By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
LAGOS — The 1983 crisis in the old Ondo State has been linked to a failed promise by the leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to the then Deputy Governor of the State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, to replace Governor Michael Ajasin as the party’s candidate in the 1983 election.
Prince Olu Mafo, a member of the then Ondo State House of Assembly, former member of the House of Representatives and an associate of Omoboriowo disclosed this in an interview where he debunked insinuations of Omoboriowo being a power hungry man.
Mafo disclosed that Pa Awolowo was made to backtrack on the alleged deal which was also made to all the deputy governors of the UPN controlled states following pressure from the then incumbent governors.
The assertions were, however, denied by Alhaji Lateef Jakande, who was the Governor of Lagos State at the time and also a close confidant of the revered sage, Chief Awolowo.
Jakande told Vanguard, yesterday, that Awolowo was never one to trade political positions as he said issues concerning nominations were strictly the preserve of the National Executive Committee of the party.
Mafo, an erstwhile Special Assistant (National Assembly) to then President Olusegun Obasanjo and presently a member of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Projects Monitoring Committee said Omoboriowo built up a campaign machine upon the alleged promise.
He said Omoboriowo, who died last week, was at a point of no reversal by the time Awolowo later allegedly reversed himself. Mafo who was Secretary of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in Ondo State at the time, nevertheless, admitted that the victory awarded to Omoboriowo in the gubernatorial election was rigged.
Rebuffing the claim yesterday, Jakande said: “My immediate reaction is that it was never the practice of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to commit the party or anybody for any office. There was always a procedure that the national executive takes the decision in accordance with the rules. I can say definitely that in the case of the late Omoboriowo, Chief Awolowo never promised to support him against Chief Ajasin, he never did.”
Asked if there was any time the incumbent UPN governors had to meet Awolowo on the issue, he said: “We laid down a policy that any individual interested in any office applies in the normal way and the national executive decides on the issue. In the case of the late Omoboriowo, the issue was very clear, Chief Ajasin was doing well, so we had no cause to support Omoboriowo against Ajasin.”