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HARVEST OF PROTESTS AS ACN CONCLUDES PRIMARIES

By NBF News
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IMPOSITION; affirmation; selection, are some of the words used to describe the recent primaries of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the emergence of its candidates for April elections.

Individuals, in Lagos, Anambra, Ogun, Ekiti, Edo and other states in the South have continued to protest the manner the primaries were conducted. Delegates and some aspirants are still furious over what they described as the imposition of candidates by the party leadership of and have refused to accept the result of the primaries or recognise the candidates.

As the protests raged, the ACN National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande told the protesters to quit the party if they were not pleased with the primaries.

He admitted that imposition was the party's style and said, 'this is not a matter of an individual but the party. Nobody should accuse ACN of imposition because that is our style. Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another party. Anyone carrying placard around is wasting his time.

'We know the efforts we made before the party became what it is today and where were they when we were making those efforts. It is when they saw that the party is popular that they are attracted and we don't expect them to hijack the party because of their dirty money.'

Akande claimed: 'The British democracy is the oldest in the world and we cannot see parties there conducting primary elections before choosing candidates. They do it by picking competent hands that are trustworthy in the judgment of the party. So, we believe that elections under a democratic setting is when we are contesting with other political party during polls.'

According to Akande, it is the party leadership that understands the party manifesto and knows what the people really want.

But from the protests and complaints, the people said that they wanted a properly conducted primary where the delegates will choose their candidates. Most of the aspirants have never stopped complaining of how the primaries, 'were more of affirmation of the candidates. In most cases, candidates were returned unopposed or got the tickets on consensus arrangements. Candidates were imposed making the election a mere jamboree.'

And the blame is on the party leadership, who chose to impose candidates rather than allow the votes count.

In Lagos, tales of manipulation and imposition of candidates was the refrain in most of the Local Councils and Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), where an aspirant said that,  'this was mere jamboree and imposition of candidates. The result does not reflect our votes.'

The protesters turned the party's secretariat at Acme Road, Ikeja into a protest ground as some delegates threatened to cast their votes for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if ACN failed to address their demands. Armed policemen saved the party's state chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale from being lynched by angry party members who also claimed that the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had personalised the machinery of the party.

Tinubu's wife, Oluremi, clinched unopposed, the party's ticket for Lagos Central Senatorial. The Permanent Secretary, Bureau of Lands, Olugbenga Ashafa got the ticket for Lagos East Senatorial district after a two-term senator, Dr. Olurunimbe Mamora was said to have been forced to step down for Ashafa, who clinched the ticket unopposed. Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon got a second term ticket for the Lagos West Senatorial district.

A former Head of Service in Lagos, Yakub Balogun, won the ticket for the House of Representatives to represent Lagos Island Federal Constituency. Babatunde Adejare will represent the party for the Agege federal constituency.

Other candidates for the House of Representatives are James Faleke and Solomon Adeola. However the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Ikuforiji Adeyemi, was returned unopposed for the Ikeja constituency.  It will be his third term in the House of Assembly representing Epe Constituency. He contested and won in the ticket in Ikeja Constituency, where he was returned unopposed.

Delegates from Agege Constituency (I) claimed that the primaries did not represent the true democracy ACN preaches.  Delegates from Ifako Ijaye Constituency (I) also complained that, 'for the House of Representatives, we voted for Adeola Adefolabi, but the party announced Yomi Ogunusi as winner. We don't know Ogunusi. He does not live in our area. If the result is not rectified, we will vote for PDP during the election.'

Ogunusi's spokesman Wale Akinleye said the protest was sponsored to discredit the good image of the party.

A delegate from Surulere said they were aware of the plan to impose candidate in most constituencies.  According to him, 'the initial arrangement was that all members would vote as delegates during the primary. But it was later changed that 10 delegates from each of the 37 LCDA will vote. This was also changed to 10 delegates from the old 20 councils to vote. We suspected inconsistency and wondered what would be the outcome of the primary.'

Delegates from Bayeku Igbogbo, Ikorodu also said the party leadership should be prepared to witness another loss, 'if Ajomale failed to announce the true winner of the primary.'

In Lagos, delegates recounted the plan to lock out delegates when votes would be counted. Some journalists who waited to confirm the result claimed that they were denied the entrance into the hall during counting. 'At about 12 pm when the votes were to be counted, the Commissioner for Tourism, Tokunbo Afikuyomi asked us to leave the hall. We latter learnt that he recalled selected government media at about 3 pm,' said a journalist.

An official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) complained that, 'the candidates emerged under questionable circumstances.'

The Assistant State Publicity Secretary, Chief Funso Ologunde, who issued a collated result sheet and recorded tape of the announcement to other broadcast media explained that they called back journalists at about 12 am but only two returned.

In Anambra, some party officials were alleged to have unilaterally annulled the results of the National Assembly primaries.

In a statement, a group under the aegis of Anambra Youth Vanguard warned the party leadership to reverse the injustice or suffer untoward loss at the forthcoming polls.

The leader of the group, Chief Obi Ubabuko accused former governor of Anambra Dr Chris Ngige of dumping the 'true results' of the primaries in parts of the state to announce ' concocted version.

In Edo state, aspirants in Esan Central, West, Igueben Federal Constituency, described the ACN primary as window dressing to satisfy some bigwigs.

According to an aspirant for the House of Representatives, Esan Central, West, Igueben, Dr. Sylvester Odion, 'the primaries in my constituency were fraudulent and manipulated to achieve the design of the party stalwarts who had anointed candidates for the various elective positions in the state.'

While calling for a re-run, he said, 'if the party feel constrained by time, it should declare me the party's nominee for the constituency. The reports from the 30 wards show that I am the most widely accepted candidate.'

Odion faulted the process of the primaries, pointing out that the planning was inadequate.  He added that a new form of rigging was introduced into the primaries, namely, improper counting and counting by substitution.

In Ekiti State, aggrieved party members took to the streets of Ado-Ekiti, to protest the alleged manipulation of results of the primaries.? The protesters said it was strange that the party had not published the results of the primaries.

Their leader, Alhaji Isiaka Adedipe, said the state Governor, Kayode Fayemi, hijacked the collation of election results from the party and forwarded names of the losers and non-aspirants to the INEC as candidates.? Adedipe described the alleged replacement of the names of the actual winners of the primaries with some close associates of the governor as 'injustice.'

The protesters said that while the Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Opeyemi Bamidele, won the senatorial ticket in Ekiti Central, Babafemi Ojudu, came second, but his name was sent to INEC. He claimed that although Bamidele did not seek the House of Representatives ticket for Ado-Ekiti/Irepodun/Ifelodun constituency, his name was sent to INEC as the candidate for the area.

In a statement signed by some aspirants in Ekiti, Femi Kehinde, Senate, Osun West; Oyetunde Rasaq, House of Assembly, Ede North; Jayeoba Kamoru Alagbada, House of Rep: Akinloye Kabir Adesola, House of Assembly, Ede South; Afolabi Lukman, House of Assembly, Ede South; and Adeola Adekunle Atanda, House of Reps, Iwo Constituency, tried to notify the public of what they called 'illegality and undemocratic tendencies of our party leaders in the ACN, Osun State in the conduct of affairs leading to imposition of candidates to carry the flag of the party in the 2011 election to the state house of Assembly and the National Assembly.

They stated that, 'aspirants were asked to pick nomination forms upon payment of statutory fees, and were screened from January 9, 2011 to January 12, 2011 by a screening committee, preparatory to the primary elections. The party guideline stipulates procedure for the primary election held on January 10, 2010.

'After the screening, 'the party did not move a step further to conduct party primaries in accordance with its guideline and constitution. We were all kept in the dark, until Saturday January 15, when like a thief in the night, the party, published the names of its candidates without conduct of primaries.

They explained; 'article 5(ii) of the party's constitution states as its objectives the attainment of political power through legitimate, democratic and constitutional means for the purpose of cultivating an egalitarian society based on the principles of equality, freedom and social justice. And article 6(i) (a) confers members with right to contest election on the platform of the party without any discrimination whatsoever. Furthermore, Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010, insists that parties shall nominate its candidate for election only through primary elections.

Ahead of the April elections, there are fears that the CAN might find itself in difficult times as the aggrieved aspirants worry that internal democracy, which is the choice of party candidate to herald an egalitarian society is not respected. There are fears that, 'We would not allow our party to fail or go into ruins, through misguided actions, because the ACN is a product of our collective efforts.'