By Felix Nwaneri and Temitope Ogunbanke
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been gripped by tension as the ruling party holds its state congresses across the country tomorrow.
While a few state chapters of the party have already harmonized positions to ensure that the exercise is hitch-free, it is anxiety in most states as the various blocs and factions battle to control the party’s structure.
The state congresses will elect officials who will run the affairs of the party in states for the next four years. Among states that will be battle ground are Imo, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Oyo, Ogun, Cross River, Benue, Ondo, Kogi and Taraba. Crises have trailed the ward and local government congresses in these states and there are no signs that tomorrow’s state congress would be an exception.
In Lagos for example, it is a fierce battle among loyalists of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for the chairmanship of the party. Already, six members of the party have declared interests to replace the outgoing chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale.
They are former Head of Service in the state, Dr. Sunny Ajoseh; former members of the Senate, Tokunbo Afikuyomi and Ganiyu Solomon; a grassroots politician, Alhaji Mutiu Are; former Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Tunde Balogun and the incumbent Vice Chairman (Lagos West APC), Chief Funso Ologunde.
A party source, who confirmed the list to New Telegraph, yesterday, said the party leaders were divided over who would emerge as Ajomale’s successor and that is why none of the aspirants has been unanimously endorsed ahead of the congress.
He said though members of the new executive would emerge through consensus arrangement, leaders of the party in the state were yet to decide as at yesterday, who would be chairman among the aspirants. But he hinted that the chairman may likely emerge from Lagos Central senatorial district.
His words: “Though the chairmanship race seems to have been narrowed down to people from Lagos Central, only Tinubu can decide who will be the chairman among the aspirants.
Nobody can predict what Tinubu will do because all the aspirants are close to him and he may decide to back anyone of them for the position.” Also speaking to New Telegraph, a member of the State Working Committee (SWC), said: “A lot of people are showing interest, but it is only those who collected forms that we know are contesting.
Nobody can say this is the person who is going to be the next chairman because the calculation may change at the last minute.
In fact, some members of the present executive are not even sure whether they will return or not. So, we are all looking forward to Saturday to know the next executives.” In Taraba, there was a call yesterday for the state congress to be postponed.
The Secretary of one of the factions in the state chapter of the party (Unity Forum), Mr. Aaron Artimas, who made the call, said that at least six local government areas might have their ward congresses cancelled as a result of massive irregularities that marred local government congresses. He listed the councils to include Ibi, Donga, Lau, Takum, and Ussa and added that the ward congress in seven out of the 10 wards in Jalingo Local Government Area also stand the risk of cancellation.
“Some aspirants came in with desperation and were willing to do whatever it took to have their persons on the delegates’ lists.
That is why we had a situation where the duly assigned returning officers would collect materials and these would be snatched from them by hoodlums hired by desperate politicians,” he said.
Artimas accused the party leadership of not playing fair and taking sides with the Minister of Women Affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan, against other aspirants.
He said: “Some of the aspirants have lost electoral value to a great extent and they felt the only way to succeed was to rig. Unfortunately, the current party leadership in the state is not being fair to all.
They have taken sides with Senator Aisha Alhassan, who has promised to return them to their offices. And we believe that she is being used by some political interests in the state to destabilise the party ahead of 2019 general elections in the state.
”It would be recalled that most governors of the party had seized the opportunity of the May 5 and 12 ward and local government congresses to affirm their grip on structures at the grassroots. Results of both exercises also show that most senators and ministers lost control of the party’s structure in their respective wards and councils.
It was, however, mixed fortunes for the governors of Imo and Benue states, Rochas Okorocha and Samuel Ortom, who lost to opposing camps in the their respective states. In states under the control of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) such as Rivers and Akwa Ibom, political appointees like ministers and heads of agencies of governments and parastatals held sway.
Among senators who had poor outing in the ward and local government congresses were Senators Shehu Sani, (Kaduna Central), Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North), Ajay Boroffice (Ondo North), Solomon Adeola (Lagos West), Magnus Abe (Rivers South East), Nafiz Gamawa (Bauchi North), Rabiu Kwankwaso, (Kano Central), Lanre Tejuosho (Ogun Central), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South), David Umaru (Niger East), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) and Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central). The ministers are Chief Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture), Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works and Housing), Abubakar Malami (Justice) and Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs).