Intriques as 16 Aspirants Get APC’s Nod for Ondo Guber Primary

Fidelis David reports that the race to the November 16, 2024 governorship election in Ondo state has commenced in earnest with the clearance of 16 guber aspirants by the All Progressives Congress for its party primary holding in Akure, the state capital on Saturday.

Next Saturday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State would produced its candidate for the November 16, 2024 governorship election through a direct primary election.

Basically, out of over 20 gladiators throwing their hats into the ring as gubernatorial aspirants, 16 of them picked the expression of interest and nomination forms while the party’s National Gubernatorial Aspirants Screening Committee, commenced their screening on Friday, April 12.

By Saturday, the committee had given all the 16 aspirants a clean bill of health.

The aspirants in no particular order include the incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa; former Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa; Olusola Oke; Mayowa Akinfolarin; Senator Jimoh Ibrahim; former APC National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Isaacs Kekemeke and Gbenga Edema.

Others are Major General Ohunyeye Olamide Felix (rtd), Jimi Odimayo, Olusoji Adewale Ehinlanwo, Morayo Lebi, Diran Iyantan, Prof. Francis Faduyile and Engr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele while the two female aspirants among them are Funmilayo Adekojo, and Mrs. Funke Omogoroye Judith.

The seven-man Screening Committee led by Senator Joshua Lidani gave all the aspirants the nod to contest the primary after a thorough screening which took place on Friday in Abuja after the inauguration of the Committee and the Screening Appeal Committees by the party’s Deputy National Organising Secretary, Nze Duru.

After over eight hours of interaction and scrutiny of documents submitted by the aspirants, the committee declared that all the 16 aspirants met the requirements to contest the election.

The clearance of all the aspirants was contained in a report submitted to the party by the chairman of the Committee on Saturday to the Directorate of Organisation of the party. The committee revealed in its report that all aspirants demonstrated a willingness to support any aspirant that emerges as the party’s standard bearer for the November 2024 gubernatorial election in Ondo State.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has revealed that 16 out of 19 registered political parties have indicated interest in contesting the election.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC) in Ondo State, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Babalola, also at a meeting with the representatives of political parties at the Commission’s office in Akure listed the parties to include the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord Party, Action Alliance, African Action Congress, African Democratic Congress, (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

“Others are Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Action Peoples Party, Boot Party, Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Youth Party, Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).”

She re-echoed that the Governorship election will hold on Saturday, 16th November 2024 as party primaries are expected to hold between 6th to 27th April 2024 as provided in Section 178 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

However, considering the number of aspirants who obtain the form, the question has been whether the primary will be rancour free or not?

Currently, members of the APC in the state appeared to be disunited but the Chairman, Ade Adetimehin said there is no cause for alarm, noting that his efforts are geared towards fostering unity in the party.

Divisive Utterances

The APC chairman warned political supporters of aspirants against divisive utterances and actions, ahead of the party primary slated for April 20.

This came two days after party elders, under the aegis of Ondo APC Aborigines, endorsed Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa as their preferred aspirant, a move which was rejected by the campaign organisations of two other frontline APC governorship aspirants, Wale Akinterinwa and Olusola Oke.

The APC Aborigines

Basically, the ‘APC Aborigines’ at their meeting held in Akure, said they settled for Aiyedatiwa because he is rated highest among the aspirants.

The group had earlier announced that it had screened the over 10 APC governorship aspirants down to three, saying it would finally narrow down to one, based on set criteria.

Its Chairman and former Ambassador to Togo, Sola Iji, announced their choice of Aiyedatiwa, saying, “We resolved in our first meeting to commit ourselves to a unanimous goal in the forthcoming governorship primary of the APC in the state. We consider this as a necessary step towards asserting our true worth in the party.

“We are determined to deploy our numerical strength and resources to ensure the victory of Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa at the primary. It is our fervent belief that Governor Aiyedatiwa’s candidature will position our party for a resounding victory at the general election and engender good governance in the state,” Iji said.

Pillars of Equal Opportunities

However, the State Chairman of the party described as unnecessary the idea of some people constituting themselves into “the aborigines of APC” of the State chapter.

The party contended that the unity of the party is erected on the pillars of equal opportunities, irrespective of whatever considerations.

“The chapter would not condone acts that are aimed at making some members inferior to others, on account of when they joined the party. The chapter is for all, and would continue to encourage equal opportunities for all the members. New members should entertain no fears in this regards”, Adetimehin assured.

The party urged aspirants to be weary of desperate supporters, who fan embers of disunity for personal gains, saying such action was not healthy for the vibrant state chapter of the party.

Adetimehin appealed to political gladiators to exhibit regards for the party’s governorship aspirants, and other stakeholders to avoid unnecessary friction in the political space.

He noted that Ondo State is known for organisation and enviable political history that should be demonstrated at critical moments saying the party owes it a duty to showcase the rare ability to go into any contest without rancor.

Also, Wale Akinterinwa and Olusola Oke through spokespersons of their campaign organisations, Mr Segun Ajiboye and Mr Ojo Oyewamide respectively, described the decision of the APC elders as warped.

Akinterinwa specifically said, “If the discussion for endorsement of an aspirant were a matter in the court of law, these set of elders would have been asked to recuse themselves. Both Ambassador Sola Iji and Senator Ajayi Boroffice (members of the Aborigine) were conspicuously present when Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa declared his intention to contest the election”.

For Governor Aiyedatiwa who was sworn-in on December 27 2023 after the death of his principal, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, he believed that there is nothing to fear about his chances of picking the ticket.

Alleged Certificate Forgery

Besides, his supporters say the allegation of certificate forgery against the governor which was seen as a threat in the quest for the realization of his dream has been discarded.

This came after the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) denied producing the investigative report containing an alleged misconduct of Aiyedatiwa.

NPF Spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the document alleging fraudulent misrepresentation, certificate forgery, examination malpractice, and perjury against Mr Aiyedatiwa did not originate from it.

“We wish to clarify that the said document did not originate from the Nigeria Police Force. The alleged signatory, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, does not have the authority to release such a report on behalf of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) or any other such Departments within the Nigeria Police Force,” he stated.

Adejobi said “the Force is currently investigating the origin of the said document and the circumstances surrounding its circulation. We urge the public to exercise caution and refrain from spreading unverified information that could potentially tarnish the reputation of individuals or public officials”.

My Certificate is Genuine

Meanwhile, Governor Aiyedatiwa while speaking with newsmen after he was screened last Friday declared that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, his West African Senior Certificate (WASCE) is genuine as well as verifiable, describing the issue raised about his certificate as mischief by other aspirants who noticed he was the one to beat.

Aiyedatiwa explained that when Ikosi High School was established in 1980, he was already in Form Three in a private school which was joined to the government school along with its students, hence he graduated there in 1982 and not 1985 as argued by his distractors.

According to him: “It is on record that the school was established in 1980 and at that time I was already in Form Three in a private school, New Nation, in Ikosi while Royal Comprehensive High School was in Ajegunle, Ikorudu very close to Ketu. So, all of us were moved, both New Nation and Royal Comprehensive High School and some other schools that were affected by flood – we were all moved into Ikosi High School, Ketu, that was built by the government and that was how we wrote our WASCE in 1982 because we were in the first set.

“I was in Form 3 at the time; it used to be five years – not now that you have six years for secondary school. So their question, the petitioner, is how can a school be established in 1980 and we have a first set in 1982? That the first set was supposed to be in 1985, but he didn’t take time to look at the history.

“So, investigation has been conducted, the schools are still there, WAEC office is there where you can actually verify the subjects that I took and the year that I graduated and the school. It is clear to every body that my certificate is authentic and I actually graduated from that school in 1982.”

No Vacancy in Ondo Govt House

Speaking further, Aiyedatiwa declared that there is no vacancy in the Ondo State Government House as he remains the aspirant to beat. I should just advise them to repent and try to go to the field and work. If they are interested in the seat and the seat is not vacant, that is why they’re trying to do all that they are doing.”

Reacting to the no-vacancy-claim of the governor, the senator representing Ondo South, Jimoh Ibrahim, described Governor Aiyedatiwa as joker.

Ibrahim, who spoke with journalists after his screening at the APC national secretariat, said the governor had never won an election.

According to him, the governor had contested for House of Representatives but did not win one local government out of two.

 “The governor is joking; a huge joke he is cracking with you. He is out of that place by the time we’re done with primary next week. He is gone and there is nothing virtually he can do about it. I don’t normally go against people; to me let everybody go for primary, and let the electorate determine.

“I have won election as senator; I won in six of the six local government areas, 65 of the 66 wards, 111,677 votes against Agboola Ajayi with 60,000 votes. He was a pair to Akeredolu, we didn’t vote for him, we voted for ‘Aketi’, but I can assure you, the governor is a huge joker.”

On his part, Olusola Oke who is one of the gubernatorial aspirants said Aiyedatiwa’s comments were undemocratic and reckless.

“It’s an aphorism from all incumbent persons. I heard this one in Lagos when Ambode was there. Ambode said “no vacancy”, he had to leave when he needed to leave. It’s a statement of wish and desire by the governor and it’s a statement that is intended to undermine a democratic exercise.

“If we are going to primaries and the people will have to determine, how would anybody have the gut to say there is no vacancy? There is no vacancy between now and February next year, no doubt, but after February, his one year term will be exhausted and then there’ll be a vacancy.

“I don’t intend to take over from him before the expiration of his one year in office. So, the essence of this exercise is that there will be vacancy after one-year term, and that he or somebody else will occupy the seat. Having regard to my wide contact with the people, I believe that I’m succeeding him”.

Besides, some of the aspirants said the silence of the president with few days to the party primary was worrisome to them. Hence, the need for them to abandon their tour of council areas for Abuja and Lagos to look for the president, his aides and the national leadership of the party for endorsement.

By and large, political experts believe that by April 20, it will be easy to predict where the pendulum will swing.

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