Home Politics APC parallel congresses produce ‘candidates’ for Edo governorship

APC parallel congresses produce ‘candidates’ for Edo governorship

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While the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee, Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma, declared a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dennis Idahosa as the winner of the primary at Protea Hotel, Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin at the end of the collation of results from the 18 Local Government Areas of the state on Saturday, the state working committee of the party insisted that Senator Monday Okpevbolo won the primary election, while former Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba is also claiming victory.

According to the result announced by Uzodimma, Idahosa, who represents Ovia federal constituency in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, polled 40,453 votes to defeat Okpebholo (Edo Central senator) who had 100 votes.

Uzodimma announced other results: Blessing Agbomhere – 50 votes, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd.) – 162; Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor – 180; Colonel David Imuse (rtd.) – 400;  Dr. Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe – 02; Gideon Ikhine – 700; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu – 02; Anamero Dekeri – 230; Prince Clem Agba – 100 and Chief Lucky Imasuen – 02.

But in a statement late Saturday, the state Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Peter Igbinigie said that Okpebholo won the primary election with 12,145 votes as against Idahosa’s 5,536. Other candidates were Mr. Afolabi Umakhihe (2,090 votes), Major General Charles Arhiavbere (rtd.) (919 votes), Dr. Blessing Agbomere (834 votes), Senator Oserheimen Osunbor (688 votes) and Colonel David Imuse (rtd.) 507 votes.

Igbinigie said that the primary election held in the 192 wards of the 18 LGAs in the state. He narrated: “In the early hours of this afternoon, the collation and announcement of results began. After the declaration of the results in eight (8) local government areas, with Senator Monday Okpevbolo in clear lead, irate thugs commissioned by an aspirant stormed the venue of the state collation and disrupted the process by beating up collation officials/representatives of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), who were simply carrying out their legitimate duties. In the process, they dispossessed them of their personal valuables including phones, laptops, cash, and other belongings. But for the timely intervention of courageous party men these innocent officials would have been martyred unjustly. Currently, many are in an undisclosed hospital tending to serious physical injuries.

“Most embarrassing, unfortunate and bizarre was the conduct of His Excellency, Hope Uzodinma, the Executive Governor of Imo state who instead of sympathising with the returning officers, abandoned them, singlehandedly relocated the collation center upon learning that his preferred aspirant wasn’t winning and then assumed the role of the state’s returning officer without recourse to inputs from the local government collation agents as well as the chief returning officer of the exercise. In desperation, he shamelessly appointed one Charity Amayaenvbo, the campaign manager of Hon. Dennis Idahosa to read the results from a piece of paper.

“As the Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, one would have expected him to retain his status as an umpire, to sue for peace, and not to grossly abuse and ridicule the privilege of his exalted office. Recall that some aspirants had earlier protested his appointment as chairman of this committee.

“Nonetheless, after normalcy was restored at the recognised collation centered, with the local government area returning officers and representatives from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the results were declared by the Chief Returning Officer whose responsibility it is to carryout this function as follows:

Sen. Monday Okpevbolo: 12,145 votes
Hon. Dennis Idahosa: 5,536 votes
Mr. Afolabi Umakhihe: 2,090 votes
Gen. Charles Arhiavbere: 919 votes
Dr. Blessing Agbomere: 834 votes
Sen. Oserieme Osunbor: 688 votes
Col. David Imuse: 507 votes

“Therefore, it is the desire of the state working committee to reiterate that Sen. Monday Okpevbolo is the duly elected gubernatorial candidate of our great party for the September 2024 governorship election”.

Uzodimma described the primary election conducted by his committee as the authentic one. He said it was peaceful in the state’s 192 wards.

However, armed thugs invaded Lushville Hotel and Suites, Gapiona Avenue, GRA, Benin, the initial collation centre at about 2.52 pm, sparking pandemonium. The collation officers were on break when the thugs struck.

The State Collation Officer, Dr. Stanley Ughoajah halted the live transmission of the proceeding by some national television stations.

At the time of the invasion, Okpekholo was leading Idahosa in six of the 18 LGAs already collated. He was ahead in Ikpoba/Okha, Esan Southeast, Oredo, Esan West, Owan West and Esan Central, while Idahosa led in Akoko-Edo LGA and his Ovia Southwest LGA.

Journalists who had gathered to cover the process were injured and their equipment destroyed. Party officials and other stakeholders were similarly attacked and the highbrow hotel’s facilities damaged. The policemen and other security operatives at the venue appeared overwhelmed by the turn of events.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were present at both collation centres.

As Uzodimma was rounding off the declaration of the results, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who had withdrawn from the race on Friday, invited reporters to his residence in GRA, Benin, where Okpebholo was declared winner of the parallel election by Ugboajah, the Collation Officer.

Signs of trouble had emerged earlier in the day when two more aspirants joined Ize-Iyamu in withdrawing from the primary election. First to throw in the towel on Saturday was a former deputy governor of the state, Imasuen and later Dr. Ernest  Umakhihe.

In a letter addressed to his supporters, Imasuen said his decision to withdraw was in “the interest of peace and unity of our great party”, and because “members of our National Working Committee (NWC), in their wisdom, have expressed their preference for zoning the governorship position to Edo Central Senatorial District”.

He pledged to support “whoever emerges as our candidate in the primary election”.

Soon after pulling out of the race, Umakhihe declared support for “the choice of the party”, Idahosa.

A retired federal permanent secretary from Edo North Senatorial District, Umakhihe said: “It has been a worthwhile journey of our resolve to make a difference in the affairs of our dear Edo State. However, following my latest interaction with the party’s leadership, I will not be contesting the primaries.

“Let us give our support to Hon. Dennis Idahosa, who is the choice of the party. There are greater days ahead”.

Agba, who also laid claim to victory, thanked his supporters for their “loyalty and support for my candidature.

“To my good people of Edo State and esteemed members of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, I want to thank you for your loyalty and support for my candidature.

“Unfortunately, what we have all witnessed in the APC party primaries in Edo State on Saturday 17th February 2024 falls below the minimum standard of democratic elections that is universally acceptable.

“I believe strongly that thousands of loyal party members were disenfrachished. Based on the authentic turnout, we clinched victory.

“The result so far announced is a ridicule and undermines the principles of democracy and fair play. The votes of the people did not count, the processes of election were compromised and the strength and unity of our party greatly undermined.

“While I remain a loyal party member, I will not be part of a process that robs the mass of our loyal party members of their inalienable right to vote.

“What has taken place in Edo State negates all that even our political leaders have taught us over the years about democracy, the will of the people, one man, one vote and justice and fair play.

“We must come together to challenge this great injustice and restore the integrity and strength of our great party.

“Such impunity that the people have been subjected to should have no place in our great party.

“We will proceed speedily within the guidelines laid down by our party to seek for justice.

“I want to thank everyone that has supported me for your unwavering commitment and belief in our vision and qualification. Your passion and dedication have been the driving force behind our campaign, and I am truly grateful.

“As we move forward, remember that our journey is far from over. We will continue to fight for a better future for Edo State, a future where every citizen can thrive and succeed.

“Our resolve is unbreakable, and our commitment unwavering. We will not rest until justice is served and the people’s will is honoured.

“Thank you, and let us march forward with courage and conviction”.

The APC however urged party members and the public to disregard unofficial results for the governorship primary.

The party maintained that only the Uzodimma-led committee is authorised to undertake final collation and announce the final results.

In a statement on Saturday, APC National Publicity Secretary, Barrister Felix Morka dissociated the party from a live broadcast on national television and online platforms announcing results.

The statement read: “The attention of the National Working Committee of our great Party has been drawn to a live broadcast on major national television stations and online news outlets of results of the ongoing Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election by some unauthorized persons

“We wish to state categorically that only the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee is duly authorised to undertake the final collation and announcement of results of the Primary Election in the State.

“We urge all party members, officials in the State, and the general public to disregard the said announcement of results by these unauthorized persons”.

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