As stakeholders work round the clock to resolve the issues that trailed the hotly contested All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries in Ondo State, Sunday Oguntola monitors the development and asks if the party be able to close ranks and approach the November 26 governorship election on a united front
CONCERNED chieftains and stakeholders in All Progressives Congress (APC) are working round the clock to resolve the nagging crisis resulting from the disputed September 3 primary of the party in Ondo State.
Our correspondent confirmed last week that plans were afoot to find an internal political solution to the crisis that has turned hitherto associates to antagonists.
Running against time
Governors, under the platform of Progressives Forum, as well as other leading chieftains of the party are said to be reaching out to aggrieved elements with a view to finding an acceptable solution to the crisis.
They are said to be aware that the party has less than a week to resolve the crisis or be damned. According to the INEC guideline, parties have up to September 19 to drop or substitute the name of submitted candidates.
“If we don’t get it right before September 19, we can as well kiss the governorship election goodbye,” a chieftain of the party in the South West confided in our correspondent last Thursday.
A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Rotimi Akeredolu, was declared winner the contested primary with 669 votes. His closest rival, Olusegun Abraham, polled 635 votes.
Origins of disputed primary
Others who contested the primary election were Olusola Oke, Tunji Abayomi, Professor Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Olabode Mathew Ayorinde, Victor Olabimtan, and Akinyelure Ayo.
Others are: Alasoadura Omotayo, Awodeyi-Akinsehinwa Akintola, Ekungba Afolabi, Oyewumi Taiwo, Anifowoshe Jumoke and Ariyomo Olatunji.
Niran-Oladunni Moyosola, Adegbonmire Adeniyi (SAN), Adegoroye Ademola, Adesida-Abiodun Aderin, Adetula Olubukola, Adefemi Mayowa, Akingbade Akinwale, Akinola Akinyinka, Akinrinsola Odumayo and Akintelure Paul completed the list.
Many of them rejected the results declared by the Election Committee, alleging the delegates’ list was already tampered with and doctored.
They accused the National Working Committee (NWC) of tinkering with the list and replacing no fewer than 150 fictitious names with the one that produced the declared winner.
More revelations have trailed the accusation since September 3. The party, which was poised to give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recognized candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, a run for his money had been contending with controversies.
Following the dispute over the primary, the Appeal Committee recommended a fresh exercise to calm frayed nerves. It observed that infractions were indeed committed during the contested poll. For the sake of justice and peace, it suggested unequivocally that a fresh primary had to be submitted.
Reports have since revealed that the recommendation was indeed tabled before the NWC where a vote split of six to five was recorded in favour of a fresh primary. But in dramatic twists, national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigun-Oyegun, was reported to have overruled the body.
He reportedly went ahead to forward the name of Akeredolu to the electoral commission, a move that has clearly polarised the party and thrown it in an almost irretrievable crisis.
Cries for justice
National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, fired the first salvo, accusing Oyegun of acting in bad faith. The APC chairman’s action, he said, amounts to safeguarding “the fraud done in Ondo by perpetrating a greater fraud.”
He called for his resignation, saying the action amounts to destroying the very fabrics of the party that Nigerians massively voted to engineer change in March 2015.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar agreed with the former Lagos governor in tearing Oyegun apart. He said: “you cannot break your own rules without creating problems.”
His statement added: “It was wrong for the APC to have set aside a resolution it had reached aimed at resolving the crisis in our party in Ondo State. It is a recipe for acrimony and division.”
National Vice Chairman (South West), Chief Pius Akinyelure, categorically declared the primary was rigged in favour of Akeredolu. He fingered Oyegun, National Secretary Mai Mala Buni and National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, as masterminds of the plot to manipulate the delegate list in Akeredolu’s favour.
Akinyelure, in a statement, explained: “The National Organising Secretary confirmed to the NWC meeting of Monday September 19, 2016 that he actually received objections from some of the aspirants to the delegates’ list. Then he unilaterally made the adjustment as he deemed fit.
“It is emphasised that the National Organising Secretary performed these adjustments without recourse or reference to the NWC. The NWC was not apprised of his actions before the primary.
“The National Organising Secretary then issued this altered list to the Primary Election Committee for use in the conduct of the election.
“This altered list became available to some of the aspirants in the early hours of the election day (September 3, 2016). When the election process was about to commence, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and three other aspirants protested and raised objection as to the delegates’ list to the election committee.
“However, the committee members could not address it as it was not within their competence to do so. They went ahead with the conduct of the election.
“After the declaration of the results of the election by the committee, the three aspirants petitioned the Election Appeal Committee, alleging discrepancies and the alteration of the delegates’ list provided to them by the election committee and other irregularities.
“Consequent on the above, the NWC of the party received both the Election Committee and the Election Appeal Committee’s reports, which were tabled at the NWC meeting of Monday, September 19, 2016.
“A decision by the NWC to submit the name of an interim substitute to INEC as place holder until a fresh primary was conducted suffered a setback after Oyegun, Buni and Izunaso blindsided the other members to submit Akeredolu’s name in spite of a six to five votes in favour of presenting the substitute name.”
Echoes of discordance
When pressed, Oyegun insisted that only INEC can replace the name of the submitted candidate. That stance has further stoked the fires of divisions within the party with many opting out of the ship.
Most supporters of the aggrieved aspirants have since jumped ship. Olusola Oke, one of the leading aspirants, last week decamped to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He bagged the ticket of the party after chieftains convinced Akin Olowookere, the former candidate, to drop his ambition.
Oke has picked Gani Dauda, former House of Representatives member for Akoko North East and Akoko North West, as his running mate. There are indications that some powerful forces within the APC are behind the duo’s ticket.
There are unconfirmed reports that the other aggrieved aspirants are staying put to work against Akeredolu’s victory at the general elections. But many of them, according to sources, are banking on ongoing rapprochements among the party’s leaders. They are believed to be hoping that the perceived injustice will be redressed before the October 19 deadline for substitution of candidate’s name expires.
But some forces in the party believe that Akeredolu’s nomination is a done-deal as far as Oyegun and other blocs within the APC are concerned. Should that development play out, they are said to be prepared to fight the ‘injustice’ to a standstill from within.
Abraham has already declared the APC will lose if the nomination of Akeredolu stands. He said Oyegun committed a monumental mistake that will cost the party dearly. Abraham stressed: “I don’t want to say he has committed fraud, being an elderly person. But he should apologise to the people of Ondo State, Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari.
“By his action, he has rubbished the anti-corruption stance of this government. He has belittled the intellect of Nigerians and they would not cast their votes for the APC on November 26.
“The interest of the party should be the utmost in the mind of the chairman, but unfortunately this is not so.”
While the APC is oscillating on which direction to go, the ruling PDP is smiling expectedly. The party believes the discordant tunes in the APC are most welcome developments. But the APC can still spring a comeback if frayed nerves are calmed. But will powerful forces within the party do the needful?
Or will the party allow the division to fester and willfully hand Ondo State back to the PDP? Events in the next one week will surely tell.
Source : ThenationonlineThenationonline