Youths yesterday took over the venue of the inauguration of the newly elected national executives officers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja for more than 30 minutes, protesting against the choice of the party youth leader.
The inauguration ceremony, which got underway after the initial disruption, had some prominent leaders of the opposition party in attendance .
However, two of the contestants for the office of the chairman of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi and a former Governor of Borno State, Senator Modu Sheriff, were conspicuously absent.
Also, most of the governors on the party's platform were not in attendance.
Just before the ceremony was to commence protesting youths stormed the Sheraton Hotel, venue of the event, in their numbers , wearing a T-shirt bearing the photograph of the controversial youth leader, . Mr. Ibrahim Dasuki Jalo.
For more than 30 minutes, the national leaders of the party, including General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), were held hostage while the inauguration programme was partially disrupted as two different groups of youths suspected to be supporters of the national youth leader clashed with another youth group which was opposed to his election over what they called inconsistency in his age.
The event, slated for 11a.m. however, had to be delayed till 11: 40a.m. when the Organising Secretary of the party, Osita Izunaso, intervened, pleading with the protesters that their grievances would be looked into and resolved.
Since his election as the national youth leader last Friday, there has been controversy over the real age of Jalo.
Speaking on the issue of some aggrieved party leaders who may have stayed away from the inaugural ceremony yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said every leader of the party was invited to the event.
He said the party was aware of some of its members who are aggrieved over the election during the convention but that it had commenced measures to reconcile them.
"I will tell you that every member of the party, every leader was invited to the inauguration, some excused themselves while others are not even in the country. I know the issue that have been agitating peoples mind is that as a fall out of the national convention where definitely some people did not achieve their goal, how will that affect our party, especially talking about people like Ikimi and Sheriff.
"Honestly our take is that these people are very committed to our party and we do not believe that a minor issue of the convention election will be enough to push them out of the party.
"In politics, like life, there is conflict management and I am happy to say that from Saturday, the new chairman has been going round meeting these aggrieved persons in a hope that in a couple of days time, all matters would have been reconciled. We do not claim to be perfect but we conducted a convention which we believed was free, fair and transparent.
"In the process, one person will have to emerge but what we did not do is that we did not shut out any person. Even when there were single candidates we did not do affirmation, we still went ahead with the election," he said.
On the issue of the over-aged youth leader, Muhammed said: "We should not allow emotion to becloud our sense of judgment. The youth leader was born on April 13, 1971, and we challenge anybody who has a contrary information to come forward. The father of Jalo is alive, the birth certificate is with us and as at the time we went for screening there was no age limit for who can be youth leader in APC."
He said the APC would not be ashamed to apologise to Nigerians if the party finds out that it was misled, adding that so far, no one had come up with any contrary information
The party spokesman said all the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could say was that the youth leader contested the House of Representatives in 2011 and that he claimed he was 49 years.
"We are not going to be bullied by anybody. We are very transparent and very open, anybody who has his birth certificate which is different from the one we have let him come forward," he said.
The natural publicity secretary said an amendment had to be made on the floor of the convention after which he was cleared.
"Now there are two schools of thought, the amendment that was made on the night of the convention, was it for future elections or the present ones? These are the issues I believe we are going to sort out but two things are very clear, he never lied about his age and secondly as at the time he contested he did so under the constitutional provisions and guidelines of our party. If there are issues, we will look into them, " he said.
Meanwhile, while performing the inauguration, the former interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, said the APC has become a truly pan-Nigerian political party that has now given our long-suffering people hope.
"Hope that this democracy will indeed survive. Hope that the dividends of democracy will not continue to elude the people. Hope that Nigeria will not become a one-party state. And the hope that our country will soon join the comity of developed and truly democratic nations.
Akande, who was flanked by top party leaders, including Buhari, Senator Bola Tinubu and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, described the newly-elected National Executive Committee (NEC) as products of transparent, credible and rancour-free process.