By Dayo Johnson
It was a result that has shocked many. Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), had been painted as a David pitched in battle against the well oiled political machine of the political leader of the Southwest, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the contest for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC for the Ondo State election in November.
Speaking in an interview with Vanguard just before the primaries, Akeredolu had affirmed his bright chances:
“l can assure you that my chance is very bright. I’m not only assuring you of that but take my word; you will come back to congratulate me after the primaries.”
At the end of the voting last Saturday, Akeredolu, eventually emerged as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC winning the ticket with the vote of 669 of the 2774 delegates accredited for the election.
Segun Abraham who had received the endorsement of Tinubu was beaten to second place with 635 votes while Chief Olusola Oke, the former National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who recently joined the party came third with 576 votes. Senator Ajayi Boroffice who some alleged had earlier been dubbed as the anointed candidate of Tinubu and other Southwest leaders of the party came fourth with 471 votes.
But the primaries at the International Event Centre was one laced with much intrigues which had been playing out for the last few weeks.
Even when the last of the boxes was counted, people were unable to decipher who was likely to win.
When eventually the final result was announced by the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammed Badaru Abubakar who served as Chairman of the election committee it caught many pants down.
Boroffice who came fourth left the venue before the final announcement ostensibly unable to stand the shock. Also interesting was that the vocal Dr. Tunji Abayomi scored five votes, while interestingly the only woman in the contest Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose who is the daughter of the former late governor of the state, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, got only one vote.
Agents of Abraham, the anointed candidate had boasted that he would sweep as much as 85% of the votes.
Their confidence was helped by popular insinuations that a reasonable proportion of the state executive officials including the chairman of the party in the state, Isaac Kekemeke, were in league with Tinubu to deliver Abraham.
It was also learnt that the protest votes by delegates from both the North and Central Senatorial Districts helped Akeredolu who is also popularly known as Aketi.
Their beef with Abraham it was alleged was that they did not want somebody who would be imposed on them as their governor.
Indeed, while many took the message to “vote for Tinubu’s preferred aspirant” hook line and sinker, others detested it and they showed it by voting against Abraham even after allegedly being heavily mobilised by his agents.
Also, what worked for Akeredolu was that the votes from the four local government areas of Akoko were divided between Boroffice and Abraham. If the votes had been polled en bloc for either of them, Akeredolu wouldn’t have won.
The division in their camp helped to project Akeredolu to the narrow win he obtained.
Also, Akeredolu with foot soldiers such as Ade Adetimehin, Saka Yusuf Ogunleye and a former House of Representatives member, lfedayo Abegunde carted away all the votes in the Central Senatorial District with a last minute alliance with another aspirant from the central Tayo Alasoadura.
Akeredolu won majority of the delegates from Owo where he hails from and Ose, trashing a serving member of the House of Representatives Bode Ayorinde who in the last one year had empowered several party members and funded the party in the state handsomely.
Besides providing cars for each of the local government chapters, he had according to reports, also provided a motorbike to each of the 203 wards in the state.
With some pockets of votes from the southern area where Oke dominated, Akeredolu won the election with 34 votes polling 669 votes to his closest rival Abraham who polled 635votes.
Vanguard also gathered that Akeredolu wormed his way into the hearts of the delegates because the honorarium he reportedly promised them in 2012 before he was endorsed by Asiwaju and others as the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN governorship candidate was still transmitted to them not minding that there was no primary thereafter. This goodwill some of his aides said, engendered the same delegates support for him and even more who heard about his kind gesture.
However, few had expected him to come among the first three in the contest, especially after four of the featherweight aspirants stepped down for the anointed aspirant, Abraham before the primaries.
There were also claims that the election was highly monetised as each of the 3000 delegates smiled home after being camped in five star hotels within and outside the state with between N100,000 and N200,000 each.
Almost all the aspirants with deep pockets “kidnapped” their delegates to shield them from being bought over by others but still some were snatched when higher baits were dangled at them at the last minute.
One of the aspirants, Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba was overheard at the venue lamenting the monetisation of the election and the need to sanitise the polity. He polled 44 votes.
No doubt about it, the choice of Akeredolu who contested for the same position in 2012 against the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko by several accounts was also part of the high wired politics between the Presidency and the Lagos leadership of the party as led by Tinubu.
The gist was that the Presidency Abuja was determined to cut Tinubu to size in the Southwest ahead of the 2019 election.
Three former governors presently serving in the Muhammadu Buhari cabinet and a northern governor from the Northwest also known to be close to the presidency were said to have been active in the campaign to support Akeredolu.
A minister from the Northeast known to have the close ears of the president was allegedly the chairman of the Akeredolu Campaign Committee in the presidency.
Sources revealed that the motive of the former governors including two from the Southwest was to reduce the influence of Tinubu ahead of the 2019 election.
Akeredolu had, however, denied working in cahoots with the Presidency before the primaries saying optimistically, that the result would shock Tinubu to the marrows.
The tension was electrifying on the day of the election after it was postponed twice as accreditation took place at different locations to douse the tension.
The election was well policed as delegates were asked to leave after voting leaving a sizeable number stakeholders within the venue of the election.
Until the last of the 20 boxes containing the ballots of the 2774 delegates was counted, all those that were present at the International Event Centre-The Dome – at about 1:30 am yesterday, were apprehensive as it was possible for the votes to go any way.
Even when the last of the boxes was counted people were unable to decipher who was likely to win.