When the 24 aspirants of the All progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State went for the gubernatorial primary election held on September 3, 2016, each of them believed he would emerge winner and move on to occupy the seat presently in the grip of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
Unfortunately, only one person can occupy the seat. At the end of the election which started at about 9am and stretched to 2am Sunday morning, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) emerged winner with 669 votes beating his closest opponent Olusegun Abraham, who got 635 votes.
Olusola Oke, a former PDP Legal Adviser and candidate of the PDP in 2012 election came 3rd with a total of 576 votes.
Shortly before the guber primary, some members of the party were said to have gathered together and attempted to sack the chairman of the party in the state, Isaac Kekemeke for alleged anti-party activities.
But Kekemeke got the backing of majority of the executive members who called a press conference debunking the allegations against him.
They even dissociated themselves from a purported legal matter filed in Abuja, by a section of the Exco to have him removed.
Just when the dust was settling, some aggrieved aspirants who claimed that the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had endorsed one of them, Mr Segun Abraham fought their way to Abuja where they said they would not allow imposition in any form.
One of the seven party leaders who were at the meeting held in Bourdillon, Chief James Oluwole Kolawole, the chairman of all the chairmen of wards in the state told newsmen that since Abraham hae been endorsed by Tinubu, they had to go by that decision.
But one of the aspirants, Barr. Tunji Abayomi wrote an open letter to Tinubu asking him to steer clear. Tinubu, in a reply said he only endorsed Abraham and that, that did not amount to imposition. He maintained that what he did was normal.
The APC leadership was not so happy with the trouble within and they came out to say the party had not endorsed anybody and that they should all go to the polls and elect their candidate.
So came September 3rd and Akeredolu emerged. The other contestants, including Chief Oke and Abraham congratulated the winner and decided to go home that night.
But the following morning, September 4, Chief Oke kicked against the result of the primary election.
Oke alleged that the delegates’ list had been tampered with. According to him, some names of the delegates were removed from the list while some people whose names were not on the list were allowed to vote.
He said the list handed over to the delegates at the Presidency was different from the one taken to the venue of the election by the chairman of the Electoral Committee, Governor Mohammed Badaru, of Jigawa State.
Soon after, the candidate who came second, Chief Abraham, joined in the protest. In a statement “that our democracy may endure”, Abraham said the result was unacceptable “considering the plethora of staggering facts of anomalies that have since emerged to the detriment of the process”.
He said the available fact revealed how the process was manipulated. Some other aspirants who shared their views headed for Abuja, where an Appeal Committee was mandated to handle the matter.
At the time of filling this report nothing seemed to be going on at the APC camp in the state as they await the outcome of the committee’s decision, a development that appears to be working for the PDP, as the candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, backed by Governor Mimiko, is having a field day.
The Director of Media and Publicity of the party, Steve Otaloro, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the Appeal Committee had submitted its report to the National Executive Committee (NEC) headed by the chairman, Chief John Oyegun.
With the latest development, there are speculations that some of those who lost out in the election are planning to defect to other parties. But Otaloro denied that. He said no candidate will leave the party at this “crucial period, especially as they have not heard the outcome of the appeal”.
Otaloro said though the rumour that some of their candidates want to move to other parties emanated from the opposition camp “because the whole disagreement will go down as soon as the party comes out with a decision which would be binding on all. We are ready to work together to conquer the state for APC”.
One of the party leaders also maintained that there was no problem in the party. He said all the candidates would work together no matter the outcome of the appeal committee.
Though the APC leadership insisted on several occasions that they do not have a preferred candidate, not many people in the state believe that statement.
Although Akeredolu was said to have been endorsed by Tinubu during the 2012 election, it is obvious that there is no love lost between the two any longer. In an interview granted to a national newspaper shortly before the election, he said “ we will shock Asiwaju with the outcome of the primaries.
“There was never a time I was endorsed by anybody, we had a process that everybody submitted to it in 2012. That process is called caucus team, there was no issue of endorsement”.
Akeredolu also alleged that Asiwaju endorsed Abraham “because he is his friend. I am not ganging up against anybody, what I know is that I am running for governorship and I am running to win and I will win”.
Supporters of some aspirants in the election are also taking matters in their hands. Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that an APC member of the House of Representative, Steven Olemija and some other APC members were attacked in Ikare Akoko for allegedly working against a kinsman at the primary.
Also a female member of the state executive and some delegates were attacked some days ago by thugs who accused them of collecting money from an aspirant and failing to vote for him.
Despite all these, Chief Oluwole Kolawole insisted that the APC will have one house before the November election.
“Anything that will be good will have initial problem. Whatever the Appeal Committee comes out with will be binding and we will all work together. What I know is that the people are yearning for change and we are ready to give it”, he said.
With the current problems in the party and the election just around the corner, many analysts are wondering if the party will be able to bring aggrieved members together and wrestle the state from the ruling party.