In the beginning, National chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Oyegun expressed optimism that his party would win the governorship election in Bayelsa State. He spoke in Abuja when a delegation of some People Democratic Party (PDP) leaders from the state led by Senator John Joko, came to consult with the APC leaders.
Bayelsa which is the home state of the immediate past Nigeria’s President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is currently under the control of the PDP with Sieriake Dickson as the governor. The members of the delegations were perfecting plans to ditch the PDP for APC. Oyegun promised to assist them have a smooth transition.
He said: “I want to say clearly that the leadership of APC is very happy that people of your caliber have finally seen the truth about what is going on in all the PDP governing state.”
“So nationally we are on the rescue mission. What you have come to tell us today is that Bayelsa state has come to seek for rescue. You are most welcome. I think you need to look into all the APC state and see what the true transformation is all about.”
“It is my prayer that by the end of this year, we will be able to add Bayelsa to the member of the progressives states, I will be very glad indeed to welcome you into the family.”
It was reported that, the former governor of the State, Timipre Sylva who accompanied the PDP members denied having ambition for the governorship seat. Responding to a poser on whether he will contest the coming governorship election, he said: “I don’t know yet, that’s the honest answer, I don’t know yet. My role is to make sure APC wins the governorship in Bayelsa, that’s my role. The APC is going to win, that we are very sure about.
On division amongst APC leadership in Bayelsa he said: “There’s no division at all, it’s just some miscreants of course sponsored by the present administration, its people who are not even members of the party making some noise. The party is intact, everybody is intact in the party, we don’t even want to discuss them.”
That was soon to live as preparatory to the primaries in the state, he swung into action with the aim of capturing power for himself in the governorship race that was later to be characterized by confusion, controversy and alleged hijack of the electoral process from the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole-led Electoral Committee.
On that day, Oshiomhole was forced to abandon the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, venue of the APC governorship primary election on Tuesday, 22nd September 2015.
Former Governor of the state Chief Timipre Sylva won a parallel exercise organised by the state executive of the APC without Oshiomhole and some members of his committee with 726 of the 807 votes cast. He was returned as winner by Mr. Nelson Alakgba, a member of the primary committee. Timi Alaibe, who was not present, scored four votes. The original exercise ran into trouble early in the day over accreditation before Oshiomhole arrived Samson Siasia stadium at about 12 noon.
Oshiomhole tried to calm frayed nerves by meeting with his committee members and later with the aspirants to fashion the way forward but was held hostage by irate party supporters, who invaded the Samson Siasia Stadium venue of the primaries and insisted that the abandoned accreditation of delegates be completed and election conducted.
Though there was tight security at the venue, some delegates were attacked by suspected thugs as they made their way to the venue.
A total of 1,508 delegates were expected to participate in the exercise and only about 80 delegates from Brass and Ekeremor had been cleared and seated at their council stands, when the matter degenerated.
Trouble started following complaints and objections by three of the aspirants, Timi Alaibe, Ebitimi Amgbare and Preye Aganaba, that the Oshiomole-led Committee had lost control of the process, citing alleged hijack by the state executive of the party loyal to Timipre Sylva.
According to them, many of the delegates being cleared were in possession of cloned identification papers against the committee’s requirements of an International Passport, National Identification Card and Voters’ Card.
It was gathered that before 8am, thugs invaded the entrance of Samson Siasia Sports Complex, Yenagoa and attacked some party chieftains. The chaos was blamed on the absence of Oshiomhole, the chairman of the Electoral Committee, who arrived at about noon.
Oshiomhole came in the middle of the confusion, two minutes after one of the top contenders, Chief Timipre Sylva, arrived. Oshiomhole immediately intervened and held a meeting with members of his committee. After meeting his committee members, he also met with all the aspirants leading to speculations that the primary could be cancelled.
Before the arrival of Governor Oshiomhole, the trio of Timi Alaibe, Preye Aganaba and Prince Ebitimi had called for the postponement of the exercise, citing alleged irregularities and intimidation of delegates by hired thugs.
Alaibe said: “The rancorous accreditation process leading to the primaries was fraught with irregularities, violence, intimidation and complete disrespect for aspirants, agents and party officials. This is an enactment of negative issues for a party that stands on the mantra of change. I think something is missing somewhere and we need to get it right.
“Some of us, as aspirants had some delegates who are loyal to us threatened, beaten and wounded since morning. We have a quite number of people who are not delegates, the real delegates are outside. Some of the fake delegates have identity cards that are cloned.
Corroborating Alaibe, another aspirant, Prince Ebitimi Amgbare, who also called for the cancellation said: “As a matter of fact, I am the reason for this event holding here today. I cancelled the election that held in 2007 when I contested with Sylva and that is why we have this isolated elections in Bayelsa State. And if we cancelled an election because it was not properly organised, I believe that this primary should be better organized”
Another aspirant, Preye Aganaba, said the process of the primaries is unlike what the APC is known for, describing the process as a far cry from what obtained at the Lagos convention that produced the party’s presidential candidate.
His words: “I am ashamed today that the APC would be organising a primary in this way, because I was a member of the last presidential primaries in Lagos and we had a successful convention and when the winner emerged the other aspirants supported the candidate but the process today is flawed. It is a pity that most of the delegates that have been accredited are all fake.
“I want to join other aspirants to ask for a cancellation immediately because this is unlike APC. I toiled, sweated and paid for this party to be established in Bayelsa state, and if I am asking for this you should know how pained I am,” Aganaba protested.
But former Governor Timipre Sylva said there was no cause for alarm. He said there was no cause for the cancellation of exercise, adding that he was hailed by the people because of his outstanding credentials.
His words: “I am not an agent and if there are people with cloned cards, we will make sure they are arrested. I was part of the arrangements put in place. Among all the aspirants, l am the only one with the credentials; someone who has done a term here.”
At the meeting between Oshiomhole and the 19 governorship aspirants, the aspirants accused the state executive committee led by the State Chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimigha of hijacking the process and encouraging the rowdy invasion of the election venue by suspected thugs.
As the aspirants and members of the primary committee were holding a meeting with Oshiomhole, sporadic fireworks rent the air outside the venue close to the fence of the Samson Siasia Sports Complex, causing panic among delegates and officials. It, however, took the prompt intervention of security operatives to calm the situation.
In the midst of all these, Sylva jumped to a conclusion that what was happening was the grand plan of the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of planning to ruin the process.
“Tell him (Oyegun), he has compromised. In short, I will tell him that he has compromised. The process was designed to fail and to deny me of my gains in the party,” he said.
The only APC member in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Sunny Igoli, who spoke to newsmen, said the delay in the election process was unnecessary as the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole cannot deny that the use of party registration card is not admissible for use in the poll.
Igoli said, “even Oshiomhole did not use PVC during his own primaries. Why is our story different? We built the party and know our members. The rules were outlined for aspirants but the delegates have their rights too. And they have demanded that the party registration card be used.”
The electoral committee chairman was however rescued and taken out of the venue by armed military personnel at about 4.50pm.
Thereafter a parallel governorship primary was held by the State Executives of the party without Oshiomhole and some members of the Electoral Committee. Sylva won the exercise in a landslide.
While explaining the exercise to journalists, Oshiomhole pointed out that, “the committee was virtually held hostage, including myself and this exercise was supervised, unfortunately, by one of the aspirants and unfortunately, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylvia who said to my face and the committee that we could not leave the venue of the conference unless we carry out the exercise without accreditation as prescribed by the National Secretariat.
“Unfortunately, by the way Sylva conducted himself, he showed that he has no faith in democratic process because he continued to insist that he founded APC in Bayelsa state and therefore cannot understand why those who didn’t found the party have the right to contest election on the platform of the party.
He made more damaging allegations against Sylva with the emphasis that it appears he was under siege and resorted to the army to rescue him from the hands of the abductors insisting however that the basic requirement for a free and fair election, whether primary or popular is that those participating must have free access for accreditation and for voting. When these are lacking, you cannot make something out of nothing.
Sylva fired back in a return war of words vehemently lamenting that the decision of Oshiomhole had caused untold hardship on delegates.
“The world needs to know that the Bayelsa State Electoral Committee is made up of seven members, and of the seven only Oshiomhole left. The other six remained, conducted the primary and declared Sylva winner of the exercise”, he sounded.
Furthermore, Sylva said Oshiomhole was antagonistic to new entrants to APC, in addition to a clear agenda to rubbish his chances in the race just as heavy allegations of lies and unscrupulous insinuations.
“If Oshiomhole has anything personal against me, let him tell the world. We are shocked that the man who claims to be morally upright with a strong ethical orientation would land in Yenagoa for an exercise in which he ought to be an impartial arbiter with a helicopter provided by a friend of one of the aspirants”, Sylva remarked.
In spite of all that went under the bridge, Sylva survived as the party’s flag bearer. Many had wished that he would show humility and reconciled with other aspirants to keep all their support in the kitty. However, not much effort was seen in this direction as Timi Alaibe who is said to enjoy a lot of followership was allowed to romance with the ruling PDP. Sylva erred when he over relied on the popularity of his party at the centre and his perceived popularity.
The PDP on the other hand was not relenting as it seemed prepared to retain its plum position as the occupant of Creek Haven, the seat of power.
The internal wrangling within the APC, may probably have worked against her quest to break the former’s hegemony.
Though no date has been fixed for a supplementary in Southern Ijaw, the proposed election may not affect the outcome of the already declared result. It however remained to be seen what the courts will eventually make of the situation as the APC has insisted that the result of the cancelled polls in some areas must be announced. Already, the PDP has won six out of the seven council areas released by the electoral commission polling 105,748 votes as against the APC, which scored 72,594 with victory in one council area.
Southern Ijaw Local Council has 120,827 registered voters, the second highest after Yenagoa, which has 135,025 registered voters, hence the desperation of both parties to carry the day in the council which has turned out to be the beautiful bride in the Bayelsa 2015 governorship polls.