With the dust raised over the candidacy of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 26 Ondo State gubernatorial poll yet to settle, the choice of Hon. Agboola Ajayi as his running mate has generated a new crisis in the Ondo State chapter of the APC.
Akeredolu, who allegedly had the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari, beat Dr. Segun Abraham, the preferred candidate of a National Leader of the APC, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to emerge as the candidate of the party last month in a primary that was hotly contested.
However, the outcome of the primary was rejected by Abraham and Tinubu, prompting the establishment of an Appeal Committee by the ruling party to review the primary.
The Appeal Panel had subsequently recommended the cancellation of the primary, which Akeredolu won, citing irregularities as reason. But some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) including the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, ignored the recommendation and submitted Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the governorship candidate of the party in the Ondo election.
Their action prompted a blistering attack from Tinubu penultimate Sunday against Oyegun, accusing him of incompetence and being compromised.
Oyegun, however, chose not to join issues with Tinubu, stating that he was more focused on the Edo State governorship election which took place last Wednesday.
With Tinubu still seething with anger privately over the “unseen hand” that handed the death knell to his preferred candidate, some leaders of the APC in Ondo, including Hon. Bola Ilori and Chief Samuel Ikujuminu yesterday said the choice of Ajayi as the deputy governorship candidate would spell doom for the party if the leadership of the party fails to substitute his name before the October 12 deadline allowed by INEC.
Ilori, who has never hidden his displeasure over the emergence of Akeredolu, said yesterday on his Facebook page: “Even when the NWC just upheld the fraudulent primary that produced Aketi (Akeredolu), the nexus of fraud in the party is trying to perpetrate another fraud to enforce the initial fraud.
“And while we are still on the fraudulent primary through fake delegates and delegates’ list padding that produced Akeredolu as the candidate, another fraud is also being foisted on the party as the deputy governor.
“Why do these people hate Ondo State APC this much? Why would they cut their noses to spite their faces just because of hatred for TINUBU? Why must they be jumping from one fraud to another?
“From delegates’ list padding to NWC decision padding to now certificate padding, loan padding.”
Another party chieftain in the state, Chief Ikujuminu, in a statement yesterday also said Ajayi should not be allowed to remain the deputy governorship candidate of the APC, because he is from Kiribo in Eseodo Local Government, the same town and council area of Akeredolu’s mother.
Ikujuminu said it would lead to another crisis if “two brothers” are allowed to be the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the APC.
In the statement titled: “Support Ileoluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo for APC Deputy Governorship Position”, Ikujuminu said justice, fairness and equity demanded that the zone should be given the slot.
To enhance the chances of Akeredolu winning the November gubernatorial election, Ikujuminu insisted that Ileoluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo federal constituency in Ondo South senatorial district should produce his running mate.
Justifying his position, Ikujuminu, a septuagenarian, said Ileoluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo has the highest number of registered voters in Ondo South with 184,233, followed by Okitipupa/Irele with 156,275 while Ilaje/Ese-odo has 171,490 voters.
Ikujuminu noted that in Ondo State as a whole, the federal constituency ranks third in the state in terms of registered voters. He said Akure South/North boasts a total 302,888 voters while Ondo West/East has 188,307.
Meanwhile, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, has again pleaded with Buhari to urgently intervene in the feud between Tinubu and Oyegun.
Frank said that at the moment, only the president’s intervention could save the party from the avoidable crisis that could undermine its existence.
In a letter addressed to the president, a copy of which was made public yesterday, the estranged deputy spokesman cautioned against committing the same mistake former President Goodluck Jonathan made by not acting in a swift manner to tackle the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013, which he said was still bedevilling the PDP to this day.
Frank, who traced the cracks in the APC to the crisis associated with the National Assembly leadership tussle, warned that the intra-party crisis had since spread to many states like Kaduna, Bayelsa, Kogi, Gombe, Kano, Delta and Osun.
“Mr. President, Sir, it is with great enthusiasm and patriotism that I’ve decided to write you once again through this open letter to intimate you on the impending danger lurking to befall our great party and I’m optimistic that this letter will serve its urgency and purpose of reaching you and our leaders and elders of our great party.
“The recent outburst by one of our founding fathers and a national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu against the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun seems to be threatening the smooth sail and peaceful co-existence of our great party, the APC, and if nothing is done urgently, then I’m afraid ‘the pot left on the fire will definitely burn’.
“Mr. President, Sir, I wish to reiterate my earlier stand on this matter and I’m also elated that I’ve been vindicated by my struggle to save our party all the while, when so many thought of me as a rebel or paid apologist.
“It is therefore no secret that I was one of the very first persons in the party who took the bull by the horn and openly raised the alarm on urgent issues which had to be addressed in order to steer the APC ship on its right course.
“Suffice to say that all my efforts to plead with the party’s leadership to redirect its affairs fell on deaf ears, as no one took me seriously at the time.
“You may recall Mr. President that the origin of this crisis began when the issue of the National Assembly leadership arose and the decision of the party at the time against party members, especially against the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representative.
“I foresaw the impending cracks at the time when the party leaders ignored the injustice against these two persons and I subsequently raised viable concerns which still fell on deaf ears.
“Again, when I raised concerns against the manner in which Chief Oyegun handled the conduct of the Bayelsa State governorship primary that produced the APC candidate, no one listened to me, and alas the outcome of that election became a clear testament to my fears.
“Subsequently, when my immediate boss, Alhaji Lai Mohammed became the Minister of Information, I was supposed to immediately fill in the gap and act in his stead as enshrined in our party’s constitution as the acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, but this was not to be as I was persecuted for reasons unknown and perhaps for selfish interest. I was deprived from performing my duties and my duties were assigned to themselves.
“Mr. President, I am appealing to you that this open letter should be treated with all sincerity of purpose to enable us surmount our challenges as a party. It must be noted that with a strong, vibrant and indivisible party, we will together achieve our dream of queuing behind your able leadership in delivering the much needed change to Nigerians,” he said.