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Akeredolu’s emergence challenges the status quo


Rotimi Akeredolu

Rotimi Akeredolu

Last Saturday’s primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that produced former National President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, as the party’s candidate in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, has all the trappings of high-wire political intrigues.

But the biggest take-home of the exercise is the rejection of the choice of the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a manner reminiscence of the way the National Leader and founder of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Chief Obafemi Awolowo, lost out in 1978.

For over three weeks, the APC has floundered politically with endorsement crisis hitting it; a state of uncertainty that had so many offing in the air whether the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have his way or not. This did not go well with the other 23 aspirants, who presented themselves for screening in Abuja, kicking that the international business tycoon and ally of the leader, Dr. Olusegun Abraham could not be ‘imposed’ on the party.

Same scenario played out in 1978, when the National Leader and founder of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who occupied the influential position which Tinubu enjoys today in the South West, felt that Venerable Emmanuel Alayande was a better candidate for the party in the old Oyo State governorship election.

Awolowo’s preference and endorsement of Alayande was a threat to the ambition of the former Attorney General of the Federation, late Chief Bola Ige, whom many people felt was younger in age and more brilliant. After several attempts to persuade them to step down for each other failed, they resorted into primary election; basking on the fact that Alayande who hailed from Ibadan, the second largest city in Africa, would defeat his rival, Ige, whose small Esa-Oke, in Osun State was not a match numerically.

Springing up surprises, Ige aligned with Alhaji Busari Adelakun, a.k.a “Eru o b’odo” and late Alhaji Arisekola Alao from Ibadan, who gave their powerful grassroots machinery and wealth respectively, to floor Alayande at the primary.

That was how the wish of Awolowo collapsed for the yearning of the old Oyo people, as Ige became the first executive governor of the state in 1979 through a strong political alignment and realignment. However, in Ondo State, the circumstance was much different because the number of aspirants exceeded in strength, that which was experienced during the Alayande days, when there was only two clear-cut options; either Ige or Alayande.

But in the just concluded primary, there were too many strong interests that declined to yield for one another, as well as those whom analysts regarded to be political comedians with no vote or barely eight at the last count.

There were series of alignment and realignment among the aspirants, which in the public domain, limited the contest to five front liners spread across the three senatorial districts; and they failed to have a consensus against the endorsement from Tinubu.

Each of the topnotch embarked on unyielding and untiring race for the ticket, independently canvassing for votes from the delegates. Further investigations showed that virtually all the hotels in Akure, the state capital and venue of the election, became camping reserves for the delegates.

The Guardian gathered that the aspirants threw around huge money ranging from N100, 000 to N150, 000 per delegate. Like in the football parlance, there were movements by delegates who saw the season as “transfer window” politically, to camps that offered the highest inducement.

A source told our correspondent that one of the aspirants camped some delegates in a hotel and gave them N5, 000 on Friday night. By the time he got there the following morning, he met none of them in their hotel rooms. They had gone for the higher bidders. Among the top five that stood for the Saturday’s primary were: Abraham, Prof. Ajayi Boriffice, Akeredolu (SAN), Senator Tayo Alasoadura from Central and Chief Olusola Oke from the South District.

Observers, who had pointed out that such power brokers like Adelakun and Arisekola would be insignificant in the present situation since none was ready to settle for another, said, however, that the noise against endorsement was a political storm in a tea cup.

And like Tinubu confirmed in his letter to the cry against his alleged endorsement for Abraham by one of the aspirants, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, it was his prerogatives to have sympathy for a particular aspirant. This soared up the support of Akoko Elders Assembly, who flayed Abayomi for his attack on Tinubu and scolded him that if he had enjoyed same support hitherto, would he have complained bitterly, justifying the action of the leader.

The chairman of the Assembly, Chief Felix Ayegbusi, noted that the action was in tandem with the moves they made earlier to produce a viable candidate for the area.
“It was against this background that the joint Elders’ Assembly in Akoko North comprising Akoko North East and Akoko North West decided to boost the chances of the area by zeroing on one aspirant only and proposing him to our members, particularly the delegates.

Ayegbusi absolved Tinubu from the accusations explaining further that the endorsement was an intra-communal affair to strengthen the chance of Akoko candidature in the party. These made the endorsement move stronger across the state, even as the embattled state chairman, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, who allegedly fuelled the crisis within the party as he announced the endorsement, to the disdain of the Movement Against Imposition (MAI) group.

The APC-MAI convener, Tolu Babaleye, who is also from Akoko South West LGA, said, “Since the announcement of the adoption broke out and the failed attempt made by Kekemeke to impose it on the delegates, the resistance was consistently growing.”Babaleye warned that if the grievances and resistance are not checked, it might mar the chances of the party again in the next election, like it robbed the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) when Akeredolu was imposed on the party in 2012.

But Kekemeke, who is currently battling with the vote of no confidence passed on him by the two third majority of the State Executive Committee of the party, crisply remarked that: “anybody can express his preference.” The Abraham camp grew bigger as aspirants like Dr. Paul Akintelure, the running mate to Akeredolu in the defunct ACN poll, Mr. Akinyinka Akinnola, Mr. Derin Adesida, Mr. Dele Alade and an APC financier; Dr. Taiwo Malumi joined forces with the Bourdillon train.

According to Akintelure: “The priorities in Ondo include wealth creation, job creation, and a sustainable economy, and Abraham has the highest level of experience in this regard, and it does explain why our national leaders and most delegates embrace him.”The surprise began to manifest when the sorting started by 6:30pm; Akeredolu’s name resonated in the air as the 22 ballot boxes were sorted out and the papers given to the agents in a vote that had only seven voids.

About 1:30am yesterday, the counting was over and Abraham had 635 votes, Oke scored 576 votes, Senator Boriffice had 471 votes, Senator Alasoadura scored 206 votes to concede the ticket to the former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) boss, who polled 669 votes. The camps of the frontline aspirants had believed that any of them might emerge due to the watertight contest and large number of delegates speculated to have pledged allegiance to the respective aspirants.

The frontline aspirants and others, who were at the election venue, save Abraham that was conspicuously absent, had a team-like interaction which signalled that there might not be much hazzles for whoever picked the ticket as earlier speculated by some analysts. When it became clear that Akeredolu had the leading votes during sorting, they all waited; some left their seats to felicitate with him even before the chairman officially announced him as the winner and the party’s candidate for the governorship election.

Thereafter many joined to heartily cheer him. He later addressed them during his acceptance speech. Jamiu Ekungba was the first aspirant to have a high shoulder salute with the winner as others in their turns, hard warm embrace amid the loud ovation that cost Abubakar some efforts to control.

The aspirants addressed the journalists to concede defeat; even Abraham in a press conference, pledged to jointly work with him in the interest of the party. But Oke said his stance would be made known today after a meeting with his stakeholders and supporters.

THE APC governorship candidate urged co-aspirants and party members to sacrifice their differences for the unity of the party, saying the common ground for all party men is to win the November poll.

He affirmed that the collective interest to wrestle power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supersedes other parochial or sectional interests.What will happen in Ondo APC hereafter, as posited by some analysts noted would not only define how justifiable and profitable the party’s choice is to the people of the state but also set another history in the politics of the region.

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