The election of new national officers of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was, Saturday night, turning into a no-contest after nearly all the candidates for the 66 offices in the party stepped down.
The no contest among the candidates, however, did not deter the desperation of some of the factions in the states to get the ascendancy over one another at the convention floor.
There was a bloody fight among the two factions of the party from Delta State while contending factions in Imo and Rivers States played out their confrontations less violently.
Those who stepped down for their rivals claimed they did so in the interst of the party, the President and, in some cases, their local political leaders who had been approached by national leaders like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
However, as of press time, there were still negotiations on conditions to get the opposing candidates for the office of National Auditor zoned to Anambra State to step down.
Nevertheless, the squabble for the post of National Organising Secretary of the party, zoned to Imo State, remained unabated as at press time as the two major forces, Senator Osita Izunaso, who is the incumbent, and Emma Ibediro, who is purportedly the candidate of Governor Rochas Okorocha, were still unyielding.
Among those who spoke besides President Muhammadu Buhari included the outgoing national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the chairman of the convention planning committee, Governor Muhammad Baduru of Jigawa State and Tinubu.
The fight among the Delta State delegates of the party started after members of the Otega Emerhor-led faction of the party accused the Great Ogboru/Ovie Omo-Agege faction of taking up the seats meant for them in the Delta pavilion. The Otega faction members alleged that Omo-Agege used his position as Secretary of the accreditation committee to seize their accreditation while at the same time allowing his supporters to take over the whole pavilion meant for the state.
The two factions who first clashed at the accreditation centre where some people including Francis Ugbejevwe, secretary of the Warri South Local Government Area chapter of the party were brutalized subsequently took their fight to the convention ground.
Otega faction members after gaining accreditation reportedly at the instance of the national chairman, gathered at the first pavilion close to the entrance and after food was passed round to the members they moved as a team just as President Buhari commenced his speech to the state pavilion. There was initially exchange of taunts before it turned into a free for all with chairs, sachet water and sticks being freely used. The fight continued for about five minutes before soldiers from the Brigade of Guards moved in to separate them.
The fight between the Imo State delegates was, however, not as vicious. The state’s pavilion had been taken up by the Allied Forces opposed to Governor Okorocha.
Some supporters of the governor had made an attempt to displace the Allied Forces, they were, however, firmly but quietly rebuffed with some exchange of taunts.
The conflict between the factions in Rivers State was, however, scaled down but the presence of delegates from the two states led to the combined delegation from the state spreading themselves into the Plateau State pavilion leading to some fisticuffs which were, however, not escalated.
In his valedictory speech at the event, outgoing National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said he was at peace with himself having had a fulfilling time in office.
“When I look to my left and right, I feel a deep sense of fulfillment. If you read the stories on the social media, you would think that the party was on the verge of implosion. That it had divisions within it that were fatal. But you look around and see one happy family”, he said.
He hailed President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and Chief Tony Momoh for coming together to form the APC in a bid to rescue Nigeria. He equally paid tributes to members of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party nPDP and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA who later joined the then newly-formed APC.
“It is because of you, that I look left and right and see a strong and united party. I see a vibrant party, of passionate followers who are ready to follow our President because of his principle leadership in spite of the crude abuses, insinuations and fake stories that has been hauled in his direction of which he has not allowed to dissuade him in anyway or detract him from his determined course.
Saying he was handing over a united party, even as he thanked his colleagues in the outgoing executive, he said: “My colleagues of the outgoing NWC, I thank you for the fantastic cooperation I have received all these four years. Yes, our arguments were sometimes almost getting muscular but at the end of the day, we provided the kind of leadership that has brought the party to this point today. A strong, United party. Yes, there are divergent views here and there but the essence is that the APC at the end of the day, is a strong party, a passionate party that believes in its ideals and the vision of Mr President to give this nation the best leadership. I thank the delegates who are here today, because it was the same group that elected me four years ago and today, they are here to perform the same function”.
Speaking earlier, Chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Jigawa state Governor, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, said the convention was not a platform for unnecessary rivalry but an avenue for all contestants to fraternize in the spirit of true brotherhood.
He expressed optimism in the ability of the new National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to steer the party yo victory in the 2019 general elections.
Tinubu, in his own speech, called for unity even as he bemoaned what he labeled as the failures of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he blasted for putting the country in its present difficult position.
He said: “We must show the people that we conduct our internal affairs differently than other parties just as we adhere to different ideas and policies than these other parties do. They are backward. We are progressive. They are despotic. We are democratic. Now, we must walk the same as we talk.
“Today I appeal to you to accommodate each other by giving greater emphasis to the progressive bond that unites us so that we attain victory in the electoral battles to come.
“The success of the APC convention today is such that it sets our eyes at the edge of the spear.
“Under President Buhari, Nigeria has found its rightful course. Discipline and collective purpose are taking root. Government has become accountable. Bleakness turns to hope. “The old malpractices of the PDP that have soiled what should be our beautiful national home. We now must continue cleaning it for the benefit of all Nigerians, even for the members of the PDP who have done so much harm because we are a party of compassion and togetherness not one of malice and intolerance.”