Ahead of the gubernatorial primary of APC in Ondo state, Hakeem Gbadamosi X-rays the contenders for the APC ticket.
EXCEPT the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) handles the primary election or selection of its candidate for the Ondo State governorship election carefully, the party in the state may be heading towards another round of crisis similar to the one that engulfed it in Edo State recently which may cause it to be eased out of power and/or reckoning in the state.
The APC has been enmeshed in crisis in the state since it came into power in 2016. The genesis of the crisis can be traced to the 2016 primaries of the party which produced Akeredolu as the standard-bearer. The process of his emergence, however, was disputed by other aspirants, some of who, since then, have maintained a pole distance from the Ondo State government thus widening the gulf of the crisis within the party.
Akeredolu has signified his intention to seek a fresh mandate but his mission appears threatened with the emergence of about 10 other members of the party rooting to contest the primaries of the party with him. Most of the aspirants except a few have strong roots in the politics of the state while some others are said not have the necessary structures to pursue their aspiration.
Interestingly, some of the aspirants belong to the Unity Forum, a group of aggrieved members of the party who are not disposed to Akeredolu’s style of governance and led by a former deputy governor in the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi. The governor is facing stiff opposition from aspirants from this group and others within the party who plan to wrestle the power from him.
But it is not all rosy within the camp of those gunning for Akeredolu’s seat. The choice of Chief Olusola Oke as the consensus candidate of the Unity Forum, for instance, has almost set the group on fire with other interested aspirants kicking against the decision of the leadership of the forum while others chose to part ways with the group to pursue their aspirations independently.
So far out of the army of pretenders who announced their interest for the Ondo State number one position, only 10 contenders have shown serious intent by obtaining the nomination form. Among these serious contenders are incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 2016 governorship election, Chief Olusola Oke, a former Secretary to the State Government and pioneer chairman of the state APC, Isaacs Kekemeke and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Togo, Mr. Sola Iji.
Others are Ifeoluwa Oyedele, Jimi Odimayo, Olayide Adelami, Jumoke Anifowose, Bukola Adetula, Segun Abraham, Nath Adojutelegan and Akin Awodeyi. All these aspirants were said to have obtained the party’s expression of interest forms.
But while most of the APC aspirants above are from the Northern senatorial district of the state, only three of them hailed from the southern district and none from the central senatorial district.
The reason for high number of aspirants from the North is hinged on the belief that since Akeredolu is from that district, the area should produce the candidate that will conclude a two-term arrangement just as Dr Segun Mimiko who spent two terms as governor.
But Sunday Tribune gathered that this number of aspirants is causing fear within the APC, especially after witnessing the Edo uprising that nearly tore the party apart. It is believed that Akeredolu losing the ticket in questionable circumstances might widen the gap of the gulf in the party just as his victory in an unfair manner. But some political watchers believe that allowing Akeredolu to fly the party’s ticket might bring an end to the crisis in the party if well managed by him this time round.
But while all the contenders have their political influences and assurances by entrenched powerful interests in the state, particular attention, however, is being paid to the incumbent, Akeredolu, Oke and Kekemeke. The reason for the attention is not far to seek. It is believed that they have built political structures in parts of the state with enough financial war-chest to give other contestants a hot fight in the primary and main governorship poll. But while this may be so, political pundits are not writing off new entrants like Oyedele, who is said to have the backing the party’s main power brokers.
While Oke and Kekemeke, are seen as grassroots politicians who can give Akeredolu a good fight in the race for the party’s ticket. The two aspirants however might not be able to match the financial prowess to face Akeredolu in the party’s primary.
So far, all the aspirants have stuck to their guns with no one talking about stepping down for another. But it is being said that underneath wheeling and dealings are going on. Negotiations and consultations are flowing here and there. But the primary, no doubt, it is going to be a fierce contest among Akeredolu and other contestants.
Most of the aspirants have been touring every unit, ward and local government across the state soliciting for support from party faithful. While some camps are clamouring for indirect mode of primary, some have shown their preference for direct mode of primary.
But how do these aspirants rate among the electorate? What are their political worth? Do they have enough gunpowder to fight their way victory?
The incumbent, Akeredolu, who hails from Owo in the northern senatorial district, is seeking a second term to enable him to consolidate on the gains he has recorded in his first tenure. He has won the party’s ticket twice in 2012 and 2016 governorship election in the state, eventually becoming governor in 2016. His emergence led to the current crisis in the state APC after some aspirants in the primary election alleged that the election was fraught with some irregularities.
But that has become history. Apart from the power of incumbency, coupled with his financial wherewithal, one other factor that stands Akeredolu out in the race is his firm grip on the state party’s structures as presently constituted from the wards to the state level.
While the governor is said to be favourably disposed to the indirect primary adopted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, other aspirants and stakeholders who are not comfortable with that decision have started hammering on direct primary for the party’s primary.
Another odd is that the majority of the aspirants are from the northern district as the governor and would need to work harder to win the party’s ticket the second time. He is one of those heavily favoured to get the ticket of the party.
Oke, a former member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) defected to APC to contest the last governorship primary where he came third and subsequently joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He flew the AD flag but lost to Akeredolu in the 2016 governorship election.
Oke returned to APC in 2018 and was welcomed back into the party fold but later parted ways with Akeredolu. He pitched his tent with the Unity Forum where he later emerged as the consensus candidate of the group.
His adoption has since torn the forum apart, with eight of the nine other aspirants kicking against his choice, and vowed to contest the party’s primary election, even without the support of their group.
He is also believed to be one of the frontline contenders for the APC governorship ticket. He has been enjoying some goodwill from the people following his series of consultations and meetings
Oke, a grassroots mobiliser, remains one of the few politicians in the state tipped to have the political strength and structure to oust the incumbent. He remains a candidate to beat in the election. Apart from having the financial muscle to execute the election, his established structures cut across all political parties and pundits predicted other less political parties working for his emergence if he eventually clinches the ticket.
Speaking on his desire to rule the state, Oke said he remained the hope of the common man in the state, adding that “the truth of the matter is that our people are hungry and our people are angry. They are tired of capital flight. They are tired of aggressive leadership.
“They are tired of a leader that will not reckon with other leaders in the same family. They are tired of lack of respect in governance. They still want APC to remain but they want a new face of APC in the state.
“I’m encouraged by history. Agagu continues to be my political mentor. He contested three times before he became governor. Buhari remains our political mentor. He contested three times before he became president. So, mine is not strange and it’s not peculiar. I believe that when you have a mission, you don’t look back until it is fulfilled.
“The reason I contested in 2010, if they were 10, they are 100 today. If they were small, they are giants today. Therefore, I cannot fold my arms and keep silent in the face of tyranny.”
He is the first pioneer chairman of APC in the state who organised the party and won the state for APC in the 2016 governorship election. He was a former SSG, Commissioner for Works and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
Though, Kekemeke hails from the Ijaw minority in the state he remains one of the few politicians who understand the politics of the state. He has been involved in the politics of the state for about 30 years. He parted ways with Akeredolu after the 2016 election and was relegated to the background. Though Kekemeke is not a member of the Unity Forum he shared the idea that Akeredolu’s best is not enough for the state. He has been moving around the state clamouring for peace and unity to return to APC in the state.
He is another grassroots mobiliser who has been giving Akeredolu’s camp sleepless night. He is said to have commenced his mobilisation towards his governorship ambition early and he is also being favoured as likely winner of the ticket.
It is said that a national leader of the party in the South-West has thrown his weight behind his ambition and considered him as possible replacement of Akeredolu. He is not known to be a financial heavyweights but it is being said that he is pulling his weights among some of his friends and political associates who share his political dream.
Kekemeke said his interest in unseating the present governor was hinged on facts that the Akeredolu-led administration in the state has failed to run an inclusive government. According to him, he is “set to unseat the incumbent governor come October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state”.
He is not a greenhorn and he is said to have structures across the 3009 wards in the state.
But political watchers envisage another round of crisis within the APC whether Akeredolu secure the party’s ticket or not, as the many of the factions have drawn a battle line with him. All the groups appear determined to thwart the return of Akeredolu to the Alagbaka House, while it is also being said that the governor’s camp will not work for whoever might emerge from any of the camps. This according to political analysts might turn to be a blessing to the opposition party in the state.
Although there is still a cloud of uncertainty over the July 20 governorship primary election of APC and the mode to be adopted as all aspirants except Akeredolu have been clamouring for direct mode of primary, there is no doubt that the primary election of the party will be a fierce contest amongst the gladiators. Only time will tell who flies the party’s flag at the end of the day.
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