The Election Appeal Committee on the governorship primary in Ondo State is set to announce its verdict shortly, writes Hakeem Gbadamosi.
THERE is huge expectation and suspense in the ranks of the Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The anxiety is occasioned by issues surrounding the ticket of the party for the governorship election in the state slated for November 26, 2016. The suspense heightened following the hoopla that trailed the result of the governorship primary conducted about two weeks ago, in which a former president of the Nigerian Bar association (NBA), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) was declared winner. While some of the other contenders almost simultaneously conceded defeat, others remonstrated alleging electoral irregularities. Even one of the leading contestants, Dr Olusegun Abrham, who initially conceded victory, recanted based on the same allegations. He had joined the ranks of Chief Oluwole Oke in kicking against the alleged gross manipulation of the process that threw up the winner of the intra-party contest. However, both Professor Ajayi Boroffice, and Dr Bode Ayorinde , who are members of the current National Assembly heave refused to join the fray.
Before the conduct of the primary, the APC national organising secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, had inaugurated a f ive-member Election Committee and three-member Election Appeal Committee. The election committee, chaired by Jigawa State Governor, Muhammadu Badaru Abubakar, had other members as Dr. Bruce Ugbode (Secretary), Hon. Hamma Adama Ali, Prince M. Martins and Engr. Mohammed Lawal. For the Election Appeal Committee headed by Mrs. Helen Bendega, the other members are Alhaji. Musa Umar (secretary) and Nikky Ejezie. Ecah of the teams promised to be fair and just in carrying out their assignments.
Part of the allegations was the delegates’ list for the primary was tampered with a few hours to the election. Thus, Chief Oke and Dr Abraham,described the result of the election as fraudulent and unacceptable. Oke alleged in a statement issued 24 hours after the election, that the postponement of the election twice was “as we later learnt from the process of the primary, to allow time to perfect the rigging strategy of the primaries to return a pre-agreed aspirant. The illicit substitution of the delegates’ list officially given to the aspirants from Abuja,less than 12 hours to the primary was meant to allow persons who were never members of the executive of the party to participate as voters in the primaries.
Oke, who spoke through the Director General of his campaign Organisation, Bola Fisayo, declared: “Let the people of Ondo State and in particular members of the APC in the state not be deceived, what they saw on television as a process was a voodoo. The primary election was everything but credible primary.”
Similar, Dr Abraham asserted that “the result was unacceptable to him considering the staggering facts of anomalies that have since emerged to the demerit of the exercise” Crying foul through the Director General of his campaign Organisation, Chief Olu Adegboro, Abraham was aghast that the “gale of allegations and facts of malpractices that have since marred the conduct and process of the Ondo gubernatorial primary election. “it is now beyond doubt that the delegates’ list used on the day of the primary election was doctored and strangely injected with a mind blowing number of delegates who are neither executive members of our party nor statutory delegates. To say the least, the manipulation of the delegates’ list, highly skewed accreditation process and the entire processes leading to the conduct of the primary election has cast the darkest stain on the result of the primary election held on the 3rd September, 2016….To this end, the outcome of the September 3, APC governorship primaries in Ondo State is unacceptable and I hereby appeal against same.”
Also, some leaders of the party in the state in their petition alleged fraud in the election and called for a fresh exercise.The petition signed by chairman of the party in the Central, East and West senatorial districts, Messrs Adegboyega Adedipe, Akintunde Samuel and Adeola Ademulegun respectively, said the result failed to reflect the reality of the election.They alleged that “A strange delegates’ list was introduced on the night of the election after everybody had gone to sleep only for us to wake up in the morning of the election to see a massively corrupted delegates’ list.”
“Names of 47 per cent of the delegates in Ondo East were either deleted or substituted with people who are unknown to the party as executive members. Some of the injected names are not even aware of the development and so did not come for the primary election. In all, a total of 64 names were injected into the delegates’ list. The names were unknown to the party. For instance, somebody who never contested any election, and some even unknown to the party suddenly became ward chairmen in wards four, six, two and seven of Ondo East Local Government.Our total valid delegates are 135 out of which 64 were disenfranchised, meaning 47 of the delegates on the unlawful list were illicit voters. While Akeredolu got 669 votes at the primaries, Abraham got 635 votes.”
Chief Oke, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2012 governorship election, specifically alleged that some names of the delegates were removed from the delegates’ list while non-delegates were allegedly allowed to vote. According to him, the delegates’ list was shown to the aspirants at the eleventh hour and there was no adequate time to scrutinise the list by most of the aspirants. He alleged further that about 110 names belonging to Oke’s camp were removed from both Ondo East and West Local Governments while their names were replaced with non-executive members of the party. He said, “There was nothing we could do at that particular time. I can confirm to you that 80 per cent of those that cast their votes for Abraham came from Oke’s camp. The election did not represent the true position of the delegates, the accreditation gave room for manipulation and the whole process was laced with fraud and the result released did not represent the true reflection of the delegates as non-delegates were allowed to participate in the election.”
Since last Tuesday, the Appeal Committee commenced its assignment after receiving petitions from the aggrieved members in the Ondo APC on the way and manner the primary was conducted. A member of the committee, Alhaji Musa Umar, confirmed the development. “We have started sitting. I can only confirm two petitions which we received yesterday (Tuesday) but we understand there are others at the (party) secretariat which we are expecting will be brought for us to consider,” he was quoted as saying.
Barring any unforeseen circumstance, speculations were rife on Tuesday that the committee could turn in its report to the appropriate organ of the APC to announce the report of the committee. Checks by Nigerian Tribune showed that the committee invited all the aggrieved aspirants to give their own side of the story concerning the primary. It was learnt that they were required to give oral evidence to corroborate the sweeping allegations contained in the petitions and video documents before the committee. It could not be established as of press time if the evidence of the aggrieved contestants were sufficiently weighty to upturn the outcome of the primary, though some sources claimed the petitioners failed to do their home work very well in respect of issues and facts to substantiate their allegations. Consequently, many of the party members are already looking towards how the APC tackle the issue of reconciliation, with a number of party buffs saying Akeredolu will need to do more in that regard.
Be that as it may, the various stakeholders in Ondo APC are expectant, anxious and curious about the likely verdict of the appeal committee. This, according to most observers, is because of its immediate and long term implications as parties prepare for the real election on November 26 in the state.