The primary election that produced the candidate of All Progressives Congress, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, has generated a controversy that the party has found difficult to resolve. This is especially owing to the allegations of intervention by forces outside the South-west in the determination of the next governor of Ondo State. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
On November 26, the people of Ondo State will decide who would steer the affairs of the state for the next four years. But some questions are still begging for answers in the leading political parties. On the part of the Peoples Democratic Party, there is still a lingering question on the candidate the Independent National Electoral Commission will eventually accept.
The question arose due to a protracted leadership crisis that polarised the PDP into two factions: the Ali Modu Sheriff and the Ahmed Makarfi factions. The former supported the candidature of a business mogul, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, while the latter presented the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, to the INEC.
But a federal court had issued an order, which declared Ibrahim as the authentic candidate of the PDP. It was a similar situation that played out in the just concluded election in Edo State. But the Edo case was resolved in favour of the Makarfi PDP.
By the court order, Jegede will not bear the PDP’s flag in the Ondo contest, except a higher court vacates the subsisting order and recognises his candidature.
So, in the PDP, internal rift is raging wide and wild with the leadership of each faction claiming legitimacy of the process that brought its candidate. With this, there is no end in sight except its national leadership quickly works out a practicable compromise that can produce a flagbearer that will be acceptable to the two factions.
APC is more deep-necked into crisis in the state than the PDP. But it appears the APC crisis has largely eased off, at least for now. But the fallout of the primary it conducted on September 3 is an albatross due to some grievances its national leadership could not resolve.
Three aspirants – Chief Olusola Oke, Sen. Ajayi Boroffice, and Dr. Olusegun Abraham – faulted the process that produced the APC flagbearer, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu. According to reports, the Appeal Committee the APC set up had recommended cancellation of the process. However, the APC National Working Committee overruled the decision of the appeal committee.
The NWC decision sparked criticism, mainly from the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC National Vice-Chairman (South-west), Chief Pius Akinyelure, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, among others. As a result, Tinubu called for resignation of the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who allegedly superintended the injustice.
Tinubu’s response to the NWC decision elicited vicious retorts, not just from Odigie-Oyegun himself, but also from the APC South-south and North-west caucuses. However, the controversy has eased. Tinubu has held his peace as well and distanced himself from the intrigues and politics that keep shaping and reshaping the next Ondo election.
Even though Tinubu has handed off the Ondo politics, Ondo APC is still replete with intractable crisis. Two aspirants – Abraham and Oke – that disputed Akeredolu’s emergence as the APC candidate have distanced themselves from the party. While Oke has defected to the Alliance for Democracy to pursue his aspiration, Abraham still stands aloof in the APC.
But what is more interesting now is the perception of the South-west leaders. Across different political affiliations, they condemn attacks on the APC national leader. For them, what transpired in Ondo APC was a calculated attempt to undermine Tinubu’s political influence.
Already, the South-west leaders have started interpreting the Ondo politics in the light of what culminated in the rise and fall of the First and Second Republics. The leaders who hold this view include a chieftain of the former National Democratic Coalition, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, and national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Like the politics that preceded the 1964 legislative elections, the South-west leaders believe the northern leaders have found a convenient alliance in some political actors from the region. For them, the purpose of that alliance is to decimate or cut into irrelevance the towering political influence of the APC national leader.
The South-west leaders are uncomfortable with the role of some serving and former governors in Tinubu’s travail. Also, they are suspicious of the intrigues of some ministers, who are currently serving in the President Muhammadu Buhari government. To these leaders, Tinubu has his own excesses, but there is no need to crucify him for any reason.
The leaders now believe Akeredolu has become a political tool in the hand of some northern leaders. They allege that political actors such as the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and the APC national legal adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, among others, have also become political tools in the hand of the Fulani oligarchy.
In the First Republic, for instance, the North found a convenient alliance with the Premier of old Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola. Consequently, the battle for the control of the old Western Region informed Akintola’s decision to form the Nigerian National Democratic Party. And the founding of the NNDP gained the support of the northern powers.
Eventually, the NNDP formed an alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress. This alliance, however, failed to undermine the political influence of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the country’s political landscape. But it sparked intractable political conflict that led to the collapse of the First Republic and then plunged Nigeria into multiple crises that still fester five decades after.
That is the perspective from which the South-west leaders now view Akeredolu’s emergence as the APC flagbearer. They allege that the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, among others are already working with some political actors in the South-west to bring down the APC national leader.
But for Fayose, the hegemony of Yoruba is already under attack and need to be reasserted. He argues that what is happening now is similar to the political tactics the North used against Awolowo in the 1960s. The governor believes Awolowo was sent to jail by the conspiracy and collaboration of some Yoruba with the external aggressors. “Tinubu is a prominent stakeholder. We should not sit back and allow some elements conspire with others to humiliate him,” Fayose insists.
According to him, “Most importantly, it is my position that irrespective of political affiliation, no leader of the Yoruba nation must be vilified unduly, especially by the same people who humiliated our past leaders. To me, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu should not be seen just as an APC leader, but acknowledged as a major stakeholder in the Yoruba nation that we must all protect beyond politics.”
Adebanjo blames Tinubu for going into political alliance with the North. Even though Tinubu forged alliance with the North against the interest of Afenifere, Adebanjo believes the gang-up against him in the APC “is an affront on Yoruba and its people.” He says it is unfortunate that some political actors have turned themselves to Fulani men.”
According to Adebanjo, on Tinubu’s “present predicament in the APC, people are expecting me to mock Tinubu. I will not mock him or join regressive forces to decimate him because what is after six is more than seven. Attack on Tinubu is not directly at him, but attack on Yorubaland.
“I am not shortsighted. The Fulani people want to break us up and cause division so that they can take over. We will not allow them to have their way. Really, Tinubu has made his mistake. I hope he has now learnt from what I told him then. When he went into the alliance, I warned him that they are conglomeration of incompatibles, but he chose to ignore.”
Adebanjo feels the gang-up against Tinubu “is a ploy to divide the Yorubaland so that the northern oligarchic powers can take over the South-west. I can see it already. Nobody can convince me about that. But we will not allow them to have inroads. We will not allow them destroy Tinubu politically.”
For Odumakin, there is a strong correlation between what is currently happening in Ondo and what culminated in the collapsed of the First and Second Republics. He said the first happened as a tragedy and the second as a fact, which he argues, might stoke public outrage if not well-managed. Odumakin condemns the use of federal might “to enforce unpopular will over popular will in Ondo State. If this is allowed to continue, the people of Ondo State will react at the appropriate time.
If the situation is not addressed, I foresee what happened in the Second Republic.”
Odumakin warns leaders of the Fourth Republic to be careful to avoid the errors of the First and Second Republics. He insists that the South-west leaders will defend the hegemony of the Yoruba race, which, according to him, some external forces are seeking to destroy.