As the date for the governorship election in Ondo State draws near, leading political parties are changing from issues based campaign to sensationalism and name-calling, writes James Sowole, in Akure
As leading candidates for the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State still battle with litigations bordering on eligibility for the poll, their political parties and campaign organisations have embarked on another aspect of campaign: allegations and counter allegations. This has been either to put relevant government agencies on their toes or gain sympathy and whip up sentiments among the electorate for political advantage.
The tempo of activities is rising as the election day draws near. The parties have stepped up their campaign activities to outwit one another in political war since all of them are in familiar terrain.
As usual, the three leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress, the Alliance for Democracy, and Peoples Democratic Party have been accusing each other of untoward activities over the forthcoming election.
In this round of campaign, accusations are not only against the political parties and their candidates, institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission, judiciary, security agencies, and the presidency are not spared. To the three political parties, their respective plights are not because of their own actions or inactions but due to the perceived role being played by the rival parties.
To the Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP national caretaker committee, whose candidate, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, was substituted by court order with Mr Jimoh Ibrahim of the Alli Modu Sheriff faction, the current travail of its candidate is not without the undercurrent activities of some people in the presidency.
Though, many chieftains of this faction of the PDP had said this times without number, but the allegation reached its climax on Wednesday, November 9 at the State’s New International Event Centre, The Dome when the Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko alleged that there are some cabals in the Presidency want to stop Jegede from contesting the November 26, governorship election in the state.
Mimiko, who spoke at a lecture in honour of the founder of Odua Peoples Congress, Dr Frederick Faseun, however said that President Muhammadu Buhari was not part of the plot to deny Jegede the opportunity of contesting the election.
It was alleged that some people in the presidency were working against Jegede so that the APC candidate, which is at the centre can have easy ride in the governorship election.
This view of the Jegede’s camp was also the belief of the camp of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke that had been accusing some people in the presidency of doing everything within their powers to stop Oke from contesting while the camp also accused the Federal Government of awarding phony contract to raise money APC candidate.
Oke in a” Save my Soul” message sent to Buhari through the director-general of his campaign organisation, Hon Bola Ilori, at a press conference, alleged that a cabal within his government had engaged in clandestine activities in order to stop him from contesting and pave the way for their protégé, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, of APC.
Ilori stated, “The plan of these people is to prevent Olusola Oke from contesting the election because their candidate, Akeredolu, is not in contention, having lost relevance with the people, thus they have resorted to lots of underhand tactics to stop him.
“We want to by this medium, crying out to President Muhammadu Buhari to save Nigerian democracy from a cabal within his government hell bent on stopping our candidate from contesting the election by resorting to underhand methods.
“We are aware of the pedigree of President Buhari, his uprightness and his zero tolerance to dirty tricks to get advantage of people, even against his avowed antagonists, but this cabal is using the paraphernalia of the federal government with impunity to get unsavoury advantage thus tainting his good works.”
Ilori alleged that the first leg of the conspiracy was the award of N10 billion contract to Owo Community without due process and out of which N7 billion would be released by to the candidate to prosecute the election.
He also alleged that it was the same cabal that at their meeting in Abuja instigated the National Legal Adviser of the AD to file a suit against the Oke’s candidacy.
“They have surreptitiously instigated the Legal Adviser of the Alliance for Democracy, a man who is not a candidate in the Ondo State election, to institute a suit in the Court.
“Such, Your Excellency, is the desperation of these cabal who are hell-bent on tainting your administration’s reputation”, he said.
The director-general also alleged that Akeredolu’s sympathisers had been plotting to instigate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to invite and possibly detain Oke days before the election over phantom allegations.
This allegation of working against Oke was also levelled against Mimiko by a political group within the AD named Ondo Third Force Forum, (OTFF), which said Mimiko was working toward thwarting the ambition of Oke, in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
This was contained in a statement issued by Coordinator of the group, Foluso Olugbemi, who also fingered the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state for being behind the plot of removing Oke’s through a court process by using the legal adviser of the AD, Idowu Aworele, against Oke’s candidature.
The group also accused Mimiko of inviting ex-militants from PDP-controlled South -south states and the OPC for use as tools of destruction during the election. According to Olugbemi, a faction of the AD was being propped by the governor to force Oke out of the race, using gullible judges. He said, ‘’We are aware of the clandestine moves being orchestrated by Governor Ousegun Mimiko to stop our candidate, Chief Olusola Oke whose popularity is soaring by the day.”
From Oke campaign organisation also came the alarm raised that members of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet was planning to surreptitiously release the sum of N7 billion to the APC and its candidate to prosecute the election.
The campaign organisation in a statement signed by chairman of the publicity committee, Mr Kola Olabisi, alleged that the N7billion would be removed from a bogus N10 billion infrastructural contract slated for Owo community, where Akeredolu hailed from.
The organisation alleged that the plan to surreptitiously release the money was hatched in the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja wherein a bogus contract was without due process mooted for works on some infrastructures in Owo area of the state.
According to Olabisi, the contract sum was perfected and released without going through due process and the money has now been earmarked as part of the war chest to be used by the APC to rig the election later this month.
He said, “We want to appeal to President Buhari to be aware of what is being done by members of his cabinet in their vaunted ambition to win this election at all cost and immediately arrest the situation.
“While we have been going round the state canvassing for votes from the people, they have remained in their offices boasting that they will use Federal Might to rig the election even if nobody vote for them.
“The APC members in Ondo have been preaching this strange gospel of rigging and we are now amazed by this latest antics to win the election with the award of a strange contract for a whopping N10 billion for Owo community where Akeredolu hails from with a view to releasing a whopping sum of N7 billion to him to make the rigging plan a reality.”
In a reaction, the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu governorship campaign organisation described the allegation as cheap blackmail and baseless. The campaign team in a statement signed by the Chairman of the Campaign Research and Communication Committee, Mr. Soji Alakuro, said no amount of blackmail will stop the party from winning. He said that Chief Olusola Oke had accepted defeat before the election because he knows that AD cannot fly in the coming election.
Alakuro added that Oke was only looking for ways to discredit the process before the election is conducted just the way he did after the APC governorship primary.
The chairman alleged that Oke and one of his main supporters were behind the crisis in APC before it was resolved. Alakuro stated, ”They intentionally painted the process of the September 3, APC primary as being fraudulent by asking journalists to interview Oke’s cook and one of his brother from Ilaje who pretended to be delegates.
”In the said interviews, they lied that they voted during the party primary and also claimed that Akeredolu gave them money to vote during the primary.
“They were declared wanted by the security operatives after Akeredolu officially laid a complaint on the allegation and after it was exposed to the whole world that they lied against our candidate.
“Oke is afraid because he believes that his political trick by running to AD to contest cannot change the mind of the electorate, who have made up their minds to vote for APC. We also challenge Oke to explain the source of his funds because we are aware of those governors oiling his campaign through their states resources.
“It is unfortunate that Oke, who raised the allegation that 7billion project had been diverted to the campaign of Akeredolu, failed to mention where the project will be cited in Owo and the kind of project that will be executed in that ancient community.”
Against the INEC, the APC levelled a serious allegation that the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state accusing the commission of recruiting and training of ad hoc staff for the Ondo governorship election in Lagos State. The allegation was contained in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Omo’ba Abayomi Adesanya said.
According to Adesanya, “We have it on good authority that INEC is recruiting ad hoc staff from Ojokoro LCDA, which was created out of Alimosho Local Government Area in Lagos, and we know that the elements working with some INEC officials are closely linked to some of Olusola Oke’s supporters in Lagos and Osun State.
“We know that, ad hoc staff are usually officials of Federal Government agencies in the state, neighboring states and youth corps members. But we could not imagine why Lagos State is being used for surreptitious recruitment by INEC.”
Adesanya said the APC condemns this unreservedly and warned INEC national leadership, whom it believes is not part of this surreptitious scheming, to caution their officials in Ondo State, and to be on the look-out for such extraneous people
“As we have said before, we have lost confidence in the leadership of INEC in Ondo State, and our petition has been sent to the appropriate authorities”, he said.
However, INEC in its reaction to the allegation described it as false, malicious and unfounded statement aimed at distracting the commission from delivering a free, fair and credible election in the state.
The INEC said there was no time that the commission in Ondo State recruited its Ad-hoc staff fro, outside the state as claimed by Adesanya.
The commission stated, “The truth is that INEC recruited the bulk of Ad-hoc staff from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the state while the rest are sourced from Federal Tertiary Institutions exclusively.
“To further debunk this wild and unsubstantiated claim, INEC has just scheduled its training of Supervisory Presiding Officers to hold between Friday 11th November and Sunday 13th November, 20 while presiding officers and their assistants will be trained between 18th November and 20th November.”
The INEC urged all parties and the press to verify their facts before publication.