There is anxiety in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State as they prepare for their primaries in Akure, the state capital.
While 3,127 APC delegates will elect its governorship standard bearer today, PDP will pick its candidate on Wednesday.
Ahead of the shadow poll, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and his estranged deputy, Agboola Ajayi, of the PDP, continued their media war on Sunday.
The deputy governor accused Akeredolu of running the state aground. The governor said he would not allow Ajayi to distract him from his preparation for today’s primary.
However, a major crisis has hit the PDP, following allegations by youths that one of the aspirants was wooing each delegate with $1,000.
The youth, who raised the alarm, warned that the ticket might go to the highest bidder.
The police cautioned against thuggery and violence, urging parents to warn their children and wards.
Also, the Chief Imam of Akure, Sheikh AbdulHakeem Yayi-Akorede, advised APC and PDP chieftains to embrace peace before, during and after the election.
Ajayi, who was responding to remarks by Akeredolu that his selection as running mate in 2016 was an error of judgment, said Akeredolu was frustrated over his inability to remove him from office through the instrumentality of the House of Assembly.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Babatope Okeowo, Ajayi said he understood the self-inflicted pain of running the state aground through inflated contracts, clannishness, nepotism and malfeasance.
“These and many injuries Governor Akeredolu caused himself and cannot be blamed on his deputy Agboola Ajayi, whom he sidelined, shortly after the administration was sworn in.
“It must be put on record that Akeredolu contested the 2012 governorship election and came a distant third in the election won by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party.
“It was the experience, weight and political capital, which Agboola Ajayi brought into the 2016 gubernatorial election that produced the current All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in the state.
“If there was any wrong choice, it’s the choice of Arakunrin Akeredolu, who has refused to take all-wise counsel not only from his deputy but from other cabinet members.”
But the Ondo State Government said it would not take up issues with Ajayi, adding that its focus was on how Akeredolu would win today’s APC primary.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the governor, Ojo Oyewamide, said: “We would rather concentrate on our primary election than decipate energy on a vicious distraction and once cancerous being. We wish him all the best.”
Urging the youths to shun thuggery, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Tee-Leo Ikoro, said: “I think that parents should tell the youths and their children to shun thuggery because no elderly person will want to become a thug for any person.
“So, those who see themselves as youths should understand that it is not a joke that they are the leaders of tomorrow and if you are a leader of tomorrow and you allowed yourself to be used by politicians, how can you lead?.
“There is no need to be involved in thuggery for the sake of somebody going to lead.
“Somebody who is going to lead would have been seen by the people as a true leader. All you need to do is to support him if you like him.
“You are destroying your tomorrow by becoming a thug. So, better stay off it or the police will deal with you decisively.
“If you are going to cause what used to happen, then you will see yourself on the other side of the law because if you are arrested, you will be prosecuted.
“You see, when you have a good head, the body is good.
“Our Commissioner of Police, Salami Bolaji, understands policing with the intellectual capability of policing the state.”
Ikoro, who spoke on behalf of the police commissioner, warned that any politician with security aides or escort would not be allowed into the venues of the parties’ primaries.
The commissioner said the warning became imperative to avoid confrontation with men and officers of the command.
“To all participants in the electoral process, I will advise that those coming with their security aides and escort should know that nobody will be allowed to come into the voting centre with any security aide throughout the duration of the elections,” he said.
Bolaji explained that the police under his supervision would maintain absolute neutrality in the discharge of their functions in favour of all the political party primaries holding in the state according to their schedules.
“The responsibility of credible elections lies in the hands of all politicians and their political parties to maintain outright decency in their conduct by not allowing or giving anyone the reason to suggest that they are brewers of election malpractices.
“I will not be the kind of Commissioner of Police that will watch thugs or any electoral disorder in the very Command I supervises its policing architecture,” he said.
The PDP youths, who spoke under the auspices of Grassroot Movement, accused some of the aspirants, including the deputy governor of desperation.
Addressing reporters in Akure, Coordinator of the group, Taiwo Akinfehinwa, said the PDP ticket may end up in the hands of the highest bidder.
“We have been informed by some of our party delegates that the an aspirant has allegedly promised to offer each delegate $1000. On Wednesday in Ondo State, we may experience rain of dollar during the PDP governorship primary.
“Some of these delegates are already jubilating to cash out, while others felt that selling their votes may deny the party the great opportunity to produce a credible candidate and which may later spell a doom for it during the general election.
“We are calling on our delegates not to give room for money bag politicians to decide the fate of the party.”
Oyedele steps down
In a twist on Sunday night, one of the aspirants, Ife Oyedele, who had earlier denied stepping down, announced his withdrawal from the race for Akeredolu.
Oyedele announced his withdrawal from the race around 8:45pm at a joint news conference with the governor at the Alagbaka Government House.
The former aspirant said he decided to join forces with Akeredolu because of the need to keep the APC united, avoid violence and work for the progress of the state and its people.
Oyedele said his decision was also influenced by meetings with party elders who constantly stressed the need to have a fair, just and violence-free primary.
He said: “They want us to continue to work together for the progress of the party in Ondo State. Even before the last few days, a number of our leaders have been talking to the leading aspirants. One of the most important things to them is to ensure a fair and just primary. They are also very mindful of the security situation in the state. They don’t want an ordinary primary to lead to bloodshed.
“Both of us will work together in that election. The interest of the citizens of Ondo State is more important than any other thing. And we are determined to work together for the benefit of Ondo State citizens. We will reunite our people so we can have rapid development. We call on other participants to join us.”
Akeredolu described Oyedele as a brother in every sense of the word, saying he has been a prized ambassador of the state. He confirmed that they have agreed to work together.
The chief Imam of Akure urged all aspirants and their followers to shun any act that can be inimical to peaceful coexistence in the state.
The cleric said the contestants should know that only one person would emerge from the contests, saying that all of them could not be winners.
Yayi-Akorede said: “The whole nation is watching us in Ondo State. Let’s do it in a peaceful manner.
“The overall winner at the end of the game should have the humility and courage to invite other contestants for cooperation and collaboration.
“So, that the state can peacefully move on with developments which we all desire after the governorship contest.”
No fewer than 3,127 delegates will select the APC candidate on Monday.
The party has settled for indirect primary.
The 12 aspirants hail from different zones across the state. They are: Akeredolu, Issac Kekemeke, Jimi Odimayo, Olusola Oke, Sola Iji, Olayide Adelami, Segun Abraham and Ife Oyedele.
The chairman of the committee set up by the National Transition Caretaker Committee to reconcile warring camps in the party in Ondo State, Abubakar Bello, has emphasised that APC was more interested in winning the election than massaging personal ego of warring leaders. He said the party would ensure that only the popular candidate emerges.
It was learnt that two of the aspirants, in a last-minute move, have met with Akeredolu to signify their willingness to work for him. Part of their demands is to be picked as deputy governor in order to garner political strength for the 2024 election.
Nonetheless, it may not be an extremely smooth run for the governor as other aspirants also wield some good level of influence and grassroots popularity.