By Dayo Johnson – Akure
The October 2020 governorship election in Ondo State will not only be a three-horse trade but also throw up surprises. One of the aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may contest in a different party going by the politicking that’s playing out in the party especially within the Unity Forum.
But before the July primaries of the two leading political parties, the APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), endorsement gimmick by aspirants is tearing their parties apart.
Only last week, aspirants from Ondo South in the PDP, namely Dr Eddy Olafeso, Hon Banji Okunomo, Senator Gboluwaji Kunlere, Chief Bamidele Akingboye and Hon John Ola Mafo, tussled over who should be the consensus candidate from the zone.
Olafeso, Kunlere and Akingboye are from Okitipupa axis of the zone while Okunomo, Mafo and Ebiseni are from the oil-rich Ilaje axis.
Happenings, however, in Ondo APC is worrisome and, if care is not taken, may spell doom for the party.
It is a divided house or, better still, a party fighting itself.
The Unity Forum, a group out to stop Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s (APC) second term ambition by all means and led by a former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, became disunited after the endorsement of a former governorship aspirant, Chief Olusola Oke, as a consensus candidate to tackle Akeredolu. In fact, the centre has refused to hold since his endorsement.
The plan didn’t receive the blessing of many aspirants and party chieftains within the group. Many political observers knew from the onset that the gladiators were only playing to the gallery and won’t let go of their individual ambitions.
Their common enemy was Akeredolu and they needed to skin him alive.
Two out of the seven members of the screening committee set up to pick a sole candidate amongst the ten aspirants, Prof Sola Ehindero (Secretary) and Solagbade Amodeni, have disowned the report that produced Oke while some Elders in another group within the party, known as the Mandate Agenda, have axed the Chairman of the Unity group, Olanusi.
While some of the aspirants alleged that the committee members were induced to pick Oke, the committee Chairman, Senator Yele Omogunwa, owned up that they shared only N1.2million given to them by different aspirants in the process of carrying out their duties and nothing more paved the way for the emergence of Oke.
Many of the aspirants, party leaders, senators and committee members have insisted that the emergence of Oke was undemocratic, will not stand and vowed to pick nomination forms when the final whistle is blown by the electoral umpire.
The Secretary of the screening committee, Ehindero, did more harm to the report of the adoption when he said,
“No consensus candidate has been elected by the committee for which I am Secretary. It neither emanates from the accredited Secretary’s office nor does it reflect the true deliberations and conclusion of the members of the screening committee.
“Rather, the fake report is inspired, sponsored and programmed by known and disguised enemies of both the Unity Forum and the APC in Ondo State and it is designed to tactically distract the attention and focus of our collective efforts”.
Those against Oke adoption include Prince Dapo Adelegan, Dr Segun Abraham, Mr Adelami Olayide, Mrs Jumoke Anifowose, Mr Ife Oyedele, Prince Jimi Odimayo and Senator Ajayi Boroffice.
They were unanimous that the screening committee and the group leader, Olanusi, compromised and alleged that four of the seven members of the screening committee had been bribed.
Anifowose and Abraham described the adoption as unacceptable, adding that the aspirants, at their last visual meeting, agreed that the APC nomination for the 2020 election in Ondo is zoned to the North and not the southern area of the state.
Odimayo said, “I did not agree to any endorsement and there was no decision according to the Secretary of the committee that anyone has been adopted. So the report of the endorsement is fraudulent”
Adelegan said he was not a party to “any meeting or decision process to announce a consensus candidate. To the best of our understanding, the other aspirants are still discussing amongst themselves on the possibility of a consensus candidate.
“Our expectation is that by July 2020, an APC candidate will emerge from a formal primary and will move on to emerge as the governor of Ondo State in October of 2020 by God’s grace.
Boroffice, who is Deputy Senate Majority Leader and who was accused by another group within the party, the Unity Mandate Agenda, of playing politics of divide and rule to frustrate the Unity Forum and working underground to cause a crisis in order for him to emerge as a neutral candidate to run, said, “The Unity Forum has no consensus candidate; aspirants should start preparations for the primary of the party”.
A statement by his media aide, Kayode Fakuyi, added, “The political tendencies in Unity Forum could not agree on critical processes that could have led to the adoption of a consensus candidate.
“Recently, aspirants participated in a zoning process and majority agreed that Ondo North should produce the consensus candidate.”
Meanwhile, the Unity Mandate Agenda, through its spokesperson, Babatope Abisola, says Oke is the only candidate that can oust Akeredolu in the July governorship primary.
In another development, the Chairman of the screening committee, Omogunwa, justified the emergence of Oke as a consensus candidate, explaining that the aspirants promised to abide by anybody the committee used its wisdom to select.
“The Committee had an interface with the aspirants for two days and all the aspirants agreed to support whoever that is chosen. The seven-man committee relocated to a church where the decision was reached to pick Chief Oke”, he said.
“The Secretary of the Committee, Prof. Sola Ehindero, wanted a technocrat governor while the only woman in the committee picked Mrs Jumoke Ajasin-Anifowose.
“All the aspirants are competent but I agreed with the majority that said, Chief Oke. The Secretary left without signing. The only woman in our midst also did not sign.
“The aspirants told us to do it the way it pleases us and they will support whoever emerges. We followed the mind of the public. A politician should wait for his time.”
Kazeem begs fellow aspirants to sheath swords
ONE of the aggrieved governorship contenders, Olarenwaju Kazeem, meantime, asked fellow aspirants to sheath their swords and accept the choice of Chief Olusola Oke as the consensus candidate of the group.
Kazeem said the call became imperative in order to put in place a strong candidate in the party’s primary.
“The group’s main goal of installing an APC governor instead of Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu would be defeated if the aspirants and members of the Unity Forum disagree over the candidature of Oke for the party primary”, he said.
The aspirant advised his colleagues “to fully utilise the window of dialogue and reconciliation offered them by the leaders of the group and avoid playing into the hands of those who do not wish the party or the group the opportunity of producing the governor in the next election.”
Kazeem went on, “The current conflict aimed at portraying the Unity Forum and its leadership in bad light is unnecessary because members remain as one family; no challenge should be insurmountable to the group.
“The process that produced Oke was initially approved by all aspirants and the process was transparent. We need to set aside sentiment and work for Oke emergence.”
The aspirant, a former Commissioner for Agriculture, however, cautioned the state and national leadership of the APC to avoid the re-occurrence of what the happened to the party in Zamfara where the opposition was declared as winner by a court as a result of internal wrangling and litigation among APC stakeholders in the 2019 general elections.
According to him “Oke remains one of the politicians in the state that can defeat Akeredolu in the party’s primary”.
Sacked Chairman speaks
Also, the sacked Chairman of the Unity Group, Olanusi, in his reaction, said, “The group picked Chief Olusola Oke as its candidate for the sole purpose of salvaging the state from the nepotistic and despotic Akeredolu administration in the last three years’.
Olanusi appealed to other aspirants to accept the decision of the Special Purpose Committee in good faith in the overall interest of the Forum.
“Remember that we have nothing to share in zero, but a lot to salvage if we work as a team.
“In this type of enterprise, there is no conqueror or vanquished. Let us, therefore, close ranks and join forces to timeously salvage the state”.
How Oke and the Unity Group would wriggle out of this quagmire remains dicey. Abraham, Oyedele and Senator Boroffice are hell-bent in scuttling his much cherished sole candidacy of the group. Will Oke remain in the party or jump out as Abraham and Oyedele are sure of contesting for the ticket in the July primary.
Akeredolu may, after all, reap bountifully from the missteps of his perceived enemies within APC.