There seems to be imminent crisis within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State, as the ruling party conducts its primary election today to unveil its flagbearer in the upcoming October 10, 2020 governorship election.
Sequel to the political wrangling among the aspirants, several readers of events predicted that the outcome of the election today may cause some of the party’s leaders and chieftains to pit their strength against the ruling party.
To some political analysts, the season is propitious to the governor, whose wife, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, adds another year today, with her husband’s birthday also coming up tomorrow. Akeredolu’s victory today will be a fitting birthday gift for him tomorrow. About 2,500 delegates will gather from the 203 wards across the 18 local government areas of the state today to elect the party’s flagbearer, as confirmed by the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alex Kalejaiye.
Kalejaiye, who had earlier stated that the aspirants would not dictate the mode of primary for the party, explained, “There would be 12 delegates from each of the 203 wards; 72 from the state executives. We have delegates from local government areas. We have House of Assembly and National Assembly members as automatic delegates. We also have special delegates.”
In a strategically coordinated opposition, a handful of APC chieftains, under the aegis of Unity Forum, had launched a series of attacks on the governor, but it has been so disunited in its ranks that it failed to produce a consensus candidate against Akeredolu. Consequently, the 10 aspirants in the group, headed by a former deputy governor of the state and member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi, could not successfully raise a consensus candidate to confront Akeredolu today for the party’s ticket.
The forum’s unity of purpose was defeated when the group announced Chief Olusola Oke as its consensus candidate to the chagrin of eight other aspirants, who abandoned him and the group to pursue their ambition independently. Their hope of individual aspiration was also dashed a few days ago when information trickled in that the national leadership of the party had adopted indirect primary option for the election, thus shattering their hope of a united front against the governor.
Earlier in a statement by the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, the party affirmed that “the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extra-ordinary National Convention Planning Committee has constituted Primary Election and Appeal Committees. The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello will chair the Primary Election Committee while Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe will chair the Primary Election Appeal Committee.”
Other members of the election committee include Olorogun O’tega Emerhor (Secretary), Alwan Hassan, Chief Samuel Sambo, Hajiya Binta Salihu, Mr. Emma Andy, Dr. Adebayo Adelabu, Abdullahi Aliyu, and Mrs. Margret Ngozi Igwe. Both committees were inaugurated by Buni at APC National Secretariat at 3.00pm on Friday 17 July 2020.
The development sent jitters down the spine of the APC governorship aspirants and their supporters, who thought they would slug it out with the incumbent governor through a direct primary election. Eleven out of the 12 governorship aspirants cleared by Buni rejected the indirect primary mode, except Governor Akeredolu, who, however, noted that he was not scared of direct primary.
They are Olajumoke Anifowoshe, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, Okunjimi Odimayo, Dr. Nathaniel Adojutelegan, Olubukola Adetula, Olusola Iji, Olayide Adelami, Oke, lfeoluwa Oyedele and Akinsehinwa Awodeyi, and Isaac Kekemeke. Deflating all hopes to match up with Akeredolu at the poll today, Buni, while inaugurating the committees in Abuja last Friday, had declared that the primary mode would be indirect to the chagrin of the 11 aspirants.
Leading governorship aspirants like Kekemeke, Oke, and Adelami, who were conspicuously absent at the reconciliation committee meeting held simultaneously in Akure, led by Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, were of the view that the reconciliation was a wasted effort. However, they, alongside those that were present at the meeting including Iji, Adetula, Odimayo, and Oyedele, agreed to participate in today’s election despite their slim chances against Akeredolu.
Meanwhile, Oke, who is a two-term governorship candidate, arrived at the venue shortly after Akeredolu departed from the meeting, describing the reconciliation committee meeting as a wasted effort. He said there was nothing new in the meeting. Though he excused his being late to the meeting because he got notice of meeting late.
Oke told later newsmen that he might take up litigation against the party. Contrary to people’s expectation, Oke declared, “I won’t boycott the election on Monday so that I can have the locus to challenge it. I don’t boycott any election. It is not in my character and it is not advisable. Under the electoral law, if you boycott or you don’t participate, you cannot challenge.”
In a chain reactions, the Director of Media, Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye, said the indirect primary option was shocking and a clear departure from the position of the 11 gubernatorial aspirants. Ogunleye lamented that they had expressed their open preference for direct primary in a letter jointly signed by all the gubernatorial aspirants and made available to the National Caretaker Committee of APC in Abuja.
“We wish to bring to the notice of Governor Yaya Bello and our national leaders that the adoption of indirect primary runs contrary to Article 20 of the APC. If it runs contrary to any section of our constitution, it is also proper to say that it is a subversion of the constitution of our party.
“For the sake of clarity, article 20 (III) of APC constitution stipulates that for indirect primaries meant for the purpose of nominating a candidate for election, it shall be done at a designated venue for that purpose by an Electoral College of delegates democratically elected by members of the party from various wards contained in the particular constituency.
“It said further that voting at the Ward Congress to elect the members of the Electoral College shall be by secret ballot. Summarily, the constitution of our party though permits either direct or indirect, it, however, makes it compulsory that election of electoral college delegates must be conducted.
“Arising from this section of the APC constitution and as members, who have sworn to uphold the constitution of APC, we dissociate ourselves from this obvious violation of the constitution of our party.”
Ogunleye appealed to their supporters and the majority of party members, who seek a new order in the party, to go ahead and vote for Oke, adding that their programmes, campaign and mobilisation for the primary election are in top gear.
“We appeal to the delegates to cast their votes for Chief Oke because he represents the new order in our party,” he said. “We believe the primary election is going to be determined by the resolve of the delegates, who are members of our great party.”
Meanwhile, sources in Oke’s camp revealed that political financiers have declined to support Oke like they did when he emerged governorship candidate under the auspices of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2016. With the political handwriting so legible on the wall, Unity Forum may be floundering as the major financier, Senator Ajayi Boroffice has turned his back on the group following the controversial emergence of Oke as its consensus candidate.
It was gathered that the financial crisis assumed a grim dimension after the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu turned down Oke’s plea for financial support. Oke was said to have met the APC national leader recently in Lagos, where he sought his support with the assurance that his contribution to his campaign would not be a failed project again.
It will be recalled that during the 2016 governorship election, Oke, who was then Action for Democratic (AD) candidate, was allegedly supported by Tinubu and the former Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola. But Tinubu was quoted to have told Oke and some of his political allies, who also attended the meeting, that “I have wasted enough funds on Ondo election; this time around, I want to remain neutral.”
An APC chieftain in the state, who preferred anonymity, narrated how the immediate past National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole was mobilizing some APC governors to sponsor Oke’s campaign before the NWC was sacked by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
According to the chieftain, “The initial plan of Oshiomhole before the NWC was showed the exist door was to sponsor Oke against Akeredolu. But he could not come out fully just the way he did against Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, because those APC governors loyal to him refused to give their nods for the Akeredolu’s political onslaught.
“I’m aware that the former national chairman reached out to Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who is also a political friend to Chief Oke but Uzodinma refused to show commitment for the project.
“I learnt that Uzodinma told Oshiomhole, in one of their meetings, that it would be a big task for him to lead the battle in Ondo State. Just like Oke is my friend, Akeredolu is also my in-law. His wife, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu was at the forefront here in Imo State during my governorship election.
“It is unfortunate that Oke, who is the hope of many party members, does not have the financial muscle to wrestle power from Akeredolu. Very soon, politicians may start dumping Oke’s camp for another greener pasture.”
Some delegates had protested at various venues in Ondo West, Ondo East, Ifedore, Idanre, Akure South and Akure North councils where Governor Akeredolu met APC delegates to canvass for their votes. Their angst was against some of the aspirants, who they accused of making smart moves against them with the national leadership of the party to dissolve them due to the controversial 2018 congress.
These delegates, who affirmed their support for the continuation of Akeredolu in power, vowed to stop aspirants with inordinate ambition from destroying the party.
A delegate from Ondo East, Mr. Jacob Akinnuwa said, “the majority of these aspirants do not believe in the political ideology of the progressives party. Go and check their political histories; they have toured all the political parties in the country and I won’t be surprised if they defect from the party if they fail to realise their ambitions.”
Mrs. Bola Amuda from Ifedore Ward III also said, “We have met and resolved that those who went to Abuja to seek our dissolution won’t get our votes.”
Also Femi Smith from Idanre council urged other aspirants to unite with Akeredolu, saying the state has witnessed tremendous development in the last three years.
According to Smith, “We won’t allow desperate politicians to create a crack in APC in Ondo State. Akeredolu has done well and leaders of the party, including President Muhammadu Buhari, has testified to this. So, I am appealing to our aspirants to jettison their ambitions and support Akeredolu for a second term for the continuation of this government in the state.”
But Governor Akeredolu, while receiving APC Reconciliation Committee at the weekend, extended the olive branch to all his adversaries in the party, declaring publicly that he would beg all those whom he had offended. According to Akeredolu, whose 64th birthday comes up tomorrow, said it was imperative for all party leaders and members to sheathe their swords for the benefit of the party, especially the upcoming governorship election in the state.
“We must allow for peace,” he said. “Let us get all of us the aspirants to sign that whoever wins, others will support him. Anybody I have offended, I will apologise to the person. We must allow peace.”
Governor Akeredolu said APC as a party was dear to the heart of Ondo people due to good governance and the dividends of democracy, which his administration has given the people.
“In our short time here as servants of the people, we have tried to do our best. Not because we are the best, but because God has allowed us to do it. I’m confident and I give all glory to God. I want to assure you that this is a safe state for APC. We will win this state except we come with shenanigans and today it is a thing of the past. In a free and fair primary, we will win.”
Nonetheless, it was gathered from reliable sources that the opposition camp, mainly APC governorship aspirants under the aegis of Unity Forum, is rattled as some of them have begun scrambling to be considered as Akeredolu’s running mate. Some sources within the group revealed that the aspirants had embarked on high profile lobbying and secret moves to be picked as deputy governor after today’s primary election.
There are indications that this move might not be unconnected to the meeting held with the national leadership of the party recently in Abuja, where some of them had given up on their ambition to support the incumbent governor. A credible source close to one of Unity Forum’s leaders revealed that talks on the possibility of Governor Akeredolu conceding the deputy governorship slot to the group have begun.
According to him, the consensus candidate of the Unity Forum, Oke, sent an APC chieftain from Odigbo council to the governor to explore the possibility of getting some concessions. Similarly, the Deputy Senate Leader, Borofice, was said to have also negotiated by proxy. But it was unclear if the governor was considering any move to accept the proposal on the issue.
The source recounted that “From Tuesday, we knew where they were going. The governors have made it so ear that they want one of their own, Akeredolu, to return as governor.
“But unlike previously when some openings were possible in terms of other platforms, it is difficult because making any move to defect to another party means taking a big risk since this is an off-season election.
“I know, of course, that our man, Oke, had cleverly sent someone to him (Akeredolu), but from all indications, the governor appears battle-ready for an all-out fight without giving room for concessions in any form.”
He added, “I am also aware that our patron, Senator Borofice has been mulling the idea of presenting Jimi Odimayo as possible running mate but it is not our collective idea; so, it won’t fly.
“The fact that the senator endorsed Jimi before now has even rubbished the idea because if he is actually our leader, he ought not to have singlehandedly endorsed Jimi against our popular choice, Oke. So, for him to go ahead and make proposals without consulting others to work nocturnally for Jimi to run with Aketi means nothing good to us; it is unacceptable.”
However, it was gathered that the governor and the party’s leadership, after weighing all options, have chosen to reward party loyalty and consistency by propping his 2012 running mate, Dr. Paul Akintelure.
Aside rooting for APC aborigine candidature, the choice of Akintelure is believed to be a bridge-mending measure to reconcile the Ikale people and the party’s national leader, Tinubu.