With the conduct of the INEC-certified primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State, the party is set for the governorship election. James Sowole, in Akure, writes on the primary election and the next towards the election
Barring intrigues and unforeseen issues from the Senator Alli Modu Sheriff faction of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State, the party is set for the November 26 governorship election. The party’s primary was described by many stakeholders as more of a family affair than a political contest in the real sense of it. The exercise produced the immediate past Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming election.
Jegede polled 760 votes as against the 22 votes scored by his opponent, Hon Saka Lawal. Like Jegede, Lawal was once a senior aide of the sitting governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko. Lawal had left Mimiko’s administration and the Labour Party and eventually became the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2012 election that ushered in Mimiko a second term.
Apart from the presence of adequate security personnel within and around the State International Event Centre, The Dome, the primary election looked like a mere meeting because delegates related well with one another and were orderly throughout the period that that the exercise lasted. The display of maturity by all that were present made the job easier for the electoral committee led by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson. Senator Meredith Chuba-Okadigbo served as secretary to the committee.
The process started about 8am with the accreditation of delegates. In all, 840 delegates, whose lists were in different categories, were supposed to participate in the voting. Out of this, 609 were categorised as ad-hoc delegates elected on the basis of three for each of the 203 wards, present state executive members of the party, past state executive members who are still members of the PDP, youth leaders of the party in the 18 local governments, women leaders in the 18 local government, secretaries of the party in all local government and party treasurers in all local governments.
Other categories of delegates were National Assembly members elected on the platform of the PDP, House of Assembly members elected on the platform of the PDP, the governor and the deputy governor.
In order to ensure that only bona fide voters were allowed into the main event hall, delegates were identified by party officials according to senatorial districts. Each delegate was identified with the party membership card before being given the congress accreditation card that admitted them into the hall where seats had been reserved for them on local government basis.
The accreditation of delegates was followed by the address of the electoral committee chairman, who explained the procedure and urged delegates to be orderly and see the contest as a family affair. Dickson said the goal on the minds of delegates and members of the party should be for the PDP to win the real Election.
In what looked like a mini manifesto time, each aspirant was given the opportunity to address delegates on their plans for the state and the party if elected as the governor. The voting proper began when officials asked delegates to file out on local government basis with the party chairman in each of the councils leading to certify that those accredited were those that would vote.
In order to make the process fast, 18 ballot boxes were provided for the 18 council areas so that delegates from at least two councils could vote simultaneously.
While the two aspirants sat beside each other watching the sorting and counting of ballots, agents and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission took active part in the process until the last ballot was picked. The election results were announced by Dickson, who said Jegede scored 760 votes while Lawal scored 22 votes.
Addressing the people, Dickson commended the delegates and all that gathered for the exercise for their orderliness and spirit of oneness demonstrated while the programme lasted. He said since the event was a family affair, nobody should be described as a loser.
“In the exercise that we have just concluded, all of us are winners, there is no loser. I appreciate your peaceful and orderly behaviour. Your attitude today shows that you are ready for the battle ahead. I am optimistic that you are going to repeat what happened in Bayelsa State in ondo State by working hard to ensure that the PDP wins the November poll,” he said.
In the spirit of sportsmanship, Dickson invited the two aspirants to the podium to address the delegates one after the other. Lawal, who commended delegates and party leaders for the exercise, promised to join others for true and genuine reconciliation because the party had a lot of work to do. He said he would consult with the leaders and issue a statement on the way forward. He denied the rumour that it was Mimiko that bought the PDP nomination form for him.
Lawal also declared that he would not leave the PDP for any other political party but would cooperate with others in the effort to ensure that the party became victorious at the governorship election.
Jegede, who started his acceptance speech with a thanksgiving song, joined others in the declaration of “no victor no vanquished” in the race.
“The race is a familiar affair. PDP is a large family and if there are differences among members of the family, we have to resolve them within ourselves. We shall open the door for reconciliation among members of the party,” he said.
While commending Mimiko, Jegede said “It is now time to talk about economy and economy.”
INEC’s Administrative Secretary for Ondoi State, who led the team of the commission, Kabir Omosanya, in an interview said the election conformed to the laid down procedure. Omosanya said the commission did not receive any injunction barring it from supervising the primary. He also said that the commission had not received any directive from the national headquarters to supervise any other primary of the PDP in the state.
Mimiko described the primary as the beginning of the PDP’s road to victory in November election, saying, “PDP would not only beat APC in November but will beat APC silly.” The governor called on members of the party to go back to their respective local governments, wards, units and neighbourhoods and preach Jegede and PDP to the people because the work hds just started.
However, the general belief in the state is that the last has not been heard about the PDP primary, as the Sheriff faction of the party has fixed another governorship primary election for PDP in the state for August 29.
Five aspirants, including three former commissioners in the cabinet of Mimiko, are still jostling for the ticket of the PDP.