From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
The crisis bedevilling the ruling the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ekiti State deepened yesterday as seven out of the eight governorship aspirants withdrew from the gubernatorial primary election conducted in Ado Ekiti.
The aggrieved aspirants, Kayode Mojo, Demola Popoola, Femi Bamisile, Bamidele Faparusi, Dayo Adeyeye, Opeyemi Bamidele and Afolabi Oluwasola announced their withdrawal amid confusion as the electoral committee struggled to counter angry protesters who had announced that the exercise has been cancelled.
The protesters chanting “we are not voting! no primary election in Ekiti,” alleged irregularities in the conduct of the election. The irate protesters said they would not accept the result of the election if the committee ignored their demand and went ahead with the exercise. They warned that if the unfolding crisis is not handled with caution, it will be catastrophic for the party in the State.
The governorship election in the State holds on June 18. Addressing newsmen at the party’s secretariat at Ajilosun, the seven candidates accused the state governor, Kayode Fayemi of parading his political appointees and his allies in the State House of Assembly as electoral umpires.
They alleged that those the electoral committee appointed as presiding and returning officers were loyalists of Fayemi and one of the governorship aspirant and former Secretary to Government (SG), Biodun Oyebanji.
They also accused the Governor Mohammed Abubakar Badaru-led governorship primary committee of giving the result sheets to Oyebanji’s supporters to write the results ahead of the election.
Senator Bamidele who addressed newsmen on behalf of the other contestants said the party should not take any step that would embarrass it in court.
In their comments, Senator Adeyeye and Faparusi, condemned the modality adopted by the committee to conduct the primary, saying it was allegedly laced with fraud.
The protesting aspirants later visited the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Department of State Security and Police Command to register their grievances. Despite the protest by the seven aspirants and their supporters, voting went on at various wards across the state. Some centres recorded huge turnout of voters as at press time.
Ahead of the primary election, there were indications that the exercise may erupt over several issues such as the demand by the Ekiti South Senatorial district that it was its turn to produce the governor of the state, rumour of Fayemi’s anointed candidate and fear of violence even as the police assured of adequate security.
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial primary election held in the state witnessed similar protests.
An aspirant, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, who represents Ekiti South Senatorial District in the National Assembly withdrew, citing gender bias and an unfair resolution of matters arising from a lingering controversial congress of the party.
The immediate past Chairman the party in Ekiti, Olabisi Kolawole was declared winner with 671 votes out of 1185. Kolawole’s closest rival, former governor Segun Oni polled 330 votes. Reports say Kolawole won because he enjoys the backing of former Governor Ayo Fayose.
Olujimi alleged that the list of voters for the primary puts her at a disadvantage because her local government was left with only 12 delegates as decided by the party leadership.
Fayose’s deputy and PDP candidate in the 2018 election, Professor Olusola Eleka, former PDP National Treasurer Wale Aribisala, as well as Bisi Kolawole, Kayode Adaramodu, Lateef Ajijola, and Mrs Titilayo Owolabi-Akerele participated in the delegate primary election held in Ado Ekiti. Over 100 armed thugs were arrested by soldiers in Ekiti Border.