By Francis Olagbuji
In their popular work, The Irony of Democracy, Thomas Dye and Harmon Zeigler, contended that life in a democracy is shaped by a handful of people. The expected mass participation by the people is just a smokescreen as the elite formation eventually dictates who gets what, how and when. Harold Lasswell also corroborates this notion when he wrote that even in a democracy, a few people exercise a relatively great weight of power, adding that the elites are the few who participate in discussions that shape our lives.
However, the authors have an important advice for the elites when they contend that for the survival of democracy, they must govern wisely “if government by the people is to survive”. Otherwise, the basic interest of the elites is essentially imperiled and that would be a disaster.
The above summation of the delicate position of the elite in any political formation represents the kernel of the jigsaw puzzle currently rocking the Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) barely a week to its primary election. Admittedly, it is a quandary that has the potential of decimating the party and possibly making its lose its pride of place during the November governorship election on account of the in-fighting among the governorship aspirants on who becomes the candidate of the party. Opinions are widely divided on this matter which is now a source of worry to the stakeholders.
To the avid follower of the state politics, it is now settled that Ondo North will likely present the candidate but even at that, the division within that senatorial district is well known as the sole ticket has raised the peculiar factor of favouritism as alleged by an aspirant, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who in a recent letter to the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, claimed another aspirant in the person of Mr. Olusegun Abraham had been anointed as the party’s candidate, a move he criticized. Abayomi went on to claim that the national leader’s influence was already being deployed as he had allegedly asked the party leaders to queue behind Abraham. Although this claim was initially pooh-poohed, but the sequence of events that followed like the press conference by the “Akoko Leaders of Thought” and that of the APC ward chairmen in Ondo State either endorsing or asking party members to respect the “words of elders” put- paid to Abayomi’s assertions. Interestingly, Asiwaju Tinubu himself had come out in his own letter to Abayomi, to state clearly that he has a right to support any individual he likes which should be respected as his political and constitutional right anyway. But as Abayomi later pointed out in his reply to Asiwaju’s letter, such support should not be to the detriment of the fundamentals of democracy which should see to it that no any individual gets an undue advantage in the nomination process otherwise the process would have been skewed and become defective in a democracy.
Although the APC national leadership had since stepped into the matter with a view to resolving it, the situation remains dicey. Again while it is believed that anyone who picks the APC ticket will likely win the November election on account of the wobbling state of the ruling PDP and its perceived failure in governance in the last eight years in the state, not a few are disturbed that any act of imposition could scuttle such lofty aspiration on the part of the APC. Thus, many argue that any move to impose Abraham could only replicate the Femi Agbalajobi/Dapo Sarumi saga in Lagos State. In 1991, a bitter rivalry between two SDP aspirants which only benefited the candidate of the NRC in the person of the former Lagos State Governor, the late Sir Michael Otedola.
To this extent, close watchers of the evolving political scheming are wont to appeal to the leadership of the party to prevail on all contending elements to allow the basic creed of democracy to flourish during the primary by allowing a free and fair APC primary election in Ondo State. Of course, the precedents are there in the party not only in the presidential primary that produced President Muhammadu Buhari but also in other instances in the party as the recent APC governorship primary in Edo State attests. So, let the people decide their candidate to avoid a turbulent outing with divisive impact and consequence, particularly on the outcome of the election proper in November, a cruel irony that could retain the PDP in power in the state if the process is not properly managed. Yes, it must be well stated that Ondo State is not like other states that can easily be swayed in political matters, only to get the people placated or subdued. They are too principled to compromise on issues of ethics, justice and fairplay.
Yet, in another twist to the matter, a group of discerning leaders of thought in the state cutting across the three districts are now rooting for the candidature of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) in what they said at the weekend as the only “wise and decent thing to do”. They were said to have risen from a meeting in Akure to also situate their contention on the need for “justice, equality and fairplay”. In a communiqué issued, they sided with the idea of Ondo North producing the candidate as a matter of historical and political expediency.
They went down memory lane to infer that Ondo North was the right choice because in the historical sequence of zoning the governorship position in the state, the former governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu. was from the South Senatorial District while the incumbent Dr. Olusegun Mimiko is from the Central Senatorial District and, therefore, it will not be right to zone the ticket to either of the two zones, hence the logical choice of the North this time. Again, they contended specifically on why the ticket should go to Owo now since the immediate past deputy governor to the incumbent Mimiko, Chief Ali Olanusi, is from Akoko while the deputy speaker and the senator representing the North Senatorial District are all from Akoko where Abraham hails from. Also, they asserted the need to maintain the status quo on the recognized age-long tradition between the two tribes that constitute the zone, that is, the Owo/Ose and the Akoko which respects rotation and mutual consent. It was also argued that in 1979, when the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, an Owo man was Governor of Ondo State, an Akoko man, Senator Ogunleye, from Oke Agbe was the senator representing the district.
Olagbuji is of the Ondo Concerned Professionals.