Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has accused the Bayelsa Police command and state executives of his party the All Progressives Congress (APC) of frustrating Tuesday’s botched APC governorship primary.
Oshiomhole, who is the Chairman, APC Bayelsa governorship primary, made the accusation on Wednesday in Benin, Edo capital while briefing newsmen alleged that from the action of the police, it was evident that officers and men of the command compromised the electoral process.
He said in spite of the heavy presence of security personnel dispatched to the Samson Siasia Stadium, venue of the election, thugs still found their way into the stadium effortlessly and disrupted the exercise.
“I was appointed along with six others to conduct the primary in Bayelsa State. The exercise took place on Tuesday, but somehow, thugs took over the venue of the exercise. They prevented the actual delegates from participating and accessing the venue of the exercise. As a result, we could not proceed with the exercise.
“The committee was virtually held hostage, including myself and this unruly behaviour of the thugs was supervised 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.
“It is important to note that the National Secretariat has long adopted a standard national guideline for the conduct of gubernatorial primaries and these guidelines were used effectively in Kogi State and it produced an outcome which all the aspirants in Kogi gubernatorial elections were quite happy with.
“The key issue in these guidelines, as stated by the party, is that delegates as contained in the list in the custody of the secretariat has to be identified either through the Permanent Voters Card which contain the photo, I.D. and other details or the National Identity card or the International Passport. This was to ensure that proper accreditation was done.
“The integrity of an election rests primarily on the integrity of the electoral process. Once the accreditation process suffers any defect, as they say, you cannot build something on nothing. Whereas all the aspirants agreed with this guideline, it is only former Governor Timipre Sylvia who rejected this guideline.
“He accused the National Secretariat and my humble self for formulating the guideline in a way that will frustrate his ambition. Every effort made to reassure him and to direct his attention to the fact that the same guideline has been used in Kogi and that they are standard guidelines that will be used in all future elections of the party.
“To my shock, former Governor Sylva told me that we cannot leave the place unless we are ready to conduct the election without recourse to accreditation as prescribed by the party and of course, I was not in the position to amend the guideline nor was I ready to submit to intimidation. It then became clear that he had mobilised his thugs, and the thugs clearly in collaboration with the police took over the stadium, because the Police simply left the gates open.
“Former Governor Sylva insisted that it is the State Secretariat and not the National body that should conduct the primaries and that it was wrong for the National body to conduct primaries without involving the state leadership of the party and therefore, as far as he was concerned, we must proceed with the election without complying with the guidelines of the National Secretariat.
“When it became clear that our lives were under threat, I had to call Abuja to prevail on the Joint Task Force (JTF) to provide me with security to enable me leave the venue of the primaries because thugs had effectively blocked the gates under the instructions of Mr. Sylva.
“I have since forwarded our report to the National Secretariat namely that the primaries could not be conducted because of these and several other malpractices. Several people were apprehended with fake cloned PVC Cards which they wanted to use to replace the actual delegates and they were handed over to the Police and curiously, the Police released those who were so arrested and allowed them to continue to harass and intimidate not only the committee but other aspirants. For me, this is most unfortunate.
“APC as a party has shown through the way in which the Presidential Primary was conducted and primaries held in other states including Lagos State that the rules of our party are meant to be obeyed and we believe in internal democracy and the only way to service internal democracy in the party that is committed to change and is absolutely against corruption is to ensure that there is proper accreditation and that delegates have free and a conducive environment to exercise their rights to vote for a candidate of their choice.
“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.
“We have since forwarded a report to the National Secretariat in which we suggested that we should arrange a primary, fix another date, and arrange the primary that will enable the authentic delegates to be properly accredited in line with the guidelines of the party that we used in Kogi State.
“We cannot as a party use one guideline in one state and amend the guideline to suit another candidate from another state. We have confidence in the leadership of the party that they will do what they have to do to guarantee the rights and privileges of our party members in Bayelsa State to participate freely within the rules of the party in the selection of the flag bearer that will contest the Governorship in Bayelsa come December. It is now a matter for the party to resolve.
“I was the Returning Officer in that primary and I functioned as the Chairman of the Election Committee. The next person is the Secretary. Neither the Secretary nor myself announced any result and of course, it is customary that in any election conducted, the winner of the election is issued a Certificate of Return.
“As far as I know, no such certificate was issued. So if a member of the committee purports to announce any result, that is his own funeral, that does not in any way alter the rules of the party. There is no doubt that there was no election.
“If as a Governor, I had to seek the intervention of the Army, and under siege, I had to ask Sylva if I was kidnapped, and if the ransom was that I conducted a primary without accreditation, then 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 can do anything that he has chosen to do, but that does not mean it is the due process which the party is committed to. If anybody wanted to do a shady job, they will not approach people like me and others to be part of that exercise. I cannot be used for such fraud.
“As someone who has fought against electoral fraud in Edo State and one that has been preaching “one man one vote”, anybody who knows me well cannot contemplate allowing me to be a member, not to talk of being the chairman of a panel that is not intended to command confidence. We made it clear to all the aspirants, that as far as the party is concerned, winning doesn’t matter, what matters is the process that produces the winner.”
Beyond the cancellation of the exercise, Richard Perekeme Kpodo, a stalwart of the party in the state, on Wednesday, called on the national leadership to disqualify Sylva, agreeing that the primary was a sham and cannot be a basis to produce the party’s candidate for the December 5 election.
Kpodo expressed displeasure that Sylva held the seven-man electoral committee members headed by the Edo State Governor hostage for hours, saying Sylva the action of Sylva and his boys showed how desperate he was to grab power by all means.
“As one of the founders of the APC in Bayelsa State, I think the national leadership of the party should disqualify Timipre Sylva for his insubordination because all amount to criminality against the party’s constitution and guidelines.
“So, we are calling on the national leadership of our great party to take action to sanction Sylva for manipulating the process and intimidation of fellow delegates and electoral officers led by Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
“This is because we do not see any reason why a leader of the party could hold a serving governor hostage and if Oshiomhole were not an activist, the man would have succumbed to their ‘evil machination’.
But Oshiomhole maintained his cool, calculated and was able to wriggle out of the problem. He even told Sylva that he could not do him anything. And we thank God we have a vibrant DSS director who rescued Oshiomhole from the Sylva thugs. He is supposed to be disqualified.
“The guideline said if you have a criminal case in court, you cannot contest. Is corruption case not a criminal case? It is stealing of people’s money… He was charged, still, the party still allowed him to contest the primary. This is totally wrong.
“The party is not even abiding by its rule. The mantra of the party is change, that is, to change the old wrong ways of doing things. For instance, to desist from acts of thuggery, cultism and other criminal ways.
“As I said earlier, Sylva should be disqualified. The primary should be rescheduled so that proper screening can be done. A lot of people came with cloned Permanent Voter Cards, answering other people’s name.
“A lot of shootings in the arena; is that how he wants to lead Bayelsa State? During his first tenure, there was serious security breach in the state. Now he has started exhibiting his true character,” Kpodo said.
He lauded the courage and bravery of the officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) and soldiers who rescued Oshiomhole from Sylva’s irate youths and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that Sylva is properly prosecuted for his crime against the state.
He said that he had sent a detailed report of what transpired during the primary to the party’s national secretariat in Abuja where he suggested a new date for the conduct of the primary.