Though both are leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC from the South-South region of the country and played significant roles in the election that resulted in the transition of the former opposition party to Nigeria’s ruling party in the March presidential elections, there seems to be no love lost between Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State and Timipre Sylva, the former governor of Bayelsa State at the moment.
The bone of contention between the two was the primary held last Tuesday to select the flag bearer of APC for Bayelsa state gubernatorial election scheduled for next December.
Chief John Oyegun, the National Chairman of APC said in Abuja on Wednesday that the rancorous primary in which Sylva was declared the winner had been cancelled and a new exercise to select the candidate of the party for the gubernatorial poll would soon be scheduled.
“The primary has been rescheduled. It had to be called off due to security challenges,” Oyegun told reporters over the phone in Abuja.
The cancellation of the primary which Sylva was said to have won by 726 votes with his closest challenger Warman Ogoriba coming a distant second with 10 votes would no doubt be a cause for cheer for Timi Alaibe, former managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC who is generally regarded as the major contender against the former Bayelsa State Governor for the APC gubernatorial ticket.
Alaibe and 14 other aspirants for the ticket, reports indicated, had fled the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa venue of the primary midway into the exercise in fear of their lives. Ex- Niger Delta militants were reported to have taken over the venue of the primary, preventing the Oshiomhole-led Committee sent from the National Headquarters of APC from conducting the exercise.
At least, that was the allegation of the Edo State Governor who spoke to journalists in Benin on Wednesday few hours before the National Chairman of APC announced the cancellation of the results of the primary as declared by Honourable Nelson Alapa, a member of his committee. The Governor was unsparing in heaping blames on Sylva for the degeneration of the security situation and the rowdiness that marred the gubernatorial primary.
According to Oshiomhole, thugs loyal to Sylva virtually took over and prevented the real delegates from participating and accessing the venue of the exercise, thus preventing the primary from being held. He accused the former governor of preventing the use of long adopted APC standard national guidelines for the conduct of gubernatorial primaries. The main provision of the guideline was designed to ensure proper accreditation, such identification of delegates through the Permanent Voters Card, National Identity card or the International Passport. “This was to ensure that proper accreditation was done,” the Governor said. He noted that the same guidelines were used effectively in the recently conducted Kogi State APC gubernatorial primary and it produced an outcome which all the aspirants in that elections were happy with.
“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,” said the Edo State governor.
He told journalists further that Sylva rejected the guidelines which he said were designed by him and the National Secretariat to frustrate him despite all efforts to assure him to the contrary. He added that Sylva also insisted that the State Secretariat and not the National body that should conduct the primaries with active involvement of the state leadership of APC.
“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.”
Oshiomole said he had to call Abuja to prevail on the Joint Task Force to provide security for him and some members of his committee to leave the venue of the primaries because thugs had effectively blocked the gates under the instructions of Sylva.
The Governor accused the Police of working in cahoots with the Governor to frustrate the gubernatorial primary. He also declared that result of the primary could not stand since neither he, as the Returning Officer and the Chairman of the Election Committee, nor the next person to him who is the Secretary, announced it. In addition, he said Sylva was not issued with any Certificate of Return.
“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 clone 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.”
The subsequent cancellation of the primary indicated that the national leadership of the party has accepted the Edo State Governor’s recommendations.
But Sylva was not amused by the accusations against him by Oshiomhole. In a statement issued late Wednesday, the former Bayelsa State Governor accused the Edo State Governor of being the chief protagonist in the sabotage of the gubernatorial election. Sylva accused the Governor of deliberate sabotage of the primary which, according to him, began with the decision of the Oshiomhole Committee to postpone the exercise from its earlier date of Saturday, September 19 to Tuesday, September 22 .
“The primary has been rescheduled. It had to be called off due to security challenges,” The grouse of the delegates was that the primaries had been shifted once on Oshiomhole’s request. That shift caused enough hardship already. This, he said led to frustration among delegates. Furthermore, the former Governor said while Oshiomhole knew that accreditation of delegates for the primary was to begin at 8am, he arrived at the venue of the exercise well past 12 noon and instead of kicking off the event immediately, he proceeded with a meeting with the committee members and another meeting with the aspirants. He also said while Oshiomhole set the process of voting in motion, he left later on the excuse that he was going to eat while mandating other members of his committee to continue with the exercise. “The world needs to know that the Bayelsa State Electoral Committee is made up of seven members, and of the seven only Oshiomhole left. The other six remained, conducted the primary and declared Sylva winner of the exercise.”
The former governor also accused the Edo State Governor of working against his interest .