Ondo 24: Aiyedatiwa, Ibrahim, Oke, Akinterinwa, 12 Others Jostle for APC Ticket

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NEWISSUES DAILY
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As the All Progressives Congress holds its primary election to produce its candidate for the governorship that comes up this November, Fidelis David, writes on the chances of the leading contenders 

Finally, the much awaited day for the people of Ondo State has come as the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the coastal state will battle to produced its candidate for the November 16, 2024 governorship election through a direct primary election.

Penultimate Saturday, the party’s National Gubernatorial Aspirants Screening Committee, gave all the 16 aspirants who picked the expression of interest and nomination forms a clean bill of health.

The aspirants in no particular order include the incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa; former Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa; Olusola Oke (SAN); former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin; Senator Jimoh Ibrahim; former National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Isaac Kekemeke and former Commissioner who represented the State on the governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Gbenga Edema.

Others are Gen. Ohunyeye Olamide Felix; a current member of the House of Representatives, Jimi Odimayo; Olusoji Adewale Ehinlanwo; Morayo Lebi; Diran Iyantan; Prof. Francis Faduyile and Engr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele, while the two female aspirants among them are Funmilayo Adekojo, and Mrs. Funke Omogoroye Judith.

Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo of Kogi State is expected to lead a seven-member committee to oversee the electoral process. Additionally, former Bauchi Governor Mohammed Abubakar is expected to head the five-member Primary Election Appeal Committee, ensuring the transparency and integrity of the primary election.

Beside, no fewer than 171, 922 delegates, who are all card-carrying members of the APC are expected to take part in the direct primary election. The delegates are members of the APC drawn from the 203 wards in the 18 local government of the state and duly certified to take part in this Saturday’s APC Governorship Primary election. The National Organising Secretary of the party, Alhaji Muhammad Argungu, disclosed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had sent the Certified True Copy of 173, 181 membership register to the party and a revalidation done by the party brought the number down to 171, 922.

According to him, the role of the Governor Ododo’s committee and Governor Abubakar’s appeal committee would be pivotal in ensuring that the process remains fair, transparent, and inclusive.  Chances of the aspirants THISDAY gathered that the election would be a four-horse race between the incumbent governor, Aiyedatiwa, Ibrahim, Akinterinwa and Oke.

Lucky Aiyedatiwa

On December 27, 2023, Lucky Aiyedatiwa was sworn-in as governor of Ondo state following the death of his principal and former governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and thus, by law, Aiyedatiwa is expected to complete the joint tenure of late Akeredolu and himself by February 2025. Besides, Aiyedatiwa is also eligible to contest the November 16 governorship poll in the state and perhaps, with his ambition, he’s leaving no stone unturned to secure the parties ticket.

Worthy to note is that the aspirant has consistently declared that his late principal (Akeredolu) had always wished that he (Aiyedatiwa) succeeds him.  “Distinguished citizens and party faithfuls, I must re-echo what our late leader had always wished for in his life time. “It was his wish that I succeed him, not in death though, as the next Governor of the State. He was a courageous and visionary leader who had no time for pretense and so he expressed this wish at different fora in both public and private.

“All was with one conviction and implicit confidence in me to carry on the torch of accelerated development which he lighted first in 2017 and later renewed under a joint ticket for both of us in the 2021 gubernatorial election,” he said recently.

THISDAY however learnt that Aiyedatiwa is banking on the power of incumbency, which is a nightmare for any arch rival.

In other words, as an incumbent governor, he would have 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, party structure as well as proven integrity. Also 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 should be allowed to rule the state for another four years.

Jimoh Ibrahim

Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim is the senator representing Ondo South, in the red chamber and one of the strong contenders for the election. He is said to be leveraging his personal relationship with President Bola Tinubu.

To him, the death of a former governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu, would enhance his chances of becoming the next governor. “Maybe the death of Aketi has enhanced my chances because Aketi is a human being, he can be subjectively objective at the last minute. But now that he is no more, that possibility is written off completely.

“So, whoever is there, wants to run for governor will meet me at the field. So Aketi’s death doesn’t affect my chances at all, but it would rather enhance my chances to win the governorship position of this state. So we are working seriously to win this election.”

Besides, he has the support of two former senators, among other political giants in the state and recently, a former Secretary to the state government and an aspirant, Oladunni Odu collapsed his structure for the lawmaker.

Ibrahim, fondly called Araba by his vast admirers believes that he’s the most educated among the aspirants, and that he has an edge over his opponents at the poll parading his certificates on national dailies as a bold and well-read Law Graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; Masters degree from both Universities of Oxford and Harvard and doctorate degree in Business from University of Cambridge (PhD in War), with many executive programmes completed from Oxford University.

Wale Akinterinwa

Mr. Wale Akinterinwa, a financial expert and the immediate past Commissioner for Finance in the state is an ally of President Tinubu. Between 1999 and 2002, he worked with Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) as the Special Assistant on Finance, Investment and Strategy to the Managing Director. Also, from 2003 to 2009, he was the Executive Vice Chairman of Gideon Trust Investment Limited and also seats on the Board of Gideon Trust Micro Finance Bank Limited, and Non-Executive Director of Emergent Power Energy Development Company Limited. Akinterinwa who hails from the Oke-igbo/Ile Oluji LGA of the state, says the late Rotimi Akeredolu anointed him as his successor before his death. He said Akeredolu did this after he returned from his medical trip to Germany in 2023.

Festus Adefiranye, the lawmaker representing Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives believes that Akinterinwa stands the best chance among the horde of aspirants in the APC to emerge as its governorship candidate. In addition, it was gathered that Akeredolu’s kinsmen are backing the ex-finance commissioner against Aiyedatiwa.

Olusola Oke

 Olusola Oke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, two-time governorship candidate in the State, hails from Ilaje, the second most populous local government in the state.

He was a governorship candidate in Ondo in the 2012 and 2016 gubernatorial elections, and came respectively second and third in both elections, first on the platform of the PDP and then Alliance for Democracy (AD). He left the APC in October 2017 after a controversial primary election which produced the late governor, but rejoined in January 2018.

To Olusola Oke, his primary mission in politics is the compelling and urgent need to liberate the people of the coastal state from leadership ineptitude and underdevelopment.

The former Commissioner who represented Ondo State on the Governing Board of NDDC, wonders that despite Ondo’s natural endowment, the state has remained largely economically handicapped, humanly underdeveloped, educationally static and socially sterile with the majority of the population ravaged by poverty.

Division in APC

The APC in the state is currently divided over the election. In other words, in the past few months, the aspirants have attacked one another as a means of discrediting or de-marketing their co-contestant while others went as far as petitioning fellow aspirants. However, the Chairman of the party, Engr. Ade Adetimehin says there is no cause for alarm, noting that efforts are geared towards fostering unity in the party.

The APC chairman had also warned political supporters of aspirants against divisive utterances and actions, before, during and after the primary. He contended that the unity of the party is erected on the pillars of equal opportunities, irrespective of whatever considerations, saying, “The chapter is for all, and would continue to encourage equal opportunities for all the members. New members should entertain no fears in this regards.” Adetimehin has also appealed to political gladiators to exhibit regards for the party’s governorship aspirants, and other stakeholders to avoid unnecessary friction in the political space.

The party noted that Ondo State is known for organisation and enviable political history that should be demonstrated at critical moments. We own it a duty to showcase the rare ability to go into any contest without rancor.

Printing of Fake Membership Cards

The party has also been dogged by complaints and allegations of printing of fake membership cards. Three days ago, seven of the aspirants raised the alarm over alleged printing of fake membership cards by one unnamed aspirant ahead of the party’s primary.

The seven aspirants – Ibrahim, Oke, Akinterinwa, Iyantan, Faduyile, Edema and Odimayo, in a jointly signed petition addressed to the National Chairman of the party, had alleged that the cards were distributed to non-members of the party in a desperate move to win today’s primary or discredit the exercise.  Specifically, the seven aspirants from the Southern senatorial district of the state alleged that the desperate aspirant wanted to ensure non-registered members of the party with fake membership cards vote in the primary with a plan to present this in the court of law to discredit the exercise.

The aspirants had also cautioned the party’s leadership to ensure that the primary is conducted in adherence to the dictates of the Electoral Act to avoid risky litigation.

The petition read: “We have noticed some issues of concern in respect of the said primary election which if not resolved quickly, may hinder the smooth running of the primary and may be detrimental to a free, fair, credible and acceptable election. One of the issues is that of the revalidation of the membership register to be used for the primary election.

“While we commend the position of the party to revalidate the existing membership register which is the certified true copies, as certified by INEC, and based on this directive of the party, as aspirants, we have paid over N300m to the coffers of the party to cover the annual dues of all party members whose names appear on the register, unfortunately, the exercise was shrouded in so much of secrecy that a lot of our party members especially our numerous supporters could not have their membership cards revalidated before the committee that came from the Headquarters left Ondo State for Abuja. “We have been inundated by reports that a particular aspirant has gone ahead with massive printing of fake party slips, which he has distributed to a lot of persons who are not even our party members.”

They alleged that the intention of the aspirant was to corrupt the integrity of the membership register on the day of the primary by making accreditation of party members impossible as non-party members have already been recruited to flood the venues of the primary election that day.

To avoid any Legal or Constitutional conundrum, the petitioners advised that the party makes accreditation of party members mandatory at the election venue, and that every member of the party whose name appears on the membership register already certified by INEC should be allowed to vote once he/she is able to present his/her membership slip for accreditation.

Finally, for members of the APC, as the 16 aspirants slug it out today for the party’s ticket, all they want is a violence-free electoral process and a candidate who has the temperament and courage to confront multifaceted challenges and ultimately develop policies that would fight hunger, poverty, joblessness, insecurity and a rescue the decayed basic infrastructure which has eaten deep into the State 48 years after its creation.

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