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Ondo guber: APC’s primary of many cooks, one broth

By Niyi Bello
12 August 2016   |   2:51 am
Before aspirants began showing interests in the November 26, 2016 governorship elections on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ondo State, some stakeholders had appealed to leaders to provide some criteria that would limit....


Before aspirants began showing interests in the November 26, 2016 governorship elections on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ondo State, some stakeholders had appealed to leaders to provide some criteria that would limit the number to a manageable level.
The reason for the appeal is not far-fetched. The mismanagement of about 30 aspirants on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which formed the nucleus of the APC, is believed to be one of the reasons the party lost the 2012 election in the state.
The national leadership, allegedly without proper consultations, disallowed primary election and imposed former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Rotimi Akeredolu, on the party, an action that led to most aspirants refusing to work for the party’s victory. The unilateral decision of the leaders so destabilised the party that only few of the faithful showed commitment to the election, while tales of diversion of huge funds meant to prosecute the polls by disgruntled officials, rented the air after the exercise.

As it was in 2012, when individual aspirations replaced the collective interest of the party, the entire platform, including the apex state authority, has been divided along each aspirant’s political structure that were essentially erected to promote personal ambitions.It is not uncommon to see aspirants releasing statements disparaging fellow aspirants, and their supporters taking cue from their principals, engaged each other in unhealthy arguments. In a few cases, physical attacks at campaign venues by these supporters have been recorded.

The rivalry is such that the party secretariat, which is also divided along lines of loyalties to different aspirants, could not inject discipline or provide a common ground for party members to relate. Several feeble attempts to call warring aspirants to sheath their swords were rebuffed.In fact, a large number of members alleged that the State Chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, who had his background in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was playing the scripts of the state governor, Olusegun Mimiko, to lay mines on APC’s path to victory.

With the expectations that an APC candidate would have a smooth ride to the Government House because of the perceived loss of popularity of the incumbent governor, and his party, which for the first time since 1999, has lost out in the Abuja power game, many politicians pitched their tent with the APC.

The result was a gathering of aspirants, many of whom lacked what it takes to set up and maintain statewide machinery or even the political connection to be properly addressed as serious contenders desirous of winning a governorship election in a politically conscious state like Ondo.Many of them are non-residents and unknown within the state’s political field not to talk of having a body of supporters, through which they can realise their ambition in an election to be determined by delegates who were inaugurated several months ago.

One of the aspirants, a foreign-based professional, told The Guardian in Lagos, of his intention to contest the election at a time that he had not even registered as a member of the party.During the last yuletide season, an aspirant who desired to distribute free food items to party members brought in three trailer loads of rice and because he didn’t know which channel to pass the delivery, the trucks were parked at the popular Fiwasaye junction where a lot of confusion was created by passers-by struggling for the commodity.

Unable to control the unruly crowd of mainly hoodlums who were attracted to the scene, the aspirant who hailed from the northern senatorial district, left the scene and it took the intervention of armed policemen from the nearby Ijapo Division to restore sanity.Of course, the peacekeepers had a jolly good time evacuating a trailer load to their station where they gladly shared the Christmas largesse among themselves while the public space was filled with different tales of the aspirant and his rice armada.

A week after this incident, another aspirant, also wanting to bask in the kind of publicity generated by his less-known colleague, created a scene at his campaign office in Arakale area of the town as he invited women from all over the state to come and benefit from an empowerment programme.But political hoodlums, many of whom were alleged to have been bred by this particular aspirant when he was a high-ranking state official during his PDP days, took over the venue in their hundreds, carting away food items and snatching money from already paid women, with many taking shelter in adjourning buildings.

Although the party enjoyed tremendous publicity created by the many aspirants and their huge billboards in party and domination of the airwaves with campaign slogans and promises, many party faithful were apprehensive that more wedges were being driven into its fragile unity.The current political experiment has thus created a fertile ground for gladiators from within and outside to attempt a bite at the political pie of a state that has become the first major test in the battle for the control of South West politics since last year’s general election.

One of the gladiators rumored to be interested in the state’s political fortunes is former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku who is said to have thrown his weight behind an aspirant that has been publicly denounced by the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in what many see as taking the battle for the control of national politics to Ondo turf.Early this week, an unconfirmed rumour that Tinubu has endorsed one of the aspirants created turmoil within the party when the bulk of the membership vowed to resist any endorsement. But impeccable sources within the regional leadership said there was nothing like that from the national leader.

However the picture of how the party intends to prosecute the contest got clearer last Friday with the reduction by half, of the number of aspirants. Only 24 out of about 50 have formally signified their intentions to contest the primary election scheduled to hold on August 27.The aspirants who are being screened by a committee headed by Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, at the Abuja headquarters of APC, are from the three senatorial zones of the state since the party has not made a definite pronouncement on the issue of zoning as it did in 2012 when the position was ceded to the North.

The final list of formal aspirants who crossed this first hurdle included 13 from the North, eight from the Central and four from the Southern Senatorial districts thus halving the tension within the party.Some aspirants like Niran Sule-Akinsuyi, a close associate of Mimiko and one of the early defectors to APC, who did not collect the forms are believed to be nurturing other platforms to realise their ambitions.

However out of the 25, only five seem to have the capacity not only to breast the tape of the primary but are also strong enough to run the victory lap at the end of the governorship election.

Senator Roberts Ajayi Boroffice

Senator Roberts Ajayi Boroffice

One of them is Robert Ajayi Boroffice, a Professor of Human Genetics and two-term Senator currently representing Ondo North who also aspired for the top job in 2012 as a top contender. He is described as the most loyal to the party out of the lot because when many others disagreed with the 2012 imposition, he not only accepted the painful decision but also threw everything he had to the election winning his Akoko South West local council, one of the only three won by the party in the poll.

He recorded victory for the imposed candidate even when he faced the largest array of top opposition politicians that included the then Deputy-Governor in his local council.The real test of Boroffice’s political strength came during the 2015 elections when he not only secured a second term win, the first to do that in the zone, but also delivered all the seats in the National and State Assembly for the APC.

Also after the party failed to secure the control of the State House of Assembly and fellow politicians abandoned ship to engage in other vocations, Boroffice provided the only platform that held the disillusioned party together.An academic in politics, Boroffice was the pioneer Director-General of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) who took Nigeria into the leagues of countries with capacity to draw benefits from space technology with the launch of two satellites into the Earth’s orbit.

But the unique selling point of the professor who also holds the traditional title of Asiwaju (Leader) of his Akoko people, according to his constituents, is his achievements in the delivery of dividends of democracy to many communities that have impacted positively on physical and human development. In the current contest, Boroffice is known to have traversed all the nooks and crannies of the state and secured the support of majority of the delegates who are said to be preparing to reward his uncommon loyalty to the course of the party.

However, he is said to lack the character of an average politician and not disposed to those things that politicians do to attract massive sympathy. But many believe that like the late former governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, his fellow academic and former course mate at the University of Ibadan, the state would witness tremendous growth under him.

Another leading aspirant is Alexander Olusola Oke, former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, where he was one of the two legs (the other being Agagu) on which the party rested in the state since inception in 1999 till when Mimiko took over in 2015.Oke is a pleasant fellow who has a large following in the state especially his Ilaje local council and by extension, the entire South Senatorial District where he is regarded as the foremost political figure after Agagu.

A member of the House of Representatives during the aborted Third Republic and delegate to the Constitutional Conference of the Olusegun Obasanjo era, Oke was the pioneer Commissioner that represented the state on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and later Chairman of the Ondo State Oil-Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC) – the two platforms which he used to serve his primary constituency, Ilaje.Many analysts believe that if Oke, a successful legal practitioner, had joined the party much earlier, none of the aspirants would have neared him in acceptability ratings.

As a late entrant into the membership list of the APC, having been “chased out” from the PDP by the emergence of Mimiko, Oke has surprised many with his campaigns tactics that had endeared him to countless APC faithful.The high point of Oke’s political career was during the 2012 gubernatorial race when, as the candidate of the PDP, he put up a very brilliant performance at the pre-election debate, overshadowing the duo of Akeredolu of ACN and Mimiko of LP.

His gubernatorial ambition may however be scuttled by the disposition of many APC leaders, particularly from outside the state, whose attitude towards PDP defectors in the light of the happenings at the National Assembly, is allegedly not positive.

Rotimi Akeredolu

Rotimi Akeredolu

Another of the five leading aspirants is Akeredolu who was in the eyes of the storm during the conduct of the 2012 polls and whose manner of involvement in the said exercise, caused a lot of disaffection within the party.Akeredolu, a suave gentleman and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who emerged as the pioneer State Chairman of the APC after its formation prior the 2015 elections, has however moved up the political ladder and built statewide machinery that can be mobilized to win the primary election.

He is believed to have the ability to govern the state having been exposed to government apparatus as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during the days of the military.Akeredolu is however said to be aligning with the wrong power bloc at the national level. He was said to be close to some forces that were allegedly bent on reducing the influence of a leader from the South West and this was said to have manifested when he allegedly openly disagreed with the leader’s choice for a national office that he desired.

Although he has as allies, some of the big names in the state politics, Akeredolu’s greatest disadvantage is the insinuation that he is alien to Ondo politics.While Boroffice and other loyal leaders were rebuilding the party after the 2012 defeat, Akeredolu was said to have disappeared from the political radar and relocated to his Ibadan, Oyo State base, only to reappear as the 2015 election was approaching.



Also in the race as a leading aspirant is Chief Jamiu Ekungba, an Owo High Chief and member of the council of Senior Omolowos, the highest traditional council in the historic city.Ekungba, an accountant and top banker, who also threw his hat into the ring in 2012 and agreed to the decision of leaders to step down, is an expert in financial engineering. He played a major role in raising the N20 billion needed for the construction of the MM2 airport in Lagos.

If ability to manage the economy effectively is the sole credential for a governorship aspirant, Ekungba, whose slogan in this contest is “The big idea” and who is also believed to be very loyal to the party, should have no rival.Although he has been sustaining a social scheme that had been assisting indigenes of the state across ethnic and religious divides over the years, critics may use his religious inclinations to arouse some sentiments against him in a state that is predominantly Christian. Ekungba is an ardent Muslim who however said he does not see fellow human beings through the lens of religion; a virtue that he said has earned him confidence of most Christian clerics in the state.

Another leading aspirant is Olusegun Abraham, a politician who is more known as a businessman and an ally of the leader of the party in the region. Abraham, who hailed from Ikare-Akoko in Akoko North East local council, belonged to the old political brigade of the region through his membership of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), where he was one of the financiers.He was said to have refused political position at the inception of the AD government of late Adebayo Adefarati and instead accepted to be Chairman of the board of the state-owned Motel where he served without collecting salaries for four years.

Abraham has relied mainly on his old contacts within the defunct party, mainly old politicians, to seek endorsements, which many argued was a strategy to get the ticket through the back door.He is said to have a very deep pocket but his alleged lack of presence among the delegates and the possibility of having a political burden that may arise from his alleged business dealings with the leader, may be his undoing in this race.Even with the reduction in the number of the aspirants, mechanisms should be put in place to make sure that these many cooks don’t spoil the broth.