Unresolved Ondo APC primary widens cracks in party
• Olu Oke plots alternative platform
•Tinubu bounces back as rallying point
Anxiety is mounting in Ondo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) sequel to the inability of the Governorship Appeal Committee, headed by Mrs. Helen Bendega, and the party itself to resolve the issues surrounding the controversial primary held on September 3. Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) won that primary.
The committee’s delay has neither justified the grievances of the antagonists nor established the victory of the protagonists in the governorship primary, which is currently setting the party apart.
Akeredolu won the exercise with 669 votes to defeat the major rivals: Dr. Olusegun Abraham, 635 votes; Chief Olusola Oke, 576 votes; and Senator Ajayi Boroffice, 471 votes.
But the losers have resolutely protested that the primary was fraught with irregularities and rigging.
The political stunts polled by Akeredolu, who had reportedly declared earlier that the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, would be shocked by the result of the primary, subsequently became the basis for faulting the result when it was alleged that over 360 fake delegates infiltrated the delegates’ list to favour the winner.
What appeared to be the hope of the contenders, who were later joined by another aspirant, in the Bendega committee to cancel the victory of Akeredolu, was dashed especially now that the nomination of candidate closes yesterday, as clearly stipulated in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) guidelines for the November 26 election.
A political analyst in the state, Mr. Taiwo Jebute, said it was a calculated attempt by the party at the national level to waste time and frustrate the trio of Abraham, Oke and Boroffice from fulfilling their political aspirations in another party.
“Don’t be surprised if the report is eventually released after the stipulated September 19, which was the final date for the submission of nomination list by parties. I can bet it, it is a strategy.
“It is a well-orchestrated plot by the party to enforce Akeredolu on the party. Do you think they would set aside the grievances of the complainants and still maintain the September 3 result so that they can leave the party? ” Jebute added.
This, observers argued may set a stage for an unfolding drama in the State politics, which has since taken factional dimension within the camps of the APC and ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and possibly give birth to the a third force that could outshine the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) that respectively picked Dr. Olu Agunloye and Dr. Dare Bada as their governorship candidates.
Though Oke dispelled the rumour that he had ditched the party for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to actualise his aspiration; he, alongside his supporters and sympathisers, faulted the Appeal Committee tardiness despite the ‘gross misconducts’ allegation against the primary headed by Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar.
Without mincing words, Oke who described the election as “a cinema,” said, “My worry is about the delay because they have a prescribed period,” nonetheless, he expressed confidence in the appeal committee to do justice to over 350 fake delegates that were injected fraudulently into the list, insisting that injustice must not be condoned in the progressive camp.
“I don’t believe they will be lawless, therefore, we are looking up to the committee to make its position known.”
The third runner up, who said he is among those ordained to sack the ruling PDP in the state, expressed profound premonitions on the unnecessary delay, saying “the party is entitled to cover up corruption and I am also entitled to react to covering of corruption.
“But since that has not been done, let me assume in the absence of that they are reasonable, they are zero-tolerant to corruption and they are going to reject it. I don’t want to pre-empt any opinion about how and what will happen.
“I don’t like to pre-empt the outcome of any process. That is why for almost two weeks running, I have not issued personally any statement or commented on it,” noting that if their ground of appeal were not treated by the committee to cancel the result, he “would give appropriate reaction and action to the position.”
Appraising the bleak future of eventuality that might follow the report, he hinted that if the people should mount pressure on him to ditch the APC for another party, “If I determine that that is their desire, I will not disappoint the people of Ondo State.”
Declaring that the “Roadmap to prosperity” initiated by late Governor Olusegun Agagu is the fulcrum, which his administration will turn, he said, “I have a pact and covenant with you that I will not be silent on your predicaments, and on the problems of Ondo State, I will never relent. We shall give it all the efforts it requires to ensure laudable transformation in the state.
“Till we will finish this election, I am with you and I am assuring that I will never leave you. God has promised that he would break your yokes and restore our freedom; and I am one of those whom God will use. I have the belief that it is done.”
Going by the INEC guidelines, all parties interested in the governorship election must have concluded their primaries by today.
But some analysts, who argued that there is always a way out of every impasse, contended that it was just the beginning of another epoch in the state politics.
The emergence of Mr. Yinka Orokoto as the governorship candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) at the weekend signaled a closed ticket for Oke as speculated by the disclosure of one of the party chieftains in the state, who boasted that AA governorship candidate would shock the whole state to its roots.
The chieftain, who pleaded anonymity, had confidently declared that the crisis within APC have been “their Achilles heels since 2003, and these will tremendously be to our advantage politically as Governor Mimiko left the ruling PDP for Labour Party (LP), an insignificant party in 2006. History has come to repeat itself in Ondo State,” he said.
Nevertheless, other analysts pointed out that the emergence of Orokoto, an Ilaje man from the same district with Oke, the 2012 governorship candidate and former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, was to forestall the antics of the party to bide away time to circumvent the aspirants from getting other parties’ ticket.
“But they got it wrong. Oke can still fly his ambition in the AA according to the provisions of INEC guidelines, which mark October 19 as the last day for withdrawal of candidates or replacement of withdrawn candidates by political parties,” they said.
They noted that the interference of some influence at the national level of the party portend imminent dangers for Akeredolu and might compound the cracks in the APC ahead of the November 26 poll.
Sources close to Tinubu hinted that there are emerging forces that see Oke, popularly known as “Oke-Gbemi” as a rallying point to wrestle the heart of Ondo politics from the likes of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Amaechi, Nasir El-Rufai, who are reportedly averse to Tinubu’s political influence in the region.
The September 3 primary and other political downturns in the APC, they said, were premeditated attempts to pluck the political plumage of Tinubu after he had serially lost some ministerial appointments last year, Kogi State governorship bid, relevant stakes in the ongoing national government; and now, his alleged endorsement stake on Abraham.
The Guardian gathered that the political bigwigs in the State are determined to ensure Akeredolu loses the governorship seat even if it meant rallying behind Tinubu.
Boroffice and Abraham, alongside their army of sympathizers, seem to remember the APC promises of a fair, credible and transparent primary but the aggrieved APC aspirants are resolved to unite round Oke as generals, to defeat Akeredolu.
Oluwole Ariba, an APC delegate from Okitipupa, cautioned that danger was ahead for the party, adding, “The primary must be cancelled,” to avoid tragedy in APC.
“Would the Appeal Committee and APC national level allow this state to slip off our party again?” Ariba queried.