Pockets of protests and threats of violence on Friday marred the conduct of the ward congresses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ad-hoc delegate election in the 105 wards of Bayelsa State.
The aggrieved PDP members were led by some PDP stakeholders loyal to the Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation.
Chief Tiwei Orunimighe, Hon. Bananas Endure and a former member of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Vivian Ere, barricaded the PDP secretariat demanding a cancellation of the process over alleged fictitious list of electoral officers presented to the Ebonyi Governor, Dave Umahi-led National Committee by the state chapter of the party.
Orunimighe, while addressing the national committee members at the party Secretariat, expressed displeasure over the processes leading to the conduct of the Congress.
According to him, “there are processes the conduct of the PDP Congress use to take.The party will agree with them and we go to our communities and bring results.
“But to our dismay the committee has not addressed us yet people are congratulating the exercise and process that have not taken place as first of its kind. They were claiming that it was good that someone has won. When the process have not even started.
“What we are asking is what are the modalities agreed upon by the committee and the aspirants? And who are the returning officers agreed and where are they coming from? We are very aware that it was the restoration group that gave you the list.
“Because,we noticed that when we were about to talk at the stakeholder meeting, the restoration group brought out a list that they have compiled. The question is that who are they?And where did they come from? Secondly, you told us that by 7am today, materials would be distributed. But we have not seen materials.”
The Governor of Ebonyi State and the Chairman of the Ward Congresses Electoral Committee for the conduct of Ad-hoc Delegate Election, Umahi commended the peaceful conduct of the protest and warned that anyone who engages in violence will provoke him to cancel the election process.
Umahi assured the angry PDP members that the committee will not be bias and would not compromise their integrity, adding that, “we will not manipulate the process in anyone’s favour. I want to say the process started yesterday and we all signed that we should conduct the process. Anybody suggesting that the process should be aborted are not suggesting the right thing because we are already in agreement with the aspirants.
“At the meeting, we declared the process open,and we asked for complaint but nobody raised their hands.”
In a swift reaction, the Chief Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation tackled the Ebonyi State Governor, explaining that the refusal of the aspirants to talk was due to the lack of access to the list of electoral officers presented to conduct the ad-hoc delegate election.
According to the campaign organisation, “neither its aspirant nor any other person in the governorship race had access to the list and composition of the electoral and returning officers until when the list was publicly announced by the Chairman of the Electoral Committee.”
A statement issued by the Administrative Secretary of the Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation, Professor Seiyefa Brisibe disclosed that “every effort by aspirants to examine the names on the list which could have led to objections where necessary was thwarted by the leadership of the party in the state which also constitute the Restoration Team.”
He alleged that Electoral Committee Chairman simply collected an already prepared list by the State Chairman of the party, signed it as an approved list for the three-man delegate election, adding that when aspirants requested for the list, they were promised that copies would be made available to them and that the list would be post on the aspirants’ social media platform.
“It was not until the very last minute when the Committee made public the list and composition of the returning and electoral officers that all the other aspirants discovered that most of those mentioned were brothers, sisters, nephews, cousins and relations of the Restoration Team aspirants. The first time we knew about the content of the list was when it was being read to everybody at the party secretariat.
“There was no way we could have protested the list and the composition when we did not know the people that were named. The question to answer is: why was the list and the composition of the returning and electoral officers not allowed to be reviewed by the aspirants before it was made public?
“Things came to a point that whenever we insisted on seeing the list, we were told to wait. At a certain point, we were told that someone had gone to photocopy the list. There were obvious indications that the list was already compromised and was deliberately hidden from public scrutiny.
“For the Committee to therefore put the blame on the aspirants for not raising objections over the flawed procedure adopted in the conduct of the Ad-Hoc delegates election is to be economical with the truth because it was difficult to protest over a list that none of us had access to.
“Before this incident, we had no reason whatsoever to doubt the integrity of the Ward Congresses Electoral Committee led by His Excellency, Governor Umahi to handle the assignment without fear or favour. Now we know better.
“It is based on this that we demand a complete cancellation and suspension of the exercise as we no longer have confidence in the Electoral Committee and the state leadership of the party to conduct the exercise in line with laid-down rules of the great Peoples Democratic Party.”
Meanwhile, another group within the party, PDP Youth Group raised the alarm that a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission and Gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Timi Alaibe, allegedly engaged armed miscreants to disrupt the local government Ward Congresses scheduled for Friday.
The group claimed that Alaibe and some of his cohorts were arming miscreants to cause commotion to disrupt the planned delegates congress.
The Chairman of the group, Comrade Lionel Ebilade, alleged that Alaibe and a few unpopular aspirants, had opted to disrupt the exercise with the realization that they lacked the grassroots support to win any contest.