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Why APC is struggling in Southwest

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[FILES] Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

Although the Presidential election has come and gone, tongues are still wagging as to how and why President Muhammadu Buhari lost in Oyo and Ondo States.

The All Progressives Congress’ (APC) dominance in the South West was not in doubt, especially as the party regained its control of Ekiti and Ondo States, previously lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP).

Unknown to many, however, the failure to manage electoral success had crept in, which caused many unresolved internal crises within the party before the last election.

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While Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State was accused of overconfidence because he broke the jinx of winning the second term in 2105 and has no qualm in discarding party leaders that dumped the party in droves, his Ondo State counterpart, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has not survived the internal crisis that trailed his primaries. Things were so bad that the governor was accused of sponsoring candidates from other parties.

Ajimobi enjoyed the confidence of the party’s national leadership to the extent of being entrusted with reconciliation of members in other states, but the septuagenarian failed to play the role of a “big brother” to his kinsmen, which later left him in the cold.

Before the Presidential and National Assembly elections that humbled Ajimobi, he had almost become an emperor. And though he was calling the shots, his inability to integrate various factions, especially a formidable group loyal to the former Governor Lam Adeshina became his albatross.

The group known as LAMISTS claimed it was maginalised, both in political appointments and patronage, despite the fact that Ajimobi used its structure to win election. It accused the governor of favouring his political structure known as SENACO.

With the war of attrition between the two groups, it was easy for the disenchanted LAMISTS to form alliance with Mandate Group to contest for the party’s soul with Ajimobi. The governor had his way, but some members of the groups either left the party or remained enemies within.

The Oyo State APC had a weak structure, even before the primary was conducted. On the eve of the primary, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala dumped APC for the African Democratic Party (ADP). He accused the governor of imposing a candidate on the people.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the controversial review of Olubadan Chieftaincy declaration, which pitched the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji against the governor. The tension was so thick, as the governor, who is also an Ibadan Chief, nearly wielded the big stick on the monarch. The relationship has since remained that of a cat and mouse.

Some prominent Ibadan indigenes are supporting Olubadan’s position and have vowed to teach Ajimobi a lesson. And they did. Major communities in Ibadan are under Oyo South Senatorial district, which controls about 51 percent of all votes in the state. Ajimobi did not only lose Oyo South Senatorial election, his waning popularity also affected the presidential election.

The PDP scored 366, 690, while APC polled 365, 229 in the keenly contested Presidential election.

Sensing that Ajimobi had fallen from his Olympian height, the party’s national leadership, led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu quickly moved in to bring back those that left the party, including Alao-Akala, who proved to be in control of Ogbomosho votes, to the APC to brighten its chances at the governorship election.

But the scenario in Ondo was different from that of Oyo, where APC also lost the presidential election, despite perceived good relationship between the governor and President Buhari.

To everyone’s surprise, the major opposition party, PDP, sprang surprises and made a political comeback, alongside such minority parties as Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC), which deprived incumbent APC lawmakers’ return tickets.

APC conceded defeat in 11 out of 18 local government areas; five out of nine House of Representatives seats and two senatorial slots to the
opposition.

The genesis of the crisis within the party was the September 3, 2016 governorship primaries that produced Akeredolu. This created factions
among party leaders, who accused the governor of harbouring winner-takes-it-all attitude in appointment into his cabinet, which comprises mainly the “Aketi Team.”

In addition to opposing the National Working Committee’s (NWC) decision to give some lawmakers automatic tickets to return to the Ninth Assembly, Akeredolu was also accused of sponsoring some candidates to contest against APC candidates under the aegis of Action Alliance (AA).

Most prominent among the AA candidates is the Pro Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who deserted APC after a return ticket was given to the Senator representing North Senatorial District, Prof Ajayi Boroffice. He lost the election though won the governor’s unit in Ijebu II.

The result of the Senatorial poll at Ijebu II, Ward 5, Unit 6, Owo Local Government Area, where the governor voted, has been a reference point of contention among APC leaders, who are accusing Akeredolu of anti-party activities and divisive efforts, as Abayomi scored 125 votes to defeat the governor and his party, which polled 33 votes.

Though the governor delivered his council for the Presidency with 18, 322 votes to beat PDP that scored 13, 375 votes, he lost 11 councils to PDP namely: Okitipupa, Ose, Akure South, Akure North, Ese-odo, Ifedore, Idanre, Irele, Ondo West, Ondo East and Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo with 241, 769 to 275, 901.

Delivering Akoko South East, Akoko South West, Akoko North East, Akoko North West, Ilaje and Odigbo for Buhari, he also won Owo/Ose Federal Constituency for his candidate, Timilehin Adelegbe, with 24,733 votes to defeat PDP that polled 20,135 votes, but his allies who left APC to contest in AA lost the other two Federal Constituency seats and Senate in the North District.

The two APC candidates for the Federal Constituencies among the four Akoko council teamed up with Boroffice, the governor’s political archenemy, who is from Akoko South West to floor the AA candidates allegedly sponsored by the governor.

In Akoko North East/North West Constituency, the incumbent member, Stephen Olemija, an AA candidate loyal to the governor, scored 10, 979 votes, but was jointly trounced by APC candidate, Mr. Bunmi Tunji-Ojo and PDP candidate, Wale Ogunleye, who had 20, 988 and 12, 969 votes.

The governor’s friend in Akoko South West/South East, Victor Ategbole who contested on AA platform, scored 14, 694 votes, APC’s Adeogun won with 19,047 votes to also defeat PDP’s candidate, Martins Abiloye, who polled 12,907 votes. Boroffice, the only APC senator polled 53, 199 to defeat Abayomi and PDP candidate, who polled 43,100 and 34,490 votes respectively.

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Two out of three House of Representatives seats were won by PDP, as the governor’s favourite canidate in APC, Albert Akintoye, who hails from the same council with Omogunwa, lost the ticket to Kengboju Gboluga in Irele/Okitipupa Constituency, while his beloved candidate for
Ilaje/Ese-Odo Constituency conceded a return ticket to Victor Akinjo.

Only the incumbent lawmaker and ally to the governor, Mayowa Akinfolarin, won Odigbo/Ileoluji-Okeigbo Constituency for APC, making the second lawmaker out of 12 that Akeredolu can lay claim to their loyalty in the National Assembly. The other two are loyal to Boroffice camp.

To corroborate the outcry and petition to the party’s national leadership to caution the state leadership on divisive tendencies, though Akeredolu’s aides discarded them as mere rumours, the South West Director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Olusola Oke, raised alarm that some bigwigs were causing confusion in Ondo State.

Oke, a governorship aspirant of the party in 2016, lamented the anti-party activities of some APC leaders, saying, “Some privileged and highly placed APC members in Ondo and Ogun, who still hold animosity over the last primary election should let go in the interest of the party and the re-election of President Buhari.”

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