IF Saturday’s planned nationwide ward congress of the All Progressive Congress (APC) held any symbolism, it could suggest the party needs to work harder to get things right.
First, it was a “rumour” that the congress would not hold. This was dispelled by interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Then followed postponement in several states due to problems of logistics. As a result, the exercise did not go ahead as planned in Adamawa, Plateau, Katsina, Bauchi States, and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Mohammed said there was no truth to rumours that the party’s congress, scheduled to hold nationwide yesterday had been postponed. In a statement issued in London, yesterday, he said the congress would go nationwide, as planned.
He said: “We urge our members to ignore the wild rumours on the postponement, which is another attempt by the enemies of democracy to sabotage the party’s monumental progress.”
The party, in Adamawa, however, postponed the congresses due to late arrival of materials. The interim state Committee Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Salihu Baba-Ahmed, made this known in an interview with NAN in Yola, yesterday.
“Materials were brought yesterday (Friday) which is late. We have scheduled a meeting of stakeholders by 4pm today to fix a new date for the congresses. I want to use this opportunity to further urge our party members to continue to bear with us and remain calm, as everything possible will be done to ensure a hitch free exercise,” Baba-Ahmed said.
A former chairman of the defunct CPC, Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri, who spoke on the development, said that with late arrival of materials, the congress was not feasible. He stressed that this was also because people that paid for forms to participate in the congress were yet to obtain the forms.
“Those that paid for forms are yet to obtain the forms. We need about two to three days to enable them obtain the forms, fill and return them. We will use the meeting of stakeholders today to fix an appropriate date for the congress,” he said.
The APC also postponed its congress in Katsina and Plateau States.
In Katsina, APC Interim Management Committee Chairman, Alhaji Ahmad Dangiwa, announced that the exercise would now hold on Wednesday.
Dangiwa told NAN, yesterday, in Katsina that the shift became necessary due to delay in the arrival of materials from the party national headquarters.
“We have completed every necessary arrangement for the congress, but it cannot hold today as earlier scheduled due to non-arrival of candidate registration forms,” Dangiwa said.
Dangiwa explained that as soon as the forms arrived they would be given out to contestants to fill and return before Wednesday. He promised that the party would conduct a free and fair congress “in accordance with the party’s constitution”.
In Ogun State, the party held its congresses throughout the 236 wards in the 20 local council areas of the state with some of the candidates emerging by either consensus, affirmation or adoption of the lists which had earlier been agreed upon by party faithful.
There were logistics challenges in some areas, as electoral materials did not arrive at voting centres on time.
The exercise was monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the party’s national leaders. Officers of the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service (SSS) maintained security at the various venues.
There were some areas where last minute change of venue resulted in sharp disagreements among party faithful. For instance at Igbore /Oba ward 13 in Abeokuta South local government area of the state where the former state governor and the national leader of the party, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, went to exercise his franchise, there was a little disturbance due to a last minute change of venue, but governor Ibikunle Amosun and Osoba resolved it.
There were also some areas where due to some disagreements on some issues, parallel congresses were held.
Reports from Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu, Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu-Igbo, Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu-Imushin, Itele and some towns in Ijebu North, Ijebu East, Ijebu North-East and Odogbolu local government areas in the state indicated that change of venues also caused some confusion. But generally the congresses were peacefully conducted.
In Jos, APC State Organising Secretary, Mr. David Joseph, announced the postponement of the ward congresses.
Joseph said that the exercise could no longer hold because of the non-arrival of party officials from the national headquarters. “The officials are in custody of materials for the conduct of the congress. As I speak, their arrival is still being awaited,” he said, adding: “When they arrive, we will have to meet with the stakeholders to agree on a new date.”
He said: “We are told that their take-off was delayed due to the late release of materials to them. When they arrive, we will convene a meeting of all the stakeholders to work out a new date for the congress.”
Meanwhile, the APC ward congress in Gombe went hitch-free. The party conducted its ward congresses in Gombe and Kwami Local Government Areas with large turnout by party members.
The congresses were peaceful at Herwagana, Nasarawo, Shamaki and Jeka da fari wards of Gombe metropolis, as members elected their leaders without rancour.
The newly elected chairman of Shamaki ward, Malam Salisu Mohammed, expressed happiness over his victory and promised to deliver on the mandate given to him.
One of the electoral officers, Malam Babangida Babayo, said the members conducted themselves peacefully. In Kwami, Komfulata and Gadam wards of Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe, members also conducted themselves in an orderly manner.
A supervisor for the congress, Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed, commended the party members for exhibiting maturity and patience during the exercise. He also called on the elected leaders and members of the party to ensure justice and fairness in their dealings.
According to him, this will help in promoting democracy, peace and unity in the party from the ward, local government, state and national level.
Malam Muhammadu Baballe, the newly elected chairman of Kwami ward, commended his supporters for the mandate, and promised that he would carry everybody along.
The interim chairman of APC in the state, Mr. Magaji Doho, who spoke to NAN, said the peaceful conduct of the congresses showed that the people have accepted the party in the state.
In Lagos, the party disowned one Emi Abata, for allegedly parading himself as the chairman of the APC in Lagos State.
The party said since the process that will culminate in the election of its leaders at various levels has just begun today (yesterday) with the ward congress, no one can claim to have been elected a leader at any level.
“In any case, the state congress is not due to be held until April 23rd, after which our elected state officials will emerge. How then can anyone claim to be the chairman of our party in Lagos? This is absurd and clearly orchestrated,” APC said.
NAN reports that in some wards, late arrival of materials delayed take-off of the congresses, while in others, the election of officers was conducted peacefully.
In other areas, protests rocked the process, with some members shunning the exercise and others heading for the state secretariat of the party in Ikeja to show their grievances.
NAN reports that in many wards visited across the state, party members, some of who came as early as 9am., arrived ahead of officials conducting the exercise.
At Ward A, Agbado-Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, (LCDA) Alimosho, hundreds of people were waiting for officials as at 2pm, with some of them wanting to return home. Others, however, continued to wait patiently, saying the officials would eventually come.
Mrs. Elizabeth Odunaike, one of the waiting party members told NAN that she did not feel bad waiting. “We’ve been waiting since 9am but we are prepared to wait,” she said.
Another member, Folasade Sanusi, also spoke in similar vein, saying she was okay with the wait. By 2.10pm, however, some of the people began to disperse.
At Ward E in Ojokoro Local Council Development Area (LCDA), the congress did not take off until 11.am as some of the members did not come along with their party registration slips.
Mr. Oluremi Mustapha, Special Adviser, Education, Youths and Sports, Ojokoro LCDA, who was at the ward, advised members to always present their party registration slips at all the party’s congresses. Mustapha told NAN that the slip was a prerequisite for members to participate at all congresses.
Some party members were asked to go back home for their party registration slips for them to participate.
NAN observed that there was heavy presence of armed policemen at all the wards in the area, to forestall violence.
At Ward E, Egbe-Liasu, Alimosho Local Government Area in Lagos, Mr. Waheed Bello, the Chairman of Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area (LCDA) told NAN he was happy with the turnout.
Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, while addressing party members at Agbado- Oke-Odo Ward Congress, said that the large turnout of members at the ward congress was an indication that APC had come to stay in the state.
NAN reports that Mr Hameed Mukaila and Mr Ogunbowale Olukayode, emerged as the Chairman and Secretary Ward F Agbado-Oke-Odo LCDA respectively while other candidates also won their elections for their posts unopposed.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the APC congress was postponed till Monday due to logistic challenge.
The chairman, Congress Committee of the FCT, Alhaji Abubakar Wurno, disclosed this in an interview with NAN, yesterday.
He said: “We have started the sales of forms for ward congress in the FCT and many aspirants have picked the forms. As usual, all the aspirants that have purchased the forms will pass through screening and accreditations.”
He said the committee held a meeting with the FCT interim officials of the party to rub minds on how best to conduct the exercise with a view to ensuring justice and fair play.
According to Wurno, voting for ward officials will be through open ballot system where voters will stand behind candidates of their choices. He, however, said that the local government elections would be conducted through secret open ballot where people would choose their candidates secretly and cast their votes openly.
He emphasised the commitment of the party to conducting election that would meet with international standards, adding, “Our hope is to conduct election in the most harmonious way.”
The party had on Friday said that it was set to conduct the exercise yesterday.
The Kwara State chapter of APC, yesterday, adopted a consensus arrangement for its ward congresses across the state.
The peaceful exercise, according to former acting chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar Baraje, will ensure a rancour free system and organisation among all members of the party in the state.
The turnout was massive and peaceful in towns like Ilorin, Offa, Omu Aran and Kiama.
Baraje in a chat with The Guardian at his Babaoko Ward, Ilorin, said: “All the executive members are representatives of the conglomerates of parties that make up the All Progressives Congress (APC). We did the ward congress harmoniously through consensus and everybody is happy.
“Therefore, we charge them to be honest, transparent and make accountability their watchword. This is a new party, a new dawn and the hope of the common man. All eyes are on the APC across the country to emancipate Nigeria from the shackles of the PDP’s misrule.”
He added: “I am beaming and glowing with happiness simply because the congress has kicked off very successfully and smoothly with our tradition of consensus election. I am highly impressed. I feel fulfilled because when you are building a house and you start with a very solid foundation then you are confident of having a very solid structure.
In Kano State, officials emerged through consensus. The party Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mr. Abdullahi Gwarzo, said the party had resolved to conduct the congress through consensus.
“We have decided that the congress be conducted through consensus but where it is not possible people are free to do it through open ballot system.
“It is too early to say that the congress is not being held all over the state because it can take place in some places from now to the late evening,” he said.
Gwarzo assured that the party would ensure justice and fairness in the entire process.
In Yobe, most of the officials of the wards also emerged through consensus. Stakeholders reportedly met with the aspirants on the need to produce ward officials through consensus and decided that they would go for election where there were disagreements.
A chieftain of the party, Alhaji Sani Fema, told NAN that the congresses had been successful. “The aspirants agreed to consensus but where there are disagreements the ward will go for election. In Fune Local Government Area, Ngelzarma ‘A’ ward is the only place with disagreements, but the aspirants are lobbying each other, and if they fail to agree, they will go for election,” he said. NAN