Governorship primary elections of various political parties jostling to produce the next governor of Kogi State in the November 11 governorship poll may have come and gone and candidates emerged, but the dust raised is yet to settle. Daily Trust Saturday reports that the exercise introduced a new narrative to the political space in the state.
The intrigues that bedevilled the process from the onset, and the eventual outcome of the primaries have set discordant tunes among stakeholders, political pundits, analysts and aspirants.
Gladiators in various parties have been at each others’ throats, trading words since the exercise ended between April 14 and 17, 2023.
Some aggrieved candidates and stakeholders who could not swallow the bitter pills of defeat were reported to have laid complaints to the National Working Committees (NWC) of their parties, while others headed to court to seek redress.
Our correspondent gathered that the primaries across parties were fraught with intrigues, power display and connection, a situation that resulted to parallel elections in some parties.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), which is the ruling party in the state, held a primary election full of intrigues, alleged injustice and fraud. It was reported that acclaimed “Abuja-based and home groomed politicians” were pitched against each other while the exercise lasted.
The party accredited 18 aspirants for the exercise, but 10 withdrew at the eve of the election, one was disqualified and seven made it to the end.
The secretary of the APC Primary Election Committee in the state, Patrick Obahiagbon, on behalf of its chairman, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, declared the former auditor-general (local government), Mr Ahmed Usman Ododo, the winner of the election with 78,704 votes.
Consequently, the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, described the conduct of the election across the 239 wards of the state as peaceful and violence-free, saying, “it was a clear indication that the state is for the APC.”
He said the winner was widely accepted across the length and breadth of the state.
“There was a massive turnout of party members in the election. These are members with an up-to-date financial commitment to our party in line with Article 9.3 (i) and (ii) of the APC constitution.
“From the reports I received, the turnout was good all over the 239 wards in the 21 local government areas of the state,” the governor said.
He commended security agents for maintaining law and order, and party members for their peaceful conduct. He attributed the large turnout of voters to the peaceful environment created by his administration.
Also, the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, described the primary election as free, fair and transparent, and commended the Governor Matawale-led committee for a job well done.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has since forwarded the name of its flag-bearer to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), as well as introduced him to the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu for recognition.
Among those who withdrew from the race to enable Ododo win are the deputy governor, Chief Edward Onoja, accountant-general of the state, Jibril Momoh, and chief of staff to the governor, Jamiu Asuku. They were said to be the frontrunners to succeed Governor Bello, being members of his cabinet.
But the outcome of the election drew the ire of some stakeholders and aspirants, who claim that the exercise was a charade orchestrated to hoodwink gullible party faithful and members of the public.
Our correspondent gathered that five of the aspirants – Sanusi Ohiare, Shaibu Audu, Professor Stephen Ocheni, Senator Smart Adeyemi and Murtala Yakubu Ajaka – have rejected the result of the primary election.
They claimed that the election did not take place in accordance with party guidelines and the electoral law as portrayed.
They alleged that the exercise was a mere allocation of figures by certain powers-that-be to announce their preferred candidate, claiming that no party official and electoral material was seen at most of the wards for the said election.
Yakubu Ajaka, whose name did not appear on the result sheet on account of being disqualified from the election, said the Matawale-led committee lacked the power to disqualify any aspirant.
He said, “Any result that does not include Murtala Ajaka will not be recognised. Governor Matawale-led committee erred by disqualifying me without recourse to party rules and court injunction. It is not within his authority to act as a judicial panel or disqualify anyone.”
Ajaka was reported to have registered his grievances at the national body of the party for action, while his supporters have carried out protest at the National Assembly over the outcome of the primary election.
Equally, Sanusi Ohiare has threatened to sue the party over the process that produced a flag-bearer, alleging that the exercise was a fraud.
He claimed that election officials were nowhere to be found during the exercise despite a huge turnout of voters in 239 wards across the state.
“We have been here since 8am to vote and everybody is here in their numbers, but there are no election materials or officials; we are just sitting here.
“And the report I am getting all over the state, in over 239 wards, is that no election is taking place. We have witnesses and evidence, and definitely, this is not going to stand,” he had said.
In the same vein, Senator Smart Adeyemi has written to the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, over his displeasure on the said primary election.
Adeyemi stated, “In further violation of the fundamental principles of democracy, the 21 local government chairmen were threatened and mandated with the task of delivering the said Usman Ododo as the APC representative for the gubernatorial election set to hold.
“There are no returning officers from the party in any ward as we write this letter; and there are no electoral officers in any ward as we write.”
Also miffed by the outcome of the election, Prince Audu described the primary election as a sham and unacceptable, calling for its cancellation.
Audu has instituted a case against the outcome of the election at the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking the nullification of the exercise.
Some stakeholders alleged that due to the non compliance with the enabling laws of the primary by the Matawale-led committee, parallel elections were held in most of the local governments during the exercise.
It was reported that a parallel primary election was held in the entire east and some parts of west senatorial districts of the state.
According to Dr Tom Ohikere, a stakeholder and the managing director of the APC news online television, one group held its primary at the Paparanda Square, Lokoja with a top local government council official as a collating officer, while others held theirs in another place in the ward.
“To avoid losing the state, something very urgent must be done by the headquarters of the party.
“I advise the national chairman of the party to cancel the purported primary election as it will not stand the test of time,” Ohikere said.
Ajaka’s camp was also reported to have carried out a parallel primary across the wards on April 14, claiming that Alhaji Mutala Ajaka scored 356,241 votes.
According to the report, claimed to have been submitted to the national secretariat of the party by stakeholders, Ajaka won in 14 local government areas out of 21, and as such, he should be declared the authentic flag-bearer of the party.
Our correspondent gathered that all the parties in the disputed primary election have not sheathed their swords as they are said to be exploring all the necessary avenues to legitimise their claims.
Also, the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has its own dose of power play.
It was gathered that an aspirant, in collaboration with some national officers, doctored the list of delegates to favour a particular candidate.
The aggrieved party members went to court to stop the said accredited list by the national body, but it failed.
Reacting, a former deputy governor of the state, Yomi Awoniyi, an architect, said the election was a scam tailored to favour Senator Dino Melaye, who eventually clinched the governorship ticket of the party.
Awoniyi said, “The 158 delegates who emerged from the ad-hoc congress of the March 28, 2023 were replaced” by the power-that-be at the national level, giving undue advantage to Senator Melaye to win.
“To give any aspirant a total of 158 votes in a contest for 739 votes involving eight aspirants is not fair. It is fraudulent.”
Also, the political rivalry between former governors of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and Captain Idris Wada was said to have reared its ugly head during the exercise, fertilising ground for Senator Melaye to win.
It is said that the refusal of the two ex-governors to settle for either Ilona Idoko Kingsley, who scored 124 votes, or Usman Mohammed Kabiru with 121 votes made it easy for Melaye to win the party’s ticket with 313 votes. If Ilona or Kabir had stepped down for either two, one of them would have been able to produce enough votes to dwarf Melaye’s score.
“Captain Idris Wada gave tacit support to Ilona while Ibrahim Idris stood by Kabir. All efforts for either of them to harmonise their differences for a sole candidate failed, making it easy for Melaye to win the primary election,” a stakeholder who craved anonymity said.
Also, the Labour Party (LP), which is seen as a new third force in the political arena, ended up having two candidates from parallel primaries due to attendant intrigues. Colonel Vincent Enemona Abu (retd) and Adejo Okeme, a lawyer, emerged as the party’s flag-bearers.
The outcome of the party primaries has triggered off ethnic questions in both camps of the winners and the losers. Tribal chauvinists have taken advantage of the outcome of the exercise to shape their political fortunes during the November governorship election.
Credit: Daily Trust