As aggrieved aspirants in the September 3rd All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary in Ondo state await the party’s verdict, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO observes that APC’s fortune in the forthcoming election may be affected, if the situation is not properly managed.
Some of the aspirants in the APC governorship primary in Ondo state are challenging the victory of former NBA President, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), saying the exercise was marred with malpractices.
The aggrieved aspirants hinged their arguments on alleged insertion of non-delegates into the delegate list, thereby invoked internal machinery of the party to resolve the crisis.
Although, 24 aspirants participated in primary election, it was keenly contested amongst four top aspirants, and Akeredolu emerged as the party’s candidate.
Akeredolu defeated preferred aspirant of the APC’s national leader and former governor of Lagos state, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu, Olusegun Abraham, by pooling 669 votes as against Abraham’s 635 votes.
The duo of Akeredolu and Abraham in 2012 vied for the governorship ticket of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but the latter (Abraham) was pressurised to step down for Akeredolu.
The legal giant eventually contested for the governorship seat and lost to the incumbent governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who contested under the platform of the Labour Party.
Candidate of the PDP in the 2012 election in, Olusola Oke, having joined the APC in April 2015, sprang-up a surprise by pulling 576 votes to come third ahead of older members of the party such as the Senator representing Ondo North, Ajayi Boroffice who garnered 471 votes, and the Senator representing Ondo Central, Tayo Alasoadura, who recorded 206 votes.
A member of the House of Representatives, Bode Ayorinde, scored 67 votes, Jamiu Afolabi scored 44 votes, former speaker of the Ondo state House of Assembly, Olabitan Victor scored 18 votes, Adefemi Mayowa scored 13 votes, Adegbomire Adebiyi and Adekunle Adekunle scored 8 votes each, Oyewumi Taiwo scored 7votes, Tunji Abayomi recorded five votes, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, 3 votes, Tunji Ariyomo recorded two votes, while the only female aspirant, Jumoke Ajasin Anifowose, scored only a vote.
However, the three leading aspirants and some party leaders in the state have rejected the election result.
Olusola Oke who was quick to reject the result insisted that it was not a true reflection of the delegates that participated in the primary.
Oke who spoke through the Director-General of his campaign organisation, Mr. Bola Fisayo alleged that some names were removed on the delegates’ list while non-delegates were allegedly allowed to vote.
According to Oke, the list of delegates handed over to aspirants at a meeting with the Presidency was different from the list of delegates brought by the Chairman of the Election Committee, Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar.
He added that the delegates’ list was shown to the aspirants at the eleventh hour and there was no adequate time to scrutinise the list.
The former national legal adviser of the PDP, alleged further that about 110 names belonging his camp were removed from both Ondo East and West local governments while their names were replaced with non-executive members of the party.
“The election did not represent the true position of the delegates, the accreditation gave room for manipulation and the whole process was laced with fraud and the result released did not represent the true reflection of the delegates as non-delegates were allowed to participate in the election,” Oke said.
In the same vein, Senator Ajayi Boroffice rejected the result of the election, as he demanded an outright cancellation.
Boroffice who came fourth in the primary with 471 votes said he was informed that many hired people who were not delegates voted in the party’s primary election.
“If the appeal committee finds out that the allegations that characterised the election were true, a total cancellation of the exercise is the best. Before the conclusion of the election, I kept hearing the rumours that the delegates’ list has been infiltrated. That there are even some people who were not accredited, who are not even delegates but were given tags and induced to come and vote. That has been substantiated now and it’s unfortunate. I am in support of total cancellation of the election, we must do it again,” he stated.
Boroffice however said he would support any aspirant who emerged as the party’s candidate through a free and fair process. Adding that no plan to defect from the APC.
“I am a loyal party man, I had the opportunity to leave the party in 2012 but I didn’t. I was one of the three people that remained then, among the aspirants. I am not in this party to be a governor. I am in this progressive party to help build Nigeria. If I don’t become governor, another person will be a governor, as long as the process is free, fair and credible.”
Meanwhile, Abraham who had initially conceded defeat to Akeredolu, eventually joined the list of aspirants who reject the election result.
Abraham in his congratulatory message to Akeredolu, commended the electoral committee for conducting a hitch-free election.
“My special regards and admiration for Alhaji Baderu Abubakar, the Governor of Jigawa State, and his team for their sterling quality and integrity in conducting the APC governorship primary in Ondo State,” he said.
But in a sharp contrast, the first runner-up in the primary through his campaign office rejected the result.
Director-general of his campaign organisation, Chief Olu Adegboro in a statement said: “Considering the plethora of staggering facts of anomalies that have since emerged to the demerit of the exercise, the gale of allegations and facts of malpractices that have since rocked the conduct and process of the Ondo gubernatorial primary election.”
“The news however is that sordid and staggering facts have since emerged on how the process leading to the primary election was manipulated and compromised, it is now beyond doubt that the delegate list used on the day of the primary election was doctored and strangely injected with a mind blowing number of delegates who are neither executive members of our party nor statutory delegates.”
“To say the least, the manipulation of the delegate list, highly skewed accreditation process, and the entire processes leading to the conduct of the primary election has cast the darkest stain on the result of the primary election held on the 3rd September, 2016. Against this background, coupled with the change and integrity that our party preaches and practices, and having widely consulted with my numerous supporters, I have reached the hour of decision to fall back on the internal mechanism of our great party to seek redress so that the end of justice will be served and more importantly, our democracy may endure. To this end, the outcome of the September 3rd APC governorship primaries in Ondo State is unacceptable and I hereby appeal against same.”
Besides the three aggrieved aspirants, some APC leaders in the state, including the party’s senatorial chairman in Ondo Central, Mr. Adegboyega Adedipe vehemently opposed the election result.
Adedipe in protest to the result resigned from his position, and led the Chairman of Ondo East local government, Mr. Akintunde Samuel and the Chairman of Ondo West local government, Mr. Adeola Ademulegun, to petition the party’s Primary Election Appeal Committee, calling for the nullification of the results of the exercise.
The party leaders alleged in the petition that; “names of 47 per cent of the delegates in Ondo East were either deleted or substituted with people who are unknown to the party as executive members. Some of the injected names are not even aware of the development and so did not come for the primary.”
“We wrote a petition to the primary election committee chairman on the morning of the election and it was reiterated that only people that had been voting in previous primaries would be allowed to vote with a promise to stand down the voting process for Ondo East and West local government areas. We were shocked that the committee never honoured the pledge.”
“In all, a total number of 64 names were injected into the delegates’ list. The names were unknown to the party. For instance, somebody who never contested any election and some even unknown to the party suddenly became ward chairmen in wards four, six, two and seven of Ondo East local government.”
“Our total valid delegates are 135 out of which 64 were disenfranchised, meaning, 47 per cent of the delegates on the unlawful list were illegal voters.”
It is however incumbent on the party to quickly put its house in order, to avoid sabotage and self-defeat in the November 26 governorship race.
Except a reconciliation is achieved in good time, the APC may go into the election with a fragmented front, thereby losing a strategic opportunity to produce the next governor of the oil producing state. Already there are speculation that some aggrieved aspirants have commenced discussions with leaders in other political parties who are yet to conduct their primaries.