…as forces array against Tinubu’s presidential ambition
By OLUSESAN LAOYE
As the Independent National Electoral Commission, after its May 14 meeting, still intend to go ahead with both Edo and Ondo States governorship elections this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with Edo coming first, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State is now in confusion over who will represent the party in the election.
Already, there are different camps in the party working to prevent the incumbent, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, from getting the ticket of the party in the primary election believed would come up next month June, if INEC did not change its plans. Feelers from the State show that the gang-up against Governor Akeredolu thickens as notable members of the party are bent on ensuring that a different person gets the ticket and not him.
This then informed the move by a body of politicians and strong members of the party to form a formidable force known as Unity group to present a consensus aspirant that would slug it out with Akeredolu at the primary
The group which is headed by the former Deputy Governor to Dr Olusegun Mimiko Alhaji Alli Olanusi, before he joined the APC, has other notable politicians and aspirants as its members.
Those in the group include Senator Ajayi Boroface, former Chairman of the party in the state Mr Isaac Kekemeke, former governorship aspirant, Segun Abraham, Chief Olusola Oke and Professor Sola Ehindero and all the other aspirants who contested the primaries of the party with Akeredolu in 2016.
The Unity forum according to sources has the backing of the leader of the APC Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who was said to have asked the group to fish out a sellable and acceptable aspirant who could defeat Akeredolu and go ahead to win the election if presented to the people of Ondo State.
It was also learnt that the strategy to pick a consensus aspirant against the governor, who has been mobilizing to win the primary, was to prevent what happened in 2016 when all the aspirants went different ways, which cost the Tinubu group the ticket, that eventually paved the way for Akeredolu to represent the party and subsequently won the election to become the governor.
It was calculated that going by the 2016 primary election figures by the aspirants, that if all those in Tinibu’s camp had worked together, the result would have been different. According to the result of the 2016 primary results, Chief Oke got 583, Senator Boroface,471 and Segun Abraham who came second got 635
The argument, therefore, was that with the figure of Abraham and what other scored, if all of them had pulled their results for an aspirant Akeredolu would not have emerged as the candidate of the APC against Tinibu’s wish and preferred candidate Segun Abraham who came second.
But despite gang-up against Akeredolu, the entire party is now in disarray, while another group known as Sunshine Integrity group has come out to defend Akeredolu with the Unity group now in serious crisis over the credibility of its members, particularly those on the Committee to select credible aspirants among all those jostling for the governorship ticket in the group.
The committee which was chaired by the leader of the Unity group, former Deputy Governor, Alli Olanusi is enmeshed in a bribery scandal, which has further put the party and the group in serious confusion, which some analysts say, could be in favour of Akeredolu if the group failed to put its house in order.
The bribery scandal rocking the Unity group was as a result of the report said to have been released by the chairman, Alhaji Olanusi which claimed that the Committee had endorsed Chief Olusola Oke, as the consensus aspirant to face Akeredolu in the primary.
But the bubble burst when the secretary of the committee Professor Sola Ehindero, the immediate vice-chancellor of Atiba University in Oyo, came out to rubbish the report endorsing Oke, released by Olanusi. According to him, the report naming Olusola Oke as the aspirant agreed upon by the Committee was fake and not the true reflections of the two week-work done by the Committee.
He said Olanusi overshot his boundary by naming Olusola Oke, saying, “as the secretary of the committee, with the delineations and records of the deliberations held, Olanusi is not qualified and morally empowered to issue any report on committee’s deliberations”.
Ehindero further argued that Olanusi was a principal suspect in the bribery allegation in connection to the integrity and credibility of the screening committee. He argued that chairman of the Committee, Olanusi was not in the position to announce the report because the screening committee has not tendered it before the member body that set it up for ratification and endorsement by the leaders of the party.
He pointed out that Olanusi along with some people in the party engineered the report to cause confusion in the party and pave way for the PDP to win the election if the APC presents a weak candidate.
But a member of the party has come out to defend some of them who were accused with Olanusi that no bribe was collected from anybody, adding that what they alleged as a bribe was the collective contributions of all the aspirants which they gave individually depending on their pockets.
The money he argued was meant to offset some of the expenses of the committee, saying it was wrong for anyone to have accused some of them and even the chairman of the screening committee and as well that of the Unity Forum of bribery.
Those who were screened by the Olanusi’s committee are Olusegun Oke, Segun Abraham, Ajayi Boroface, Ife Oyedele, Jimi Odimaye, Hon Durimi Isaac, Ambassador Sola Iji, Mr Bukola Adetula, Oluyide Adelani.
Sources hinted the BusinessHallmark that the report released by Olanusi may have been the true reflection of the decision of the committee, based on the antecedents of all the aspirants. It was believed that Oke was a force to reckon with as far as Ondo politics is concerned.
He was said to be the only aspirant who has a solid and formidable structure all over the state and that he is not new in the governorship battle. He has been in it since the immediate past governor Olusegun Mimiko was to run for a second term. He was in Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) then and he came second in the election. He was said to be a home-based politician who has never deserted the people and a man who cut across the elderly and the youths because of his generosity.
These were the facts considered before the screening committee pick him but because he is not the preferred aspirant to the National leader and the National Chairman Bola Tinubu, and Adams Oshiomhole respectively, he was rejected, and someone had to come out to debunk Olanisi’s claim.
It was said that the problem in the party may have just started because with the look of things the Unity Forum backed by Tinubu and Oshiomhole may not be able to arrive at a common aspirant to face Akeredolu and if that should happen, there is going to be the likelihood of the scenario of 2016 when they all had it their way, which paves the way for Akeredolu.
Although Akeredolu was said to be having his problems too with the party and the people, he would have to go an extra mile to save himself from the tight rope.
He is being accused of nepotism and running a one-man show, with the wife also accused of dominating the entire space in government.
The governor was alleged to have personalised governance and only favoured his kinsmen in his appointments to positions in the state. He was alleged to have appointed Owo men as the SSG, chief of staff, Head of Service, special Assistant and Special Advisers on Infrastructures, Agric and Natural Resources.
Also, the Chief Judge of the state was said to have come from Owo while the daughter of late Chief Adekunle Ajasin from Owo is also on the board of the Federal Character on Revenue Mobilisation, Allocations and fiscal commission. His son Bajide was accused to be the Secretary Palliatives Committee with the governor’s in-law and protocol officer as members.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Sunshine group working for Akeredolu, who is also the SSG to the Government of Ondo State, Mr Ifedayo Abegunde, said they were sure the governor would get the ticket for a second term.
“We are very sure in our group that Governor Akeredolu would defeat whoever comes out from the so-called Unity group, which is not united. From the start, they have started on a wrong note and accusing themselves of bribery when they have not even finished their assignment. If I may ask, is that the kind of people without shame and integrity who wants to rule the state? They have shown the people of the state the kind of people they are.”
Also the Director-General of the Sunshine Integrity movement for Akeredolu, Mr Olu Aboluwoye hinted that already the group has worked very hard to secure at least 75% votes of delegates in the primary for governor Akeredolu who are council chairmen, political appointees, saying that whichever way the primary goes “those secured are card-carrying members who are qualified and accredited delegates in their respective wards and local governments.”
The chairman of the party Mr Ade Adetimehin has said that the party would be fair to all. He pointed out that they, at the state secretariat, would ensure level playing ground for all aspirants.
Meanwhile, there are speculations that just as it was in 2016, the battle for the governorship ticket in Ondo state is likely to take the same pattern as it would as well be a fight between the Presidency, the likes of Amosun, Fayemi and even Seyi Makinde the governor of Oyo State who was said to be keen in ensuring that Akeredolu gets a second term given the synergy they have been enjoying together in the South West against Tinubu and others.
The group backing Akeredolu would want to cut Tinubu to size to jeopardise his presidential ambition and the test case in the Southwest would be the Ondo election. Both sides now need Edo and Ondo to kick-start their relevance ahead of 2014.