How APC favoured Aketi’s victory in Ondo primary
Barely seventy-two hours to the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary on the Ondo State, it was clear that the incumbent, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Aketi) was programmed to win the party’s ticket.
The journey to the governor’s eventual victory, which began with the adoption of indirect election method unlike the contentious primary in Edo State, began when in quick succession three aspirants stepped down their quest in support Aketi’s second term bid.
But, The Guardian had learnt that some prominent members of the APC national leadership, including financiers, mobilized “trustworthy chieftains” from other states to Akure to ensure that the governor was returned.
The development, which pitched some party stakeholders against others caused a lot of anxiety at the APC headquarters in No 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, as substitution and retention of names became the order of the day.
Although some aspirants had planned to address some journalist on their decision to boycott the primary, they changed their minds when the news of stepping down hit the camp.
One of the conveners of the boycott attempt confided in The Guardian that the decision to avoid a parallel primary or the planned boycott followed the confirmation from an APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that he was not siding any aspirant.
“We are sorry, there is a change of plan. You know we are going for an election and when the assurance of support is not coming from the right quarters, there is no point going ahead,” the source stated.
On his part, Governor Akeredolu had assured the reconciliation committee that he would apologize to everyone he had offended, stressing that moves were on to get the stakeholders on board.
As if to buttress the governor’s optimism, a political pressure group, Ibi Ogo, predicted victory for the incumbent, saying all indicators point his victory.
The President of the group, Mr. Yusuf Ayeye, in a report made available to The Guardian said survey conducted across the state showed that Aketi would garner 70 percent of the delegates’ votes in 16 out of the 18 councils of the state.
He disclosed further that a body of researchers had painstakingly embarked on thorough study and field analysis of today’s primary election, iterating that the incumbent governor would emerge victorious.
Ayeye disclosed that despite media hype, Segun Abraham, who was seen as a strong contender, trailed four visible aspirants, including Oke, Oyedele and Odimayo.
Holes on the process
It would be recalled that prior to the commencement of the primary election, all the aspirants except the governor, rejected the indirect option, while Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is seeking reelection, did support it though he said he was not afraid of direct primary.
One of the aspirants, Isaacs Kekemeke, who spoke to journalists regretted, “there were a lot of unscrupulous schemes by the committee to subvert their interest ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election.
“For me, this process is unfair. It is aimed at producing a predetermined result. I have lost confidence in the process. It is not about who wins or loses, all I am saying is that those who lose must lose fairly and those who win must win fairly.
“A party must not subvert. It’s a process and it must not treat its members as if they needed the party to survive much more than the party needs members to survive. The party must learn to be fair.”
Kekemeke, who is also the pioneer state APC chairman in the state, noted that a level playing field was not provided, insisting, “This is not the fair thing to do.”
“You do not conduct an election where you have collected money from the people and have screened them, but you fail to let them know how and where the election is taking place. You only called them to a meeting at 11p.m. and speak to them as if you were speaking to boys.
“I am happy that we told Governor Yahaya Bello and his team that we are not boys and we deserve some respect as leaders of this party.”
Withdrawal, drama, defeat
The charged atmosphere that surrounded the governorship primary began to douse when three out of the 11 aspirants challenging Aketi for the party’s ticket stepped down and pledged to support him few hours to the poll.
However, Awodeyi Akinsehinwa, Bukola Adetula, Sola Iji, Olusola Oke, Jumoke Anifowoshe and Olayide Adelami sustained the air of competition as they remained in the contest.
Yet, as balloting started, there was a mild drama when the Board of Trustees (BoT) member and former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, snubbed the governor despite the anticipated rapprochement.
Olanusi, an octogenarian and leader of the Unity Forum, had shunned the governor’s gestures of friendship at the election venue at the time it was the turn of Akoko South West delegates to cast their votes.
A total of 3,127 delegates from the 203 wards across the 18 councils were at the International Culture and Event Centre (The Dome), Akure, where accreditation and voting started at exactly 2:22pm.
Employing the indirect mode of candidate selection, with automatic delegates in the mold of former governors, former deputy governors, former Speakers, deputy Speakers, serving National and State Assembly lawmakers, the process was adjudged peaceful.
Olanusi had mobilized all APC stalwarts in the state to oppose Aketi’s second term ambition, but failed to build on their combined strength when nine aspirants rejected the consensus candidate put forward by the group.
Signs that things will not go the way of the Unity Forum or any of the 11 other aspirants confirmed for participation kicked against the indirect primary option.
Although the chairman of the APC Governorship Primary Committee, Yahaya Bello assured that the process would be fair and credible, the stepping down of the three aspirants showed that the party was interested in rewarding the incumbent with a return ticket.
Those who stepped down hinged their about-face on the unity of the party, Chief Olusola Oke and Nathaniel Adojutelegan, denied any plan to chicken out.
Specifically, Oke, a two-term governorship candidate, had vowed to challenge the indirect primary mode in court, just as Adojutelegan dispelled speculations about his withdrawal as mere rumour.
In the end, it was only Oyedele, Dr. Segun Abraham and Jimi Odimayo that formally stepped down.
Media Aide to Chief Olusola Oke, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye, had declared that his principal does not play bread and butter politics, adding, “Chief Oke will never step down for anybody. No pressure will make him step down.”
Ogunleye accused one of the governor’s appointees of peddling lies, asserting that the “fact that he has chosen to go through the path of dishonour reveals the mind behind government appointments in recent time.
“This is not without prejudice to a few decent ones among the appointees. Oke will never step down for anybody. That a few aspirants have fallen along the road does not mean others will. He will never commercialise the struggle of his people.”
At the end of balloting it was obvious that the incumbent whitewashed his seven rivals by garnering the majority votes from the 18 council areas.
Speaking after announcing the results, chairman of the primary committee, Governor Bello, said Akeredolu’s “feat shows that he is loved by his APC members in the state.”
In his acceptance speech, the governor said God would perfect all plans for him to be victorious at the main election, stressing that the primary was without any complaints.
Reacting to the complaints by some aspirants, the governor declared: “I never wanted to be involved in all the complaints, because I know that a farmer goes to farm with implements. The farmer only complains when he is not ready.”
“In the APC, we know those who have been delegates over the years since APC came to be. We all know who the delegates are. I know the God I serve, He will do me well and all plans will fall in place.”
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