The primary elections conducted yesterday (Friday May, 27) by the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC were characterized by controversies and violence in the few wards where the polls took place.
State Chairman of the APC, Austin Agada narrowly escaped being lynched as aggrieved members of the party protesting over irregularities and descended on him beating him to a pulp.
Eyewitness accounts say the incident happened in Otukpa, the headquarters of Ogbadibo local government area where the irate members of the APC vented their anger on Agada to send a strong message to the leadership of the party.
Agada is from Ogbadibo LGA where the angry APC members in a mob style manhandled him for claiming that there was an election in any part of the Benue South senatorial district of the State.
In a video which has gone viral, fisticuffs ensued as the State APC Chairman tried to convince the members that the primaries took place.
The APC members were heard shouting at Agada to produce evidence of result sheets and election materials to show where the primaries took place and as he tried to explain, the irked members pounced on him as gun shots could be heard while people scampered for safety.
An eye-witness at the bloody incident who pleaded anonymity narrated that it took the swift intervention of security agents who whisked Agada away from being lynched as he was heard shouting for help.
It would be recalled that the APC had scheduled to hold it governorship primaries on Thursday, May 26, 2022 across the country however in Benue State the exercise was marred by controversy and disagreement over the procedure to be used as the party’s leadership tried to impose the mode of direct primaries on the aspirants who have continued to bicker over the process.
A frontline APC governorship aspirant in Benue State, Senator Barnabas Gemade in a protest letter, a copy of which was made available to journalists, argued against the mode of the primaries.
Parts of the letter read in parts: “It is our instruction that on Tuesday 24th day of May, 2022 the National Secretariat of the Party issued a statement called “Revised APC Timetable for 2023 Primary Elections” wherein the Governorship Primary election was slated to hold on Thursday 26th day of May, 2022 by way of indirect primaries, in other words, by State Delegates.
“Section 84 of the (Electoral) Act bothers on Direct Primaries procedure and mandatorily enjoins the party to ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunities of being voted for by members of the party at a designated center of each ward of the state. This is in accordance with Article 20 (4) of the Constitution of the Party, 2022.
“Our client however only got wind of the said decision to nominate candidates by direct primaries but at about 3.00 pm on 26-05-2022 which is the day slated for the nomination of candidates by Direct Primaries procedure and he is thus completely and absolutely not given any opportunity by the party to participate in the primaries such that he can be voted for by all registered members of the party as mandatorily enjoined by the Electoral Act.”
“We therefore Urge the panel to proceed with the indirect primaries earlier approved by the party as all delegates are already in Makurdi, the headquarters of the state as required by law. In the alternative however if direct primaries must be adopted then the primary election should be rescheduled to give adequate opportunity to our Client to participate by appointing agents in all the 276 wards of the state in the interest of justice and that of the party”, the letter signed by J. Jinge, Esq read.
Another Governorship aspirant on the APC platform, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, SAN also berated the party over what he described as “non-conduct of the APC governorship primary election in Benue State”
In a complaint letter dated May 26th, 2022 addressed to the APC National Chairman, Aondoakaa argued that the APC did not conduct any primaries in the State.
According to Aondoakaa in the letter, “It has become expedient and very urgent to call your attention to the governorship primary election of our great Party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), slated for today Thursday May 26, 2022 with regards to its conduct by the Benue State Chapter of the Party. My principal, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, SAN is a governorship aspirant in the primary election.
“We wish to draw your attention to the fact that as at the moment, 7:00pm, no election-related activity is going on. My principal, as an aspirant has not been informed of the status of primary election which we have been duly informed is by indirect process. Even as we visited the venue of the election, nothing was happening and only a few confused delegates were seen loitering around with no clear direction. An inquiry from fellow governorship aspirants has only deepened the confusion as they are also at a loss as to what was really going on.
“Sir, recall that we were notified of the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC to conduct governorship election by indirect Primary (vide letters dated 23rd May, 2022 and 24th May, 2022) to the effect therefore, the delegates were elected between 16th-17th May, 2022 and were properly documented by the Benue State EXCO of the party; the list was forwarded to the party’s headquarters and INEC. The party has also made judicious efforts to comply with the relevant laws and regulations on the conduct of indirect primaries, including the Party’s internal rules and directives. As we expected that all is set for the conduct of the delegate primary to elect the governorship candidate of the Party for 2023 general elections, to the moment, the Benue State EXCo of the Party is yet to inform us of what is happening.
“Attempts to seek clarification from the NEC appointed Party’s Election Committee led by Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe has not yet yielded any result as the Committee saddled with the responsibility of conducting the Benue State Governorship Primaries Election could not be located.
“The situation has given rise to several rumours and created undue tension within the ranks of the Party. It is rumoured that instead of the planned indirect primary based on delegate election, some elements of the Party claim that they are conducting Direct Primaries. If this rumoured illegality is found to be true, it portends grave danger for our Party as it would have failed to give equal opportunity to aspirants including my principal to be voted for by members of our Party as envisaged under the indirect primary communicated to our principal. This would also fail to comply with extant laws and regulations in the conduct of primaries with the rumoured scenario, our party risks not presenting a governorship candidate for the 2023 general election. To this effect therefore, it has become imperative for us to dissociate ourselves, including my principal/governorship aspirant Chief Michael K. Aondoakaa, SAN from this alleged kangaroo dance by the various actors of the Party in Benue State in clear violation of extant regulations guiding the conduct of this primary election.
“Your Excellency, we are seeking your gracious and urgent intervention to guide the Party towards the proper conduct of the indirect primary to elect a governorship candidate for the 2023 general elections as issued by NEC of our Party in line with the relevant regulations to this effect. Furthermore, we respectfully draw your attention to Regulation 8 of the INEC Guidelines on Conduct of Primary Elections as well as Section 84(a) & (13) of the Electoral Act. 2022, which states thus;
“84(4) A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by any members of the party and shall adopt the procedure outlined …”.
“84(13) Where a political party fails to comply with the provision of the Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue…” Aondoakaa Campaign Organization’s Director General, Barr Dominic Nyam stated in the letter .