A mixture of excitement, fear and anger, on Monday, trailed the chairmanship primaries of the Oyo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the exercise turned parallel in some local government areas.
While the conduct of the primaries was peaceful in some places, it was characterised by open anger in others, culminating in the hurried postponement of the exercise, just as parallel primaries were held in a few centres.
The party had earlier fixed last Thursday, for the primaries that were later rescheduled for March 8 as part of the preparations for the May 15 chairmanship and councillorship elections announced by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).
After cancelling the March 4, 2021 scheduled primaries, the party, in a statement by its chairman, Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha, constituted a five-man committee headed the state organising secretary of the party, Mr Taiwo Alagbe, to interface with the aspirants and the leadership of the party across the 33 local government areas “for the purpose of building consensus and brotherliness among the aspirants as the party picks her candidates in a transparent and democratic manner.”
Nigerian Tribune’s investigation revealed that there was palpable fear and anger caused by sudden change of some venues of the elections as against the earlier announced premises of all the 33 LGAs.
From the venues designated for the cancelled and yesterday’s elections, it was learnt that 22, out of the 33, venues had been changed according to information made available on social media platforms.
A top-level source in the party alleged: “The venues were changed; it was a fight for the soul of the party. In fact, it was a ploy to rig elections that led them to change some venues and we know. There are some local governments where there were no parallel primaries.”
Nigerian Tribune’s visits to some venues of the exercise showed mixed feelings: excitement, fear and anger in some quarters.
For instance, in Oyo West, there was allegation of violence against some power brokers in the area. Shortly before the election, the party replaced the presiding officer for the election, according to the state secretary of the party, Alhaji Wasiu Adeleke: “This is to bring to our notice Mr Tunde Ogunlana that was initially announced as the presiding officer has been replaced by Mr Oladimeji Babalola.”
In Ibadan North-West, like in some other areas, there was relative peace as delegates unanimously elected the caretaker chairman of the council, Alhaji Ramon Adepoju, as the candidate for the May 15 election.
However, the exercise was marred by violence in Lagelu Local Government Area with at least one person injured amid accusations and counter-accusations of the invasion of the venue by political thugs. One of the contestants was accused of hiring the thugs to disrupt the exercise.
In Ibadan North, the exercise was postponed indefinitely due to perceived irregularities. The party’s state youth leader, Mr Adekola Adeoye, who was a delegate of Ibadan North-West, said, “In Ibadan North-West, all the delegates unanimously elected Alhaji Ramon Adepoju. Three other aspirants had earlier stepped down for him before now.”
In Ogbomoso zone, there were parallel elections in Ogbomoso North, Ogbomoso South, Oriire, and OgoOluwa local government areas, except in Surulere where a source hinted that there would petition.
In Ogbomoso North, the home of former Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Honourable Mulikat Akande-Adeola, and a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party, Dr Saka Adegbite Balogun, there were parallel exercises. Held at two venues, the present caretaker chairman of the council, Alhaji Ibrahim Ajagbe, and the caretaker secretary of the Ogbomoso Central Local Council Development Area, Honourable Kabiru Akanji, emerged as candidates.
The two candidates traded words on the authenticity of their emergence. While Akanji maintained that the election that produced him held at the accredited venue, Ajagbe expressed confidence that the party structure, including all the delegates and executives of the area and Dr Balogun, a BoT member of the party, were present in their venue. While Akanji said: “Ours held at Liberty Event Centre, the accredited venue. I have emerged victorious in the exercise”, Ajagbe stressed, “We have the majority of the executives, the delegates in Ogbomoso North and they know that we are in charge. Dr Balogun was at our election; the party chairman in the area, Honourable George Ogunlade, was here too. We know that was some foul play. We plead with our governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, to look into this issue for the sake of our party in Ogbomoso zone.
“Our leaders at the state level should remember that former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, Senator Fatai Buhari, Senator Ayoade Adeseun, Mr Sunday Dare, Honourable Segun Odebunmi, among others are in our zone and we need to mend our wall ahead the 2023 elections. Those people that they want to use against Akande-Adeola are an army without soldiers.”
A source and an aide to Akande-Adeola, Comrade Ezekiel Agbomojo, said: “A lot of security agencies were present in their election.”
A stalwart of the party, who pleaded anonymity said: “In Oke-Ogun zone, parallel elections held. Everybody was announcing themselves and this is ridiculous. The party has gone.
“From Iseyin, they have sidelined the state chairman. 90 per cent of the structure belongs to the chairman. In Kajola, Baba O.K. Salam was also relegated. In Iwajowa, Farinto was not taken care of in the scheme. A similar thing happened across the zone. Baba Adetoro’s interest, I learnt, was also schemed out.
“This doesn’t speak well of a party that wants to stay in power. Minorities have taken over the majority because the returning officers danced to their tunes.”
The exercise went peacefully in Saki East with an affirmation of choice candidates common in several local government areas.
The exercise in Oke-Ogun was a power tussle between loyalists of the governor, those of the deputy governor, Rauf Olaniyan and Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council, Hosea Agboola.
It was gathered that the governor is keen on having his loyalists at the helm of affairs of the local government to serve as loyal foot soldiers for forthcoming electoral battles in the state.
A call by the Nigerian Tribune to a top official of the party for official comments on issues concerning the conduct of the primaries was declined, as he simply said: “I won’t speak on the matter.”