Chukwudi Akasike and Sampson Itode, Port Harcourt
TWO candidates, Mr Tonye Cole and Senator Magnus Abe, emerged winners of the parallel governorship primaries conducted by both factions of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State.
Cole came out victorious in the indirect governorship primary held in Port Harcourt on Sunday when he polled 3,329 votes while his closest rival, Dr Dawari George, got 491 votes.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs came a distant third with 38 votes while Abe got one vote.
Eighteen votes were declared void by the Jafar Isah-led Rivers Governorship Primary Committee.
It was, however, a different story at the primary held by the APC faction loyal to Abe as the senator was declared the winner of the Sunday’s direct governorship primaries conducted in the three senatorial districts of Rivers State by the APC.
The returning officer, Dr Chigbo Sam Eligwe, made the announcement in a press conference at its Secretariat in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Abe who won with 144,929 votes followed by Dumo Lulu-Briggs who got 3,344, Dawari George getting 1,606 and Tonye Dele Cole 882 votes.
Meanwhile, there was tension in Rivers as the APC in the state held two parallel governorship primaries in different parts of the state.
While the Rotimi Amaechi-led APC conducted an indirect primary on the Igboukwu field in D-Line, Port Harcourt, the Magnus Abe faction adopted the direct governorship primary across different local government areas of the state.
Earlier before the exercise in Port Harcourt by the Amaechi-led APC, there were explosions near the secretariat of the party at about 12.30pm.
The last explosion scared supporters of the Amaechi-led APC as most of them rushed out to have a glimpse of what happened less than 50 metres away from the party secretariat.
However, the exercise went on peacefully as of the time of filing this report.
Before the primaries, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC in the state, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, accused the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, of trying to impose his preferred aspirant, Tonye Cole, on the party.
Lulu-Briggs also claimed that certain persons had been handpicked from various wards as delegates to the primary in breach of the party’s constitution and guidelines.
He explained that names were being added and deleted from the delegates’ list.
Lulu-Briggs, however, called for the postponement of the governorship primary in the state, saying this was necessary in order to enhance transparency.
“When the NWC reached the decision that indirect primaries be adopted for the governorship primary in Rivers, as a loyal party man, I accepted the decision in good faith despite the fact that there are pending litigations in various courts, which might vitiate and truncate the process.
“I thus ramped up my campaign, but soon discovered that our party structures from the state executive committee, local government and ward excos across the state have been directed by Rotimi Amaechi, leader of our party in the state, not to allow me access to our party faithful and delegates, but to only support the aspiration of his preferred aspirant, Tonye Cole.
“It is clear from the foregoing that the minimum standards to guarantee a free and fair primary today (Sunday) are nonexistent and any primary held today will be a mere sham and a perfidious travesty.
“To this end, I, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, most graciously appeal to the National Chairman of our great party and the NWC to, as a matter of utmost urgency, postpone the governorship primary for Rivers State so as to correct the anomalies herein complained of because the current arrangement falls short of the minimum standards stipulated by the Electoral Act and our party constitution.”
Reacting, the state APC Publicity Secretary, Mr Chris Finebone, dismissed Lulu-Briggs’ claim, saying, “It is not correct.”
However, a source close to Amaechi urged governorship aspirants to leave the minister alone and face the primaries.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, maintained that the leadership of the party would meet with all stakeholders after the governorship primary in the state.
In another development, a faction of the APC in Rivers State, led by a governorship aspirant and lawmaker representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe, conducted its governorship primaries across the three senatorial districts of the state.
The polling officer in Omuanwa, Ward 7, Ikwerre LGA, Eleonu Ndidi, said voting was peaceful.
He said “We started accreditation started by 7.30am, voting started 8.00am and the entire process ended by 12.30pm. The entire election was peaceful and the turnout was impressive. We are packaging all votes, which will be taken to the local government collation centre.”
Also, voting was peaceful in Ward 3, Elele, Ikwerre LGA, where Chidi Wihioka, a lawmaker representing Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency exercised his franchise.
Wihioka maintained that delegates were currently non-existent in Rivers State as the State High Court had annulled the earlier state congresses held by a faction of the party.
He insisted that National Executive Council of the party had approved direct primary for the APC in Rivers.
But vote counting was ongoing in Port Harcourt at about 7 pm, even as two of the governorship aspirants, Abe and Lulu-Briggs, were absent from the place, where an indirect pattern of voting was adopted.
The leader of the party in the state, Amaechi; Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside; and a former acting MD of NDDC, Ibim Semenitari, were at the voting centre in Port Harcourt. (Punch)