A purported endorsement of an aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State is causing ripples in the party. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI looks into the uproar.
IT is no longer at ease with the Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). With less than two weeks to the party’s primary election, most of the main gladiators are singing discordant tunes and engaging in accusations and counter-accusations on the process that will lead to the emergence of APC standard bearer for the November 26 election in the state. The crux of the matter is the insinuation by a group of aspirants and other stakeholders of a plan by the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, to impose a particular aspirant on the APC. Consequently, they are threatening a showdown with the party leadership, just as others have vowed to exit from the party should those behind the plot fail to toe the path of reason. To some aspirants, the plot is tantamount to disrupting the normal democratic process of electing candidate for the party for an election. For instance, one of the aspirants, Dr Tunji Abayomi claimed that Tinubu summoned all the party leaders in the state to Lagos recently asking all other aspirants to rally round Dr Segun Abraham as sole candidate. Abayomi described the action as unacceptable to the majority of the aspirants, because apart from negating the provisions of APC Constitution, it violated the principle of equity, fairness and justice. He even claimed that Tinubu had promised to be neutral in the process of producing APC candidate. “I am speaking on behalf of the majority of the aspirants. We want to know whether this is true, and considering that we have a constitution that determines the procedure of electing a candidate. We are from Ondo State and we expect that our affairs should be largely controlled either by law or the people of Ondo State. So, we reject the government of leaders by the leaders to the privileged set of leaders. If he (Tinubu) had now directed that this is the person he wants to use, that means that he is the one constituting government over the people to his own benefit.
“The aspirants will reject him (Tinubu’s candidate) because that is his (Tinubu) own candidate and not the candidate of the people of Ondo State. We understand that he has already directed that a certain governor in the South-West should raise money for the delegates in other to vote for his appointed candidates but this will not work,” Abayomi stated.
The APC chairmen of the 18 local government areas of the state have also voiced out on the issue. They cautioned the leadership of the party that any attempt to impose a candidate could lead to dire consequences for APC at the general election. The dean of the chairmen, Mr Rasheed Badmus, who spoke on behalf of other chairmen, said only a free, fair and credible primary would put the party on the path of victory on November 26. His words: “We know that if this information (plot to impose a candidate) is true, it is not only worrisome, it will jeopardise the chances of our great party during the election in Ondo State. We wish to appeal to the national secretariat of our great party to wade in and ensure that free, fair, transparent and credible primary is not compromised and that as being speculated, the delegates’ list of the state Congress of 2014 is not be doctored,” they warned.
Another APC caucus under the auspices of Ondo Progressive Coalition equally raised a similar concern, warning that the party leadership not to embark on act capable of impeding the success of APC. Their spokesman, Adewetan Vincent, said APC must not flitter the current opportunity to win the next election. Vincent stated: “If we are tired of being in the opposition, then we must speak up against any development that can affect the fortune of the party in the next election. We reiterate that the party must do a free, fair and transparent primary, devoid of the influence of our leaders. The candidate of the party must emerge on his own merit.”
However, the director of Media and Publicity of the party, Mr Steve Otaloro denied the allegation of imposing, saying there was no time the party leaders were summoned to Lagos by the national leader. He said: “The party has said it several times that the primary would be free, fair and transparent. So, as far as we are concerned in APC, there will not be any imposition of candidate in the primary. To the best of my knowledge, no party leader in the state has been invited by Tinubu to work for anybody.”
Meanwhile, some observers are beginning to envisage a possible repeat of the 2012 scenario, where the leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) handpicked Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the party’s candidate. The ACN lost in the election.
But, Tinubu, who happens to be in the centre of the raging controversy, has clarified his position on the matter. He said he, like any other dedicated party stalwarts, had the right to take a stand. In a statement, he faulted Abayomi’s remarks saying “You have been a friend and will continue to be. Thus, I can dispense with needless formality so that we can get to the crux of the issue.”
In what looked like a fallout of the unfolding drama over the governorship race, Akinsuyi, who was a former Special Duties Commissioner under the Mimiko administration, has defected from APC to obtain PDP nomination form of the Ali Modu Sheriff PDP faction. To justify his action, Sule said: “As individuals, we believe that moving forward, as far as the 2016 election is concerned, we need a platform will allow us to shoulder common responsibilities and progress and development to our people.”
Governor Isiaka Ajumobi is leading the team to determine the fate of contenders for APC ticket. But the acrimony over the contest has also led to suspension and denials of the state chairman of the party, Hon Isaac Kekemeke for alleged anti party activities by some members of the party. Indeed, as the countdown to the party’s primary progresses, there are indications that the gladiators might remain longer at one another’s throats than envisaged by many.