Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
There are indications that intrigues and misrepresentation of facts may have been part of the heightened controversy over the decision of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to adopt Chief Rotimi Akerdolu as its candidate for the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election.
The warring parties in the raging controversy have taken divergent positions, with each justifying their positions based on the deliberations at the meeting of the National Working Committee of the party held to consider the report on the primary election.
THISDAY was able to obtain credible information on the proceedings at the various meetings held by the NWC to try and resolve the crisis.
One of such documents captured vividly the proceedings during the meetings as well as what led to the party’s decision to dump the appeal panel’s report on Ondo primary election.
The document narrated what transpired on the last day of the meeting where the national chairman informed the meeting that he had some level of consultations with stakeholders even though not exhaustive due to time constraints occasioned by the deadline for the submission of candidates.
On the last day of deliberations on the matter, the NWC members became polarised with some queuing behind the option to submit a dummy candidate to the INEC pending a political resolution, while the other group supported the decision to submit the name of the winner of the primary election.
Those in support of submitting a dummy argued that arrangement for credible and transparent accreditation were not adhered to.
They said it will be wrong to state in good conscience that the right aspirant emerged as a winner of the exercise. On the other hand, those on the side of upholding the result of the primary election, said since the primary election substantially complied with the rules guiding the process, it would amount to injustice if the name of the winner is not submitted.
From the account of proceedings as recorded in the minutes of the meeting, both those for and against the submission of Akeredolu’s name stood their ground with each side marshaling good reasons why they should have their way.
Having reached a deadlock on the matter, the national chairman called for balloting through the open secret balloting. However, an interjection came from the National Organising Secretary, Osita Izunaso, who drew the attention of the meeting to its previous decision in which the report of the primary election was adopted while that of the appeal committee was set aside.
He said that the implication of the decision was that the NWC had already voted to accept the result of the primary election and to submit the name of the winner unless NWC will have to reverse itself on the matter.
The report quoted Oyegun of having taken the decision to submit Akeredolu’s name at a point when it was obvious that the party had no option than to comply with the INEC deadline or risk being shut out from participating in the Ondo governorship election.
According to the record if the minutes of the meeting, Oyegun had assured members of the NWC that there will be consultations with stakeholders before any final decisions is taken.
The position of the APC leadership was also strengthened by the legal advice provided by the party’s National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, who after evaluating the appeal panel’s report opted for its outright rejection.
Muiz in his advice said : “ I have carefully gone through the report of the appeal committee on the petitions against the just concluded Ondo state governorship primary election. I have also taken into consideration the pieces of evidence relied upon by the committee in arriving at its recommendation that the election result be annulled and fresh election to conducted.”
He raised several posers including wondering whether there was any credible evidence unequivocally showing that such fake delegates actually participated in the primary election. He also raised questions as to whether the committee did verify that names of such fake delegates appeared on the register and how they were able to secure accreditation cards.
The legal adviser posited that the rule of the election is that once there is substantial compliance, the election must be upheld, adding that the appeal panel agreed with the position only that it suddenly summersaulted in its decision.
In its report submitted on September 14, the APC Appeal committee on the governorship primary, said that in view of the observed irregularities and for the sake of equity fair play, the result should be cancelled.
It recommended that a re-run election should be ordered immediately in order to beat the INEC’s deadline.
On the allegation about the distorted delegates list, the appeal panel recommended that a properly harmonised delegates’ list acceptable to all the parties concerned be compiled after election.
The report of the appeal panel signed by two out of the panel members, Helen Bendega and Alhaji Musa Umar read: “ In making the above recommendations one is not unmindful of the fact that there may have been substantial compliance in the conduct of the exercise. However, that consideration may not be sufficient reason to ignore such serious and weighty, identified irregularities.”
But there was a minority report put together by the third member of the panel, Ms. Nikky Ejezie in which he faulted his colleagues report, claiming that it must have been sponsored.
While rejecting the appeal committee’s report, Ejezie said that she found the procedure adopted by the two members of the appeal committee as unbecoming of a committee work.
Ejezie said: “ We couldn’t meet on Wednesday as the secretary of the committee claimed he couldn’t catch a flight from Kano to Abuja but will unfailingly be Abuja the next day being Thursday. But to surprise, I was invited to a meeting at Newcastle Hotel in Wuse II, .Abuja, a venue outside the Appeal secretariat a prepared fully typed report which I am sure emanated from external source was present to me on a request that I should append my signature as the final report of the Appeal committee.”