Will Ondo State All Progressives Congress (APC) survive its internal wrangling ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election? Many political analysts in the state said the answer lies with the party’s national leadership.

Although the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is expected to reap from the crisis in APC, the issue of consensus candidacy has also reared its ugly head in PDP, thereby whittling down its chances.

Many observers said the Unity Forum might never be united again, as the state APC Elders Forum wielded the big stick, when it disbanded the Gubernatorial Candidate Committee and its report, while sacking the chairman over bribery allegations.

For now, only Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is still standing, as his camp seems intact despite the political storm rocking both parties, except something goes awry.

The political battle in APC started after the September 2016 governorship primary election that produced Akeredolu as the party’s candidate, without much reconciliation among major contenders.

Across the state’s 18 councils, aggrieved party leaders had organised themselves into a formidable force under the aegis of APC Unity Forum, a pressure group that vows to stop Akeredolu’s second term bid.

Notable leaders and aspirants in the 2016 election are members of Unity Forum, under the chairmanship of a former Deputy Governor and member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi.

Others are the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice; Chief Sola Amodeni and Barr. Taofeeq Abdulsalam, who were sacked from Akeredolu’s cabinet and Senator Yele Omogunwa, among others.

They accused Akeredolu of highhandedness, marginalisation, maladministration and anti-party activities, which led to the party’s woeful performance in the last general elections.

After several attempts to reconcile the warring factions proved futile, the faction instituted a seven-man committee in February, headed by Omogunwa, to pick a consensus candidate, who would fight Akeredolu in the party’s primary.

The other members are Prof Sola Ehindero (Secretary), Elder Mike Adeyeye, Afe Olowookere, Boye Adegbemisoye and wife of a former Deputy Governor, Olukemi Iyantan.

There are 10 gubernatorial aspirants within the Unity Forum’s platform, namely: Dr. Segun Abraham, Barr. Olarewaju Kazeem, Barr. Bukola Adetula, Prince Dapo Adelegan, Mr. Olayide Adelami, Mr. Akintunde Awodeyi, Barr. Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, Chief Olusola Oke, Engr. Ife Oyedele and Prince Jimmy Odimayo.

However, there were misgivings about the committee members, who were accused of collecting money to favour a particular aspirant, and stalling the report of the committee that was supposed to be made public in March.

But the committee serially issued statements to denounce rumour that certain aspirant had emerged as the party’s consensus candidate.

The political gimmick became more intense few days ago, when one of the aspirants, Abraham, declared publicly that the group had zoned the ticket to the North Senatorial District. This was fiercely refuted by the other nine aspirants.

While the dust was yet to settle on the zoning crisis, the group’s Chairman, Olanusi, announced Oke, who was a major contender in the 2016 elections, as the group’s consensus candidate. He added that the decision was due to failure of aspirants to reach a consensus on the person to represent them in the party’s primary.

That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
He said: “In taking this unanimous decision, all the 10 aspirants agreed to accept the candidate recommended by the committee. However, one of the aspirants insisted he must be convinced that the process would be credible.

“Consequently, on March 24, 2020, six committee members met and one was unavoidably absent. They debated on the issue of presenting a candidate, in line with the committee’s terms of reference and the aspirants’ concurrence.

“So, four of the six members opted for Chief Olusola Oke (SAN), while one opted for a technocrat, whose identity was not disclosed and one opted for a female aspirant.”

But committee secretary, Ehindero, alongside three others, kicked against Chief Oke’s emergence, accusing Olanusi and Omogunwa of attempting to rubbish the group’s integrity.

Ehindero declared: “Olanusi is not appropriately qualified and morally empowered to issue any report on the committee’s deliberations, mainly because he is currently a principal suspect in a bribery allegation related to the integrity and credibility of the report of the screening committee.

“No input has been made into the report by other members of the parent body, which originally set up the screening committee. This means the report is yet to be brought to the general meeting of Unity Forum for consideration.”

He asserted that no consensus candidate had been elected by the committee. “Hence, the report that has been fraudulently released by Ali Olanusi neither emanates from the accredited secretary’s office nor does it reflect the true deliberations and conclusion of the screening committee members. Rather, the fake report is inspired, sponsored and programmed by known and disguised enemies of both the Unity Forum and the APC in Ondo State…”

Meanwhile, there is rumour that some top APC members are considering moving to PDP, if they fail to realise their political aspiration in the forthcoming primary election.

Olanusi used to be the state PDP chairman and a highly respected chieftain. Omogunwa was elected PDP senator in 2015, while Oke was a member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board under PDP. He was also PDP National Legal Adviser and PDP governorship candidate in 2012.

However, the nine aspirants, who were said to have agreed to Oke’s purported emergence, rejected the committee’s result, spontaneously responding to Senator Boroffice’s declaration, charging them to prepare for the primary election.

One of the aspirants, Dapo Adelegan, said he was not party to the emergence of any consensus candidate, as claimed by Olanusi.

“To the best of our knowledge, the other aspirants are still discussing amongst themselves on the possibility of a consensus candidate. Our expectation is that by July 2020, an APC candidate will emerge from a formal primary and will move on to emerge as Ondo State governor in October of 2020 by God’s grace,” he said.

Boroffice said: “While it is unfortunate that Unity Forum could not present a consensus candidate, it is soothing that all political tendencies in the forum remain committed to APC’s success in the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State.

“As the aspirants embark on campaign for APC’s direct primaries, I urge them to continue to exercise utmost decorum and rare camaraderie. The outcome of Ondo APC governorship primaries will offer Unity Forum another opportunity to unite together in the party’s overriding interest.”

While acknowledging the political tendencies that made a consensus candidacy a difficult task, he decried Oke’s emergence, saying it was a ploy to give Akeredolu second term ticket.

A source close to Olanusi, Mr. Abisola Babatope, had earlier blamed Boroffice for all the crises in the group, alleging that he was sponsoring another group, Unity Mandate Agenda, to scuttle the selection process.

He said the Unity Mandate Agenda is a secret political tactics to play divide and rule among the aspirants to frustrate Unity Forum’s efforts.

But Boroffice did not only describe the allegations as laughable, he also claimed that the plan between Oke, Olanusi and Akeredolu was to give the latter a smooth ride to reelection.

He said: “It is a plan between Olanusi, Akeredolu and the people (Unity Forum Selection Committee). What they are planning is to field Oke as a consensus candidate. A week to the primary, Oke will now step down for Akeredolu. In return, Akeredolu has promised that after his second term, he will hand over to Oke. It will not work, APC’s national leaders will never approve of Oke.”

Shedding light on the ulterior motives behind the committee, the Chairman and Secretary of APC Elders Forum, High Chief S. A. Idris and Chief Bayo Olafusi, expressed dismay at the former Deputy Governor’s action.

According to them, the 52 Special Purpose Committee of Ondo APC Unity Group set up a seven-man aspirant screening committee, whose members, especially the chairman and secretary were singlehandedly picked by Olanusi.

The APC elders lamented that it was in defiance of the observation of the members of the 52 Special Purpose Committee, who complained about the composition of the seven-man aspirant screening committee members.

Olafusi insisted that the former chairman deliberately manipulated the selection of the committee members to propagate his personal agenda, “which is to pave way for PDP total takeover of Southwest before 2023 presidential election…

“The Secretary and two other members, Mrs. Kemi Iyantan and Prince Solagbade Amodeni of the seven-man screening Committee were sidelined in the preparation of the said report. Only the chairman and three others, who are Alhaji Ali Olanusi’s cronies prepared the purported report.”

They also said the APC BoT member singlehandedly approved the committee report without recourse to the 52 Special Purpose Committee and dispatched copies to the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and the National Secretariat.

Consequently, the APC elders resolved that, “Aligning with the position of the nine out of 10 APC Unity Group aspirants and in the interest of fair play, Alhaji Ali Olanusi is hereby removed as the chairman of APC Unity Group in Ondo State, for his high handedness and manipulative tendencies.

“The Seven-man Aspirant Screening Committee is hereby disbanded, and their purported report hereby declared null and void.”

They went ahead to appoint an interim committee to steer the group’s affairs to fill the vacuum.

Olanusi, however, dismissed the allegations levelled against him, affirming that none of the elders has the capacity to sack him as the group’s chairman.

“Who elected me? When did they elect me,” he queried. “I founded Unity Forum. Those people that called themselves Elders Forum and leaders of the party, who is greater than me among them? They are wasting their time.”

But Amodeni, one of the three committee members that kicked against the report noted that he had foreseen the embattled chairman’s hidden agenda in consensus candidacy, saying he warned them on the futility of the exercise.

He said: “From the beginning, I told them that the committee would not be able to achieve any success, when the larger house of 45 men and women met and came up with the idea. I remember telling them that we have done similar thing before. I equally expressed my fear on whether the outcome would not get us more disunited than we were. I equally told them that the committee had no capacity to determine many things to arrive at a particular aspirant as the consensus candidate…

“Who wrote the report? Was it shown to the remaining three members that did not append their signatures? Why was the report sent to leaders outside the state four weeks ago without first making it public in Ondo State? Why was the committee secretary not accused of abdication, if there was any time he failed in his responsibility?”

Defending the screening committee over financial inducement accusation, Senator Omogunwa said they only received N1.2m as cheerful donation from some aspirants.

He said: “When we were holding meetings here, there was no water, no biscuit and we were working day and night. Segun Abraham came and gave us N100, 000. It was in the open. Odimayo gave the committee N200, 000. Another aspirant gave N500, 000, while Kazeem gave us N20, 000 and Adelegan gave N50, 000. It was out of the N1.2m that we booked hotel for the Secretary for three days, as he was coming from Ife.”

While explaining how the committee picked Oke, Senator Omogunwa said the aspirants promised to abide by anybody the committee used its wisdom to select, and that for two days, they had interfaced with the aspirants, who agreed to support whosoever that was chosen.

“All the aspirants are competent, but I agreed with the majority that said Chief Oke. The Secretary left without signing. The only woman in our midst did not also sign. We followed the mind of the public,” he said.

REACTING to allegations that Governor Akeredolu manipulated Oke’s emergence, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said: “They are crisis entrepreneurs, who want to create conflict, but we won’t join issues with them because we know their tricks.”

Ojogo, who said Akeredolu would not play politics with the people’s lives, however, noted that the Governor has shelved politics at the moment and was working hard to protect the people of the state from the menace of COVID-19.

“We are busy here battling COVID-19. For those whose focus is on their ambition, we can only wish them well. We are aware of all their plans, but they should also know that their ambition could only be realised, if we have a COVID-19-free state…” he said.

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