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Ondo LG poll as litmus test for Akeredolu in October guber race

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Sequel to the just concluded primary elections of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the April 18council election in Ondo State, there are indications that the party is set for implosion ahead of the upcoming polls. More rumpus seem to be brewing within the governor’s faction known as Aketi Team, as the primary elections generated a lot of ill-feelings among those, who are still loyal to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. 

Though the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some others had expressed their determination to boycott the April 18 election, believing it is a ruse, the APC primary elections are the major contests for all the aspirants. The primary election became so problematic that the party’s leadership had to hurriedly postpone it less than 24 hours, while the governor’s council, Owo, despite the new date, could not produce a candidate as it ended in a serious political impasse. 

Immediately Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) announced its readiness to conduct local government election across the 18 councils in the state, Ondo APC leadership set the political ball rolling. Many had thought the proposed local council development areas (LCDA) would suffice, but nothing was heard about it despite the appeals by individuals and stakeholders to the state government to implement the committee’s report. 

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The state chairman of the ruling party, Mr. Ade Adetimehin, declared that the party would conduct free, fair and credible primary elections for the chairmanship positions in all the 18 councils and 203 wards. While screening the 101 chairmanship aspirants vying to represent the party, he affirmed that it would be an open exercise from which only the most popular candidate would emerge as the party’s flag-bearer.

Adetimehin, however, admonished that “other aspirants who are not so lucky in the primary should consider themselves as worthy as only 18 aspirants would be representing the party in the coming local government election in the state.” Prior to the councillorship and chairmanship primaries, there were pockets of crises in almost 13 out of the 18 councils bothering on the imposition of candidates. 

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Members of the party raised the alarm that some leaders of the party were plotting to cause the crisis, accusing them of taking steps to disrupt the upcoming local government election. They warned that they would not condone any act of imposition.
 
While speaking with The Guardian in Irele, the headquarter of Irele Local Government Area, some aggrieved APC members, led by Mr. Michael Ilelaboye, asserted that they would not tolerate any act of imposition by some leaders. The Guardian gathered that the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr. Emmanuel Igbasan, from the local government, had informed the people that Governor Akeredolu ordered them to support a particular candidate for the chairmanship position. 

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It was learnt that the commissioner summoned an emergency meeting without other aspirants in attendance and directed the stakeholders to work for the preferred candidate. According to sources who spoke with our correspondent, the outcome of the meeting almost led to political violence and arson but the timely intervention of some party chieftains nipped the crisis in the bud. 

The council chairman of the party, Chief Zechariah Omoge, who confirmed the rumour after a stakeholders’ meeting, noted that neither the governor nor the state’s party chairman ordered the party leadership to support any candidate. Omoge, however, explained that the meeting held by the stakeholders to make the aspirants present a consensus candidate did not work. 

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Igbasan, who conspicuously avoided the meeting held in his house the following day for the fear of being rough-handled, had imposed a former House of Assembly member, Segun Ajimatokin, on the people, but he was strongly rejected by the stakeholders.
 
Similarly, youths and women of Igbobini town in Ese-Odo Local Government area of Ondo State, also protested against an alleged plot by the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, to impose a chairmanship candidate on them. They kicked against an automatic ticket for the incumbent Caretaker Chairman of the council, Mr. Ojo Omolewa, lamenting that his emergence would deprive them again after waiting for 21 years to produce a council chairman. 

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The people of Igbobini town, which has Apoi Wards IV and V, disclosed that there was a political plot to eternally marginalize them, adding that the chairmanship position is being rotated between Apoi Wards I, II and III for over 21 years. But the Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, denied all the allegations against Ajayi and pointed out that the governor had advised on how to go about the selection of the APC candidates for the election.

Political analysts across the state are of the opinion that the controversy that ensued from the primaries would not augur well for the second term ambition of the incumbent governor, and if not properly handled, it would further balkanize his faction. They opine that Governor Akeredolu and APC leadership should urgently put their house in order so as to have a strong political front to win the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state, especially via the direct primary election. 

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An APC chieftain, Tolu Babaleye, who belongs to the Unity Group, an opposing faction to Akeredolu, said: “I have come to realise that even within Aketi Team, there is division. From the results, reports, election and imposition from the field, there is Aketi Team A, Aketi Team B, Aketi Reserve Bench and Aketi Feeder Team.

“I also realise that all those perceived to be close to Agboola Ajayi the deputy governor are completely annihilated. Otito Atikase, who, from all statistics on the ground, would have won was not allowed to run. Nicholas, the current Caretaker Chairman of Irele LG, another deputy’s ally from Irele, was not allowed to run. Omooba Adesanya, from Okitipupa, was tactically defeated and now the party has cancelled the result of the primary election at Ese Odo LG. 

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“Fish dey swallow fish. I hope it is not what I am thinking. Now everyone knows where he belongs within the team, whether in Aketi Team A, Aketi Team B, Aketi Reserve Team or Aketi Feeder Team.”

Faulting the inadequacies by the party leadership, he added, “Another thing that keeps me thinking is, why collect nomination fees from over 100 people for 18 slots and from over 1,000 people for 203 slots and you are now talking about consensus after collecting people’s money? 

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“What was the intention behind this? This is criminal extortion to my mind in this era of dry mouth. I will advise the party chairman to refund the money collected to those prevented from aspiring.”

Babaleye, however, warned against legal consequences, saying “If you don’t do it now, you may need to later do it with 20 per cent interest and cost of litigation. A word is enough for the wise.”

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Meanwhile, the state’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Alex Kalejaiye, dispelled as the mere rumour that the primaries had further caused animosity within the ranks and files of the governor’s faction, affirming that there was no cause for panic. Kalejaiye lauded the state APC executive, led by Adetimehin “for putting in so much to achieve this feat,” adding that no fewer than 15 local council primary results had been released.

Watering down the perceived grievances, he said: “Going by the feedback received so far from 15 local government areas, there is no cause for alarm but if there is in one or two areas, we will resolve it.”

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