Alleged Irregularities, Protests Trail Ondo APC Governorship Primary Election, Aspirants Want Ododo Replaced

*Aiyedatiwa in early lead as Kogi gov says exercise transparent

Fidelis David in Akure

The governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State held yesterday to elect the party’s candidate for the November 16, 2024 election in the state was marred by allegations of irregularities, with some of the governorship aspirants calling for the cancellation of the exercise and the replacement of Governor Usman Ododo of Kogi State, who is the Chairman of the Electoral Committee that conducted the election.
The exercise was characterised by violence, alleged manipulation of the list of electoral officers, delay in the distribution of materials, and absence of electoral materials and officers in many parts of the state.

Despite the protests that greeted the exercise, the committee announced that the result would be declared this morning.
However, as of last night, the state governor, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, was    leading as Governor Ododo insisted that the primary election was transparent.
But reacting to the irregularities, four governorship aspirants have called for the cancellation of the election over the alleged manipulations.
The aspirants – Olusola Oke (SAN), Olugbenga Edema,  Wale Akinterinwa, and Prof. Dayo Faduyile, who spoke at BON Hotel, Ijapo Estate in Akure, the state capital, also asked the leadership of the party to remove Governor Ododo as Chairman of the Electoral Committee.

 When THISDAY visited Ward 9, St James’ CAC Caring Heart Mega Primary School, Akure, at 12 pm, members of the party were waiting for voting materials to arrive while hoodlums took charge, sending away any member they knew was against their aspirant.
 Similar situations were observed in Ward 4, St Stephen’s Primary School, Ijomu Street, Akure, and Ward 7, St Martin’s RCM Primary School, Oke-Padi, Akure.
 In the Southern senatorial district of the state, pandemonium broke out in Okitipupa Ward 1 as members of the party who had gathered at Stella Maris College to cast their votes were dispersed due to violence over support for a particular aspirant.

Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Banji Ajaka, was beaten to a stupor by angry members of the party at Ugbo Ward 3, in Ilaje LGA, for allegedly hiding the election result sheets.
Ododo who arrived in the state yesterday morning, addressed some of the aggrieved stakeholders at the distribution centre in the Ijapo area of Akure, saying the electoral materials had been sent to the Ondo North and South Senatorial Districts.
“There was no issue; I just came this (Saturday) morning and I was told that the election materials have been taken to Ondo South and Ondo North Senatorial Districts,” he explained.

But Edema, who challenged Ododo, disagreed with the governor, saying no election material was taken anywhere.
Edema lamented the delay in the distribution of the voting materials.
 He said: “Yesterday, at the stakeholders’ meeting held at St Thomas Event Centre, the Secretary of that committee, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said the voting materials, which include the membership register, and others will be distributed at BON Hotel Ijapo Estate Akure, to the electoral officers whose names he announced to us in each of the 203 wards of Ondo State.
 “That we should come to BON Hotel to collect the materials and that accreditation will start by 10am, to be completed by 1pm, while voting proper will start by 1pm and end by 2pm, then the announcement of the result.
 “As I am talking to you now, this is 10:40am. We’ve been here since 6am, believing that our people will collect the materials but unfortunately, at about 9:30am, His Excellency, Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo came out to tell us that materials have been distributed. At what time? In what places? We don’t know!
“Unfortunately, for him, the returning officers and electoral officer of my ward, Mahin Ward II in Ilaje Local Government Area are here and unable to collect any materials.

 “What we are asking for is a credible election,” Edema explained.
Corroborating Edema’s claim, one of the chieftains of APC in the state, also told journalists that the election committee asked the agents of the party to assemble at BON Hotel, Akure, to witness the release of election materials to those assigned to conduct the primary.
“The agents were told to be there by 7am. They got there promptly and were waiting for the materials to be given to the election officers. Reporters were also there.
 “By 10am, Ododo addressed them, saying that materials for Ondo North and Ondo South were dispatched earlier in the day. The agents queried why that was done contrary to the directive that the materials would be released in their presence.
“The agents asked for evidence of when and how the materials were released. Ododo did not provide any evidence, insisting that voting materials had been dispatched.

 “As the exchanges were going on between Ododo and the agents, voting was said to be going on in many local government areas. This prompted some of the aspirants to berate Ododo and the national secretariat for poor handling of the process,” he explained.
He accused the Ododo-led committee and the national secretariat of the party of working for the state governor, Aiyedatiwa.
Also, the Director of Programmes of the Wale Akinterinwa Campaign Organisation, Sola Ajisafe, who spoke on behalf of his principal, said: “For APC to bring Ododo to Ondo State is a blow to our party and the state. Our position is that no primary election has taken place; no election material has left here, and we are saying that the leadership of the party should do the needful by sending another neutral person, just like they did in Edo State to come and conduct another primary election where the good people of Ondo State will freely exercise their franchise to pick their candidate.”

 On his part, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye, while also speaking on behalf of Oke, said: “We got here around 6:30am, we don’t know when the election materials were sent out from this place to Ondo South and North senatorial districts. The truth of the matter is that there were no materials sent out.
 “Why can’t they follow the due process? The national leadership of the party should call Ododo to order, they should follow the guidelines they released,” he added.
In a statement issued by the spokesman of Oke’s Campaign Organisation, Ojo Oyewamide, the senior lawyer stated that no primary election was conducted in all the 203 Wards of the state.
Mr. Paul Oniyemofe, who spoke on behalf of Prof Faduyile said there was no electoral material since he arrived at the venue.

Aiyedatiwa in Early Lead as Kogi Gov Says Exercise Transparent

 However, Ododo, who led the seven-member committee, acknowledged the delay in the distribution of materials but insisted that the exercise was transparent.
 In a statement yesterday by the governor’s media aide, Ismaila Isah, the governor commended stakeholders and APC members on the conduct of the election.
“I have received reports from our committee members and security agencies as well as NGOs monitoring the election including video footage.
“I can say that the process has been transparent and we are going to produce a candidate that will unify the APC ahead of the November 2024 governorship election in the state,” the governor explained.

Ododo said the delay in the distribution of election materials had no adverse effects on the conduct of the poll.
The governor also insisted that the concerns noticed in the revalidated membership list would not have any major impact on the outcome of the election.
He urged aspirants and their supporters to see the primary election as a “contest among brothers and sisters in one family”.
Sixteen aspirants contested for the party’s ticket through a direct primary election.
The incumbent governor, Aiyedatiwa; former Commissioner for Finance, Akinterinwa; Oke (SAN); former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin; Senator Jimoh Ibrahim; former National Vice Chairman of APC (South-west), Isaac Kekemeke and former Commissioner who represented the state on the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Gbenga Edema.

Others are Gen. Ohunyeye Olamide Felix (rtd); a current member of the House of Representatives, Jimi Odimayo; Olusoji Adewale Ehinlanwo; Morayo Lebi; Diran Iyantan; Prof. Francis Faduyile; and Ifeoluwa Oyedele, while the two female aspirants among them are Funmilayo Adekojo and Mrs. Funke Omogoroye Judith.
Meanwhile, the Ondo State Governor, Aiyedatiwa, has expressed satisfaction over the turnout of party members in the governorship primary of the state.
Speaking after being counted in the voting exercise Ugbo Ward 4, Obenla, Ilaje LGA of the state, Aiyedatiwa, described the party primary as a crucial step in determining the APC’s flagbearer for the forthcoming governorship election.

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