BENIN — FORMER Foreign Affairs Minister and a chieftain of Action Congress, AC, Chief Tom Ikim, has described as ridiculous insinuations that the ‘one man, one vote’ rally that was organised by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State last week was meant to endorse the presidential ambition of former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.

Ikimi, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard in Benin City, hinted that the national leadership of the party would meet this week to deliberate on the circumstances that led to the boycott of the event by the National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other AC leaders.

He wondered why the AC leaders decided to boycott the event which was meant for all political leaders and not just an AC affair.

His words: “I believe that the Governor of Edo State and the AC in Edo State wanted to be part of the struggle to restore integrity to the electoral process based on one man, one vote.

“The rally Thursday last week, was organised as a non-partisan event at which a broad spectrum of civil society organisations, labour groups, political parties and leaders across the country were invited.

“I am informed that invitations were extended to all known presidential aspirants, including General Ibrahim Babangida, who turned up personally, General Buhari, who sent a representative and Pat Utomi, who was there in person. Several PDP governors were present.

“I understand that Professor Wole Soyinka, who arrived earlier, met with General Babangida at Government House, Benin City, and they warmly exchanged pleasantries.

“After all, the two of them had worked harmoniously together when Soyinka was in charge of the Federal Road Safety Corps.”

“I do not know why Professor Wole Soyinka eventually stayed away from the rally. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who arrived Benin in the company of the AC Chairman, Bisi Akande, AC National Secretary Usman Bugaje, AC Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, did not proceed to the stadium due to the presence of General Babangida at the event. All entreaties to persuade them to honour a sister Action Congress event failed.

“ I would not question any Nigerian in holding any strong views against another fellow Nigerian. However, the event last Thursday was not convened for only those converted already to the principle of one man, one vote.

“If that was the case, then there would have been no need for the campaign. Perhaps the best achievement of the event is that key PDP leaders, well known to have benefitted from rigged elections in the past were also there proclaiming one man, one vote.

I, therefore, regret the turn of events that our respected National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, arrived Benin City with other AC leaders and had to stay away from the event.”

He added that “ I have no doubt as to the commitment of our governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to our great party, the Action Congress ,and the great job he is currently doing to build the party.

Commenting on the insinuation that the event was meant to endorse IBB for presidency, Chief Ikimi stated that “I have spoke to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who also regrets this turn of event but was concerned about the national press misunderstanding his presence in the same venue with General Babangida.

“We will be having leaders meeting some time this week, I believe the matter will be sorted out.
I know that Babangida is currently a member of the PDP and I am also aware that there is a lot of confusion and crisis in the PDP as regards who they are likely to choose as their presidential candidate.

“Some PDP members are now saying that they do no longer respect the zoning formula. And as it is now, IBB has not been made the candidate of the PDP. And I am a leader of the AC, IBB is not our member.

“So how is it possible that we could be endorsing someone who is yet to be a candidate of the PDP?   So, the whole thought that IBB came here to be endorsed as a presidential candidate is ridiculous because I am not aware that as at now he is the presidential candidate of any of the parties in the country”.

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