Ondo: After primaries, other challenges and distractions
Already, the two powerful unofficial candidates for the election have showed their hands. Former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whom his fans like to style as national leader of the federal ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is busy pulling strings to showcase his political prowess and confirm his billing as the political leader, not only of APC, but also of the Southwest.
For the outgoing governor Olusegun Mimiko, the governorship election means much in store. The desire to preserve legacy and deny his political rivals of a foothold in the Sunshine State, seems to be uppermost in his mind.
Much like Tinubu, but with a different approach and style, Mimiko wants to prove that he is not a pushover, as far as Southwest politics is concerned. There are indications that faced with a challenging tenure as ruling party, the APC is considering a political gamble that could pair the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari with a strong political character from the Southwest to drive governance and politics in 2019. On his part, Iroko seems to believe that in the event of such calculations, the unfolding political realities at the national level could throw up situation and circumstances that could make him a beautiful bride.
In the event of such political calculations, the outgoing Ondo governor would want to fall back on the support of a loyal successor to strengthen his bid. The beauty of the bi-partisan political reality in the country could be given further zest should two northern candidates select their running mates from Southwest.
Already, Mimiko could be said to have succeeded in ensuring that a member of his cabinet, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, emerged as the flag bearer of the PDP for the November 26, governorship poll. When Jegede resigned from the executive council, most Ondo people speculated that he must be the anointed ‘David’ to take over from Iroko. Some suspected that Mimiko was actually toeing a similar path taken by Tinubu when at the point of his exit from office, he chose his former Chief of Staff, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, to succeed him.
Again like Fashola, Mr. Jegede (SAN) is a lawyer and man of method. The fact that Mimiko succeeded in getting a member of his cabinet to contest the governorship shows his understanding of the need for continuity. Part of the juice in Mimiko’s choice of Jegede could be that being a former member and central player in the administration, Jegede’s electioneering would entail a combination of messages of continuity and enunciation of Mimiko’s achievements, while introducing new strategies for socio-economic elevation of the state. In Jegede, the party is likely to drive the campaign on the promise of experience, as he would need no further time to settle down or organise the government. Jegede is about the only candidate that could settle down to governance immediately if he wins the election, because he has been in the state government.
More than anything, inspite of voices of dissent against the choice of Jegede, there is the likelihood that most stakeholders would feel at home working with an insider than if the candidate were to emerge from outside the political camp of the outgoing governor.
From the way the PDP governorship primary was managed, which involved 800 delegates, it was likely that the party would get over the recriminations easily. Jegede’s only rival, Mr. Saka Lawal, who garnered 22 votes, not only conceded defeat, but also embraced the winner, playing up the fact that after all, only one candidate could emerge from the contest.
Although the margin of his loss-22 to 760 votes- did not provide a picture of stiff contest, Lawal’s gesture of good sportsmanship must have set the stage for reconciliation within the party. Whether the primary election was a dress rehearsal or conceived to produce the eventual outcome, it did much to cast a contrast to other political parties, particularly the APC, which had as many as 27 contenders to the single ticket at stake.
THE chairman of the Electoral Committee and returning officer for the governorship primary, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State commended Governor Mimiko “for providing the leadership that is making PDP to be proud of him.” Apart from marketing Jegede quietly from behind the scene, the outgoing governor showed a magic touch by bringing the pillars of the party’s structure to support the primary, thereby cloaking it with the stamp of authenticity. That may be reason why Governor Dickson declared that PDP was the party to beat in the election, stressing that the governorship primary was not only transparent, but also an “all-inclusive and conclusive electoral process,” which showed that “Ondo State PDP is one and united.”
The presence of such prominent stakeholders of the party in Ondo State such as Senator Yele Omogunwa, party chairman, Chief Clement Fagboyede; Akinfolrin Mayowa; Joe Akinlaja and Victor Akinjo, made the attendance representative. Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mrs. Jumoke Akindele and members were also present, as well as, the electoral foot soldiers, chairmen of all the 18 local government councils of the state. These stakeholders represent part of the electoral force described as power of incumbency.
Mimiko in his remarks noted: “Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) as the party’s candidate is the beginning of the road to victory come November 26, 2016.” To the governor, his exit strategy and succession plan has covered appreciable mileage, even as he enjoined PDP faithful in the state to work together, not only to ensure victory, but also to defeat APC with a wide margin.In a bid to prove himself a worthy successor, Jegede while accepting the challenge, vowed to carry everybody along, noting that PDP is a big family. It is this family feeling that would show how far PDP would go to retain the state. Interestingly, the flag bearer praised Mimiko “for laying a good foundation to follow in Ondo State,” assuring that he would raise the game for a prosperous Ondo State.
It was this background to Jegede’s emergence and subsequent attempt by former Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, to quit the cabinet and join the race that sort of exonerated Mimiko from the charge of imposition. Even though PDP stakeholders from Ondo South and North Senatorial Districts kicked against the choice of Jegede, there are signs that they would be mollified in the coming weeks. The Guardian gathered that part of the carrot to be dangled is that of the running mate and secretary to the state government among other positions, “to ensure that the family remains in charge.”
It would also be recalled that during a meeting organised by Senator Yele Omogunwa for the party’s stakeholders from the South in Ore, Odigbo local government council; the choice of Jegede was discussed. Intriguingly some of those that attended the meeting included Ebiseni, Edema Adebanjo and Ogunwa Oboli. Now meaning are being read to the designs by north and south on how to clinch the running mate position and position themselves for other strategic posts in the incoming administration.
Jimoh Ibrahim’s Distraction
HOWEVER the real challenge to the Mimiko magic move came by way of the suit filed by an aspirant, Jimoh Ibrahim, at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The lawyer and businessman is seeking the order of the court to set aside the conduct of the PDP governorship that produced Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).Joined as defendants in the suit are Senators Ben Obi, Odion Ugbesia, Abdul Ningi; Karibu Usman, Dayo Adeyeye, Aisha Aliyu and INEC. The suit could not go on after the plaintiff’s counsel, Oyodele Oyelana, disclosed that processes could not be served on the defendants.
But even as Ibrahim’s challenge should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand, sources within the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction on which the businessman plans to contest the governorship, disclosed that “Mimiko had earlier had a very useful discussion” with Sheriff over the Ondo governorship.The stillbirth parallel governorship primary that held in Ibadan, Oyo State, may be a pointer to a likely denouement in the divisive drama within the PDP platform. Not only did the court outlaw the primary, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not show up at the venue of the exercise. And to elongate the woes, the leadership of the Sheriff faction that was in charge of the event has noted the gaps in the process, assuring that a second look would be taken on the entire exercise. Whether these hiccups have damaged the case of controversial business mogul, Ibrahim, is yet to be seen. For now, it could be safely said that Jegede is the PDP flag bearer for the November 26 poll.
Tinubu’s Troubled Tactics
ALONGSIDE the APC, the famed political skill of former Lagos governor, Tinubu, is being threatened in Ondo. Recent developments in the sunshine state reveal the possibility that the Jagaban may be scotched and not tanned by the sunshine of the governorship politics. The trouble with Tinubu’s electoral tactics in Ondo could be gleaned from the positions adopted by three prominent members of APC in the state, as well as, President Muhammadu Buhari. But the greatest road block to Tinubu’s display in Ondo, include such party faithful like the state chairman of APC, Chief Isaac Kekemeke, Chief Tunji Abayomi and Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
The three men, but one, were up in arms against the ‘national leader’ for zeroing in on Dr. Olusegun Abraham for the APC governorship ticket, even before the primary election was held. It is that attempt to beat the gun and overreach the process that Abayomi and Akeredolu fired their verbal darts at the Jagaban. The environment within the party in Ondo has not only become charged, but also cloudy over the alleged attempt to impose or endorse a candidate outside the due process. Already, Tinubu’s old sins are being exhumed and announced, making him look undemocratic and opportunistic.
Implications Of Akeredolu’s Surprise Emergence
ONLY those who were not following the political recalibration in the federal ruling APC were surprised at the emergence of the former national president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as the winner of the Ondo governorship primary. When The Guardian gathered that the senior lawyer was likely to fly the party’s flag in the November 26, 2016 governorship, an electronic message was sent to him, seeking responses on how he plans to deflect the fallouts of his 2012 adventure from harming the fact of being the “candidate to beat” in the primary election, among other talking points.
The plot to redefine the political leadership of the Southwest began shortly after the 2015 general election was won and lost. Sources within the Presidency disclosed their discomfort at the domineering role of the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, stressing that “attempts would definitely be made to redefine his roles in the coming government.”
However, oblivious of the plots to checkmate his clout, Tinubu was said to have loomed large in the belief that he would remain the rallying point of the federal government as obtained during the APC formative and electioneering stages.From the fumbled attempt to streamline the leadership of the National Assembly, through the Kogi governorship debacle, attempt at reviewing APC NWC, as well as nomination of ministerial appointees, signs of the ‘containment measures’ against the Jagaban emerged.
However, Tinubu was said to have discovered the attempt to downgrade his political and other contributions to the victory of APC in the 2015 election, but the presidency cleverly attempted to wean him back through various appointments to some of his protégés into federal establishment, including boards and commissions. But as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable for the Ondo governorship poll was released, the decoy seems to have paid off as the former Lagos State governor believed that he was back on the driving wheel of decision making in the party.
As such, when Akeredolu mounted media offensive to debunk that Tinubu did not impose him on the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform for the 2012 governorship Ondo, the former governor did not reckon that the influential political maestros from the North have concluded plans to ensure that the wishes of the ‘masses’ prevailed.
Recall that various intelligence revealing that the Jagaban opposed the appointment of such former lieutenants as Raji Fashola, Kayode Fayemi and Lai Mohammed, were leaked to sources close to the media. It was these Eaglet politicians that some inner men in the Presidency waved as the architects of the ‘surprise’ outcome of the Saturday September 3 governorship primary.
Has the planned diminution of Asiwaju being accomplished? Why did Segun Abraham concede victory to Akeredolu so early in the day? All those posers were to be perforated later when stories of “how we overcome” began to emerge. Sources said that it was based on the credibility of the claims that Tinubu called a meeting of some of the governorship aspirants in his Bourdillon residence and corralled his preferred candidate, Abraham to recant and proceed on appeal.
Details of what insiders call the scientific rigging of the governorship primary have emerged, as some of the aspirants, including Abraham and Oke petitioned the Governorship Appeal Committee. In a petition signed by APC chairman from Ondo Central, East and West Senatorial zones, Mr. Adegboyega Adedipe; Mr. Akintunde Samuel and Mr. Adeola Ademulegun, respectively; the petitioners prayed for outright cancellation and conduct of a fresh primary.
While alleging that the delegates’ list was doctored in such a way to confer undue advantage on one of the candidates, the petitioners stated: “A strange delegate list was introduced on the night of the election after everybody had gone to sleep only for us to wake up in the morning of the election to see a massively corrupted delegates’ list.”
They claimed that almost “47 per cent of the names of delegates in Ondo East were either deleted or substituted with people who are unknown to the party as executive members,” adding that some of the smuggled delegates, oblivious of the inclusion failed to turn up for the election. The petitioners swore that as much 64 strange delegates participated in the primary.
Yet, as the rigging allegation raises more dust, one of the governorship aspirants, Dr. Abayomi, told journalists that the petitions would not rub off on Akeredolu, pointing out that the allegations bordering on the list of delegates was not only without justification, but also uncalled for. He noted that care should be taken not to injure the image of the party.
Despite Abayomi’s voice of reason and restraint, the APC and its presumed governorship candidate, Akeredolu, have put themselves on a steep cliff. Apart from the rigorous efforts that would be put in trying to heal the rift and clam frayed nerves, the affront against Tinubu would leave political scars that would be hard to remove.
The question that arises is whether the Eaglet politicians that the powers that be in Abuja seem to be nurturing are able to imbue APC with momentum in the Southwest. And given President Buhari’s aloofness to campaign funding, how would Ondo APC prosecute the November 26, 2016 governorship election? Or would the party inflict the process with federal might during the poll to prove that elections are winnable in Southwest without Tinubu’s support?
Whichever way the dust is made to settle, the look of things in Ondo APC, including the resort to fetish scares at the party’s secretariat, the party seems to have created more room for internal wrangling.The APC in Ondo may have, with the defeat of Tinubu’s candidate, removed the banner of internal colonialism, which the PDP has always accused it of. But the point, which most of those battling Tinubu failed to reckon with is whether by denying him access to the process; they can prosecute the governorship without his cash or influence. That would be the other side of the bitter governorship primary of APC. It may also become a cross they would carry!