…Delta, Kwara, Rivers, Ogun, Osun are hot spots
By Sam Oyadongha, Olasukunmi Akoni, Chioma Onuegbu, Demola Akinyemi, Shina Abubakar, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Ibrahim HassanWuyo & James Ogunnaike
The All Progressives Congress, APC, vision of emerging more unified at the end of its nationwide membership registration and validation exercise appears threatened by old intra-party crises in some states, findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed.
In the affected places, the issues in contention were found to have predated the ongoing registration and revalidation exercise.
The programme, however, offered an avenue for opposing sides to renew the battle for the party’s soul.
APC had commenced the exercise on January 25, 2021, to increase its membership and support-base nationwide.
While the process is seamless in some states, Delta, Kwara, Rivers, Ogun, Osun, and Rivers state chapters are not likely to emerge stronger from the exercise.
In Rivers, the party faction headed by Isaac Ogbobula, which enjoys the support of the national leadership, is in total support of the registration exercise. But the Sen Magnus Abe-backed group is opposed to the exercise.
Speaking on the exercise, Ogbonna Nwuke, spokesman for the Ogbobula faction, said: “The process will commence after the training of personnel is completed. The exercise will hold in Rivers.
“This assignment is from the national body. Every zone has its time. South-East started this week. We are commencing next week. The fears that some persons will be deregistered are not justified. They are speculative. The exercise has not commenced and people are making conclusions.
“It is free for all genuine members of the party. Why will the process be targeted at anyone? There are also issues of headcount and recounting in the Bible. The process is just about looking at a database for the party, which will help us know our strengths. Any genuine member needs not to be afraid of the exercise.
The argument that Abe and Aguma, who dissented in terms of their expressions over what the party is doing, would be removed is mere speculation.
They are party members. Let them offer themselves to be registered.”
However, Golden Ben-Chioma, factional chairman of the Aguma camp, insisted the revalidation exercise would not hold, noting there was a court order stopping the conduct of the revalidation.
He said: “There is a valid court order restraining my party from conducting the revalidation exercise in Rivers State. As a law-abiding party, it will be out of place for us to take part when there is a valid court order.
“We don’t want what happened in 2019, where disobedience of court order cost the party a lot, to repeat itself. We will abide by the court order that the revalidation should not hold. The court order from Abuja cannot stand because it has no jurisdiction to handle what is happening in Rivers.
“Again, even when they went to court, they did not go for the court to allow them to go ahead with the revalidation. They only went to the court, seeking that only their faction should conduct the revalidation exercise.
The exercise is witnessing hitches in some local government areas in Ogun State.
In Imeko/Afon Local Government Area,LGA, it was gathered that some loyalists of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun were reportedly prevented from being registered.
In a video made available to Sunday Vanguard at the LGA, APC representative, Ismaila Aregbe in Unit 9, Imeko Ward, stated in clear terms that he was ordered not to register an Amosun loyalist standing, saying he was a member of the Allied Peoples Movement,APM.
The situation almost turned rowdy as Aregbe insisted that those he identified as APM members would not be allowed to register based on the directive given to him.
Speaking on the incident, a former Chairman of Imeko-Afon LGA, Tosin Adeluyi, accused the party of discriminating against people who came out to voluntarily register.
Adeluyi said most of the registration officials confirmed that they were told not to register APM members.
He said:” All over Imeko-Afon Local Government, most of the units are empty. They went into hiding as the materials are not available at the polling units. People who came out to register went back home disappointed.
“Amore Unit, Owuwu Unit, Alagbon Mejo in Owo Idi Ayin Ward and many others are all empty. They are doing the registration secretly.”
In Yewa South LGA, there was an allegation that registration materials were hoarded by the council’s Transition Chairman, Fagbenro Olabode.
But findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that the materials were not hoarded by anybody, but were only kept at the police station.
A source told our Correspondent that the major problem was that the list of the registration committee in the LGA was tempered with.
In Osun State, the division in the party has become more pronounced with the registration exercise.
Pioneer National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, during the revalidation of his membership by the South-West Registration and Monitoring Committee at his home town in Ila-Orangun, described the process as an indefensible aberration.
However, the state governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, and the Caretaker Chairman in the state, Prince Gboyega Famodun, while addressing party members, said the exercise should be conducted without members’ factional bias.
But before the commencement of the registration and revalidation, the faction loyal to former Governor Rauf Aregbesola, now Minister of Interior, had mobilized its loyalists to ensure it dominates the revalidation and registration exercise to have the majority at the various wards.
Part of the strategy deployed by the group is helping members to get passport photographs ready.
Sunday Vanguard also gathered that a former chairman of the party and Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, directed his loyalists to ensure that at least 50 of them registered at each polling unit across the state.
This, according to sources close to him, is to ensure he is not treated with contempt.
Also, in Ejigbo LGA, the battle for the control of membership registration is between two former speakers in the state House of Assembly, the immediate past speaker, Dr. Najeem Salaam and Professor Mojeed Alabi.
Before the commencement of the exercise, Salaam had embarked on a tour of LGAs in Osun West Senatorial District, urging his supporters to participate massively.
Sources confided in Sunday Vanguard that the action was to prepare the ground for his 2022 gubernatorial aspiration election.
The intrigues among the political gladiators, it was learned, forced the party to move the distribution of registration materials from its secretariat to the Government House at Oke-Fia.
Besides, the party had to distribute materials to different factions in LGAs where there is difficulty in resolving internal problems to avoid violence.
The battle for the control of the exercise became a necessity for many reasons.
First, party chieftains want to exercise firm control over state executives who would emerge at a convention to be conducted by members whose names appeared on the register.
Before the commencement of the exercise, a faction loyal to Aregbesola had petitioned the caretaker committee, protesting the inclusion of those they called Social Democratic Party ,SDP, members in the registration committee.
Unlike Osun, the impasse in Kwara is hydra-headed.
Factional members of the Kwara State executive had accused the APC Registration Committee of hoarding registration and revalidation materials.
They also said the committee was not carrying them along in the exercise.
Though efforts to get the Senator John Danboi-led committee to react were not successful, a credible source close to the committee told Sunday Vanguard that plans to attack selected registration units particularly in the urban areas by thugs were uncovered.
Deputy Chairman of the party in Kwara North Senatorial District, Chief Sunday Oyebiyi, and other factional members have vowed not to participate until the registration materials are made available.
Oyebiyi said:”The registration materials are being hoarded in virtually all the units in the state. The registration forms and the register of members were not provided.
“Instead, party members who are revalidating and others who are prospective are being asked to write their details, including the NIN on a rough sheet of paper.
“We will not participate in the exercise until the materials are made available.”
However, Sunday Vanguard learned that areas, where materials were not available, are the flashpoints the thugs wanted to attack.
In Delta State, the lingering crisis in the party took an alarming direction following the commencement of the exercise.
As it was in the past when the battle over who controls the soul of the party, especially in Delta Central threatened the fold, the same issue is still a challenge.
Specifically, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Oma-Agege, and the party chairman, James Erhue, are at the centre of the storm.
It was to avoid further escalation that the national leadership of the party suspended the membership registration and revalidation exercise in Delta.
Meanwhile, the exercise has so far been rancour free in Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Bayelsa states.
In Kaduna, our Correspondent observed that there was massive turnout in most areas. Given the huge turnout, the state chapter of the party had sought additional registration cards and other related materials from the national headquarters to register more people.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, Alhaji Yahaya Baba Pate, secretary of the party, dismissed claims by the opposition that people were not enthusiastic about the exercise in the state.
Asked if the recent altercation between the camps of two APC stalwarts in Kaduna North had any negative impact on the exercise, he said: “We don’t have any problem. There was an interesting stakeholders’ engagement that brought all elected officers together, and everybody is working towards the success of the exercise.
In Bayelsa State, unlike in the past when the party was highly factionalised, with congresses and primaries conducted along cleavages in different locations, it was observed that the registration and revalidation exercise is highly peaceful and hitch-free.
Speaking on the exercise, the state APC Chairman, Mr. Jothan Amos, said the party has never had it this good in the state.