Ondo APC Primary: Intrigues as Dress Rehearsal for the Bigger Battle of 2019


The Ondo State All Progressives Congress, APC, primary election has come and gone, but not the ripples it generated. With gale of party leaders’ resignations, acrimony and possible legal battles, the APC is a house not only divided against itself, but gladiators are only using the primary election as dress rehearsal for the battle for the soul of the party ahead of 2019. Samuel Ajayi writes

Shortly after the presidential election of March 28, 2015, former governor of Osun State and one time national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, had put a call to Senator Robert Ajayi Borrofice, to come and see him. The senator has politely told the old man that he should let him come after the governorship and House of Assembly elections when he would have time to attend to other things including visiting him. Sources told THISDAY that it was not that Borrofice could not create time to see the respected party leader; he was simply skeptical anything good could come out of the meeting and he had his reasons.

Apart from the fact that he knew why he was being sent for, he was not sure he would like to be taken for a ride again. He knew Akande wanted to discuss the 2016 governorship election in his home state of Ondo with him and the need for him to start “preparing to be presented as candidate of the APC.” Borrofice had been there before. He was also promised support in 2012 but at the end of the day, the ticket was given to Rotimi Akeredolu. In 2012, they even told him that Senator Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader wanted him but nothing came out of their ‘support’. Therefore, he did not want to be led by the nose the second time. They also wanted him to contest before but betrayed him.

However, he later found out that a top chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Pius Akinyelure, never wanted him because he felt Borrofice would feel too “big and uncontrollable”. Hence, he went for Dr. Bode Ayorinde, a university don. But there was another snag: Tinubu did not want Ayorinde. Rather, he wanted a certain Segun Abraham. Sources said Abraham had always been Tinubu’s boy and “business partner” and had always wanted him since 2012 when the ticket eventually went to Akeredolu. Akeredolu was also said to have got Tinubu’s support then after the intervention of a certain senior judge long rumoured to have been sympathetic to APC right from when it was Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.

Meanwhile, the reason Akande wanted Borrofice was because of his very strong grassroots presence; especially in his native Ondo North Senatorial District. Besides, he was never seen to have been Tinubu’s ‘boy’ and so the thinking was that he would come across as an independent-minded candidate that would not be seen to be holding allegiance to any interest. Still, Tinubu did not seem ready to have anything to do with that permutation.

Akeredolu knew long ago that he would not get Tinubu’s support the way he did in 2012. And that gave those who did not like Tinubu’s face within APC the opportunity to move in. Not only did they throw the weight behind ‘Aketi’, as he is popularly called, they provided him with all the logistics needed to flow both Abraham and Olusola Oke. Leading this line of pro-Akeredolu tendency were Babatunde Fashola, former Lagos State governor and now Minister of Power, Housing and Works, as well as former Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. Both of them, it was an open secret, Tinubu never wanted to be made ministers. Supporting them was Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, who was said to have helped Akeredolu mobilised funds from Abuja. As they were working in Abuja, they also got other contestants who did not really stand any chance of winning to ‘donate’ their delegates to Akeredolu. These included the likes of Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Tayo Alasoadura and Jumoke Anifowose, daughter of first executive governor of the state, late Chief Adekunle Ajasin.

There was also the angle of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Osun State governor, whose Special Adviser, Bolaji Ilori, was said to have worked for Oke with the hope that the latter would make him the deputy governor. Whereas, the “instruction” was that Aregbesola should work for Abraham. Aregbesola has since denied the allegation that he worked against Tinubu’s interest. In fact, he has visited the former Lagos governor in his home in Lagos.

Shortly after the exercise, Abraham congratulated Akeredolu. His words: “I congratulate Akeredolu who emerged with 669 votes at the primary election of our great party (the) APC, in Ondo State. My special regards and admiration for the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar, and his team for their sterling quality and integrity in conducting the APC governorship primary in Ondo State.” Speaking further, Abraham said he would continue to “contribute (his) quota to the development of our state in any way God directs.”

But the show of sportsmanship was not to last. On Wednesday, Abraham practically ‘withdrew’ his congratulatory message and rejected the outcome of the primary election “following gale of allegations and malpractices that rocked the exercise.”

Now the next stage is to practically cripple the party in the state with resignation of key party leaders in the state. These include the three senatorial chairmen of the party. In fact, as early as Monday this week, the party chairman for Ondo Central Senatorial District Chairman, Adegboyega Adedipe, resigned his position in protest against the handling of the party’s governorship primary election. And the other senatorial chairmen were said to be ready to follow suit. And rumours had it that the state party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, might follow suit any moment from now. In fact, a national newspaper (not THISDAY) reported during the week that the party chairman has removed his personal belongings from his office. Publicity Secretary of the party, Abayomi Adesanya, confirmed the resignation of Adedipe, adding that the party official had returned all the party’s property in his care to the secretariat in Akure, the state capital. Meanwhile, Olusola Oke, another loser to Akeredolu, is said to be planning to try his luck in another party. Sources said the plan was to ensure that the party is practically brought to its knees in the state to make campaigning difficult for Akeredolu.

Yet, in all this, the only person who did not see the handwriting on the wall was Tinubu himself. Those involved in the scheme had one target: ensure that he was embarrassed in the APC governorship primary. Others allegedly involved in the anti-Abraham ‘project’ included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, David Babachir, as well as Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai.

Not that alone, even Tinubu’s camp was not united in the primaries. The leader, Tinubu, wanted Abraham, Akande preferred Borrofice while Aregbesola indirectly worked for Oke. Though he denied this.

In all these, the target is 2019 for which permutations have started in earnest, some of them across party lines. The aim, as far as the Ondo APC primary was concerned, was to take as much ‘territory’ as possible from Tinubu ahead of 2019. El-Rufai is said to be toying with the idea of running for the presidency in 2019 with Amaechi being touted as his running-mate. Fayemi is said to be nursing the idea of running for governor again in Ekiti in 2018.

The implication of all these for the larger APC family is what many may have been wondering aloud about. Analysts feel the party is being systematically polarised ahead of 2019. A leader of the party confirmed this to THISDAY. He said the party has been ‘wounded’ long ago.

“Which party? Please. The party has fallen apart long ago. That is why the president ‘elbowed’ Tinubu long ago and the Presidency gave its tacit endorsement to all Fashola and co did in Ondo State. They could not have done that without ‘official instruction.”