To Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, the incident of Tuesday, September 22, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, is one he will not forget in a hurry. It is one incident that should not even happen to him and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in this dispensation given the party’s ‘Change’ mantra.
The governor’s popularity dates back to his days as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. Oshiomhole is used to being cheered even outside his state.
Some years ago when Oshiomhole was invited to deliver the inaugural lecture at the Niger Delta University, NDU, Bayelsa State when Chief Timpre Sylva was governor, he was given a rousing welcome by students. The reception was such that Oshiomhole had to disembark from his helicopter to give the students a token before leaving.
But, on Tuesday, at the APC governorship primary election, the Edo governor was not prepared for the hostile reception he was to receive.
Oshiomhole arrived Yenagoa on the eve of the primary his committee, sent by the national leadership of the APC, was to superintend, met with all the aspirants and issued guidelines for the primary. A Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC or international passport was to be used to verify and authenticate delegates, he said.
But by the time Oshiomhole arrived the venue, around 12 noon, on the day of the primary, things had gone awry, as other members of the committee had been overwhelmed by intimidation allegedly orchestrated by some members of the state executive of the party who insisted that the APC membership identity card sufficed for accreditation.
The aspirants for the APC ticket ahead of the December governorship election in Bayelsa State were not spared the harassment either. Miscreants jeered and threw jibes at them.
Oshiomhole quickly moved to control the situation and called for a meeting with the aspirants. The meeting gave the aspirants the opportunity to air their observations and complaints. Apart from Sylva and a few others who wanted the exercise to continue, majority of the aspirants made case for the cancellation of the exercise.
After the meeting, Oshiomhole, with members of the primary election committee, was still trying to take a position, when, suddenly, the gates to the venue were let ajar by security operatives and hundreds of irate youths invaded the arena disrupting proceedings.
The youths sang, “Sylva has come ooo, we go gree ooo, whether you like it or not”.In the ensuing melee, most of the aspirants flee for fear of being mobbed. Oshiomhole, who had not made any public utterance since he arrived the venue, was startled.
What happened next unnerved the Edo governor. The state Secretary of the APC climbed the podium and declared that Oshiomhole had compromised the exercise.
Next to speak were the state Chairman of the party, Mr. Tiwei Orunimighe, and Sylva who asked the youths to retreat for the exercise to commence.
Some 40 minutes later, when the accreditation was delayed, the youths again invaded the arena, this time, hauling insults at Oshiomhole, insisting that he must conduct the election. Oshiomhole kept quiet.
It was Sylva again and the state party Chairman who assured the youths, saying the election will hold.
About 20 minutes after the second invasion, the Edo governor, who had figured out an escaped plan, having called for security reinforcement from the JTF, stood up and walked to the accreditation area, about 200 meters from the arena. All this while, he shrugged off entreaties by journalists to make a comment. Oshiomhole pointed that the table be set for accreditation. By now, the JTF reinforcement had arrived. Oshiomhole said he needed to go and eat and was whisked out through the emergency back gate by over 20 heavily armed soldiers.
No sooner had the Edo governor left than the state APC Chairman ordered for accreditation at about 5:30pm. After the accreditation, done haphazardly, was over, voting started around 6:45 under floodlights at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex.
According to the result of the primary released by one Nelson Alakpa, 807 delegates out of 1510, participated with Sylva scoring 726 to emerge winner. Warman Ogoriba scored 10 votes, Francis Ebinte 6, Christopher Enai 5, Timi Alaibe 4, Charity Vedelago 4, Diekivie Ikiogha 1, Imoro Kubor 1, Austin Ogionwo 1, Ebitimi Amgbare 1, while 8 votes were voided.