Akeredolu’s victory in Ondo reechoes 1978 UPN saga
• Like Awolowo, Tinubu lost out in contest’
• Delegate list was doctored, 80 per cent of votes for Abraham were mine, says Oke
History repeated itself in Ondo State at the weekend when a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), emerged the standard-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 26 governorship polls after a closely contested primary.Against all odds, the accredited 2,774 delegates across the 203 wards of the state elected Akeredolu as their choice.
This was exactly the case in 1978 when the late Chief Bola Ige defeated Emmanuel Alayande to clinch the Unity Party of Nigeria’s (UPN) ticket for the governorship election in old Oyo State. The endorsement of Alayande by the party’s leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, notwithstanding, younger Ige won the primary election and later emerged governor of the old Oyo State in 1979.
A deluge of mixed reactions has followed the exercise with some stakeholders commending the process and congratulating the winner while others refused to be too enthusiastic.Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2012 governorship election, Chief Olusola Oke, who also contested in the Saturday’s exercise kicked against the results.
Oke, who expressed his displeasure yesterday through his Campaign Director-General, Mr. Bola Fisayo, said the election was not a true reflection of the wishes of the delegates that participated in it. According to him, the list of delegates handed over to the aspirants at a meeting with the Presidency was different from the one brought by the Chairman of the Election Committee, Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Muhammed Badaru.
Oke complained that the list was shown to the aspirants at the eleventh hour and there was no adequate time for scrutiny.He claimed that over 110 names of delegates identified among their camp were removed from both Ondo East and Ondo West local councils and replaced with non-executive members of the party.
On the whole, however, there is a call for unity of purpose among most of the aspirants that contested with Akeredolu.Former Senate Minority Leader, Olorunninbe Mamora said by the election: “The APC has demonstrated that it could conduct an open and transparent internal democracy. While I will urge all participants in the process to accept the outcome in good faith what is paramount to us as a party now is the election.”
In another reaction, one of the aspirants, Akinyinka Akinnola, described the primary election as very transparent and free and urged the leadership of the party, to as a matter of urgency, start the process of resolving the differences that may have arisen from the exercise.
According to him, “This is important to enable the party to approach the governorship election as a family. For instance, when we are approached to step down for Abraham, I collapsed my entire 500 delegates into his (Abraham) not for any other purpose but in the interest of the party.”
In a similar vein, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lanre Odubote, expressed confidence that with what happened on Saturday, “victory is sure for the party come November 26 when the governorship election will take place.” And from across the border in Ekiti State came felicitations from the state branch of the APC, which noted, “the rancour-free exercise demonstrates oneness of spirit among party leadership, the aspirants and members. Such conduct signals victory over a ‘bitterly divided rival PDP’ in the governorship election.”
The state Publicity Secretary Taiwo Olatunbosun said in a statement that Akeredolu’s victory was a consolidation of the rancour-free presidential primaries that produced President Muhammadu Buhari to be followed by Kogi State primaries that produced the late Prince Audu Abubakar.
For over three weeks, the APC has floundered politically with endorsement crisis hitting it; a state of uncertainty that had so many wondering whether the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have his way or not.
This did not go well with the other 23 aspirants, who presented themselves for screening in Abuja, kicking that the international business tycoon and ally of the leader, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, could not be ‘imposed’ on the party.
A similar scenario had played out in 1978, when Awolowo, who occupied the influential position, which Tinubu enjoys today in the South West, felt that Alayande was a better candidate for the party in the old Oyo governorship election.
Awolowo’s preference and endorsement of Alayande was a threat to the ambition of Ige, the former Attorney General of the Federation, whom many felt was younger in age and more brilliant.After several attempts to persuade them to step down for each other failed, they resorted to a primary election; hoping that Alayande who hailed from Ibadan, the second largest city in Africa, would defeat his rival, Ige, whose small Esa-Oke, in Osun State was not a match numerically.
Springing up surprises, Ige aligned with Alhaji Busari Adelakun, a.k.a “Eru o b’odo” and the late Alhaji Arisekola-Alao from Ibadan, who gave their powerful grassroots machinery and wealth respectively, to floor Alayande at the primary election. And nothing and nobody, not even the Great Awo could change that.