A panel despatched by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to conduct the House of Assembly primaries in Adamawa State has accused the governor, Bala Ngilari, of leading other state party members to intimidate its members, detain them for days, while state agents seized election materials and rigged in fake candidates.
In details filed at the party headquarters in Abuja, and seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the panel said its members were harassed on the instruction of the governor, who demanded that they recognise his candidates or risk being attacked.
While the events unfolded, the committee said, security agents did nothing to assist them.
During one of the exchanges, the governor openly told the panel he could not guarantee the safety of its members, according to complaints sent to PDP national chairman, Adamu Muazu.
The panel said throughout its stay in Yola, its members were not allowed to address authentic candidates of the election.
They said the governor gave orders that they should not be allowed to go anywhere outside the presidential lodge where they stayed.
“We were constantly threatened, abused, harassed and even physically molested by thugs, the suspended PDP state chairman, suspended PDP state secretary, the PDP state organizing secretary as well as other agents of the governor,” the panel said.
In the end, the panel members said they were forced to address the media and deliver candidates backed by Mr. Ngilari, before being forced into a chartered aircraft manned by state agents who escorted them back to Abuja.
Journalists in Adamawa confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that there was confusion during the press briefing on Saturday, and that the chairman of the electoral panel, Tim Ihemadu, and his team, were compelled to announce the purported winners despite his refusal to do so.
Mr. Ihemadu and his team have now formally complained to the national leadership of the party, rejecting the outcome of the election.
The spokesperson for the PDP, Olisa Metuh, could not be reached Tuesday for comments on the decision of the party on the matter. He did not respond to telephone calls, and did not return them.
A spokesperson to Mr. Ngilari, Phineas Elisha, said the governor acted to ensure the safety of the team members. He denied they were attacked or harassed.
Ordeal in Yola
But Mr. Ihemadu and the secretary of the panel, Victoria Nyam-Isha, provided troubling details of their experience in the hands of the governor and officials of the PDP in Adamawa.
“We were practically kidnapped and held under house arrest from Saturday morning to Monday afternoon,” the panel said.
The team said on arrival in Yola on Saturday, its members were informed by the state acting chairman of the PDP, Jingi Rufai, and the acting Secretary, Fati Nyaro, who received them at the airport, that they needed to meet the governor as the state leader of the party.
The team met with Mr. Ngilari, the Commissioner of Police, the Director State Security Service, and two officials of PDP in the state, the chairman, Joel Madaki, and secretary, A. T. Shehu, both on suspension.
The first sign of trouble came after the governor presented a court document requiring that Messrs Madaki and Shehu be recognised as chairman and secretary of the party respectively, and that a list of candidates different from what was approved in Abuja be used for the elections.
The court paper was not served on the PDP in Abuja, the panel said.
When the team insisted the national headquarters of the party was unaware of the court order, Mr. Ngilari warned that he could not guarantee their safety in the state if they failed to comply with the court orders, the petition sent by the panel states.
The panel said they were later driven to a hotel owned by Mr. Ngilari, where they met a large number of party officials and “thugs” who threatened them for not accepting Mr. Madaki and Mr. Shehu as party chairman and secretary.
The panel said their efforts to explain that they could only work with the materials given to them by the national secretariat of the party, who gave them the assignment, drew more anger and crowd.
“Some of the thugs began to physically molest Committee members including insults in the presence of policemen and officials of the party,” they said.
The election panel said Mr. Ngilari, thereafter, sent in some elders, who ferried them to the presidential lodge.
There, the situation was no different.
A spokesperson to the governor, Mr. Elisha, told PREMIUM TIMES the panel was moved to the lodge for the safety of its members.
He said the hotel had become too “rowdy”.
But members of the panel said their being moved to the presidential lodge on the orders of the governor was simply a ploy to keep them hostage.
The team said despite security presence there, thugs were allowed into the building to harass them.
While security agents offered no help, they disallowed them from leaving the lodge for the rest of their days in Adamawa.
They said when the police eventually agreed to escort them out of the building, party supporters returned and forced them to surrender all election materials to Messrs Madaki, Shehu and the state organizing secretary, Mr. Prambe.
“By evening on Sunday, we were again compelled to begin receiving results in our heavily barricaded Presidential lodge. Our movements were severely restricted and monitored by thugs and security agencies and we were not allowed any access outside the presidential lodge except during periodic visits to the Governors lodge,” the panel said.
“We were held in strict isolation from any officials except those allowed by the governor and his agents,” the committee said.
The panel also said it did not conduct any election in Yola, but was only given results collated by the governor’s agents on Monday morning.
“We were ordered to sign the result sheets which we resisted and ordered to brief the press, which we did highlighting our difficulty.
PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters, who attended the event, confirmed there was confusion at the Presidential Lodge, during the briefing.
He said trouble started when the chairman of the committee, Mr. Ihemadu, presented the results in duplicate copies to the party executives, but the suspended chairman of the state chapter, Mr. Madaki, insisted that Mr. Ihemadu announce the names of the winners.
Mr. Iheamadu, however, said announcing the names of winners was outside the constitutional mandate of his committee, according to our reporter.
“I have the guideline and I am working in consonance with the guidelines that was given to me to conduct this election,” Mr. Ihemadu was quoted as saying at the briefing. “I have done my work, and if you believe my work is not properly done, you have the appropriate quarters to channel your complaints to.”
As pressure grew, our correspondents said Mr. Ihemadu handled copies of the result to a member of the Committee, Sani Aliyu, who did the announcement.
They quoted Mr. Ihemadu in an earlier speech as speaking of how he met a very “charged” atmosphere in the state, and how at some point, he succumbed to the wishes of party executives.
“Because we are Nigerians, and we know what is happening in Adamawa State, I and members of my team decided that it was not going to be proper that we add to the crisis in Adamawa State,” he said. “We decided in our wisdom rather than to do the needful and in consideration of the need to have peace, we continue with the process.”
Returning from Yola
In his petition to the party, Mr. Ihemadu said after the briefing, his team members were escorted to the airport at about 1:30p.m., where they boarded a chartered plane escorted by security agents and some government officials to Abuja.
“At Abuja, the government convoy trailed us to our destination, but we had to escape from the convoy to prepare this special letter to the National Chairman,” the panel said.