed doors, over the hiccups trailing their party primaries.
Although the governors said the meetings were held to “smoothen some rough edges”, observers claimed it was part of desperate efforts by the governors to press for special favour over contention in choice of candidates.
The governors are reportedly in dire need of intervention to ensure their preferred candidates win.
This position is reinforced by the fact that all the governors who held separate meeting with the president and the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) at the Villa and party national secretariat namely Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Sani Bello (Niger), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), are reportedly contending with one challenge or another arising from the primary elections in their various states.
The first meeting with Buhari started around 12 noon and ended by 1.30pm while the other one held later.
Recall that states such as Imo and Ogun, among others, held parallel primaries in which the governors’ candidates appeared to have lost out.
In Ogun State for instance, Dapo Abiodun won the governorship primaries conducted and endorsed by the electoral committee set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) .
Abiodun polled over 102,000 while Amosun’s anointed candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, scored over 23,000. A parallel congress was also held by Amosun’s camp in which Akinlade was declared winner.
In Imo State, before the NWC nullified the governorship primaries and sacked the electoral panel, Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, came a distant seventh position.
Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha confessed that the meeting was to find solutions to the crisis trailing the primaries in states.
“We came to review the various crises characterising our primaries especially the APC with a view to finding solution.
“So, we are looking for a way out in this regard. We are going to find solution, our party believes in justice, equity and fairness. We are requesting that the right thing be done,” he said.
A similar meeting was held on Wednesday, when Akeredolu and his counterpart in Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, met with the president behind closed-doors.
Speaking after a meeting between the governors and NWC, yesterday, Okorocha alleged that the party’s governorship primaries committee led by Ahmed Gulak introduced a new dimension of electoral fraud in the conduct of election in the country.
He described as shocking the manner the committee chairman abandoned members of his team and returned to Abuja to announce the result of an election that was supposed to hold the same day.
“What happened in Imo State has introduced a new dimension to fraud in the electoral process, which we call the “Gulakin Internal Democracy. So, it is not something we can laugh at or anything to be associated with because the gentleman absconded leaving his hotel room and disappeared to Abuja to announce result when the primary election was supposed to take place the following day. So, that
is what happened. He left behind all his members, eight of them plus the secretary who now decided to stay back and do the rest of their duties,” Okorocha noted.
The governor further revealed that Oshiomhole was considering whether to accept the result of the primaries conducted without committee chairman or to cancel it and conduct a fresh one.
“Whichever decision, we are ready and if the party decides to do fresh governorship primary, so be it, we are on ground.”
On why the governors were meeting with the NWC, he explained: “As you are aware, we are in the process of party primaries which comes with challenges, especially in our democratic structures. In APC, we have some challenges in some few states.
“So, we have come to smoothen some rough edges and to see how we can ensure unity in our party, how aggrieved people can still be in our party even after the primaries. We came to see the chairman and we have been able to resolve issues,” he said.
He was corroborated by Governor Yari who said it was pertinent to meet with the national leadership to dialogue on the way forward.
Meanwhile, APC National Working Committee (NWC) has ruled that it will not accept any declaration of governorship primaries result from any other person other than the committee it sent to conduct the exercise.
Oshiomhole, who made the disclosure after series of meetings with the APC governors and other stakeholders, said while the FCT legislative primaries will hold today through direct primaries, it condemned the unauthorised congresses held in Edo State into the Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly.
“We met with various leaders, whoever has challenges. This is like the political clinic. We are in a situation room and it is normal that when you are carrying out a democratic exercise across the 36 states and the FCT, you are bound to have some challenges.
“First, for the FCT, I think there are some elements who believe that they can hijack the process and impose their personal preferences. We are trying to clean up our party internal democracy and eliminate corruption as much as we can from the process and empower our party members to have a say and a decisive voice on who represent him or who fly the flag of the party.
“FCT is the capital of Nigeria. If we cannot do transparent election in FCT, then for me, it will be a sad day. We are trying to encourage democracy and if they don’t want democracy, they will have to look for ways of living outside the democratic space.
The APC is determined to enforce all the rules of democracy in the FCT… FCT will have to do direct primary. I have told the committee to go back, call the stakeholders and by Friday morning (today), they will have to conduct free, fair and transparent direct primary in the FCT.
“This is not negotiable. Those aspirants who are looking for short cut should know that there is no short cut to the democratic process. If you cannot withstand the rigour of communication, persuading and earning the trust and respect of the ordinary member of the APC in the FCT, maybe APC should not be your party because we are committed to popular participation,” he said. Oshiomhole also spoke on the Zamfara botched primary election, stressing that reports available to them suggested that the process was “botched, materials were snatched and results taken to unauthorised places. The panel we sent there has come to explain in unison what transpired.
“It is unfortunate that many people choose to opt for violence. But I am happy that the panel refused to compromise and stood their ground even in the face of intimidation. We are going to conduct free, fair primary in Zamfara. This process has to be done according to the rules and regulations of the APC and that means it will be done by the electoral body and not by the state government or agents of the state government.”
In a statement, APC spokesman, Yekini Nabena, said the NWC condemned the unauthorised congresses in Edo State into the Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly.
“The exercise conducted by unauthorised persons in collaboration with the Edo State Working Committee is hereby null and void,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Ondo State chapter of the APC has called for the removal of Oshiomhole, insisting that his continued stay in office would spell doom for the party.
This is even as youths numbering over 100 protested against the automatic tickets given by the NWC to the three senators representing the state.
Senators Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) and Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) were given automatic tickets of the APC by the NWC of the party. This development has caused crack in the party as the state chairman, Mr Ade Adetimehin and Governor Akeredolu have opposed their candidature.