Controversies that have trailed the emergence of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), as the Ondo State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have taken dangerous dimensions as the second runner-up, Dr. Olusegun Abraham’s supporters and kinsmen went violent on the streets of Ikare last week.
It was learnt that allegations of high-handedness and subtle manipulation of the delegates list for the primary had signaled a red alert but was doused by the hope in the Appeal Tribunal in Abuja, as the other top contenders aligned with Chief Olusola Oke, who scored 576 votes, to redress the result.
Hell was however let loose at the APC’ secretariat in Akoko North West when some people suddenly showed up in the party’s meeting, introduced themselves as executive members of the party according to the portfolios given to them by the alleged ‘padded’ delegates list used for the September 3 exercise that produced Akeredolu as the winner with 669 votes.
Similar scenario happened during the accreditation of the Southern district delegates at a popular hotel in Ondo road, where a woman identified as Ilemobayo allegedly usurped the position of the District Women Leader, Mrs. Toyin Ajinde. It took the intervention of the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Abayomi Adesanya and the SEC to resolve the issue.
It was gathered that the chairman of Akoko North West, Mr. Rasheed Badmus, after a long feud, maintained that he would only recognize his long-serving executives who had participated in the 2015 primaries. A call was also put to the state secretary to confirm the chairman’s position.
The unfolding event added more credence to the allegation that the delegates list was actually doctored and the news filtered to Akoko North East people, who had since been lamenting the 34 votes difference which cost Abraham, their preferred candidate victory.
With the development, the party members from Akoko North West resolved to vent their anger on those who didn’t support Abraham. One of their principal targets was the lawmaker that represents Akoko North West/East Federal Constituency, Mr. Stephen Olemija, whom they flayed alongside other delegates and APC leaders who worked for other aspirants at the expense of Abraham.
A source revealed that Olemija is a staunch supporter of an Akure aspirant and Senator representing the Central District, Chief Tayo Alasoadura. It was also learnt that Alasoadura has since aligned forces with Akeredolu to enable him scale through the Appeal Tribunal sitting in Abuja and to also win the November 26 governorship poll.
This, irked the people of Akoko North West to the extent that they took to the streets of Ikare in their large numbers; chanting protest songs while they cordoned off the residence of Olemija and other anti-Abraham groups with palm-fronds and other traditional objects that suggest communal ostracism.
The lawmaker was alleged to have worked against the interest of the town by supporting another aspirant during the primaries, while three of the delegates, who allegedly sold their votes against the decision of their people, were thoroughly beaten to a pulp by the angry mob.
Some of the protesters, as they finally marched to Abraham, whom another source said calmed them, demanded the recall of Olemija over his alleged role, which they regarded as pure sabotage of Akoko’s chance and efforts to produce the next governor.
Some ward chairmen, which include Mr. Yakubu Surajudeen from Orun Ward 2, Mr. Asallah Hassan, Ikado Ward and Mr. Ogini Adebayo, Ikado Ward 2 Ward stressed that the primary was fraught with irregularities and high level of rigging in favour of Akeredolu.
They alleged that the delegate list earlier made available to the aspirants excluded Orun 1 and Oyinmomo1 wards, but to their utter surprise, the new list presented during the accreditation had contained names of strange delegates, whom they claimed were not from their local governments.
The chairman of Orun Ward 2, Yakubu, complained that they removed the names of principal officers from Iyo-Meta Ward and substituted them with people who were not delegates to vote.
The chairmen, alongside Mr. Solagbade Jamiu, who confirmed that the Tuesday protest was to express bottled up grievances of Akoko people against the injustice, also alleged that the Primary Committee colluded with the security agencies to create unnecessary logistic logjams so that they could perpetrate the fraud to favour Akeredolu.
However, the development took another dramatic turn on social media when one Mr. Jayeoba Oluwatuyi warned that: “if anyone knows Segun Abraham, tell him to caution his followers at Ikare who have been making several efforts to attack Olemija based on the fact that he supported the distinguished Senator Tayo Alasoadura in the just concluded Ondo APC primary.
“If anything, I repeat, if anything should happen to Olemija or any of his family members, we will revisit the 1983 crisis by attacking Baba Adegboro and Gboyega Adedipe who are close allies of Segun Abraham in Akure too. Once again be warned.”
A foremost lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Tunji Abayomi also had his own throes on the Facebook, where he posted a picture of himself, Akeredolu and Alasoadura in a posture at the Abuja Primary Appeal Panel to defend the victory of Akeredolu.
The picture was backed with a message, saying: “Let us always be courageous enough to stand for what is right.”
This led to series of reaction especially from one of his Akoko kinsmen, Mr. Gani Muhammed Ajowa, who is a die-hard loyalist to Senator Ajayi Boroffice, who hailed from Akoko South West.
In response to Abayomi’s Facebook posting, Ajowa said, “Dr. Tunji Abayomi is a man I always restrain myself in engaging because of my respect for what he stands for in the time past.”
He faulted Abayomi for his open support for the embattled APC candidate, saying: “Sir, permit me to tell you that you don’t have the necessary facts on this issue, and I admonish you to tread cautiously in the interest of your children. The mood in your native clan does not align with your current disposition.”
Another APC chieftain and native of Akoko, Mrs. Simisola Ayo Simto, who is also a member of the Asiwaju Change Movement (ACM), lamented that the emergence of Akeredolu again as the party’s candidate, coupled with the current crises “was unhealthy for the party’s expected victory in the November 26 governorship polls.”
According to her: “Since Akeredolu emerged, the PDP has been boasting saying ‘customer dada ni’ meaning, ‘Akeredolu is their regular customer whom they could easily defeat.”
Simto, who seemed to be in Oke’s camp, also expressed fears that Akeredolu’s might not do the party proud in the governorship election.
But Abayomi, while stressing his stance despite the series of criticism from his kinsmen said: “If you will just believe me, I say this is all planned intrigue of the highest grade to achieve a perverse end of imposing someone on the people of Ondo.”
Abayomi, who had earlier cried foul against the alleged endorsement and imposition plans by the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu also flayed other aspirants like Abraham and Boroffice who had initially congratulated Akeredolu only to change their stand later.
He reiterated his conviction in the Akoko project to produce the next governor. “I will never let anyone forget Akoko. But please get out of the illusion that only an Akoko son can develop Akoko. The man who guaranteed my travel to USA to study was a blind man from Taraba State called Bitrus Gani-Ikilama. He is dead now but he gave me eyes.”
Nevertheless, another aspirant from the Central District and Akure indigene, Mr. Tunji Light Ariyomo implored all aggrieved aspirants and their supporters to unite and forge a common front ahead of the November poll.
According to him, “If we continue to discredit the just concluded primary because of certain imperfections, somebody will gain from such a political quagmire. Who is that person? Who will benefit most from our infighting? The PDP and its current leadership in Ondo State no doubt.
Meanwhile, Olemija, had alleged series of assassination attempts on him, his family, supporters and legislative office in Ikare by his aggrieved constituents.
The Federal lawmaker, who is a former chairman of Akoko North East council, also accused some traditional leaders in Ikare Town and neighborhood “for inciting the people against him.”
Said he, “They attacked my constituency office, located at Ilepa area to loot, vandalise and molest my staff. They also vandalised the personal office of my Senior Legislative Assistant, destroyed properties worth millions of naira.”
He added that since Akeredolu emerged as the APC flag-bearer, he has been receiving strange calls, text messages and myriads of threats to his life, family members and continued molestation of his loyalists. I have the fundamental right to support whosoever I desire after all we are all members of the same party.
Report featured originally in Guardian