The governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State has come and gone, but the intrigues that played out during the exercise may haunt the party for some time to come. James Sowole, in Akure, reports
Acritical prediction that came to pass at the recent governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress ahead of the November 26 election in Ondo State was the one made by the winner of the election, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN. Akeredolu, who did not hide his position on the reported endorsement of one of the aspirants, Dr Olusegun Abraham, by the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said before the election that Tinubu would be shocked by the results of the election.
The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association had during the controversies over the endorsement of Abraham said Tinubu had lost his leadership position by taking sides with one aspirant after the leaders had assured them of free and fair primaries.
Apart from Tinubu, Akeredolu also had a running battle with the state chairman of APC, Mr Issacs Kekemeke, who was accused of making attempts to actualise the wish of the national leader of the party. Kekemeke was alleged to have made attempts to use the party machinery to ensure that Abraham won the primary. This had also caused some executive members of the party to pass a vote of no confidence on him.
As expected, Akeredolu’s position was considered by Tinubu’s loyalists as an affront on the leader of the party and the last man standing when the coast was very tough in the South-west in the camp of the progressives.
Moreover, the very visible role played by Tinubu before, during and after the 2012 governorship election of the then Action Congress of Nigeria in Ondo State, when Akeredolu was the candidate, came to mind, as many people saw him as an ungrateful person.
Despite the support allegedly given to Abraham by Tinubu against Akeredolu, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria defeated his major rival and 21 others. Specifically, Akeredolu scored 669 as against 635 scored by Abraham.
For some of the aspirants, the deed had been done with the defeat of Abraham at the primary and they did not hide their feelings about it right inside the hall after the announcement of the winner. “We thank God. We have been delivered from the hands of Tinubu. We don’t want to be colonised,” one of them said.
To these people, Abraham was not the only one defeated, but also his political godfather, Tinubu.
The result of the election did not shock only Tinubu, it also shocked was the state chairman of the party.
As the Yoruba saying goes, “When a blind man threatens to cast a stone on anyone, the person must be very careful because the blind man may have instructed somebody to act on his behalf. “
Akeredolu displayed utmost confidence few days to the election, boasting that he would win the exercise if a level playing ground was provided. The election has been won and lost, but several allegations after the declaration of the results point to the fact that the contest is not yet over and all is not well within the party. The general opinion in the state is that the crisis over the primary may definitely have negative effects on the governorship election.
Demonstrating his displeasure at the results of the primary, the APC Central Senatorial chairman, Mr Adegboyega Adedipe, resigned from his position and joined the chairmen of Ondo East and West local governments, Mr Akintunde Samuel and Mr Adeola Ademulegun, respectively, to petition the Primary Election Appeal Committee, calling for the nullification of the results of the exercise.
In the petition, the leaders urged the appeal committee to conduct a fresh primary and alleged that the exercise was characterised by malpractices. They also alleged that a strange delegates’ list was introduced on the eve of the election after they had all gone to sleep and that it was the doctored list that was eventually used for the primary election.
The petition read in part, “Names of 47 per cent of the delegates in Ondo East were either deleted or substituted with people who are unknown to the party as executive members. Some of the injected names are not even aware of the development and so did not come for the primary.
“We wrote a petition to the primary election committee chairman on the morning of the election and it was reiterated that only people that had been voting in previous primaries would be allowed to vote with a promise to stand down the voting process for Ondo East and West local government areas. We were shocked that the committee never honoured the pledge.
“In all, a total number of 64 names were injected into the delegates’ list. The names were unknown to the party. For instance, somebody who never contested any election and some even unknown to the party suddenly became ward chairmen in wards four, six, two and seven of Ondo East local government.
“Our total valid delegates are 135 out of which 64 were disenfranchised, meaning, 47 of the delegates on the unlawful list were illegal voters.”
They stated that fake delegates were brought in, in the process of moving them between the accreditation centres and the voting centre.
The petitioners said if the exercise was cancelled, the appeal committee should order that accreditation and voting should take place at the same venue during re-run primary.
Similarly, first runner-up in the exercise, Abraham, who was the common enemy of other aspirants before the primary has rejected the results. Abraham, who had earlier conceded defeat, declared in a statement that the result was unacceptable to him “considering the plethora of staggering facts of anomalies that have since emerged to the demerit of the exercise.”
In the statement by the director-general of his campaign organisation, Chief Olu Adegboro, Abraham said he was baffled by “the gale of allegations and facts of malpractices that have since rocked the conduct and process of the Ondo gubernatorial primary election.”
He said though in the spirit of sportsmanship he had congratulated Akeredolu, but “the news however is that sordid and staggering facts have since emerged on how the process leading to the primary election was manipulated and compromised.
“It is now beyond doubt that the delegate list used on the day of the primary election was doctored and strangely injected with a mind blowing number of delegates who are neither executive members of our party nor statutory delegates.
“To say the least, the manipulation of the delegate list, highly skewed accreditation process, and the entire processes leading to the conduct of the primary election has cast the darkest stain on the result of the primary election held on the 3rd September, 2016.
“Against this background, coupled with the change and integrity that our party preaches and practices, and having widely consulted with my numerous supporters, I have reached the hour of decision to fall back on the internal mechanism of our great party to seek redress so that the end of justice will be served and more importantly, our democracy may endure.
“To this end, the outcome of the September 3rd APC governorship primaries in Ondo State is unacceptable and I hereby appeal against same.”
Unless the reconciliatory moves being made by the party yield positive results, the APC may not realise its dream of producing the next governor of Ondo State after Mimiko. This is because some aggrieved aspirants were said to have started discussions with political parties that had not conducted their primaries.
Also, the people of Akokoland were said to have been embittered about the non-emergence of the candidate from the area because of their belief that it is only a governor from the area would help to redress their infrastructural challenges.
Traditional rulers in the Akokoland were reported to have held a meeting before the primary that the people of the area would support any party that fielded an Akoko man as his flag bearer. As part of the fallout of the primary, protests erupted at Ikare, the headquarters of Akoko North East Local Government Area against a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Stephen Olemija.
Olemija, who represents Akoko North East/Akoko North West Federal Constituency, was accused of working against the interest of Abraham, who is his kinsman. The lawmaker was said to have worked for the senator representing Ondo Central at the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Tayo Alasoadura, who scored 206 votes during the primary.
THISDAY gathered that the events that unfolded at the governorship primary of APC in Ondo State were not only about the election in the state, but also part of the calculations towards the 2019 presidential election. According to findings, Akeredolu got support from some governors and people in the presidency in order to weaken Tinubu’s influence ahead of the next presidential election.
The APC leader was said to have lost the control of the party machinery in Ogun, Oyo, Edo and Kogi states while the control of Osun State hung in the balance, as the party leadership in the state was said to have worked for another aspirant against Abraham.
With the outcome of the primary election, many doubt if APC would be able to put up a challenge strong enough to wrest power from the ruling PDP in Ondo State.