The camp of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is expressing shock over the purported disqualification of their preferred candidate, Segun Abraham ahead of the July 20 Ondo governorship primary election of the APC as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu seems to be the favoured candidate from the presidency.
The Tijani Tumsa–led Screening Committee had on Friday announced the disqualification of one the contenders. No name was mentioned but sources in the party said it was Abraham.
Feelers in the presidency said Akeredolu still enjoys President Muhammadu Buhari’s support.
The support of the presidency in 2016 gave Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) an edge over the preferred candidate of Tinubu, Abraham in the September primary of the party. Akeredolu polled 669 votes to defeat Abraham who garnered 635.
Since then the relationship between Akeredolu and the APC leader and former Lagos State Governor has been far from smooth.
In fact, the Ondo primary was one of the factors which fuelled the APC crisis during the tenure of pioneer Chairman of the party, Chief Odigie Oyegun.
Tinubu also faulted the process which led to the emergence of the governor who is now very keen about the second term.
According to the Daily Trust gathered that Governor Akeredolu still enjoys the support of the presidency to continue in office for another term of four years.
Sources said the presence of President Buhari in Ondo State to officially commission Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub and Flyover Interchange was a tacit endorsement of Akeredolu.
Aside from the presidency’s support, Akeredolu enjoys the support of his colleagues, members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), chaired by the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu. The party’s caretaker committee is being chaired by one of his colleagues, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.
For Akeredolu, the hope of securing the support of the Bourdillon seems to be shrinking as the election draws nearer in the state.
The APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is said to be indisposed to back the second term ambition of Akeredolu despite several entreaties by stakeholders backing the governor’s second term ambition.
It would be recalled that Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum had led Akeredolu on a reconciliation mission to Asiwaju in May as the politicking takes shape ahead of the APC primaries.
But the mission was said to have gone awry as they were unable to secure the commitment of the APC National Leader to support his reelection.
According to sources, instead of declaring support for Akeredolu’s second term, Asiwaju impressed it on them that he has no candidate for the election. And true to his words, Asiwaju is said to have stood aloof watching the events as they unfold.
“If at all the APC leader has a candidate, he must be keeping it under his chest,” said one of the sources who is familiar with the politicking ahead of the Ondo election.
The source added that Tinubu also told his visitors that the members of the party should be allowed to decide who flies the party’s flag, thus giving a subtle approval to the conduct of direct primary to choose a candidate for the party.
Top members of the Tinubu’s camp said Abraham was being considered until Friday’s purported disqualification. The camp was still studying the latest development, one of them said.
However, Akeredolu’s preference for indirect primary scaled through as the party has adopted it.
But a faction of the APC in the state insists on the conduct of direct primary which was the method used in conducting Edo APC primaries during which Osagie Ize-Iyamu emerged as the APC candidate.
Observers believe the incumbent is now wary of the direct primary method which makes it easy to deny a first-term governor the right to second term when such governor is not in harmony with the party machinery.
It was learnt that the APC governors are concerned about the recent fate of Edo governor, Godwin Obaseki, who had to dump the party and joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after being denied the former’s ticket.
The factional APC Chairman in the state, Hon. Henry Olatuja, had blamed Governor Fayemi, Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna, and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as those behind the move by the faction loyal to the governor to conduct the indirect primary.
The media aide to Tinubu, Mr. Tunde Rahman, who was contacted, is yet to respond to our correspondent’s inquiry as of the time of filing this report.
‘Tinubu will support any candidate who emerges in a fair process’
A chieftain of the party, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, however cautioned on Saturday against being too straightforward in making insinuations on the outcome of the primaries.
He said Tinubu being the National Leader of the party has repeatedly called for a free and fair process in choosing the party’s candidate just as he assured that he would support anyone that emerges.
Besides, Fashakin, a former spokesman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), also noted that any aggrieved aspirant still has an opportunity for appeal.
“The party has put a lot of machinery in place to ensure a lot of transparency, fairness and justice. If the screening committee has done its disqualification, there is still a lot of opportunity for an aggrieved aspirant to appeal against the action of the committee,” he said.
According to him, it was not true that Asiwaju did not support Akeredolu.
He stated that what Asiwaju said was that he would support any aspirant that emerged as the party’s candidate.
“He has invested a lot in APC. He is going to play his role as the National Leader of the party to ensure the party remains a progressive party,” Fashakin added.
Another chieftain of the party who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said a lot of people assumed Asiwaju backed Abraham without feeling his impulse.
Reports gathered that 12 aspirants have boosted the revenue of the party with N258.75m from the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms.
Each of the governorship aspirants paid N22.5m, including N2.5m for expression of interest form and N20m for the nomination form.
The 12 aspirants, who bought the forms including one female contender, are Governor Akeredolu, Joseph Olusola Iji, Odimayo Okunjimi, Olayide Owolabi Adelami, Isaac Duerimini Kekemeke, Olusola Oke Alex, Ifeoluwa Olusola Oyedele, Awodeyi Akinsehinwa Akinola Colinus, Olubukola Olarogba Okunola Adetula, Dr Abraham Olusegun Michael, Dr Nathaniel Olumuyiwa Adojutelegan, and Olajumoke Olubusola Anifowoshe.
The aspirants were screened by Tijjani Tumusa-led Screening Committee on Wednesday and Thursday.
While the party settled for indirect or delegates primary, 11 out of the 12 governorship aspirants on the platform of the party preferred direct primary which allows every card-carrying member to participate in the decision to choose governorship candidate.
A leading governorship aspirant, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, has said that the ruling party cannot use indirect primary to elect its flagbearer because of polarization and pending court cases over the leadership.
Oke warned against a repeat of the Zamfara State experience in his home state if the delegates’ method was used without compliance with the provision of Article 13 of the party constitution.
He said if the party must use the indirect primary mode of election, a fresh congress must be organized to produce delegates, stressing that such a move may not be possible now because of the time factor.
Meanwhile, the caretaker committee has tasked a committee led by the governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, to reconcile all warring parties in Ondo State.
The eight-member Ondo State Reconciliation Committee has Sen. Adamu Aliero; Sen. Bamidele Opeyemi; Gambon Magaji; Mr. Jasper Azuwatalum; Hajiya Binta Muazu; and Hon. Iquo Inyang as members, while Mr Shina Pellar is the Secretary.