Ondo 2024 Guber: Intrigues As Aiyedatiwa Emerges APC Candidate

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Fidelis David examines the intrigues of last Saturday’s governorship primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Ondo State and the factors that led to the emergence of the incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa

From time immemorial, it’s literarily a norm for political office holders to seek re-election, and Nigerian politicians are no exception. 

Although, political experts believe there is nothing wrong in seeking or re-contesting to occupy a political position, as long as it doesn’t run foul of the law.

Particularly, in Nigeria, one enviable class of such office holders are governors who are seen as very powerful, courtesy of influence, paraphernalia of office, and almost unrestrained access to state funds which has apparently made the office very lucrative.

Building on the above premises, since its creation in 1976, Ondo State has succeeded in projecting itself into national politics.

The outcome of the governorship election of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State held at the weekend comes to mind in this regard. 

After the initial dispute that fraught the first round of the exercise, Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, was declared winner of the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Sunshine state.

Kogi State Governor, Usman Ododo, who was also the Chairman of the seven-member committee set up by the national secretariat of the party to supervise the exercise to elect a standard bearer for the November 16, 2024 election in Ondo state, announced the winner of the election around 12:43 on Monday morning, in Akure, the state capital.

The announcement came hours after Ododo ordered a rerun election in all the 13 Wards of Okitipupa Local Government with total validated registered members of 9,515 because of validated reports that the exercise did not hold in the local government due to late arrival of materials and personnel as a result of logistics challenges. 

According to Ododo, Aiyedatiwa polled 48,569 votes to defeat 15 other aspirants in the contest. A former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin, came second with 15,343 votes, while Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, got 9,456 votes. 

A former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Wale Akinterinwa, polled 1,952 votes.

The result also showed that Aiyedatiwa won in 16 out of the 18 council areas in the state, while Oke won in only Ilaje local government but came third after polling a total of 14,915 votes in the election.

Ododo said: “Reports from the field revealed that the primary election went on peacefully, and at the end of the exercise, votes were counted and recorded.

“By the power conferred on the committee, and in line with APC guidelines for the nomination of the candidate of the party in the general election, I, Ahmed Usman Ododo, Governor of Kogi State and the Chairman of the Committee and the Returning Officer of the Ondo State APC governorship primary election, held on the 20th, 2024, hereby declare that Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa having satisfied the requirements of the law and scored the highest numbers of votes cast in the direct primary election, is hereby return elected and declared winner.”

While charging the aspirants to set aside their differences and unite behind the candidate, Ododo said, “your dedication to the service of Ondo State and commitment to serving the people under the platform of our great party are truly commendable.

“We are grateful for your courage and determination to be part of this important process. Let us remember that the real work lies ahead of all of us as members of this great party.

“We must follow the words of our leader and president, Bola Tinubu, who has maintained that a political contest is a quest to serve as brothers and sisters from the same family, but leaving in different rooms and must therefore remain in the same house after the election has been won and lost.

“So, we are all from the same family and as such, we have no need to abandon the party irrespective of the outcome of the election. We must set aside our differences and unite behind our candidate,” he said.

Controversy, Protests 

Interestingly, the declaration of result came amid controversy and protests by some aspirants, who called for the cancellation of the exercise over alleged irregularities and the replacement of Ododo as chairman of the election committee.

Some aspirants including Olusola Oke, Hon Olugbenga Edema, Hon Wale Akinterinwa, Jimi Odimayo, Engr. Ife Oyedele and Prof Dayo Faduyile called for the cancellation of the exercise.

Mr Wale Akinterinwa, in a statement signed by the spokesperson of his campaign organization, Segun Ajiboye, alleged that the seven-man primary election committee led by Governor Ododo of Kogi State did not conduct any primary election in the state.

Akinterinwa said the purported primary election conducted by Ododo can be better described as a make-believe exercise claiming that there are incontrovertible evidence that there was no election and that the Governor Ododo-led election committee merely concocted figures in their hotel rooms and declared same as results of the primary.

“Without any fear of contradiction, we state here that no election was held in any part of Ondo State on Saturday to elect the candidate of the APC. It is on record with incontrovertible evidence that nothing in the semblance of a primary election was held in all the 203 wards in Ondo State”.

In the same vein, the Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mr Ojo Oyewamide, said the primary was a mockery of democracy.

“We insist that what happened in Ondo State on Saturday was a disheartening mockery of democracy. As a result, our party has become a boot of jokes in the hands of the opposition parties and the people of the state.

Mr. Paul Oniyemofe who spoke on behalf of Prof Faduyile said there was no electoral material deployed for the exercise across the state. He said it would be an injustice if the party treat its members in a dishonourable manner.

Other aggrieved aspirants wonders how, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin who had allegedly stepped down for Aiyedatiwa came second in the election with a total of 15,343 votes.

Violence and Irregularities 

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Banji Ajaka, was beaten to stupor by angry members of the All Progressives Congress at Ugbo Ward 3, in Ilaje Local Government Area, for allegedly hiding result sheet.

Witnesses said the APC members who demanded for the result sheet of the primary election turned on Ajaka after electoral officers accused him of holding the sheet.

Also, as at 12:11 am last Saturday when THISDAY visited Ward 9, St James’ CAC Caring Heart Mega Primary School, Akure, members of the party were waiting for voting materials to arrive while hoodlums took charge, sending away any member they knew was against their aspirant.

Similar cases were observed in ward 4, St Stephen’s Primary School, Ijomu Street, Akure and Ward 7, St Martin’s RCM Primary School, Oke-Padi, Akure. 

In the Southern senatorial district of the state, pandemonium broke out in Okitipupa Ward 1 as members of the party who had gathered at Stella Maris College to be counted were dispersed due to violence over support for a desired aspirant. This subsequently led to a rerurn in the council area on Sunday.

Factors that led to Aiyedatiwa’s Emergence

On December 27, 2023, Aiyedatiwa was sworn-in as governor of Ondo state following the death of his principal and former governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and thus, by law, Aiyedatiwa is expected to complete the joint tenure of late Akeredolu and himself by February, 2025.

On the factors that led to his emergence as the candidate of the party for the November poll, THISDAY reliably gathered that Aiyedatiwa had the backing of the presidency, his fellow APC governors and the national leadership of the party to emerge the candidate of the party.

Secondly, the power of incumbency from time immemorial has always been a nightmare for any known opponent at the primary election 

In other words, as an incumbent governor, he had enough resources to fund his election because it is widely believed that any aspirant who wishes to succeed in any contest, must have the wherewithal and party structure at his disposal.

Also, before the primary, public opinion conducted by THISDAY showed that residents of the state are happy with the present development in the state and the achievements of Aiyedatiwa within 100 days in office, believing that the governor is performing wonderfully well like his predecessor (Akeredolu) and thus, should be allowed to govern the state for another four years.

Besides, Aiyedatiwa had consistently declared that his late principal had always wished that he (Aiyedatiwa) succeeds him and so the believe is that Akeredolu’s prediction has come to pass with the success of Aiyedatiwa in last Saturday’s APC’s primary election.

 Imminent Litigation

No doubt, with the call by some aggrieved aspirants for the cancellation of the primary over alleged irregularities, litigation is eminent.

While briefing newsmen in Akure on Monday, former Bauchi state Governor, Mohammed Abubakar who is also the head of the five-member Primary Election Appeal Committee for the primary said three petitions were received from the aggrieved aspirants.

These petitions, if not urgently and properly managed by the leadership of the party, may compound the APC crisis in the coastal state.

Also, if not well managed, political experts also believe that the crisis over the primary may cost the ruling party the November 16 governorship poll and even lead to the collapse of the party in the sunshine state.

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