The seven-man panel mandated by the interim national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to conduct primary that will produce the party’s candidate ahead of next month bye-election for Imo North senatorial district has broken into factions.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the seat vacant, following the death of Senator Benjamin Nwajumogu in December 2019.
It was gathered that two separate results sheets which declared Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and Honourable Frank Ibezim as winners of the primary were submitted on Friday night to the APC national organising secretary at the national secretariat in Abuja.
It was learnt that while the chairman of the committee, Senator Ajibola Basiru, submitted result sheets which have Ibezim as the winner of the primary, Alhaji Umar Gana submitted another result which said that Ararume is the APC standard-bearer for election.
Addressing newsmen, Basiru, who is representing Osun Central senatorial district, alleged that three members of his team whose name he did not disclose absconded from their hotel rooms and therefore did not participate in the process that produced Ibezim.
Flanked by the secretary of the committee, Chief Samuel Ogbuku, Ajibola maintained that four members of the seven-man panel conducted the primary which took place in 64 wards, adding that the other three members whom he claimed absconded offered no reason for their action.
He said: “Although we had a 7-man committee, since Thursday afternoon, I haven’t set my eyes on three members of the committee and as you know the rule of the committee, it is operated on a simple majority. I am the chairman and I have a secretary and two other members with me, which helped us to form a quorum to be able to do our work.
“The work started with the 7 members until about noon on Thursday after the election was almost completed in all the 64 wards where the election held.
“The report we presented showed the composition of the committee and the engagement of stakeholders in Imo State.
“The election was conducted free and fair. There was no rancour. It was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission and the police and other security agencies. We didn’t receive any adverse report of a violent incident.
“At the end of the exercise, the result was announced publicly in the presence of INEC and Police at Okigwe, the senatorial headquarters of Imo North senatorial district. Everything was done in the public glare. We submitted our result to INEC. At the end of the day, the aspirant that got the highest votes is Honourable Frank Ibezim and he is the person declared as the winner in my capacity as the chairman of the election committee and his name has been submitted to the Organising Secretary of our party moment ago.
“We also sent a copy of our report to the election appeal committee, in case there may be an Appeal emanating from the exercise. We have submitted a report to the Police and INEC before we left Imo State.”
The senator, however, claimed that there was no crack in the team, noting that his faction of four was in the majority.
“I don’t know of any problem. The party appointed me as the chairman and appointed the secretary. As a member of a committee, you may decide to participate in the activities of the committee or not to participate. As at Thursday noon, we all had 7 members of the committee who were active and participated in the process. There is pictorial evidence to back this claim. There was no dispute, no rancour. Suddenly I just can’t see the three members. We went to check their rooms, as I talk to you now, I have not set my eyes on them.
“If there was a dispute, they should be able to tell you (media). They should tell you where they went when you see them. I reported them to the police that I can’t see them. We checked their rooms where they left the television sets there on, we had to break into the rooms for fear that nothing untoward had happened to them. They absconded and four of us were on ground to do the work and you know that 4 is greater than 3. In our party, the day will not come when 3 will be greater than 4.
“If my committee is not recognised, I will not be here. We just presented our report to the Organising Secretary,” Basiru said.
But speaking separately with newsmen shortly after submitting a report of his faction, Alhaji Gana declared that the report submitted by his panel which proclaimed Ararume as the winner was authentic.
Gana alleged that Senator Basiru and his team stayed in their hotel rooms to write result sheets and did not visit any of the 64 wards where the direct primary was conducted.
Asked by newsmen, if the results submitted by his faction was written on the result sheets handed over to the seven-man panel by the interim leadership led by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, Gana said he wrote the results on ordinary sheets since the one given the panel were in the custody of Basiru.
”No, it is not necessary we have to write on a result sheet. Just bring your own result, the important thing is to bring your own result, not necessary on a result sheet. The party gave us a document, if the leader of the committee who is in the possession of the document and the result sheet, if he said he is not going out, then I should go and sleep? No! You can write on the paper and come to the party and explain to them that this is what happened. It is left for them to act or not to act. We have given our result to them and explained to them what happened and they said they are going to look into it. We gave them and they collected it, you can ask them questions and they will answer you,” Ghana said.