Some delegates and agents of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State have alleged irregularities in the conduct of the Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency primary on Saturday, insisting that the exercise fell short of democratic tenets.
The primary, which saw the declaration of Ojotu Ojema as the winner against a social crusader, Melvin Ejeh, has attracted widespread protest and controversies as most delegates insist that the result did not reflect the true wishes of the people.
Ojema won with 27 votes against Melvin Ejeh, who was said to have garnered the delegates’ 25 votes in the primary held on Saturday, in Ugbokpo, Apa Local Government Area of the state.
Some delegates who felt shortchanged by the party following the outcome are now demanding a total cancellation of the result as well as the conduct of a fresh primary.
They particularly accused the Benue State Commissioner of Finance, David Olofu of meddlesomeness, saying he took control of the election venue to assault, harass and intimidate delegates not favourably disposed to fall to his financial inducement.
But in a swift response to the allegation against him, the Commissioner, Olofu, said the allegation was not only baseless but untrue, saying those spreading”lies” against him only want to tarnish his reputation.
A delegate, NgbedemAchegbani Fodio, who was allegedly subjected to brazen assault and harassment by the Commissioner, claimed the Benue cabinet member openly intimidated delegates he perceived unwilling to do his bidding.
“We were subjected to untold humiliation in the hands of the commissioner simply because we chose to protect our votes.
“Most worrisome was the open use of state funds to lure as well as coerce delegates to vote for his preferred candidate. This is a very crude approach which negates modern democratic principles,” he said.
Also, a delegate from Apa Local Government Area, Mr Ohemu Solomon, speaking, alleged that the primary was “marred with irregularities, assault, intimidation and financial inducement by officials of the state government, led by the Commissioner of Finance who, açcording to him, had no business in the voting hall.
Similarly, Mr Jacob Odey, who identified himself also as a delegate from Apa Local Government Area, in protest after the exercise he described as a sham, called on the leadership of the PDP, to review the primary, as according to him, “the outcome was influenced.”
“We came to the vicinity to vote for Hon. Melvin Ejeh, because of his contributions to our communities and grassroots appeal, but on reaching the main hall where we were supposed to cast our votes, we saw our elder statesman, the commissioner of finance in Benue State, David Olofu, who called us and told us clearly that we must vote for Ojotu Ojema, else we will or we won’t return without negative consequences. For fear of our lives, some of us had to comply.
“But one thing is sure, Hon. Ojotu Ojema will lose the election to the APC candidate because he’s not popular. This is even besides the fact that he is from a village that is currently holding several appointments,” he said.
He said some party faithful in the constituency who are not satisfied with the outcome of the primary has already begun threatening mass defection to the opposition All Progressives Congress or other political parties if the result is not reversed to reflect their votes.
An agent to Amb. Ejeh, who identified himself as Hon. Usman Suleiman Alilu, alleged gross irregularities in the conduct of the primary, saying the result fell short of any democratic standard anywhere in the world.
He frowned at the ‘irregularities’ and the consequent declaration of Ojema as the winner, explaining that he openly protested the development.
“The unconstitutional involvement of the Benue State Commissioner for Finance, David Olofu resulted in the change of result in favour of his candidate, Comrade Ojotu Ojema, who initially was presumed to have lost to his revival, Amb. Melvin.Ejeh.
“It is clear that the best option is to cancel the Apa/Agatu House of Representatives primary election since it was marred by irregularities, assault, intimidation and financial inducement occasioned by the unconstitutional intervention of the Benue State Commissioner for Finance,” he said.
Some party faithful who made the allegation of using public servants as delegates had cited the development as a concrete ground to invalidate the entire process.
Again reacting, the Benue State Commissioner for Finance, dismissed claims that he was posted on election duty to another area outside Apa, where he hails from asking the people with the claim to submit evidence.
Even as he admitted that he was at the venue of the exercise, Olofu denied influencing any delegate or officials during the exercise.
“Contrary to the allegation that I intimidated delegates and induced them to vote for a particular candidate, there was nothing like that. You can make your finding to know whether what they are saying is true or not. I cannot do what they are accusing me of doing, “he said.
He also denied the allegation that some of the delegates used for the primaries were known civil servants.
“That cannot be true. Do your findings to determine the veracity or otherwise of their allegation if you are not sure of what I am telling you, “he charged.
Describing the development as a show of shame and an affront to the dignity of humans, an observer, Akobi John, who monitored the exercise, said, “keen watchers of the political rascality are of the opinion that Olofu be called to order.
” Most surprising is that he had boastfully informed the people that it is only what he wants that can work in the federal constituency, including the imposition of candidates for any political or elective office.
“It is baffling and quite uncultured that a high profile government officeholder could stoop low to the level of harassing, assaulting and intimidating those he was expected to give directions towards sanitising a process,”
Açcording to him, “The brazen show of power and arrogance during the primary elections, especially the House of Representatives primary is enough to negatively impact the fortune of the PDP in future general elections ”
“His wild and aggressive disposition during the electoral process, leading to the assault and intimidation of one Ngbede Achegbani was the height of his insidious disregard for human life,” he added.
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