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Ondo APC: Divided house under yoke of consensus, rigged congresses

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Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State has remained a divided house since the September 3, 2016 controversial governorship primary election won by incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, pitching him against other major contenders of the poll.

The electoral committee, headed by the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, declared Akeredolu as the winner with 669 votes to defeat Dr. Olusegun Abraham who polled 635 votes, Chief Olusola Oke scored 576 votes, Prof Ajayi Boroffice had 471 votes, while Senator Tayo Alasoadura scored 206 votes among other minor aspirants.

Though Akeredolu set up a reconciliatory committee to pacify aggrieved contenders, the credibility of the primary was the major issue, for which no effort could pacify Oke, for instance, who defected to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to contest the November 26 governorship poll, while Abraham resorted to the election tribunal and court in an effort to restore what he thought was his mandate.

Moreover, the former chairman of the party, Isaac Kekemeke, refused to associate with Akeredolu’s candidacy due to his unflinching support for the lawmaker representing Owo/Ose Federal Constituency, Bode Ayorinde, who was among the Federal lawmakers that joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on July 24 this year.

Since the inauguration of the governor on February 24, 2017, he had been having running battles with the Senator representing Ondo North District, his own Senator, Prof. Boroffice, especially when he jibbed publicly during his inauguration dinner that the Senator should go back to his ward and re-register as APC member.

According to speculations, this was not in anyway unconnected to the roles, which Abraham and Boroffice allegedly played in the build-up to the governorship election, revealing that they failed to support the incumbent governor but rather chose to work for Oke and AD in the state.

Given this background, Akeredolu, who is accused of sidelining his party members, chose his political group, popularly termed the “Aketi Team” across the 203 wards of the state, though Alasoadura, and other aspirants such as Victor Olabimtan, Boye Oyewumi collapsed their structures under Akeredolu after the governorship primaries. Oke returned to APC after the poll had been won and lost. 

Alarmed by perceived marginalization under Governor Akeredolu, a political pressure group, APC Rescue Mandate, accused him of working against the chances of the party and President Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

The convener of the group, Michael Olorunfemi lamented that the Akeredolu-led administration is marginalizing members of the party, saying; “it is evidently clear to all and sundry in Ondo APC that anybody who is not a member of Aketi group within APC is not a bona-fide member of Ondo APC.”

According to him, “This has gone a long way to create unnecessary opposition and division within the party in the state. As it is observed that virtually all the secretly elected Congress members in Ondo APC are all members of the so-called Aketi group.”

He noted that the governor, as applicable in other climes, failed to unite the party and other aspirants after the governorship primary, alleging “he rather embraces and accommodates core PDP members who are now in Aketi group in his government.”

The convener, who stressed “all these are centered on Mr. Governor’s selfish interest,” kicked that “80 per cent of core APC members from ACN,
CPC, ANPP are not reckoned with by the governor as APC members.”

Spelling out the implications of such intra-party crises, he added that the “Aketi group saga had further disintegrated the party in the state and over 75 per cent of APC members in the state would have defected to other opposition parties if not for the love they had for President Buhari.

“This is one of the major reasons why Governor Akeredolu has been seriously mobilizing against the direct primary in the forthcoming party primaries,” he said, as well as his insistence on APC former chairman, John Odigun’s tenure elongation.

To forestall the multiplier effects, the group urged the national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to urgently intervene in the intraparty crisis in the state so that it will not lead to the defeat of the party and President Buhari in the 2019 elections.

“All what has been done by Governor Akeredolu in the state is de-marketing the political future of both the APC and Mr. President. In fact, as it stands in the state, Mr. President cannot get 10% votes from the Akeredolu-led government if things continue like this.”

Historically, this is like a re-enactment of the December 5, 1998 Alliance for Democracy (AD) primary election saga between Chief Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo and late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, which was reportedly rigged for the latter on allegations that the former was not a member of NADECO; and that she worked as Minister in the General Sanni Abacha junta.

Consequently, all the supporters of Osomo across the 18 councils of the state were marginalized after Adefarati formed government in 1999, shutting out party stalwarts like Dr. Dare Bada, Dr. Tayo Dairo, Senator Olorunnibe Farukanmi, Chief C.O Akingboye, Senator Omololu Meroyi, Senator Ayo Lawrence, Sola Ebiwonjumi, Jonathan Ajinde, who had to form a parallel faction; though Chief Segun Akinyomi and Chief Segun Adegoke later got appointments from the governor.

The crisis that rocked the AD in the state then started from the primaries and was aggravated by the winner-take-it-all attitude of Adefarati, who later remarked, “I was misled” in reaction to the mass defection that hit the party in protest against his re-election bid in 2003.

The AD stalwarts loyal to Osomo then gathered across the state and formed AD-Authentic, popularly known as the Majeobaje group, having their weekly meetings in Akure and chaired by Dr. Dairo while Chief Akingboye was the state secretary.

AD Authentic then had growing popularity and wider acceptability, while the national crises within the party favoured it as it lined up under the leadership of Alhaji Abdul Kadir as its national chairman while the governor’s faction was under Mamman Yusuf.

Reminiscing that experience in a chat with The Guardian recently, the former state Secretary of AD Authentic, Chief Akingboye, an octogenarian, disclosed that he warned late Adefarati of the dire consequences of his actions.

“I told Adefarati that he would come to beg us. Actually it was too late for him because that stubbornness and vindictiveness killed AD in Ondo State.

Ondo State would have survived the political onslaught on AD in the South West like Lagos State, but the arrogance of the leaders brought such ill fate on the party. 

Akingboye, the erstwhile Director of Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) in old Ikale Local Government Area, noted that the former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, received all members of AD Authentic into the PDP and they collapsed their structure with the opposition to send Adefarati out of office.

Similarly, pockets of opposition are rising against the Akeredolu-led government within the party, leaving little job for the opposition parties that are patiently awaiting the imminent implosion.

Aside the party’s convention that caused rancor, party stalwarts, who are uncomfortable with the Aketi Team, are holding on to the direct primary approach as their last political lifeline and hope for survival in the party.

The last APC congresses, like it happened across the federation, turned fierce battleground as the Federal Lawmaker representing Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency, Bamidele Baderinwa was publicly beaten and stripped naked by APC thugs allegedly sponsored by some bigwigs in Akeredolu’s cabinet. 

Similarly, the lawmakers representing Akure North/South, Akin Olowookere; Babatunde Kolawole, and representative of Akoko South West/Akoko South/East, Ayorinde, never had a better deal at the congresses but were schemed out of the exercises and this makes 2019 precarious for them. 

Though the state APC Chairman, Engr. Ade Adetimehin, who is the mastermind and political ace player of Aketi Team, had extended Olive Branch to the factions that emerged at the parallel congresses held at all levels in the state, he insisted that they, including Boroffice and the former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi among others, should re-register at their various wards.

His words: “Those who engaged in anti-party activities and those who defected to rival political parties should return to help build the party by going back to their various wards to register. We shall by no means turn them down.”

As declared by some political analysts in the state, in reference to the aforementioned and political calculation on ground, no APC aspirant can get any political ticket ahead of 2019 general elections if he/she does not receive the blessings of the Aketi Team. 

Leading a vanguard to dismantle the political behemoth, Boroffice declared to the chagrin of the state party executives and loyalists of the Aketi Team that there is no alternative to electing APC candidates in the state than the direct primary option. 

According to him, the APC National leadership under Adams Oshiomhole, President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other prominent leaders of the party had declared firm support for it and it has become the standard for primary election in the party. 

“It is necessary to reassure members of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State that the national leadership of our party ably led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has adopted direct primary as the only means of electing party candidates in Ondo State.”

However, the APC Vice Chairman (South West), Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, was quoted to have said; “the method to be adopted will depend on what the leadership of the party in the state wants.”

But Prof. Boroffice who wants to return to the National Assembly for the third term, dispelled the comment credited to Oluwajana, describing it as “as untrue, utterly defective and misleading.

The comment doesn’t reflect the position of our party on the adoption of direct primary. 

“Thus, the comment should be treated as a personal opinion bereft of constitutional backing.

Instructively, it should be noted that the national leadership of APC with the exclusive responsibility to conduct primary elections across all states in Nigeria has adopted the direct primary. 

“It is neither the business of the zonal structure nor duty of state structures of our party.

All party members are aware the Constitution of the APC did not empower state chapters to choose or decide method of selecting party flag-bearers.”

Meanwhile, some APC chieftains in the North Senatorial District loyal to the Aketi Team, Gbenga Elegbeleye and Olabimtan, who was the Director General of Akeredolu Campaign Organisation in 2016 and now Special Adviser to the governor on Rural and Community Development, are jostling ahead of 2019 to grab the senatorial ticket.

But Boroffice said, “there is no denying the fact that there are many issues that have given leeway to all manner of speculations and postulations about crises and disaffections within the APC in Ondo State.  

“However, it is time for all aggrieved leaders, all dissatisfied members, all factional tendencies and all political groups to drop their grievances and come together as a party to deliver massive victory for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections.” 

The Senator emphasized strongly on the roles to be played by Governor Akeredolu, whom he said must “demonstrate favourable disposition towards party cohesion and lead genuine reconciliatory agenda.

Just like it is suicidal for an army to approach war with a divided and disunited force, it is dangerous for Ondo APC to pursue the 2019 general elections with a divided and disunited party.”
 
But the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alex Kalejaye, declared that Senator Boroffice has no authority to speak on behalf of the party, saying; “it takes a party man that has consistently demonstrated concern and commitment for the party and its affairs, and remains connected to the state secretariat to appreciate the plans and activities of the party. 

“It is inappropriate for Senator Ajayi Boroffice to speak on behalf of the state chapter, especially where there is a vibrant Working Committee, led by Engr. Ade Adetimehin, in place.”

Kalejaye said it is the responsibility and prerogative of the leadership of the APC to decide after due deliberation, as it has been done elsewhere, the position of the party to choose the type of primary election for each state. 

“Between the national Vice Chairman (South West), Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, who said leaders would soon take a stance, and Senator Boroffice, one is a more believable and credible source than the other.

Ondo APC would consider all the available and legal options, and go for a popular one that does not hurt the interests of stakeholders.” 

The party chieftain urged aspirants at all levels to be guided by civilized rules in their quest for positions, appealing to them to avoid creating the impression that there are divisions in the state.

He said, “The state APC had assured in a recent statement that it would ensure transparent and credible primaries, devoid of sharp practices. That position is hereby reaffirmed.

“It is pertinent to remind ourselves that the three options, including delegates, consensus, and direct are all lawful for us in the APC,” the Publicity Secretary said, revealing that the State Working Committee (SWC) unanimously described the activities of Senator Boroffice as unjustifiable, and therefore, condemnable. 

“He has the option to retrace his steps and reconcile with the party, or continue to hobnob with those that are surreptitiously expending resources and time to deflate the strength and unity of the state chapter.

Besides, Mr. Boroffice has taken to the pages of newspapers lately to deliberately paint the vibrant state chapter in terrible lights. This, without mincing words, is vexatious and unacceptable to the Ondo State APC.”

IN the Central Senatorial District, political analysts have forecast an implosion waiting to happen in the days ahead due to age-long rivalry between the present senator, Alasoadura and the incumbent Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde.

The duo had a deep-neck-to-neck battle at the party’s primary in 2015 and the latter believed that the primary was rigged for Senator Alasoadura by the party leadership.

According to popular view, the time is set for Abegunde to demand a Pound of Flesh and slug it out with the present occupant of the Senate ticket in the 2019 general elections. 

It was however gathered that the Governor had persuaded his SSG to relinquish the Senate slot to Alasoadura for his support and loyalty to the Aketi Team.

The latter never bothered to involve himself in the party’s congresses, which paved way for Abegunde and Aketi Team to pocket all the delegates in the district from local government to state levels.

As observed by an analysts, “with the present state of things even at the national level, I don’t think Alasoadura can still get the trust of the party leadership due to his relationship with the Senate President and the opportunity at the SSG’s disposal to actualize his political dream to go the Senate now that he has all the opportunities.”

In the South District, the slot is a free-for-all grab because the present occupant of the seat, Senator Yele Omogunwa, just defected to the ruling party from the PDP and is not likely to be considered by the party, in addition to his political romance with Saraki. 

Based on rotation, Ilaje, Okitipupa, Irele and Odigbo councils have had their fair share at the Senate, leaving the two minority councils: Ese-Odo and Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo LGAs at vantage points for the senatorial ticket in the forthcoming election.

It would have been a give-away ticket to Ese-Odo, but the most credible aspirant to the position there, Agboola Ajayi, is the present Deputy Governor of the state and such big position cannot be zoned again to the council, making Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo the golden bride of all the political parties in the South District.

Moreover, it was learnt that Ajayi purposely pushed the ticket to the council as he is projecting a particular aspirant, who has no strong political clout and grassroots pedigree, so as to either control him or take back the mandate easily in the nearest future.

But the most prominent among the aspirants for the senatorial ticket, Odunayo Akinrinsola, popularly known as “Kabonti” by his political supporters, threw his weight behind the direct primary option of the party, saying the adoption of the system in Osun State recently by the party gave the election more credibility and transparency.

Akinrinsola, who was a governorship aspirant argued that aside the transparency, which direct primary accorded the system, it also encouraged active participatory role among party members, rather than a few delegates who were swayed out of their choice by the old system.

He stressed that aspirants who actually intend to represent the people should not be scared of the direct primary initiative, adding; “if the representation is actually the government of the people, by the people and for the people, it is good for the people to be actively involved in the process.”  
  
The State Working Committee has affirmed that, “no party member, irrespective of his position, is permitted to play to the gallery at the expense of the highly cherished party image.”

The Publicity Secretary, Kalejaye, urged aspirants on the platform of the party, including senators, to go to the people and seek their understanding, rather than resort to media campaigns, adding: “Elections are not won on the pages of newspapers.”

On allegations that the governor is marginalizing party members in his appointments, he added that “the state governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has so far appointed men and women of integrity into the government based on their contributions to party, and ability to deliver.

“You will agree with me that it is impossible for every dedicated member of the party to be appointed at the same time, considering the limited resources available.”

Kalejaiye appealed to the leaders and members of the party across the 18 local government areas to be patient with the administration, assuring them that appointments into public offices would soon get to their turn. 

“As long as we are in one accord, and remain in power, chances are that those that have not been patronized today would have theirs soonest. We only need to stay together and work for the success of the party in future elections.

The welfare of our members and development of the state are not negotiable,” he said.

As the 2019 elections are somewhere around the corner, analysts have warned the ruling party to be cautious and keep its house in order.


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