Ahead of the November 26, Ondo governorship polls, there are indications that the cracks within the two most visible parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, may affect their chances.
After reclaiming his victory from the late Olusegun Agagu, who led the state from 2003 till 2008 until the court upturned his victory, the incumbent and two-term governor, Olusegun Mimiko, dumped the Labour Party, LP, for the PDP.
Mimiko was alleged to have been made governor through the support of Bola Tinubu, whom it is rumored, bankrolled his legal battle, mounted by a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Akeredolu later became Mimiko’s opponent in 2012 after they both got the consents of their parties, the LP, for Mimiko and the then Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, for Akeredolu as their governorship candidates.
Mimiko won the contest, leaving Akeredolu, who was accused of being Tinubu’s surrogate to lick his wounds. His victory was predicted in line with the uniqueness and abhorrence for god-fatherism in the Ondo politics.
It is the opinion of political analysts that the strategy adopted by the LP in its campaign, labeling Akeredolu as Tinubu’s stooge did the magic. Ondo, the state that produced the likes of the erstwhile leader of the Pan Yoruba socio-political group, the late Pa. Michael Adekunle Ajasin is perhaps the most sophisticated Yoruba state when it comes to progressive politics.
The 2016 governorship election is however not without its own intrigues. A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Eyitayo Jegede, emerged as the candidate of the PDP, scoring 760 votes to defeat his only rival, Hon Saka Lawal, who managed to poll 22 votes, in the results announced by the the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson who was the Chairman of the PDP Primary Election Committee for Ondo State.
The process, held at the International Cultural and Event Centre – The Dome, Akure, was monitored by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, alongside some local and international observers, the press, and security operatives.
Putting aside an earlier court order barring his faction from conducting a parallel exercise in the state, a faction of the PDP under the leadership of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, held another primary to produce a candidate for the same PDP in the same Ondo election. Businessman, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim won the primary in the exercise conducted at the Banquet Hall of Premier Hotel, Ibadan, beating other contenders like Mr Olusola Ebiseni, Honourable Bamiduro Dada, Honourable Niran-Sule Akinsuyi and Mrs. Abiye Ademuyegun. Ibrahim scored 502 votes to win the election while his co-contestant, Mr Olusola Ebiseni polled 41 votes and 17 votes were invalid.
The ruling party may have some nuts to crack with forces within the party with some discontented party men accusing Mimiko of imposing Jegede. Their argument is that the chances of the ruling party in the election could be narrowed with Jegede as its canditate. Their point is that Jegede hails from the same Ondo Central Senatorial District like Mimiko.
Sensing the dangers that may bury his ambition, Jegede has been visiting different parts of the state to build consensus among party faithful, urging them on the need to close ranks and give life to his candidacy and the party.
Inside sources disclosed to Montage Africa, that the PDP has a daunting task ahead of it to retain the state. Reasons given are the continued discordant tunes within the party’s national body which has polarised the party. It is feared that the party, having lost one of its grassroots leaders, Olusola Oke to the APC, has to work harder if it wants to continue to be the ruling party.
Coming from the blues, the aspiration of Dr. Olusegun Abraham, favoured and anointed aspirant of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu, almost tore the opposition party into shreds even before its controversial primaries. No sooner had Abraham’s name saturated the media than other contenders started a resistance to what they termed imposition by Tinubu.
The 2014 experiences has taught other aspirants, who themselves would have loved to be on the preferred list of Tinubu, but fearing the backlash that followed endorsement of Akeredolu in the election, to clamour for a level-ground. They believe a transparent equal opportunity platform would allow democratic emergence of a winner from among them.
Meanwhile, when everyone was applauding the exercise, watched live by telecast, some players said it was opaque after all, accusing organisers of backdoor injection and substitution of delegates in the list used for the election. The results of the primary saw Akeredolu returned as the winner after scoring 669 votes to beat Abraham and Oke to the second and third positions respectively.
Oke, a former national legal adviser of the PDP and defector to the party was first to raise alarm, he said the final voting exercise of the September 3 exercise was riddled with corruption, and alleged that the results that produced Akeredolu to beat other twenty-four aspirants was marred with irregularities.
Speaking to Adaba 88.9 FM Akure, during a special political programme that aired live and monitored by SaharaReporters, Oke, who polled 583 votes said that the process and outcome of the primary election was corrupt because the delegate lists used for the exercise was doctored and injected with fake names, saying 383 names were directly injected into the delegates’ list.
He said the injection altered the main configuration list that would have produced a rancor-free governorship primary election of the party. “The corruption didn’t happen on the television but at the point of accreditation, the point of delegate lists and issuance of tags to unauthorized persons,” Oke had disclosed.
For those who may single out Oke as a trouble maker may have to beat a retreat as Tinubu’s candidate in the contest, Abraham who initially accepted the results also made a U-turn by rejecting it.
Abraham also claimed that the process lacked reasonable credibility to ignore.
In one of his posts on his Facebook page, Abraham commended his supporters and urged them to remain hopeful that the leadership of the party would right the wrong. “Fellow party members, dear delegates and my indefatigable supporters, I thank you all for your resilience and relentless desire to achieve a better Ondo state. You are deeply appreciated. We remain confident in our party’s integral mechanism to right the wrongs, and with our consciences intact, we strongly believe we’d be presented with the chance to uphold the mandate of Blessings for our dear state.”
Abraham’s rejection has fuelled the call for the cancellation of the exercise on the grounds of procedural fraud. However, there are indications that the three-member Election Appeal Committee set up by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party to address complaints raided by these aspirants might be under some influence to consider the demand for the cancellation of the exercise. The committee has Helen Bendega as the head, Alhaji Musa Umar as Secretary and Nikky Ejezie as its member.
Curious though, the committee itself has come under accusations of collecting bribes from an interested bloc pressing for the cancellation of the primaries.
Whatever becomes the outcome of these intra and inter parties intrigues in Ondo state, it is certain that both parties would not face the electorates as unified as they would want Nigerians to believe.
And latching on to a mantra of change, a model translated to winning the 2015 general elections for the APC, the opposition party in Ondo state was expected to replicate the class of the unprecedented Lagos primaries that produced Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate.
Sources from the party confided in this magazine that the candidature of Akeredolu would have gained acceptance and support of other candidates if the process had not been manipulated.
In Ondo therefore, while the APC is battling to redress the stigma of corruption induced selection that marred its yet to be decided primaries, the ruling party is embroiled in factional politics. With the November 26 date drawing closer, how these two most influential parties resolve their controversies would go a long way in determine the judgment of electorates on Election Day. MA