From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Last Saturday, the events that preceded the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State did not favour Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), yet he emerged the candidate of the party. He defeated 23 other aspirants including, Dr Olusegun Abraham, the anointed candidate of the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
It was like a drama when the governor of Jigawa State who is also the Chairman of the primary election, Alhaji Mohammed Abubarka announced Akeredolu as the winner of the election held between Saturday and Sunday at the International Events Centre (DOME) in Akure.
Not many envisaged that Akeredolu would emerge the winner of the primary election as he was the least favoured by the leadership of the party at both the state and national levels. However, various intrigues that played out at the middle of the election turned the situation of things around and worked in favour of the erstwhile President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Akeredolu had in 2012 contested the Governorship election under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a party that teamed up with other political parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, Akeredolu lost the election in 2012 to the incumbent governor of the state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko who contested on the platform of the Labour Party (LP), while Chief Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second in the election.
Many Political observers within and outside the state believed that Akeredolu emerged the ACN’s candidate in 2012 through the support of the former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu. Many grassroots politicians who were firmly rooted in the party contested with Akeredolu who was believed to be a foreigner at that time.
But Akeredolu who had parted ways with Tinubu declared during a recent interview that God was the brain behind his candidature in 2012 and not Tinubu, debunking the belief that the former Lagos governor was instrumental to his emergence as the party’s flag bearer. He chastised Tinubu and openly declared that he was not seeking his support for his ambition to rule the state.
In the interview, Akeredolu said “for Tinubu to have endorsed any aspirant in our party, he has lost the place of National Leader of the party”, adding that, “Tinubu has never kept to his words, and we are thereby not surprised by his latest action.”
The development however generated dust among political gladiators in the state who believed that it would be difficult for anyone in the
APC especially in the South West geo-political zone to become anything without the support of Tinubu. In fact, many believed that the statement credited to Akeredolu would finish him in the primary election.
The open disagreement he had with Tinubu naturally worked against him as he endorsed another aspirant, Dr Olusegun Abraham and directed the leadership of the party to work toward ensuring his emergence as the party’s candidate. Alas! Abraham was not favoured at the end as his endorsement by Tinubu spurred serious leadership crisis within the party.
As a result of the development, a new faction emerged within the party and 36 out of 48 members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the party appointed Mr Ade Adetimehin as the acting state Chairman of the party, after they had passed a vote of no confidence in Hon Isaac Kekemeke who was alleged to have been compromised in order to work for Abraham.
With few days to the election, crisis became a daily event within the party and the APC was not talking with one voice. A faction of the party supported by the National leadership of the party was being controlled by Kekemeke, while another faction being supported by Akeredolu and other aspirants was being controlled by Mr Adetimehin.
On Saturday, when the election was eventually being held after its postponement on two occasions, Abraham who was the ordained candidate of Tinubu was believed to be above his other aspirants as he was so confident of victory that he moved round the state capital in a long entourage. He visited all the three accreditation centres in Akure and in all the centres and the ovation given to him was awesome with a tumultuous crowd hailing him as the next governor of the state.
Abraham was believed to have the control of most of the delegates to the primary election and he was given recognition in all the accreditation centres he visited. It was alleged that despite his popularity, acceptability and support of the leadership of the party, Abraham still induced the 3,000 delegates that participated in the election.
The delegates who were drawn from the wards in all the 18 local government areas of the state were said to be loyalists of Abraham as the list was produced by Kekemeke who was the state chairman and obviously a supporter of Abraham’s candidacy. It was even alleged that Kekemeke had doctored the list sent to Abuja as many who were supposed to serve as delegates did not see their names on the at the accreditation centres.
Events however turned around few minutes after the election commenced as all the 23 other delegates met and changed their stand on theelection. It was speculated that the aspirants with the exception of Chief Olusola Oke and Senator Ajayi Boroffice collectively agreed to support Akeredolu in order to make Tinubu’s support for Abraham fail.
As a result of the new development, the aspirants, it was gathered met with their coordinators and directed them to ensure that the delegates who were in their camp voted for Akeredolu, and this was done as it was evident in the votes of Akeredolu who later polled 669 against Abraham who got 635, defeating him with a slight margin of 34 votes.
Call it a gang up or political game, the turn of events at the election centre caused delay in the voting of delegates from Ondo North and Ondo South senatorial districts as the delegates who were over 2,000 did not commence voting until
7.00pm, a situation which made the election to enter the following day. It was rumoured that the perfection in the arrangement was done while the delay in voting lasted.
Nevertheless, Abraham and Kekemeke failed to show up at the venue of the election and that provided an avenue for Akeredolu and other aspirants to woo the delegates loyal to him as he was not on ground to check them from romancing with other aspirants.
It was also gathered that the presidency mobilized support for Akeredolu who was said to be a close confidant of President Mohammadu
Buhari. An unconfirmed report had it that the Minister of Works and Housing, and his Transportation counterpart, Mr Babatunde Fashola and Hon Rotimi Amaechi respectively worked for Chief Akeredolu and used their influences to garner support for him both at the state and federal levels.
Although Tinubu was also said to have sent his emissaries to the state to work for his preferred aspirant (Abraham), it was learnt that the inability of Abraham to show up at the election venue worked against him as many delegates who had been with him pledged support for Akeredolu before they voted.
It was learnt that agents of Akeredolu who were in their number at the premises of the venue of the election wooed the voters, even as they promised them juicy position should he win the election and the governorship election later in the year.
While Akeredolu and his agents were moving round the venue of the election to canvass for the last minute support of the delegates, Abraham and his agents were not seen and no one knew where he was. But many said his action to steer clear of the venue of the election might be to douse the already high tension as many had believed that he would have the day.
The aspirants who reportedly supported Akeredolu during the election include Mr Jamiu Ekungba, Prince Boye Oyewumi, Chief Tayo Alasoadura, Mrs Jumoke Anifowose and Hon Bode Ayorinde, while one person, Dr Tunji Abayomi withdrew from the race because of Akeredolu.
One of the aspirants and senator representing Ondo Central senatorial district, Chief Tayo Alasoadura said: “we agreed to work against imposition and not against Tinubu in the interest of our party and our dear state.”
He explained that “what happened during the primary election was the supremacy of the people. It showed the sovereignty of the people over and above any selfish interest. Power lies in the hands of the people and this was what was demonstrated during the primary election of our great party. It shows that we are all equal in the party.
Speaking, Akeredolu said his emergence was victory for democracy and the people, stressing that, “what we all witnessed today showed that the sovereignty of the people cannot be bought by anybody. It shows that our people believed in me and in my ability to serve well.”
Commenting on the election, the Chairman of the primary election committee and Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubarka described the exercise as a peaceful and successful one, saying delegates comported themselves well all through the exercise.
Anambra central rerun: Obi is an intruder –Umeh
…Says only APGA can sustain progress in the state
From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA), Chief Victor Umeh has said that former Anambra State governor, Chief Peter Obi is an intruder in the Anambra central senatorial district rerun election.
Umeh who is the APGA candidate for the rerun poll said there is no way the former who is seeking to contest the election in the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can be part of the exercise since he was not part of the nullified senatorial election held last year.
In this interview, the APGA leader also aired his views on the 25 years of Anambra as a state.
What is significant about the jubilee marked by Anambra State recently?
Well, 25 years in the life of a state can be said to be a long period of time. At that age, a young man that is focused could have been married by now.
So, during these 25 years, Anambra State can be said to have been put on a pedestal of progress. It was an amazing moment for the state, because there was a time that Anambra State was very notorious in the news. It was known for kidnapping, Bakassi Boys beheading people at market squares and more. There was a time nobody wished to go there, but it took a divine providence to create the opportunity for the state to be taken over by a party that was determined to change the storyline wherever it finds itself.
Before 2006, Anambra State was a theatre of political wars; battles that reduced governance to the least level. Since it was celebrating its 25th anniversary, it would be nice to separate the segments of assessment into when the military was in power and when civilians returned to take over.
Between 1991, when the state was created, exactly three months under a military administrator, there was an election. That election produced Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife as the first civilian governor of the new Anambra State.
Ezeife was a great career civil servant, permanent secretary, Havard trained. When he came, he was planning to reorganize things and position the young state towards development but before he could sharpen his axe, the civilian government was overthrown by the Late General Sani Abacha and the military returned.
Under Okwadike, he was unable to do much. He was saving money, as an economist would do. Before he could start that, the military overthrew the civilian administration.
The first civilian governor that came into power after the military regime was Chinwoke Mbadinuju. At that time, Anambra State was terrible. Different godfathers emerged in the politics of the state.
Mbadinuju could hardly work for the people of Anambra State. When his first tenure was running out, the atmosphere became palpable that he must leave so that the state could get a new face of life. It was under that atmosphere that we had the 2003 election and that was when APGA contested its first election because it was registered in 2002. Of course, his party was aware that nothing would make him to win the election, so they shoved him aside and brought in Dr. Chris Ngige.
Ngige could not manage his sponsors in that election. He was kidnapped on July 10, 2003. An attempt to force him out of power failed. The war that ensued between him and his sponsors brought the state to its lowest level; public properties were burnt.
We won the 2003 governorship election but we were denied our victory under Obasanjo’s dictatorship.
I read about former President Olusegun Obasanjo prancing around, in ThisDay. I laughed, because the memory of the people is very short.
Obasanjo introduced economic and political corruption in Nigeria. He never allowed free and fair elections to take place during his rule, which lasted for eight years, but we were in court. After nearly three years in court, APGA was able to claim the mandate given to Peter Obi, as the governorship candidate of the party.
The real take-off of the state was in 2006, when APGA took over. Mr. Peter Obi did a lot of work when he was the governor, as he set up the structures of governance in the state through pragmatic approach. He was also able to lay enduring foundations at several areas because there was nothing on ground then.
The real set up of government structures in Anambra State started in 2006 when Peter Obi took over. The APGA government was able to build the State Secretariat because we didn’t have one. The Governor’s Lodge was like a camp because there was no peace anywhere around the state. We also rebuilt the burnt Government House.
The Civil Service that was in its lowest morale was restructured and re -energized; proper systems and order were put in place. So, the government was able to tackle the problem of infrastructural developments, introduced a new lease of life to the educational sector that was decayed.
During Mbadinuju’s regime, Anambra secondary school students could not write examinations for a whole year.
The government of APGA put in place the Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy and Peter Obi used that to lay foundations in all the sectors and built on them. But his first time in office, it was a struggle to remove the APGA government from the grip of the PDP godfathers. At that time, Peter Obi was only in office for eight months and he was impeached. We had to go to court to fight and get him reinstated.
Before he could settle for another four months, an election was conducted. So, he was reinstated on February 9, 2007 and by April 19, 2007, another election had taken place. Andy Ubah was made the governor from an election that never took place. That was Obasanjo’s legacy. So, we struggled to get a tenure interpretation to secure Peter Obi ‘s tenure for four years.
During Obi’s second tenure, the godfathers and the PDP were weakened. We were able to do so much for the people of Anambra State. Though we had our challenges but they did not affect the governance of the state because neither I nor Late Col. Ojukwu interfered. Obi ran the government with a free hand and that was the major reason for the success of Anambra State. You could see him as the administrator of the state because we were interested in what would benefit the people.
There was no struggle for control of resources. Obi’s performance was never affected by a disagreement. He was able to achieve a lot. We only assisted him by providing a political stability for him, standing by him whenever there is an attack from an opponent to keep him strong.
The structure of governance at the end of his tenure in 2014 has been firmly established and the state experienced revolutionary development in road infrastructure.
In the educational sector, things have been turned around. On November 28, 2011, our government returned schools to the missionaries and went into partnership with the missionaries. With that, moral education came back in full swing, value systems got back in a manner that you can safely know that your child is studying at school. So, the quality of education was enhanced.
Obi reinforced our policies and security. The picture of Anambra State is no longer the way it used to be. You must have clearly seen the three flyovers in the State’s capital. But clearly and outstandingly, the state is void of criminals. Those who were into robbery, kidnapping, paid dearly for it.
Due to its security, investors have started coming to Anambra State. Obi always knew that the issue of insecurity in the state was a great challenge so, he addressed it in a summit he organized after his first month in office.
By the time Obi exited on March 17, 2014, Willie Obiano came into power through APGA.
Obiano made agriculture a major policy of government. Recently, Anambra was commended as one of the top states in agricultural developments. We also export vegetables.
I must say that for 25 years, APGA has been in power for 10 years and APGA is responsible for the success story of Anambra State. This worked because the party, as an institution, is focused on alleviating the sufferings of the people and delivering quality governance to the people; this party has been able to turn Anambra State around with great sacrifices from the members of the party.
Today, in Anambra State, APGA people have done their best for the state, in terms of sacrifice and patience, for the good of the state. Nobody goes to the governor to wrestle for the resources of the state. So, whatever is deployed provides services and quality governance to the people.
What are your fears for the next few years?
The only way that Anambra State can continue making progress is if it sticks to APGA as the political party. That is the source of the success of the party. This is so because the government has been running without any form of hindrance.
The former governor was fully in charge of the state, even when there were quarrels and political disagreements. He would have failed like PDP. So, you can see the progress he is making because we allowed him to work. The party has never been against the governor or the government even when it is faced with difficulties and that is why the place is also peaceful.
Good enough, I served out my tenure in June, last year. Before I handed over, I solved all the leadership problems of the party. I organized a convention and I handed over to the new leader and he is working well with the governor.
The party is peaceful and the government is also peaceful. To sustain this, the state must keep APGA in power, so that the consolidation going on through Obiano’s administration would continue.
For example, if Obiano is allowed to run for a period of eight years and the people entrust the state to another governor, nobody would be able to win Anambra State in any relay race.
We have observed that there is a lot of pressure on APGA. What do you have to say about that?
PDP is like a rainy season that is coming to an end. The exit of the rain is usually tumultuous. PDP held Anambra State down during their regime. APGA took over in 2006 and started struggling with PDP. That struggle brought us to this stage. The party held the entire South – East down because of the impunity and their recklessness during election. But since it lost the 2015 elections, nobody would care about it again.
They are on their way out. Like I said, they are like a tumultuous rain. And you know, the last rain would always be destructive before peace would reign. It is still a fallout of the PDP impunity. They were able to do all that they did because Jonathan was the President.
With the exit of PDP, they are being weaned from governance in Nigeria. Look at what is happening in the party today. Only a mad man would want to build his house through PDP.
Do you have confidence in what APC is doing?
From my senatorial district, I am the last man standing. Why I said the party is on its way out is that the matter is in court. That is the end of PDP. As a veteran in this process, I know that this would be the end of PDP in this state. The party has always tried to manipulate the system and foist impossible things on the people.
My senatorial election is a re- run election and my senatorial district has the same situation with Kogi East and Kogi Central senatorial district. The Court of Appeal nullified the three senatorial districts elections because those declared winner were not properly nominated by their parties. Even though people who are making noise now are ignorant of the law. These three senatorial districts have the same case. Kogi East and Kogi Central have been concluded.
Remember that two senators were removed. INEC had concluded the rerun without APC taking part in those two reruns. PDP took over the seats.
In my own case, PDP got the judge who refused APC from participating in the rerun to say that PDP would participate in the rerun of Anambra State’s senatorial district. This is the type of magic PDP does in Nigeria and before you know it, they do the impossible.
The impression is that you are afraid of Peter Obi. Is that true?
Well, I would not say that he was not a strong candidate in the election. The truth is that he was not part of the election; he is clearly an intruder.
I am not afraid of him. Though, he has a lot of money to spend if he contests an election and I contest too, but I will win. There is no just point going into a contest with somebody who is an intruder.
When I addressed journalists in Lagos, Obiano was nowhere in the scene. I stated it clearly and that the same law has been effective in Kogi and other states in Nigeria where elections have been nullified and people were disqualified.
You must also practice what you believe in. If you believe in the Rule of Law, you should practice it. Just because you were denied justice does not mean you should turn against the person that won. By the time we are done, it will be obvious to everybody that there is no substitute to doing what the law says. I stick to what the law says.
When Obi was with us, he was being hailed across the country as a strong believer in the Rule of Law. When I finish with him, Nigerians will see that I was that pillar in that legal struggle Obi went through as a strong believer in the Rule of Law and the judicial process.