A governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), has said that he was not imposed as the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state in 2012.
Akeredolu, who was the ACN candidate in the 2012 governorship election in the state, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Akure on Friday.
He also spoke on Adaba FM, where he asked APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, to stop his rumoured endorsement of one of the aspirants, Mr Segun Abraham.
23 aspirants will participate in the APC governorship primary in the state scheduled for September 3, 2016 ahead of the November 26 election.
“How l emerged as the governorship candidate of ACN in 2012 in Ondo State was not an issue of imposition because all aspirants of the party then submitted themselves to a process.
“At meetings, all aspirants told the party leadership that we were all prepared to abide by whoever they chose as candidate. The party, ACN, did not conduct any primary.
“We had the leadership of the party who sat and used democratic process to choose the candidate.
“The leadership was not Senator Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande alone, but we had governors and other leaders of the party.
“It was a collective decision of the leadership of the party then and nobody imposed me as the ACN candidate in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo State,” he said.
Akeredolu, who was the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state between 1997 and 1999, condemned alleged plans by some APC leaders to impose one of the aspirants as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming primary.
He said that any of the party leaders could only endorse the candidate that emerged through primary but not impose an aspirant as the candidate before the primary.
“I am against imposition of candidate, but when it comes to the issue of endorsement, I am not against endorsement.
“Let us know how endorsement operates outside. Let us look at the example of Hillary Clinton and Sanders, who ran under the Democratic National Congress in America (DNC).
“Barack Obama, as the president and leader of their party, did not endorse Clinton until she became the presumptive candidate of DNC. That is what is expected of any leader.
“As a leader, l will not endorse any aspirant, more so when you have given your word to all the aspirants that you will not endorse anybody, and that anybody that wins the primary, you will support.
“Doing so as a leader, you are betraying the trust people reposed in you and it is condemnable when you are using the party apparatus to impose the aspirant you are supporting,” he said.
Akeredolu, on the radio programme, said the rumoured endorsement of one of the aspirants contesting for the party’s ticket by Tinubu was the beginning of the failure for the party in the forthcoming election in the state.
The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) appealed to the party delegates not to be influenced by money or cajoled by some leaders, but to vote according to their conscience.
Akeredolu, who appealed to the national leadership of the party to ensure transparent, free and fair primary process, said he was confident of winning the party’s ticket at the end of the exercise.
“I think the delegates should listen to the voice of the people of Ondo State who are clamouring for Akeredolu as their governor. Akeredolu is a name they do not need to preach about because it is already known by all and sundry in the state,” he said.
The party’s primary was initially slated for August 27 but was shifted to August 31 with the party’s leadership citing logistics challenge before it was postponed to September 3.
Speaking on the shifting of the date of the primary, the party’s Director of Publicity, Steve Otaloro, said the national leadership of the party had communicated a new date to the party.
He said the exercise would be held at Democracy Park, Akure.
However, aspirants and supporters of the party have expressed mixed feelings over the postponement of the primary.
While some are of the opinion that the date would afford the national leadership the opportunity to put the party in order, others said it was to give “the anointed candidate” the opportunity to worm himself into the hearts of the delegates.
No fewer than 3,000 delegates will participate in the primary to pick the party’s standard-bearer for the November 26 election.