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Festus Aladesanmi

It all started so well and things were going on fine with 24 serious contenders working hazardously to be the chosen bride and become the candidate of the All Progressive Congress in Ondo State. Nobody expected a perfect primary election because you can not get that in this part of the world, at least not yet. However, going by the words of the National leader and the party hierarchy at both national and state levels, they were all expecting some decency and resemblance of a level playing field for all the gladiators.

The bubble busted when the news broke out that the national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has endorsed one of the aspirants, Dr. Segun Abraham. This news jolted everyone and created confusion across the entire state. Prior to this, about four of these aspirants have claimed at one time to be the anointed aspirant of the revered national leader. Crisis engulfed Ondo State APC after this endorsement and the presidency intervened at some points.

While the anointed aspirant moved around with pride, the other endorsed claimants ganged up against him. They formed what was then called Movement Against Imposition and even attempted to remove the party chairman Hon. D. I. Kekemeke, who was suspected of having a hand in the endorsement drama. Things moved from bad to worse and the center could no longer hold.

The heat of the gang up got to Asiwaju and it became crystal clear that his anointed aspirant Dr Abraham will not make it. This created confusion in his camp. While notable Nigerians begged him to hands off and allow level playing ground for all the aspirants, he defiantly insisted that his chosen aspirant must win the primary at all cost.

Prior to this, Bola Ilori was the main pillar behind Chief Olusola Oke, with his promise to deliver imaginary 1,003 delegates to him. All efforts to get Bola Ilori to dump Olusola Oke for Dr. Abraham failed. Out of desperation, Bola Ilori’s benefactor (who actually introduced him to Asiwaju when Ilori was nobody) was imported from abroad to speak sense into his head. Unfortunately all the tricks failed and Ilori refused to budge.

Mainwhile, the crisis caught the attention of both the presidency and the National working Committee of the party. All the aspirants were invited to Abuja and meetings were held with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the party hierarchy. The aspirants ventilated their grievances and they were assured of a level playing field.

Back home plans were in top gear to sway things in favor of Dr. Abraham to ensure that he wins the primary election at all cost. All these were happening under the watchful eye of the platoon commander, Hon. D.I Kekemeke, the party Chairman who naturally should be neutral. Out of many desperate options, the best and most practicable was to neutralize Bola Ilori since he refused to oblige to Asiwaju’s request.

Dr Ademodi, Bola Ilori’s arch-rival in Ondo was co-opted into the script. These two leaders controlled the delegates of both Ondo East and West local government areas. Bola Ilori controlled 60% of the entire delegates from these two local government, according to the delegates list given to the aspirants during their meeting with the national organizing committee in Abuja. The list was allegedly manipulated by Bola Ilori to favor his own aspirant, in person of Olusola Oke.

The party chairman, Hon. D. I. Kekemeke, adjusted the delegates list and gave Dr. Ademodi almost 70% delegates from Ondo East and West. He effected few insignificant changes in other local government areas to erode suspicion. This was done after Dr. Ademodi promised to deliver his bulk vote to Dr. Abraham. The contract was signed and sealed. He was adequately rewarded. The new list was sent as the authentic delegates list with a cover letter signed by the party chairman, Hon. D. I. Kekemeke, to the national organizing committee and requested that the new list must be used for the primary election, in the interest of peace in Ondo state. The national organizing committee and some members of the national working committee were not happy about the development but because they knew that Kekemeke was doing Asiwaju’s bidding, they allowed him and adopted the new list as requested.

The new list was sent through Governor Badaru, the Ondo APC Primary Election chairman. The innocent man knew nothing about the underground dirty games and did all he could humanly to conduct a free, fair and transparent primary election. The list was delivered just 8-hours to the primary election. Barr. Rotimi Akeredolu was the first aspirant to protest against the new list. He even submitted his protest letter that same night.

Fate did a deadly blow on Dr. Abraham, Barr. Kekemeke and Asiwaju himself when greed took the better side of Dr. Ademodi. Instead of delivering his delegates in bulk to Dr. Abraham as agreed, he turned himself to overnight merchant. The Zion Gate Hotel where he camped his delegates was like a stock market on the eve of the election. Delegates were traded like commodities and the merchant allocated to the highest bidder. Luckily Akeredolu was one of the lucky buyers. For every delegate sold, the chance of Dr. Abraham slipped away.

Dr. Abraham and Barr. Kekemeke were so sure of their calculation and were just waiting for the result. Unknown to them that their merchant has sold out. Just imagine, the Personal Assistant to Kekemeke, the party chairman was the polling agent to Dr. Abraham at the primary election. That further explains how much impunity was on display. As the Chairman saw nothing wrong in openly using the engines and machineries of the party to promote Dr. Abraham and violate the party’s constitution which prescribes that the Chairman should be neutral and act as umpire. But as God will have it, all their plans failed and Akeredolu won the primary election.

When Akeredolu was declared winner of the party all other aspirants were happy and jubilating not because they love Akeredolu but simply because they were disappointed by the roles the duo of Kekemeke and Asiwaju Tinubu played. As expected, most Nigerian politicians are bad losers. It wasn’t surprising thereafter when people started making frivolous claims within 24-hours after the election. The loudest noise came from Dr. Abraham, calling for the cancellation of the election. According to him, the delegates list was doctored and adulterated. In all his protests, he has failed so far to name the culprits behind the adulterated delegates list.

The claim and counter claims led to 3 applications to the Ondo APC election appeal committee. The 3 complainants called for the cancellation of the election and prayed for rerun election. There were allegations of food sellers and vulcanizers possing as delegates and voted for a particular aspirant. The truth about this is that more than 60% of the delegates across Ondo state were either artisan or jobless. Of all the claims upon which they want the election to be cancelled, the only one that was substantiated and proved was the change of delegates list.

Yes, the list was changed and the committee recommended for the cancellation of the election without ascertaining and explaining why the list was changed and who changed it. The National Chairman and some objective members of the NWC strongly believe that Akeredolu should not pay for the crime engineered by Asiwaju and committed by Kekemeke. The committee’s report was queried for not investigating to ascertain the brain behind the doctored delegates list and name the expected beneficiary. Against what was shown on national television and recorded by the Governor Badaru committee, the Tribunal mutilated the results and claimed that total votes was more than the number of accredited delegates. The NWC discovered this falsehood and therefore refused to approve the cancellation of the election.

While this was going on, Asiwaju and his foot soldiers mounted undue pressure on the National Chairman and NWC to approve the cancellation of the election. The chairman believed that enough injustice has been vested on the innocent people of Ondo State, through all the shenanigans that played out before the election because Asiwaju wanted to have his way at all cost. He and some NWC members therefore opposed the cancellation of the election and the conduct of a rerun. These set of leaders strongly believed that if the election must be cancelled some people must be punished for adulterating the delegates list.

For instance, the party chairman in Ondo state may have to be removed for misleading the NWC with the adulterated list and Dr. Abraham may be disqualified from contesting the rerun, since the entire process was rubbished in an attempt to desperately sway things in his favor? We can not single out Akeredolu for punishment for a sin he didn’t commit while the sinners are allowed to gain full benefits of their crime. That was the parting point between Asiwaju and Oyegun because Asiwaju insisted on cancellation (and rerun) while his men (Abraham and Kekemeke) must not be touched.

Oyegun was then faced with the problem of daring Asiwaju and allowing the wish of God to prevail or please Asiwaju and incur the wrath of God by punishing Akeredolu for doing nothing and reward Abraham for the sins he committed; because things has been put in place to ensure that Abraham has a landslides victory in the expected rerun. Akeredolu won the election because God allowed it. Oyegun chose God above Asiwaju.

To them, the election was not perfect and therefore should be cancelled. However, what punishment should be melted to those who manipulated the process and created the noticeable flaws does not arise. Between Asiwaju who did all within his power to sabotage the process to achieve his desired objective and Oyegun who insisted that sinners should not be rewarded, who is at fault? Between Abraham who was openly supported and promoted with all State party machineries and Akeredolu who simply benefitted from the residuals, who is guiltier? Should we truncate the whole process and destroy the party because one man could not achieve his sole desire? The current debacle has nothing to do with Olusola Oke. He’s just a willing pawn in the game because of his own selfish and desperate desire. It’s all about Asiwaju and his desire to have his way, no matter what.

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