The political din that swiftly rented the air few days after the peaceful conclusion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial primary election in Ondo State could have been regarded as a mere and traditional expression of dissent by the losers but for the intervention of some prominent party leaders who pitched tents besides their favoured aspirant thus adding a partisan dimension to this touchy issue.
The trust and serenity that pervaded the primary electioneering in the state were interrupted by the claim of Dr Tunji Abayomi who accused the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of meddling in the state political affairs in order to impose his protégé on the party. As if this allegation was a jolting pill, all other aspirants except Abraham immediately chorused Abayomi’s views and insisted on a free and fair primary devoid of imposition. The state’s APC Secretariat in Akure turned into an epicenter of war, where charms and dangerous weapons were used by the feuding parties to assert authority. Law and order indeed went to sleep. In fact, it took the intervention and firm assurances from the National Working Committee (NWC)of the party, before the primary election could be held on 3rd September,2016 after two postponements.
This primary, which was widely acclaimed to be one of the freest, fairest and most credible elections in the country, was televised live to all Nigerians. Of course, the winner, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and other aspirants embraced, congratulated and exchanged banters after announcing the result which showed Akeredeolu, Abraham and Oke coming first , second and third respectively.
Not a few Nigerians were elated by the open display of comradeship by the aspirants, believing that the country, was at least, gradually imbibing the spirit of genuine democracy and the acceptance of defeat in good faith.
Unfortunately, people’s optimism was short lived, as three days after the primary, one of the aspirants hysterically cried foul, howling that the election that produced Akeredeolu was not credible. Incidentally, the campaign organization of Abraham had earlier accused the governor of Osun State to have secretly supported Mr. Oke in order to secure the Deputy Governor’s slot for his Special Adviser on Environment, thereby causing the failure of Abraham in the primary. As if the whole event was an orchestrated rhythm, another aspirant advertised “two delegates” who claimed to have voted for Akeredeolu without being accredited. In a saner clime, these “two public confessants” ought to have been “helping” the Police behind the bars. It was in the midst of this cacophony that Mr. Oke, the former People’s Democratic Party governorship candidate in the last gubernatorial election in the state and a “born again progressive” threatened fire and brimstone if the primary election was not annulled for a re-run.
Pronto, two other aspirants Abraham and Boroffice joined the cue to call for a re-run. The appeal committee was set up by the party to listen and examine the merits and demerits of the case brought before it on individual basis. The committee after an exhaustive deliberations, recommended to the National Working Committee (NWC) to use its discretion on whether to cause a re-run of the primary election or not.
The NWC of the party was still in a quandary when eleven out of the thirteen members were said to have voted. The last straw that broke the carmel’s back according to sources was the report of the National Legal Adviser of the party which advised against a re-run in Ondo State, hinging his opinion on logic, legality and political expediency.
Dr Muiz Banires’s copious, lucid, dispassionate and cerebral five-page report to the NWC of APC, could not be ignored. The legal luminary unequivocally rejected the recommendation of the Appeal Committee and called for the dismissal of the petitions of the dissenting aspirants as same are lacking in merit.
“We advised that political exigency does not support nullification of the election or even the re-visit of the procedure of conducting same as they can create more bitterness that could ever be imagined. Apart from occasioning waste of scarce resources both human and material resources in this austere economy of the nation, it will also constitute serious indictment on the integrity of the members of the electoral committee, whose efforts had been generally commended by all and sundry including both the NWC and even the appeal committee”, Dr Banire wrote.
He explained deeper when he said that “Thus both legally and politically, it is unwise to toe the path of appeal committee recommendation” Dissecting the issue of the fake delegates by the applicants, he was unambiguous about the tenuity of their submission.“On the allegation of fake delegates voting, apart from the oral evidence of the so-called delegates. Is there any credible evidence unequivocally showing that such fake delegates actually participated in the primary election? Did the committee verify the names of such fake delegates on the register?
How did they get the accreditation cards? How did they get into the venue? How did they get the ballot papers? All these queries require answers that the committee report did not answer” the report exposed. It is also important, he said, “to determine the source of the delegates list. Who or which organization of the party is appropriate to issue delegates list for an election of this nature?”.
Let it be said in the most unequivocal language that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has the inalienable right to endorse any candidate of his choice, as he did for Segun Abraham. In retrospect the political deity of our time, Baba (Chief) Obafemi Awolowo in 1979 endorsed Baba Alayande for the governorship race in the old Oyo State, and chief Bola Ige who was not only the political godson of Baba but was also a long time disciple of Awolowo right from his university days stoutly resisted the move and called for a primary election which finally produced him as the gubernatorial candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).Despite the temptation to call for a re-run by some political “do-gooders” who said that the election was rigged in his favour by late Chief Adelakun (Eru o bodo), Baba declined the pressure, insisting that as a democrat and legal practitioner, he was not ready to encourage a political conflagration in Oyo State.
History also repeated itself in 1983, when Baba, who was revered for rewarding loyalty, picked Pa Olawoyin, a long time associate as his choice for the gubernatorial election of the old Kwara State. Mr. Corneleus Adebayo, resisted and defeated Pa Olawoyin in the primary. Baba in his usual characteristic style of toeing the path of democratic norms and values, again announced that he was not ready to sacrifice the wish of the people on the altar of friendship. That’s not all, Baba Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 actually endorsed Chief S.K. Babalola for the People’s Democratic Party gubernatorial election in Ekiti, but Mr. Fayose confronted Baba despite his executive power and won the primary. All sorts of brick bats were thrown at Fayose. It was even confirmed that all the delegates were camped in his spotless Hotel in Ado Ekiti, but Baba Obasanjo said he was not ready to trade off the victory of P.D.P on the basis of intra party crisis.
Tinubu the Jagaban and the grand master of political strategy is not a small fry. He is not just big fish but a golden one for that matter who is constantly sought for, by both the up-coming and matured politicians. Having volunteered his intellect and enormous resources towards the victory of his party for the benefit of common man, he has immortalized his name in the global record of egalitarian statesmen.
The leader without mincing words has a date with history. His pacifist intervention in the festering Ondo State intra-party imbroglio cannot be over emphasized. Awolowo did it for the victory of his party, Obasanjo did same for People’s Democratic
Party in Ekiti State and even Senator Bernie Sanders is currently doing it for Hillary Clinton in far away United States, having fought a bitter primary election with her, all for the success of the party. It will be a Political hara-kiri to allow the people’s
Democratic party- a party he toiled with visible perspiration to dislodge or even any other party at all to harvest the glory of his party- the All Progressives Party (APC).!
This will surely be synonymous with killing the ant with a sledge hammer. To this, I say God forbid.
- Aragbada is a former editor and retired bank executive