Ondo 2020: Issues as APC picks governorship candidate tomorrow

As the All Progressives Congress (APC) is set for its primary election tomorrow, HAKEEM GBADAMOSI examines the mood of the party’s aspirants over the choice of its mode of primary adopted in picking its candidate.

The gubernatorial election in Ondo State has continued to throw up interesting developments, especially in the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). One of such surprises is the adoption of the indirect mode of primary for picking the APC standard-bearer for the October 10, 2020 governorship election. The primary comes up tomorrow.

The position of the national leadership of the APC on the mode of primary to be adopted has been tearing the party apart in the state. While 11 aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket have been clamouring for direct mode of primary, the incumbent governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, seems to be at home with indirect primary, though he has declared at different forums that he would be ready for any form of primary adopted by the party.

Confirming Akeredolu’s position on the mode of primary to be adopted for the party, Commissioner for Information and Orientation in the state, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said “we’ve not come out as a government that we are opposed to direct primary, neither had Mr Governor expressed aversion for same. We’re not afraid of any mode of primary and I’ll want the public to also know that the noise being orchestrated by those in the Unity Forum for direct primary is to put out a narrative that Mr. Governor is opposed to direct primary.

“In fact, we will even prefer direct primary. So, those who are making noise about direct primary are only wasting their time.”

But it is apparent that the national secretariat of the APC has adopted indirect primary for tomorrow’s shadow election and this has generated more controversies within the party. It assumed a new dimension last weekend when 11 of the 12 aspirants sent a protest letter to the national secretariat of the party, kicking against the indirect mode of primary for the election.

The 11 aspirants raised the alarm that using the indirect primary would not give room for equity, free and fair process. They are of the opinion that the delegates for the July 20 primary election cannot be trusted, if the party finally decides to settle for the indirect mode of primary.

The decision of these aspirants who embraced direct mode of primary over indirect mode was contained in a letter dated July 8, entitled; “Why indirect primary cannot be an option for the Ondo State governorship primary election.” It was signed by the 11 aspirants and addressed to the Governor Mai Bala Buni-led Caretaker Transition Committee (CTC).

The aspirants who signed the letter include Joseph Iji, Odimayo Okunjimi, Olayide Adelami, Isaac Kekemeke, Olusola Oke, lfeoluwa Oyedele, Olajumoke Anifowose, Awodeyi Colinus and Olubukola Adetula.

Others are Dr Olusegun Abraham and Dr Nathaniel Adojutelegan.

The aspirants, who expressed fears over the mode of primary to be adopted, demanded for the dissolution of all party structures from the state level to the ward, and threatened to boycott the exercise, if the party refused to back out from its decision on indirect primary, describing the party delegates as “rogues who would only go for the highest bidder.”

“We can’t trust these delegates. They are vultures waiting to eat a dying child. These rogues will suck us dry. Our experience at their hands during the 2016 APC governorship primary election is still fresh in our memories, the aspirants had written, threatening the party hierachy.

“We will tear this party apart, if Governor Buni-led CTC refuses to give us direct mode by dissolving all party structures from the ward to the state,” the aspirants said.

But Sunday Tribune gathered that the moves by the aspirants was coming too late. A member of the dissolved National Working Committee (NWC) of the party informed our reporter that prior to the dissolution of the NWC, former chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, had written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), signifying its choice of the indirect primary mode for Ondo State and that on assumption of office, the Buni-led CTC adopted this position.

Under the indirect mode, delegates, most of whom are party leaders, elected legislators and government appointees who are party members are the ones to choose the party’s candidate, while all card-carrying party members across all the electoral wards of the state will be the ones to decide the governorship candidate in the direct mode of primary.

It was gathered that the aggrieved aspirants resolved to call for the dissolution of the party’s excos after their demand for direct primary met a brickwall, as the party has exceeded the 21-day window for notification of INEC on the mode of primary to be adopted.

They hinged their call on the divisions within the party, saying: “It is our position that adopting the indirect primary election in Ondo State, given the prevailing mood and circumstances, is hazardous on the following grounds: Subsistence of Suit No FHC/AK/CS/10/19.

“It is a notorious fact that the above suit was instituted by aggrieved members of the party to challenge the constitutionality and validity of the ward, local government and state executives purported to have emerged from the compromised congresses of 2019.

“The case was provoked by the complaint that those currently parading themselves as party executives at all levels in the state were singlehandedly selected outside the congresses, contrary to the provisions of the APC constitution, by His Excellency, the Governor of Ondo State, and his allies.

“It is the law and it stands to good logic that no party to the above suit should take any step that will undermine the authority of the court during the pendency of the suit.

“It is for the above reasons and the overriding need to maximise fairness and minimise bitterness that, as stakeholders, we most humbly insist that the direct primary be adopted as was peacefully utilised in Edo, Osun, Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states.”

The aspirants maintained that the direct primary mode would provide a level-playing field for all aspirants and assist in no small measure in mobilising party members to own the candidature of whoever emerged from the process.

They added that “the consequence of knowingly opening the race to all willing members of the party by allowing them to invest time, energy and huge resources only to hand over victory to one of the aspirants by adopting a mode only favourable to that aspirant is too grave.”

But the aspirants kicking against indirect primary may have incurred the wrath of delegates for the election. The delegates threatened not to vote for all the 11 aspirants for describing them as “untrustworthy party men.”

The delegates, responding to the aspirants in a statement signed by Yemi Akinwande, said “we take exception to their name calling habit, just as we are battle ready to show them that we are not rogues.”

However, the state APC said there was no division in the party as being insinuated by the aspirants. The state chairman of the party, Mr Ade Adetimehin, said the state executive committee was duly elected in June 2018.

Adetimehin, who said the party was never factionalised, said the claims of the aspirants were nothing but fallacy.

The party also said that aspirants contesting for the gubernatorial ticket could not dictate the mode of primary to the party.

Publicity Secretary of the party, Alex Kalejaye, described the statement credited to the aspirants as inflammatory, “especially those laden with threats to ensure that the state chapter is brought down, if their wish is not granted.”

Kalejaye stated in a statement he signed that: “We wish to place it on record that it is inconceivable that aspirants would dictate to the party on which mode to adopt.

“The chapter is duty-bound to underscore a salient point; that it is the prerogative of the national secretariat to decide which of the modes spelt out in the party constitution should be adopted for each state at any point in time.

“For the sake of emphasis, the party’s constitution approves three modes of primaries to select its candidates for an election: Direct, indirect and consensus. Any of these could be chosen at random, depending on the discretion of the supervising authority.

“The supervising authority in this regard is the Governor Buni-led CTC, saddled with the responsibility to decide the option for Ondo State 2020.”

He said further that “we hold that a committed party member would not embark on actions or utterances that would cast aspersions on its leadership at all levels. He would rather prefer to work assiduously towards the victory of his party at any election.

“It is imperative for aspirants, like students preparing for examinations, to abide by the rules and guidelines from the national secretariat, so long as these rules are not at variance with the contents of the party’s constitution.

“The efforts to set a terrible precedent for the party by allowing aspirants to dictate what mode to adopt for an election should be invested in quality and decent campaigns to sell their candidacy to party elders, leaders and members.

“The state secretariat’s concern is to promote all genuine efforts geared towards a rancour-free primary election; produce a candidate who will ultimately retain the state for the party, come October.”

With the APC primary slated for tomorrow, it is crystal clear that there is no going back on the mode of primary for the selection of the party’s candidate for the governorship election in the state, as most of the aggrieved aspirants have all returned to the field canvassing delegates ahead of the primary.

However, political analysts have observed that the outcome of the APC primary might further plunge the party into a crisis that might cause the loss of the state to the opposition. They observed that all the aspirants are working towards different goals and their personal interests seem to matter to them all.

They blamed the NWC of the APC for their “double standard,” querying the leaders of the party for adopting direct primary to select its governorship candidate in a state but indirect for the governorship in another.

According to an analyst, many corrupt politicians usually bank on buying the delegates to vote them during the primaries and do not support the idea of discarding delegates in favour of direct primary which allows for mass participation of members.

The argument is that it is only politicians who have hatched plans to buy the delegates with money that kick against direct primary election.

 

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