It was complaints galore as aggrieved members of the Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) recounted their harrowing experience during last Saturday’s council primaries of the party.
Party faithful are now looking towards APC leadership in the state to see how they will redress the aftermath of violence, thuggery and intimidation that characterised the poll conducted across the entire 377 wards and 57 local councils of the state.
From events preceding the primaries, which were to select the party’s standard-bearers for the July 24, 2021, local government poll, there were pointers to the possibility of mayhem and violence.
However, observers were surprised that the party leadership did not pay heed to the signals or moved to stem the tide, especially against the backdrop of various explosive issues/allegations that triggered the violence.
The Guardian gathered that stakeholders are already urging the Governor Mai Mala-Buni-led Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), security agencies, Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) and appropriate agencies to investigate the matter, particularly casualties of the violence.
IN Ikate-Itire Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and Somolu Local Government, the Returning Officers, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, and his counterpart, Amida Abudu, were attacked on their way to the venue of the exercise.
The incumbent council chairman, Ahmed Apatira, who is seeking re-election, was accused of instigating the attack following fears of imminent loss.
He, however, denied the accusation, stressing that there was no way he could have instigated the crisis, since according to him, those attacked were his supporters, including the battered officials.
In Surulere, where two casualties were also recorded, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila’s name vend in the air as the alleged brain behind the fracas.
But sources disclosed that two people were killed; while many sustained injuries, when rival cult groups, in a bid to gain the upper hand, clashed. “The crisis was triggered by activities of rival cult groups, which have been engaging each other before the primary, over the aspiration of one of the councillors, who was said to be a member of a notorious cult group in the area.
“The cult groups were desperate to install one of their own as councilor on the platform of the ruling party for protection and to gain supremacy in the Ojuelegba area,” the source disclosed.
However, another source close to Gbajabiamila told The Guardian yesterday that the Speaker had nothing to do with the violence. He urged the police to do all in their powers to investigate the cause of the crisis and bring the perpetrators to book.
He added: “It was propaganda by Gbajabiamila’s detractors, who deliberately wanted to soil the Speaker’s name. Oga was not available for election at all. The aspirant, who is desperate to win the primary is a rival cultist that was initially screened out until suddenly in the morning when his name surfaced then the rival cultist started their confrontation.”
In Badagry, voting did not take place in all the 10 wards, as there were disruptions and harassments over the wrong voters register. In Agege, wrong accreditation sheets were brought and the electorates could not find their numbers and names on the voters’ register. The exercise hardly took place at Agege, the base of the incumbent Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, who was also neck-deep in the primaries.
It was recorded that the electorate actually came out early in the morning but was later scattered by some sponsored hoodlums. This affected all the seven wards across the local government area.
Majority of the aspirants, especially for the chairmanship position, are calling on the leadership of the party to re-schedule primaries for the area.
Prince Abiodun Ogunji, the incumbent vice-chairman, Agege Local Government, who is also an aspirant, decried activities of hoodlums during the primary elections.
“There was no election in Agege. We want the election to be rescheduled with thorough supervisions from the leaders,’’ he said.
A member of the party from Ojokoro, Mr. Olabode Olaniyi, also raised the alarm that there was no primary election held in Ward F of Ojokoro LCDA, hence the election should be declared inconclusive.
Olaniyi decried the alleged attempt to impose the incumbent chairman on the people for a second term in office. He said that same scenario played out across the seven wards in the council.
Across the Badagry axis, it was alleged that some presiding officers failed to bring the necessary documents to identify the voters, who stood on the queue for hours.
One of the chairmanship aspirants from Badagry lamented that his people in Topo Idale Ward J could not vote because the returning officer came without the register.
A lawmaker representing Badagry Federal Constituency, Babatunde Hunpe, said arrangements for the primary were normal and peaceful, until some people started disturbing the process in some centres because the process was not in their favour.
But in spite of the violence recorded in many places, the exercise was peaceful at Ikorodu Local Government and its five Local Council Development Councils (LCDAs), though not without some challenges like delay in the arrival of electoral officers and election materials.
One of the leaders of the party and member of the Governors’ Advisory Council (GAC), Bashorun Olorunfunmi, described the exercise as peaceful.
He said the people were voting for council chairman of their party, which according to him was a proper thing in a democracy.
A chairmanship aspirant for Ikorodu Local Government, Mrs. Folashade Olabanji-Oba, described the exercise in the place as a spirit of democracy, where everybody is allowed to vote and make choices without disturbance.
Meanwhile, few hours to the primaries, there were apprehensions that the exercise may be marred by crises.
The Guardian learnt that many of the chairmanship aspirants and other contestants, especially in areas where violence occurred had expressed worries over the excesses of some of the party leaders across councils. They expressed fear that the primary, which the state Chairman, Mr. Tunde Balogun, once assured would be free, fair and credible, might not be, going by the desperations of the leaders to foist their preferred loyalists, as a candidate against the rules of the party.
Some of the aggrieved aspirants told The Guardian that they decided to contest the primaries with incumbent chairmen, who want to re-contest and the outgoing ones that aspired to plant successor due to the fact that many of the outgoing chairmen are no longer popular, following their poor performances in the last four years and people yawning for change.
The aggrieved aspirants had before the exercise expressed disappointment over how the screening committee handled the process, alleging that the process was allegedly skewed to edge some contestants out. For instance, contestants, who were suspected of having any form of affiliation with any of the groups that the Governors’ Advisory Council (GAC) proscribed last year, were tactically screened out.
The screening exercise was said to have done more harm to the exercise. It generated more accusations and counter-accusations among party leaders, who were desperate to sabotage the free and fair process. In Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on political matters, Peter Ajayi, was allegedly screened out while the committee cleared the incumbent Chairman, Monsurudeen Obe. Ajayi could not produce all the credentials required to scale the exercise. It is not yet clear what Ajayi’s fate is until tomorrow.
Before Saturday, Obasa had been accused of the pencil down incumbent Chairmen of Agege LG, Kola Egunjobi and Orile Agege, Sunday Babatunde, to return for a second term, unopposed. Obasa also faced criticisms for allegedly trying to influence the emergence of candidates in the six councils under Alimosho, including Alimosho LG, Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA, Ayobo Ipaja LCDA, Egbe Idimu LCDA, Igando Ikotun LCDA and Mosan-Okunola LCDA.
Incumbent member of the House of Representatives for Ikeja Federal Constituency, Mr. James Faleke, who is also very close to Tinubu, was not exempted in the accusation of attempts to foist his candidate of choice against the preferred candidate of a member of the GAC, Cardinal James Odunmbaku.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, from the investigation, is not showing interests in whoever emerges. This is unlike his immediate predecessor, who was neck-deep in the 2017 council primaries.
A member of Lagos4Lagos Movement, one of the groups in the party, Seun Soyinka, told The Guardian that the movement refused to participate in the process. “We know the primary will not be free and fair that is why we did not encourage our members to participate. Whoever wishes to participate can contest but we are not participating as a group.”
Dousing the tension
THE ruling party has however congratulated its members for successful primaries. It said the statewide exercise witnessed a large turnout of members who cast their votes for preferred aspirants through the open ballot mode as stipulated by the guidelines.
Spokesman of the party, Seye Oladejo said the party acknowledged with regrets the reported cases of skirmishes in a few wards with the attendant fallouts.
According to him, “We empathise with the victims of the unfortunate incident. While we await the formal reports of the electoral officials, we wish to admonish the security agencies to conduct thorough investigations to bring the culprits to book and maintain law and order. We wish to reiterate that hoodlums, cultists and other outlaws are not members of our party and will not be tolerated. The untoward intervention of external forces within the progressive fold should be resisted by all and sundry.”
The party enjoined all aggrieved aspirants to approach the Electoral Appeal Committee headed by Lawal Pedro to lodge formal complaints.
Oladejo also debunked the allegation that party leaders foisted their choice candidate on the electorate.
According to him, “There is nothing strange because the so-called leaders were first members of APC before they became leaders and they also have the right to support their preferred candidates.”
According to him, “Our national leader was forced to make a statement that he did not have any preferred candidate. He also said where consensus is impossible they can go for the primary.”
WHILE the governing party stews in its juice, the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is yet to fix a date for its primary for the election, due to what insiders called division within its ranks.
The state chairman, Ade Doherty, was accused of operating at par with the former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George for the election.
Doherty further flayed APC over the destruction of banners, posters and other materials designed for advertising aspirants of PDP.
He urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to urgently look into the ugly trend.
He stated that Lagos State is not a one-party state and there should be a level playing ground for all and sundry. “It is an irony to have banners and posters of aspirants of the APC up and standing, while those of aspirants of the opposition were either removed, defaced, damaged or destroyed.”
Spokesman of the party, Mr. Taofik Gani said PDP would participate as it hopes to capitalize on the disenchantment of citizens of Lagos for APC.
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