The All Progressives Congress, APC, Ondo State chapter, at the weekend held its much awaited primary election to choose who will fly its flag in the November 26, governorship election. TOPE FAYEHUN x-rays the politics that played out before and during the exercise.
After months of serious politicking and manuovering by the 24 aspirants of the All Progressives Party (APC) in Ondo state, Barrister Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, on Sunday emerged governorship candidate of the party in a keenly contested primary election.
In the primary election, which was conducted under the supervision of the Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru, Akeredolu floored 23 other aspirants, including Dr. Segun Abraham, who was allegedly endorsed by the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to pick the ticket of the party.
Some political observers described the emergence of Akeredolu as a “gang up” against Abraham who had full support of Timubu. Abraham’s aspiration collapsed like a pricked balloon by losing by just 34 votes to the winner.
It would be recalled that anxiety characterised the campaign ahead of the primaries and there was fear over the success of the exercise few weeks ago, given signs of alleged attempts by the power that be to manipulate the process to suit a particular aspirant.
The endorsement of Dr. Abraham by the Burdillion bloc disrupted the peaceful atmosphere in the party for almost two weeks to the extent that the political goodwill the party had been enjoying from the people of the state dwindled drastically.
Even, some of the supporters of the five leading aspirants namely: Akeredolu, Chief Olusola Oke, Senator Omotayo Donald Alasoadura, Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Dr. Abraham became more desperate, threatening to puncture the process as well as disrupt the peace that was long enjoyed in the party if the result of the primary election did not favour them.
For the so-called “Big Four”, the outcome of the contest brought a relief though it has also left sour tastes in the mouths of some of them, especially, those that had borrowed money from various sources to prosecute the primaries but later lost out.
But for collective interest, they worked assiduously to stop the power that be from the Burdillion and his anointed aspirant at all cost.
The previous week, tension was intensified dramatically in the state’s chapter of the party following the announcement of Dr. Segun Abraham as the anointed candidate by some leaders of the party. While some paper weight aspirants jettisoned their ambition to support the decision of Asiwaju, others, most especially, the “Big Four” were busy plotting how to frustrate Abraham emergence at the primaries.
On the day of the primaries, tension was electrifying because the exercise had been postponed twice in the previous week. Delegates who came were just hopeful that it would not be postponed again due to delays in some centres where the accreditation was expected to take place.
Security agencies were kept on their toes due to raging threats to lives, accusations, arm-twisting and riotous desperation from the camps of some of the aspirants, who rebuffed Tinubu’s perceived support for the Abraham .
There was a frenetic pitch of activity in the camps of the various aspirants as they jostled for the endorsement of the delegates till the very last moment before the primary election. As early as 6:00am , heavily armed security operatives, made up of riot police, men of the Department of State Security, and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, were deployed at strategic routes leading to the International Events Centre, DOME, and the accreditation centres.
The delegates queued at different locations according to the three senatorial districts in the state and were accredited before the commencement of voting at the DOME. The delegates from Ondo Central senatorial zone were accredited at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Arcade at Igbatoro Road, Delegates from Ondo North did theirs at Government Events Centre at Ijapo estate . The Ondo South delegates did their accreditation at Ess Bee Events Centre along Ondo road, all in Akure, the state capital.
Security was tight at the three accreditation centres. But as at 10.30am, when LEADERSHIP correspondent visited Ess Bee Events Centre, venue for Ondo South delegates, officials for the accreditation were yet to arrive with the materials. The people on group said there was a little mixed up in materials of the Central and that of the South which the officials are battling to resolve. However, the exercise commenced early at other centres .
It was gathered that the Abubakar-led committee adopted the scattered process for easy control of the crowd and to save time. Accredited delegates were conveyed from the accreditation centres to the International Events Centre (DOME) where the voting commenced about 12.00pm following the arrival of the electoral committee members about .
When eventually the final result was announced by the governor of Jigawa state who doubled as the Chairman of the election committee Alhaji Muhammed Badaru Abubakar on the early hours of Sunday, it caught many pants down. Four of the aspirants, Olusola Oke who put up an impressive show by finishing third with 576 votes even after joining the party late, Rotimi Akeredolu, Ajayi Boroffice and Olusegun Abraham were in neck to neck position.
Until the last of the 20 boxes where votes were cast by 2774 delegates were counted, all those that were present at the international event centre-the Dome at about 1:30am on that day were apprehensive. Even when the last of the box was being counted people were unable to decipher who was likely to win.
At the end of the day, Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), floored 23 other aspirants, including Dr. Segun Abraham, who was allegedly endorsed by the National leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to pick the keenly contested ticket. He polled 669 votes, while Segun Abraham,his closest rival, pulled 635 votes.
The other aspirants who made up the numbers were: Chief Olusola Oke Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Bode Ayorinde, Jamiu Ekungba, Victor Olabimtan, Jumoke Anifowose-Ajasin, Moyosola Niran Oladunni, Boye Oyewunmi and Ademola Adegoroye.
Others were: Akinwale Akingbade, Apata Awodeyi, Akinrinsola Odunayo, Tunji Abayomi, Bukola Adetula, Niyi Adegbonmire, Foluso Adeyemi, Akinola Olayinka, Dele Alade, Tunji Light Ariyomo and Patrick Ayo Akinyelure.
Oke polled 576 votes, while and Boroffice had 471 votes to settle for third and fourth places respectively. while interestingly the only woman in the contest who is the daughter of the former late governorof the state, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Jumoke Anifowose got only one vote.
Boroffice, who came fourth left the venue before the final announcement, ostensibly unable to stand the shock. Also interesting was that the vocal Dr Tunji Abayomi scored five votes.