HAKEEM GBADAMOSI writes on some intrigues that played out at the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State.
Last Saturday’s governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the November 10 election was indeed one of the major battles the party has witnessed lately. The various power blocs in the party deployed all their arsenal to the crucial battle for supremacy, with the attendant anxiety of likely implosion at the end of the contest. The result of the intra-party election in terms of the individual performance of the leading contenders only attested to the keenness of the race. While the ripples generated by the exercise persist, the outcome has sent many bookmakers back to the drawing board.
This is because of the likely far-reaching implications of the result of the election on the governorship poll proper, taking cognizance of certain factors that apparently swayed delegates to the path of its winner. In the opinion of some observers, APC leaders at all levels lived up to their promise to conduct a free, fair and transparent primary election. The emergence of a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), did not come easy, as he was closely trailed by Dr Olusegun Abraham, and Chief Olusola Oke.
The dust raised by a purported endorsement of Dr Abraham by the APC National Leader, Chief Bola Tinubu, had created schism among the contestants who claimed it was another ploy to impose a candidate on the party. But for the assurance from the party leadership and the Presidency which waded into the crisis, all the 24 aspirants agreed to test their prowess and popularity through the ballot. The shifting of the APC primary about two times by the national headquarters of the party aggravated tension in the party, while some members declared war with the state chairman of the party and vowed to resist any attempt at imposition. This was probably responsible for the large number of security operatives drafted to the venue of the primary.
Before the election, the aspirants made frantic efforts to outwit one another and the moves became intensified 48 hours to the election. Some aspirants camped their delegates away from the prying eyes of others in order to ensure that they did not slip away from them. But despite the treatment of the delegates to a two-week funfair by the aspirants, some delegates were allegedly hijacked on the eve of the election. One of the stakeholders condemned the alleged monetisation of the process.
However, the election produced the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2012 governorship election, Akeredolu, who won with 669, beating Abraham, the anointed candidate, with just 34 votes at the end of the over 17-hour election. The former National legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and candidate of the party in 2012, Oke, scored 583 votes to come third, while the lawmaker representing Ondo senatorial district at the Senate, Senator Boroffice, scored 461 votes.
Analysts had predicted that any of the four aspirants could pick the ticket. Akeredolu’s victory did not however come as a surprise, as the former NBA chairman was said to have paid his dues. Many factors reportedly contributed to his success. He was said to have aligned with the senator representing the Ondo Central senatorial district at the last minute when it was noticed that the pendulum was swinging in the way of Abraham. The duo left the venue of the election to re-strategise, with Alasoadura instructing his delegates to vote for Akeredolu. He was said to have benefitted from the division between Boroffice and Abraham who hails from the Akoko axis of the Northern senatorial district of the state. It was said that Borroffice would have struck an alliance with Abraham for the area to produce an Akoko governor, but he was not comfortable with the open endorsement of Abraham by Tinubu. The two gladiators from Akoko walked their different ways, believing they could win the election without any alliance.
He was also said to have benefitted from his past goodwill to some party members and delegates. He appreciated them for their role during his first coming about four years ago. Akeredolu was handpicked by the ACN leadership then but he still deemed it fit to come back home to pacify all the delegates. But he would have suffered an electoral setback if the chairman of the party, Isaacs Kekemeke, had not challenged Oke’s political relevance in the Southern senatorial district.
A source within the party said Kekemeke had assured Tinubu of delivering the area for Abraham. But most of the delegates from the South gave their votes to Oke. He played on the advantage of being the only aspirant from the district while his popularity and political relevance swayed votes for him and dominated the area.
Some observers claimed that one factor, which affected Abraham was that he was seen to be surrounded by mostly politicians without structures. Most of them only fell in line immediately Tinubu made his pronouncement on Abraham. Though Tinubu’s endorsement helped to sway votes for Abraham, the uproar that trailed his endorsement became an issue in his camp. A source in the party claimed that “Abraham was able to gather those votes because of Tinubu’s influence, but it came rather too late. Most of the delegates had pledged their loyalty to the two other aspirants. Despite spending less money in the election, he was able to give Akeredolu a good fight.”
However, less than 48 hours after the primary election, some aggrieved party members submitted a petition to the Election Appeal Committee of the APC because of perceived lapses in the conduct of the exercise that produced Akeredolu.
They are demanding a fresh exercise through the petition submitted by the APC Central senatorial chairman, Mr Adegboyega Adedipe, the Ondo East chairman, Mr Akintunde Samuel and the chairman of the party in Ondo West, Mr Adeola Ademulegun. Part of it read: “A strange delegate list was introduced on the night of the election after everybody has gone to sleep only for us to wake up in the morning of the election to see a massively corrupted delegate 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.
“We wrote a petition to the primary Election Committee Chairman on the morning of the election and it reiterated that only people that had been voting in previous primaries would be allowed to vote with a
promise to stand down the voting process for Ondo East and West Local Government Areas. We were shocked that the committee never honoured the pledge.
“In all, a total number of 64 names were injected into the delegate 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. The absence of many legitimate voters paved the way for ‘see and buy’ voters that were eventually used to further corrupt the process. Many voters were recruited from the roadside, including okada riders, bread-sellers, street hawkers and others who were not party members but just loitering around the venue of the primary election.”
Akeredolu still has a great hurdle to scale and he can only achieve this with the collective efforts of all the stakeholders, as some party members and aspirants are crying wolf over his emergence. But the APC candidate has stressed the need to work together so as to win the November governorship election.
He said: “ I cannot do this alone, I need your support and I want to point out that in this election of ours, there is no loser or winner. But let’s come together to work for the success of the party in the election. This contest has raised a lot of dust and when the dust settles, we must all come together to work toward a common goal by producing the next government in the state, a government that will re-position the state.”
Be that as it may, the chairman of the Election Committee and Jigawa State governor, Muhammed Badaru, commended the delegates for their comportment and for their cooperation during and after the voting. He urged all other aspirants to rally support and mobilise for the candidate in order to win the state. Though the APC candidate has emerged, there is a need to reconcile all aggrieved members in order to move the party forward and scale the great hurdle of winning the governorship election in November.