ONDO ELECTION, 2019 AND THE BATTLE WITHIN APC : Pro-Buhari elements Vs Tinubu’s men
Though peaceful, last weekend’s governorship election in Ondo State was seen by many observers as a ‘bazaar’ in which the highest bidder got the lion share of the votes. But, whereas all the major political parties allegedly took part in the undemocratic game, the way the All Progressives Congress (APC) allegedly went on spending spree put to question the anti-corruption crusade of the ruling government at the federal level. No fewer than six governors of the APC whose states’ civil servants are owed salaries for several months were said to be part of the ‘bazaar’ staged in the name of election. They were allegedly led to Ondo by the Chairman of the party’s Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha, who is the Imo State governor and a former governor of Ekiti State but now Solid Minerals Minister, Dr Kayode Fayemi. Oyegun, Tinubu and Buhari Security operatives and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were believed to be part of the alleged voters inducement as they pretended that nothing of such was going on.
They looked the other way after they had allegedly been taken care off. It was an inducement allegedly done with impunity by all the political parties. Meanwhile, the alleged voters’ inducement was done in flagrant disobedience of the police authorities threat before the election that nobody should come to the polling units with more than N5,000 as such people would be arrested. Cash-for-vote But supporters of the various parties allegedly stormed polling units across the state with millions of naira to trade in “ see and buy”, otherwise known as cash-for-vote. It was learnt that between N500,000 and N1m was sent to each of the 3,009units across Ondo by one of the major parties to induce voters while other parties sent far less. This was aside the distribution of clothing materials- Ankara- rice, salt, noodles, sugar and other consumable goods to voters by political parties. The desperation of one of the major parties to “capture” the state became so evident in the moves by some top government officials to frustrate the chances of two of the leading governorship candidates in the poll: PDP’s Eyitayo Jegede and AD’s Olusoke Oke, who was believed to have been schemed out of the primary of the APC which produced Mr Rotimi Akeredolu as the candidate. Oke moved to Alliance for Democracy (AD) allegedly with the backing of a National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, but the top government officials still pursued him and tried to frustrate him because of his backer who reportedly wanted to use him to slight them for allegedly imposing Akeredolu as the APC candidate in the Ondo poll against his preferred candidate, Dr Olusegun Abraham. Oke survived the moves after the National Executive Committee (NEC) of AD cleared him and gave him a waiver to contest the poll.
The top government officials were said to have worked on the premises that with Oke and Akeredolu in the race, the federal might would be deployed to muscle the AD candidate, hence they let him go but with the popularity and acceptance of Jegede, they knew that allowing the PDP candidate to contest could spell doom for Akeredolu following which they shut him out until 24 hours to the election and all appeal, by stakeholders for a shift in the date of the poll to allow Jegede a level-playing ground, as provided by the Electoral Act were rebuffed by INEC which the PDP and Governor Olusegun Mimiko alleged had compromised the election even before it was conducted. While Oke left the APC over the alleged injustice done to him by the party leadership which allegedly imposed Akeredolu despite the criticism that trailed the party’s primary election, Jegede was made to abandon his campaign for weeks to run after an impostor, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim, who laid claim to his mandate. It was later alleged that Jimoh Ibrahim was an instrument being used by some top government officials at the federal level to level the hurdles that could prevent Akeredolu from winning the November 26 election. Separately, the election, according to Sunday Vanguard findings, was not only about Akeredolu, Jegede or Oke but also about the capture of the South-West by the foot soldiers of President Muhammad Buhari ahead of the 2019 elections when the President will be due to run for second term. Their target is said to be Tinubu whose grip and influence in the region was believed to be making some top appointees of Buhari uncomfortable and that if the 2019 project would scale through, the APC National Leader needed to be “cut to size”. Now that Ondo has been “captured” using alleged cash-for-votes, the next target of the forces allegedly trying to upstage Tinubu in the South-West to pave the way for the re-election of Buhari in 2019 is said to be Ekiti where the governorship election will hold in 2018. Sources said after Ekiti, the train is heading to Osun where although a loyalist of Tinubu, Rauf Aregbesola, is governor, Tinubu may also be stopped from installing an associate as Aregbesola’s successor in the election also due to hold in 2018. It was gathered that the capture” Ondo by the Presidency group was systematically planned and executed. No love lost If Akeredolu had failed to win the election,the people’s confidence in the administration of Buhari and the APC might have been greatly eroded and the 2019 project crumbled like a pack of cards. Sunday Vanguard gathered that some of the men now working for Buhari to whittle down the influence of Tinubu in the South-West incidentally used to be loyalists of the APC National Leader and include Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos State but now Works, Housing and Power Minister; El-Rufai, Kaduna State governor; Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers State but now Transport Minister; Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State governor, and Fayemi while, for the Ondo project, the likes of Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, Okorocha, Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello and two other governors were co-opted. The Ondo governor-elect, Akeredolu, put paid to the belief that a no love lost relationship existed between the leadership of the APC and Tinubu on the one hand, and the party’s National Leader and himself on the other when he failed to mention the name of Tinubu in his victory speech. Akeredolu also shocked many when he announced that the party had set “it’s sight on taking over the government of Ekiti State “ from the PDP in 2018.
Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose immediately rubbished the boast of the governor-elect, vowing to still beat the APC silly in 2018 as he did in 2014. Akeredolu gave his explanation for not acknowledging Tinubu because all the leaders of the APC, including Asiwaju, were generically acknowledged in his victory speech, saying it was pointless mentioning their names specifically. He had severally before the election said he didn’t need Tinubu to win the election because he (Tinubu) carries himself like a god which he is not. Political watchers see the congratulatory message by Tinubu to Akeredolu and the statement by Buhari that Asiwaju did not work against Akeredolu in the Ondo election as an attempt to pull wool over the eyes of the people that all is still well within APC. Recall that in the heat of the emergence of Akeredolu after the Ondo APC primary, Tinubu had called for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, for allegedly unilaterally imposing Akeredolu as the party governorship candidate in the state. Many of Tinubu’s loyalists were said to have been deployed by him to work for Oke in the Ondo election. One of them, Bola Ilori,a a former Chairman of Alimosho local government area of Lagos State, was made the Director General of the Oke Campaign Organisation . What would be the fate of Oke and those who left APC for AD, allegedly at the behest of Tinubu, after the loss of the candidate in the poll remains unknown. “Open and free use of money” While the AD candidate has sent congratulatory message to the governor-elect, he, however, didn’t shy away from the fact that his (Akeredolu) victory was fraudulent just as he decried the alleged heavy monetisation of the election process which produced him. He regretted that “the open and free use of money to purchase votes during the election by the ruling parties remains a sad commentary on the nation’s electoral process”. Oke went on: “This development required the urgent intervention by government if the much publicized anti-corruption agenda of the Federal Government must have meaning to Nigerians. “In the last seven years, the policy direction of the government of the day ( in Ondo State) has resulted in the growth and circulation of poverty to our people. “The resultant effect is the debilitating poverty that had made the people so vulnerable. Therefore, trading away dignity in the face of excruciating hunger during electioneering process requires little or no considerations for morals and values that defined us as a people. “The open and free use of money to purchase votes, during the election by the ruling parties remains a sad commentary on our electoral process. “This requires urgent intervention by government if the much publicized anti-corruption agenda of the Federal Government must have meaning to Nigerians. “Offer of money for votes is worse than looting the government treasury. Apart from compromising the dignity of the people, it provides a fertile training ground for future looters of government treasury. “ The consequence of it is to render the anti-corruption fight a farce.
There may be no economic matter more urgent, difficult to unravel and more sensitive to the pursuit of the average person in Ondo State than the current indignity foisted on the people by poverty orchestrated by maladministration and priority misplacement by the current administration. “ We hope the incoming administration will address the problem of poverty so that the integrity of our electoral process will be restored.” “From the observation of the people of Ondo State, they appear confused and unsure of what would follow the immediate satisfaction from the naira handout received in consideration of the votes cast. “They appear wondering whether the votes they delivered would restore light, revive dead industries, complete the uncompleted ones, give hundreds of thousands of unemployed graduates employment, pay arrears of salary to workers and guarantee regular payment of salary; whether their votes will make water to flow again in their unused and rusted water pipes, reduce dust on our roads, revive our education and health sectors and so on”. The candidate, however, recalled the events leading to his movement to the AD, saying: “As a democrat and the conscience of the people, I had to shun the in-built perfidy and organized deception in APC as revealed during its primary election. “We moved to AD less than six weeks before the gubernatorial election. We knew it was a big challenge and the greatest challenge was time. But we were determined in the pursuit of our dream. “We know how bad the situation is and we are aware that the art of governance is difficult and complex, especially during trying times. “ We are convinced that we can no longer afford past practices. “That was the compelling re-occurring issue that defined our struggle. We thank the people of Ondo State who believed in the struggle of Alliance for Democracy and its candidate, Chief Olusola Oke”. Also, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Ondo poll, Dr Olu Agunloye, who decried the ‘bazaar’ by the major parties, said he was waiting for his party before taking any step on the result of the election . Agunloye lamented that the result of the election was not the true reflection of the wish of the people of Ondo. He pointed out that reports from his agents across the state indicated that there was “distribution of money, clothes and other things at various polling stations. “Some voters were attacked and driven out of the voting centers while security agents at the polling centers looked the other way”, the candidate said. “The figures released by INEC to me looked to be allocated by the electoral body in collaboration with APC but we will await the decision of the party before we take our next step”. He, however, said “this is not the end of the matter as we will soon take a decision after conferring with the leadership of our party “. “Smooth transition” In his post-election statement, outgoing Governor Mimiko of the PDP promised to provide the environment for a smooth and seamless transition process. The governor also congratulated Akeredolu, wishing him success in the challenges ahead. While promising to continue to provide leadership to the state till the handover date, Mimiko expressed his appreciation to the people of Ondo. “I use this medium to express my sincere appreciation to all our citizens for the very peaceful manner in which they conducted themselves throughout the election period. I will not waiver in providing needed leadership to our dear State till the last day of my term.” On his part, Jegede, who came second in the election, said he was still studying the situation and would make his position on the outcome of the election known in due course. The PDP candidate, however, said he was happy that he won the heart of the people of the state who stood by him during the trials. “ I know we have won the heart of the people and I should thank our people for standing by us, for their show of love and for their steadfastness. We are awaiting the the position of our party before we take any step”, he said in a statement. “As you will recall that the election to the governorship seat of Ondo state which holds on the 26 of November, 2016, but about few hours ago INEC made a declaration. “We are studying the situation and in the fullness of time you will know what’s the position of the party is. “The events that led to the election are known to us and you. “We had 48 hours to prepare for the election, I was cleared by the court on Wednesday and had only Thursday to campaign and on Saturday I had to go for election. “The request for postponement was denied by INEC for reasons that we are yet to fathom and this are the things in the next few days we will have to review”. Akeredolu has meantime dedicated his victory in the poll to God and the people of Ondo, promising to banish poverty in the state. Events in coming weeks will determine whether Akeredolu would be shuttling between office and the election petition tribunal when he assumes office in February next year as candidates of the political parties who contested the November 26 election with him are dusting their papers and weighing the option of challenging the election which produced Akeredolu as the 6th civilian governor of the Sunshine State.