Monday, January 10, 2011

PDP senators, reps reject primaries over alleged fraud

From Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna) Adamu Abuh (Kano), Leo Sobechi (Abakaliki), Chuks Collins (Awka), Willie Etim (Yenagoa)

SENATORS and members of the House of Representatives from various state chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who lost at the just concluded primaries, have refused to concede defeat.

Citing mass irregularities in the entire process, they have called on the leadership of the party to cancel the exercise and order for fresh congresses in their states.

Also, some notable politicians, who earlier joined the race for the National Assembly but pulled out at the last minute, have given reasons for their actions.

In Ebonyi State, senators, who failed to realise their dreams at the twice-postponed senatorial primaries, have described it as shambolic and a mockery of the country's democracy. They alleged that the right materials were not provided while government machinery was deployed to intimidate delegates sympathetic to certain aspirants.

In Ebonyi North Senatorial District, Anthony Agbo shunned the primaries over alleged gross irregularities, violence and large-scale intimidation and "imprisonment" of delegates to vote for a favoured aspirant.  Similarly, in Ebonyi South Senatorial District, Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Anyim Ude, who had earlier repudiated attempts by a commissioner to anoint an aspirant, stormed out of the Afikpo voting centre to protest the "massive rigging" of the primaries.

The situation was the same in the contest in Ebonyi Central Senatorial District, where Governor Martin Elechi voted as a delegate. Senator Emmanuel Onwe, who shunned a last minute attempt by the leadership of the party to select a consensus candidate, called off his supporters, alleging that the exercise was not only riddled with errors but also programmed to produce a certain result.

He told reporters shortly after boycotting the primaries that "Yesterday (Saturday) half way through the process, we were informed that the wrong materials were brought; the wrong materials being the ballot papers. The returning officer informed all the contestants that they had brought materials meant for the House of Representatives and not for the Senate and therefore the process was stopped.

"We went back today (Sunday) and it became even more shambolic; it was a complete disgrace to democracy. Because not only did we not have the right materials, apparently the materials that were brought were Kwara State House of Assembly ballot papers, which were incomplete and improvisation was made, pieces of papers that were signed by anonymous individuals were used to complete the process. I feel ashamed to be a person that belongs to a country that calls itself a democracy."   

Both the PDP state Chairman Dave Umahi and the Returning Officer for the Central Senatorial primaries, Sam Edeboghae, who were at Onueke at the instance of Elechi, explained that the mix-up was caused by the departure of the first committee for Abuja with the original materials, adding that they rushed to Ebonyi based on the barrage of phone calls after the initial postponement.

Edeboghae said results of the voting on the Kwara State ballot papers and results sheets would stand, stressing that they were given to them from Abuja for the purposes of the senatorial elections.

In Bayelsa State, one of the PDP aspirants for Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency, Mr. Ajoko Perediyegha, has called for disqualification of the winner of the primaries, Mr. Warman Okoriba.

Ajoko also demanded the cancellation of the election, alleging that they were marred by "extreme irregularities."

In a petition to the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Perediyegha claimed that Ogoriba went to the venue of the primaries with thugs, who were not supposed to be there.

He accused Ogoriba, a serving member of the House of Representatives of coming to the venue of the primaries to harass and intimidate his opponents and their supporters.

Perediyagha also alleged that Ogoriba changed the approved delegate list and the ward executive committee list of all the 11 wards in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Council and was personally involved in the accreditation of delegates, adding that only those approved by him were allowed into the venue of the primaries.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'Abba has pulled out of the race for Alhaji Bashir Lado Garba of the Kano Central Senatorial District to emerge winner.

Na'Abba withdrew from the rerun primary ordered by the Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe-led panel.  

In the first leg, scores of aggrieved supporters of the party, who sensed that the affluent Garba was heading for victory as the results were being collated, stormed the venue of the primaries, disrupted the exercise, forcing Ogunlewe to call off the entire exercise.

Na'Abba had to withdraw from the race when he noticed that the situation was not going to be different during the rerun election.

The former Speaker, who was initially put forward as a consensus candidate for the seat, accused his opponent of expending stupendous amount of money to buy off delegates' votes.

Ogunlewe, who confirmed Na'Abba's withdrawal as well as the emergence of Garba as the victor, denied knowledge that money exchanged hands while the rerun primaries lasted.

He added that incumbent Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo defeated the Chairman of Kwankwasiya Group, Alhaji Rabiu Suleiman Bichi, while another relatively unknown politician, Alhaji Aliyu Saidu Bebeji outscored another Kwankwasiya nominee, Alhaji Nura Mohammed Dankadai.

The incumbent senator representing Anambra Central District, Chief Annie Okonkwo, who is seeking re-election to the Upper Chamber has emerged the flag-bearer of the PDP in his zone for the April general elections.

But, in another parallel primary of the party, Chief Chudi Offodile and Dr. Jerry Ugokwe claimed that they won the contest, while another aspirant, Mrs. Christy Okoye said there was no primaries at all in the zone.

Addressing the journalists at his Ojoto country home, Idemili South Local Council of the state yesterday, Okonkwo said he gave his opponents clear margin to emerge victorious in the keenly contested primary.  

According to him, he polled 257 to emerge victorious, while Offodile got 51, and Okoye, 19. The primary had Chief Joe-Martins Uzodike as the Returning Officer. It was attended by 327 delegates from the 109 wards in the senatorial district.

Offodile, however, gave a picture of his own version of the primary held at Emmaus House. He claimed to have polled 150 votes while Okonkwo got 50, and Okoye, 40. The election had Cyril Okafor as Returning Officer.

In Anambra North Senatorial District, Senator Alphonsus Igbeke and the widow of Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, Margery both claimed that they won the primary. Dr. Andy Uba and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, also alleged that they won the Anambra South Senatorial zone race. However, Okoye, a former Director of First Bank Plc, called for the cancellation of the entire process, declaring that no primary was held in the zone.

None of the PDP officials, especially the team led by Senator Joseph Waku agreed to speak to the journalists on the issue.

As the embattled Kaduna governorship aspirant of the PDP, Alhaji Othman Suleiman Hunkuyi, receives the blessings of the State High Court and the party's National Working Committee (NWC) to contest the primaries,  officials of his campaign team, have alleged deliberate attempt to scheme him out of the exercise by some party bigwigs.

At a press conference in Kaduna at the weekend, the Chairman of Hunkuyi Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro Suleiman, accused the state PDP leadership of not making the list of delegates available to the aspirant, pointing out that having failed to disqualify him over the issue of tax clearance, a group within the party was plotting to shortchange the aspirant at the primaries.

Suleiman explained that Hunkuyi has written several

times to the party to get the list of delegates to vote at the governorship primaries but his request was not granted.

He also alleged that the list of Kaduna delegates was yet to be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In his reaction, Alhaji Yau Usman, Kaduna State chairman of PDP, debunked the allegations, noting that the guidelines released by the national secretariat, showed that the primaries would hold today.