Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Just before the Saturday’s general election, the Ondo State governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu had boasted that his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was in control of the state. He also assured President Muhammadu Buhari who is the presidential candidate of the party that the people of the state would vote massively for him.
Daily Sun recalls that when the president visited the state to campaign about three weeks to the rescheduled date of the election, Governor Akeredolu still assured him of the resolve of the people of Ondo State to cast their ballots for Buhari, boasting that he was in control of the state and that he was a force to reckon with.
Governor Akeredolu had shortly before the election also visited President Buhari twice at his Aso Villa residence to promise him the support of the people of Ondo State. On the two occasions, it was speculated that the president was convinced that he (Akeredolu) has what it takes to deliver the state to him during the contest.
However, the promise of Governor Akeredolu, analysts say, appears an empty one, as Buhari lost in the state in the presidential election. The APC candidate lost to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC), Atiku polled 275,901, while Buhari had 241769 votes in the state.
A further breakdown of the results indicates that Buhari won in only seven out of the 18 local government areas in the state, with Atiku winning in 11 Local Government Areas. Also, two of the PDP senatorial candidates won their election, leaving the APC with one out of the three senatorial districts.
The outcome of the election, many said, may be the result of the internal wrangling and crisis that almost crippled the party in the state before the general election. Prior to the poll, the party was sharply divided into two and it went into the election with a divided house.
A faction of the party loyal to Governor Akeredolu and led by a rights activist, Dr. Tunji Abayomi had defected to the Action Alliance (AA) before the last Saturday’s elections. Although the AA members promised to work for the success of President Buhari, the outcome of the election appear to prove otherwise.
The senatorial candidate of the AA in Ondo North senatorial district, where the governor also hails from reportedly laboured to ensure that Buhari wins, but it was gathered that his supporters who were angry with the manner at which the senatorial candidates of the party in the three senatorial districts of the state emerged, allegedly worked against the APC.
The process of selecting the APC candidates for the senatorial election had led to serious crisis within the party as the three candidates emerged without primary election. This development, Daily Sun gathered caused a “personal political war” between Governor Akeredolu and the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, who was accused of alleged “partiality and gross violation” of the party’s constitution in the emergence of the party’s candidates.
It was learnt that the three senatorial candidates of the party; Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) and Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North) were preferred candidates of the national secretariat of the party, while those allegedly backed by the governor were not considered.
Daily Sun’s investigations revealed that primary election was not conducted in any of the three senatorial districts before the emergence of the candidates despite clamour and protests by the leaders of the party including the governor, who insisted that there must be one.
Daily Sun recalls that on different occasions, the aggrieved members of the APC wrote to the national secretariat of the party to challenge the manner at which the candidates emerged. They also staged protests in different parts of the state, especially the state secretariat of the party, to press home their demands.
Investigations further revealed that the development, among other personal issues especially the succession plans of Governor Akeredolu may have caused “serious disaffection and crisis” between the senator representing Ondo North senatorial district, Boroffice and Akeredolu as they often had disagreements, while their supporters always engaged in clashes, especially at political outings.
Even when loyalists of Akeredolu moved to AA, the defection did not prevent clashes among them as they always engage in violent clash whenever they meet. The development caused the leadership of the APC in the state to suspend some of the party faithful loyal to Boroffice.
Some members of the APC had before the last presidential and National Assembly elections raised the alarm that Governor Akeredolu was involved in anti party activities, alleging that he was given both moral and financial supports to AA.
The protesters who were aggrieved members of the APC in Ondo North district of the state, alleged that Akeredolu had at different times met with the AA candidate in the district and many of his followers, just as they alleged that the state chairman of the party, Mr. Ade Adetimehin of publicly campaigning for the AA.
However, the leadership of the party at the national level failed to act on all the petitions written by the aggrieved members, just as nothing was done to reconcile the aggrieved members. The seemingly refusal by the party to act appear to have forced many members of the party in the state to work against the party during the last Saturday’s elections.
One other major factor that affected the chances of the APC in the state was the leadership crisis rocking the party. Already two persons are laying claim to the leadership of the party in the state. They are Messrs Adetimehin and Isaac Kekemeke.
The division in the party was the fallout of the last governorship primary election of the party, which produced Governor Akeredolu as the party’s candidate against the wish of the former Lagos State governor and national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
While Tinubu and Kekemeke were in support of Dr. Segun Abraham, Adetimehin and some other leaders of the party were in support of Akeredolu and their interests polarised the party and also led to a litigation which is currently before the Supreme Court in Abuja.
The faction loyal to Kekemeke had at different times claimed to be in control of the party in the state even as the members of the faction including senator Boroffice and former Osun State commissioner for Regional Integration, Mr. Bola Ilori always worked against the interest of Akeredolu.
The leaders of the party in Kekemeke’s faction, it was gathered were exempted from all the pre-election activities of the party. This, Daily Sun gathered may have also contributed to the woeful performance of the party in the presidential election as many of them delivered their councils to the APC during the 2015 presidential election.
Also, former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who lost the senatorial election in Ondo central senatorial district had his defeat attributed to what many call “over ambition” as many residents of the state complained that he has “ remained over ambitious in his political desires and activities since he came to political limelight,” over two decades.
The former governor lost to his former political disciple, Ayo Akinyelure who was elected a senator in 2007 on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) through the support of Mimiko.
Political observers noted that the defeat suffered by Mimiko was as a result of his defection from the PDP to LP and later to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), believing that he was too desperate to hold political office, having served at different levels of government at different times.
Speaking on the outcome of the election, Senator Boroffice attributed the defeat suffered by Buhari to the division within the party, saying that not all members of the party were committed to the course of delivering the state for Buhari.
He said for the APC to have won in all the six local government areas that make up his senatorial district shows how committed he was to the party, adding that the party would not be affected in future elections as all necessary measures would be taken to correct the anomalies observed during the last elections.
But the governor was yet to make any official statement on the outcome of the election as at the time of filing this report.