KUNLE ODEREMI examines the intense intrigues trailing the role of delegates that will determine the candidates of political parties at their primaries beginning shortly in Ondo State.
WITH July as the deadline for the submission of the names of candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State, all the political parties are in a frenzy to beat the deadline. All the parties have adopted indirect primaries to pick their standard bearers, though the opposition to the mode of primaries already sanctioned by the INEC following recommendation by the parties subsists among some aspirants.
The anger seemingly assumed a kind of frustration with those aspirants for the ticket of their parties. They went beyond hurling verbal missiles at those in favour of indirect primaries or had maintained a middle course on the debate over the mode of primaries. In the All Progressives Congress (APC), the target for such tantrums from other aspirants has been the incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is seeking to renew his mandate for a maximum two terms of four years allowed by the 1999 Constitution.
This is in spite of the consistency of the camp of the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association that he was at home with whatever mode of primaries that his party chose to adopt to decide the fate of the hordes of contenders with him for the APC ticket ahead the October governor ship poll in the state. His adversaries, especially the other aspirants, have been relentless in resisting the choice of indirect primaries, taking their opposition choice to the next level a few days ago. In a letter signed by 11 of them and sent to the APC national headquarters, they renounced the decision of the party to insist on indirect primaries. Part of the grounds they listed for opposing the mode was that it was subject to abuse; that it undermines the principle of free, fair and credible contest; that it gives room for the highest bidder. Though, the aggrieved aspirants also sought the sack of all APC structures at all levels in Ondo State to pave way for a perceived level playing field, their major demand was that the party should engage in policy summersault by jettisoning indirect primaries and substituting with a direct mode of primaries. In making a case for their preference, the aspirants literally got involved in a form of transferred anger, frustration and aggression by hitting hard on party men and women that had emerged as delegates to the primaries of the APC coming up on July 22. In their letter to the party top hierarchy, the aspirants alleged that the delegates were out to make financial gains as opposed to facilitating the choice of a deserved candidate for the APC. They claimed that the delegates were concerned about what will come into their pockets by way of compromise and inducement. Thus, the delegates were described in unpredictable terms that soon drew the spleen or drew the ire of them.
The rage of the delegates was equally unsettling, as they declared that both camps had drawn the battle line. They promised to meet at the battle field, which is at the primaries on July in Akure, the state capital. The delegates promised to teach the aspirants some useful lessons for calling them unprintable names even after many of them had been major beneficiaries of the loyalty, allegiance and support during and after past contests, as well as willingly embracing them when they either dumped the party because of some irreconcilable differences or for the lucre of office elsewhere. The subtle threat by the delegates was contained in a statement signed by Messrs Yemi Akinwande (Ondo Central senatorial district); Muyiwa Olakunle (Ondo North) and Ayenuro James (Ondo South). It stated, among others, that: “Their statement on us really shows the kind of leaders these aspirants will be if they are finally elected as the candidate of our great party.
“We take exception to their name-calling habit, just as we are battle-ready to show them that we are not rogues. Our party is for all-comers. Many of them were not in the party when we emerged as delegates. We will not allow them to come into our house and rubbish our integrity. In 2016, Olusola Oke defected from the PDP to the APC. He was not with us when we were forming the structure of the party. Yet, he participated in the primary election. Although, he lost but he had delegates, who voted for him. We are not bothered with the name-calling. Whether they trust us or not is their own headache. We will continue to pursue what is best for our party. They did not just call us names, they have already made efforts to make sure we are illegally removed. But God is not man. They have been disappointed.”
The major gladiators in the PDP have also accentuated the status of delegates as kings at the dawn of the primaries to determine the candidate of the party for the forthcoming election. But the dispute among the aspirants has nothing to do with the mode of primaries, which though has been settled by the PDP and INEC. The battle of wits in the main opposition party is the list of delegates for the primaries. There are accusations and counter-accusations that the list has been tampered with. A group of contestants, including Jegede, indicted the leadership of the PDP for the alleged alterations. They claimed that there was a plan to foist a particular aspirant on the PDP as candidate. Details of the plan, according to the other aspirants, a total of 101 names have been smuggled into the list of delegates. They expressed their loss of confidence in the committee headed by PDP national organising committee that prepared the list.
The aspirants asked the Appeal Committee of Ad hoc delegates congress led by the former governor of Gombe State, Mr Hassan Ibahim Dankwambo, to use the “original lists” from the various wards in the state, as the altered one posed a major threat to the chances of PDP in the governorship election, a similarly view expressed by some leaders of the PDP. They are opposed to the ad-hoc delegates’ lists compiled by Mr Kingsley Chinda, the secretary of the committee. The chairman of the party in the state, Clement Faboyede and the Elders’ Council of the party led by Chief Segun Adegoke, cautioned the party against cations capable of jeopardizing the chances of the PDP in October. However, the chairman of the Appeal panel, Dankwambo, promised to convey their grivances to the right quarters.
No doubt, the delegates have become the most sought-after with few days to the conduct of party primaries. They are reportedly being lobbied by aspirants in their bid to outdo one another and ultimately, secure the ticket of their individual parties, with a consequent huge demand on the part of the contestants in terms of logistics and other benefits for the delegates. But to what extent will those overtures sway the delegates in view of the fact that whoever emerges as candidate has a major hurdle to cross at the election proper?
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