Intrigues that stalled Kwara PDP guber primary
From the onset, the stalemate was anticipated. The horse-trading and political intrigues were unusual. The tension was high-pitched, but the process was terminated abruptly even before it started.
This was the scenario of the governorship primary election of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State scheduled for last Monday nationwide. While it went smoothly in other states, it was a different ball game in Kwara State as it was defined by high level intrigues and manoeuverings which sparked tension, apprehension and disquiet leading to its indefinite postponement.
Events preceding the governorship primary poll being contested by 12 aspirants was the sign post to the present stalemate. It would be recalled that many of the aspirants had alleged plots by some chieftains of the party, in cahoots with the presidency, to impose a candidate, the attempt which the aspirants vowed to resist.
Those slugging it out for the ticket include former Chairman, Federal Character Commission (FCC), Professor Shuaib Abdulraheem, the 2011 governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN, son of late Governor Mohammed Lawal, Alhaji Akeem Lawal, an industrialist and chairman of Lubcon, Engr. Jani Ibrahim, the Director-General of PDP campaign in 2003, Arch. Abubakar Kale Belgore who is a cousin to Dele Belgore and Senator Gbemisola Rukayyat Saraki.
Others are current Senator representing Kwara South, Senator Simeon Ajibola, former special adviser to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Makanjuola Ajadi, onetime presidential candidate of the defunct National Transformation Party (NTP), Deacon John Dara, former governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, a petrochemical Engineer, Sunday Adebayo Babalola, and former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Bio Ibrahim.
Belgore who defected to PDP following the defection of former Governor Bukola Saraki to the All Progressives Congress (APC) is believed to be propped up by the presidency to fly the PDP’s flag. Though, Belgore appears one of the most formidable aspirants given his impressive outing in the last election, he seems to be confronted with humongous challenges from other aspirants who have vowed to resist any attempt to foist Belgore on them.
They accuse the minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman and a PDP chieftain and associate of First Lady, Hajiya Muinat Shagaya of being behind the plot. But the minister denied the allegation, saying his occupation is to deliver victory for PDP and he is ready to support any candidate who emerges from the primary.
However, efforts to calm frayed nerves did not materialise until the D-day when delegates gathered very early in the morning at Stella Obasanjo Hall, venue of the accreditation. At the hall heavily manned by the police, SSS officials, Army and the civil defence officers, the tension was palpable. The manoeuvering was apparent. The accreditation which was to start at 10:00 am did not commence until 3:00 pm. All along all the aspirants except Belgore kept vigil at the accreditation centre, monitoring the process to prevent manipulation.
As the accreditation of delegates was on going, all the aspirants began to make and receive frantic calls, raising suspicions among delegates and observers at the accreditation venue. The atmosphere became more charged when the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Salihu Garba visited the venue of the accreditation. It was at this point that the aspirants reported to the CP that some people were planning to conduct parallel congress, informing the CP that they saw some strange luxury buses moving illegal delegates to the venue of primary at Arca Santa Events Centre.
The police boss however assured the agitated aspirants that nothing untoward would be allowed. As accreditation was on going, delegates who have been accredited were proceeding to the primary poll venue which is about 300 meters to the accreditation centre. Already it was getting late, darkness was setting in, yet the process of accreditation continued.
As at 6:00 pm, virtually all the aspirants have relocated to the main venue while delegates were being thoroughly searched and screened into the hall.
But the tension soared inside the hall as some delegates began to shout at one another, creating panic. Security operatives looked on inside the hall while the aggrieved delegates exchanged blows. It was gathered that the venue became charged following allegations by delegates that some illegal delegates have been smuggled into the hall. The situation became chaotic as delegates threw plastic chairs at one another in the presence of the aspirants.
As events degenerated inside the hall, it was learnt that one of the aspirants stood up to express concern at the turn of event and announced his support for consensus. The move was supported by other aspirants. They announced their intention to step down for Hakeem Lawal, son of former Governor, late Mohammed Lawal as the consensus candidate.
But other delegates kicked against the decision, saying if there was going to be consensus at all, they preferred candidate should be Dele Belgore which the other aspirants have vowed to stop from being imposed on them. At this point, the chairman invited all the aspirants to inform them that the primary election has been postponed indefinitely.
A delegate who spoke with our correspondent said: “From what happened yesterday, it was obvious that strangers have been drafted into the hall. If you see the way people were beaten to a pulp yet the policemen looked on as if nothing happened”.
However, the aspirants except Belgore jointly addressed a press conference yesterday, attributing the botched exercise to attempt to rig, using fake delegates. Chairman of the aspirants’ forum, Senator Simeon Ajibola, spoke on behalf of other 11 aspirants at the conference
Chairman of the forum, Senator Simeon Ajibola, who read the text of the press conference explained that in spite of the presence of security agents, attempt was made to rig the primary in favour of a certain candidate.
Ajibola said the number of delegates which was supposed to be 709 rose to 1, 500, disclosing that over 700 fake delegates were smuggled into the venue with fake tag.
He stated that it was the fake delegates that started the commotion which led to the abrupt end of the exercise.
The chairman, however, declared that there was no election held on Monday and called on the national leadership of the party to order fresh election within 24 hours.
“We will resist and collectively fight any attempt to impose candidate without free and fair election”, he said.
Also speaking, Senator Saraki who frowned at the development, said it was an indication that democracy was yet to stay in the country. She warned against subverting the will of the people, saying the electorate and the general public desire self-rule.
As stakeholders await the conduct of fresh primary election, the party chairman who had consistently promised free, fair and credible election, was on his way to Abuja with a view to finding acceptable means of resolving the impasse.
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