Some weeks to the primary of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State, in the build-up to the November 26 governorship election, the number of aspirants seeking the party’s ticket has reached 50. More aspirants are still expected to emerge.

The rise in the number of the governorship aspirants seems to be giving the party’s leadership a serious concern. It was gathered that the issue of how the governorship candidate will emerge in a rancour-free atmosphere has become what one of the APC chieftains termed as a must-not-fail assignment of the party’s National and State Working Committees.

But with the way things are going on within the party, post-primary crisis appears inevitable because all the aspirants seem desperate to get the ticket. The aspirants are sure of securing the party’s ticket, thereby giving no room for consensus or imposition of candidate by the party’s leadership.

The desperation of the aspirants followed their conviction that the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, has lost its popularity among the people.

Each of them had expressed the belief that any candidate presented by the APC for the forthcoming election would have an easy ride to the Alagbaka Government House, Akure, on February 24, 2017.

Some of the leading aspirants of the party are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN); Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Mr. Segun Abraham, Chief Olusola Oke, former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Olabimtan, Mr. Bode Ayorinde and Chief Bukola Adetula.

Others are Mr. Boye Oyewumi, Moyosola Niran-Oladunni, Niran-Sule Adesuyi, Foluso Adefemi, Dele Alade and Senator Tayo Alasoadura, who currently represents Ondo Central Senatorial District at the Senate.

In a bid to emerge as the candidate, many of the aspirants were said to have met with the national leaders of the party to have their “blessings” while various party leaders, both men and women across the 18 local government areas of the state, seem not to be experiencing the current economic downturn in the country as a result of the money being showered on them by various aspirants who regularly visit them for endorsement. They now laugh all the way to the bank courtesy of the largesse from the governorship aspirants.

It was gathered that the party too as a whole had enjoyed some benefits from the aspirants as some of them had bought new vehicles for the branches of the party in the 18 LGAs in the state. The party secretariat on Oyemekun Road, Akure, now wears a beautiful look courtesy of some of the aspirants.

However, the ugly aspect of these developments is the incessant clashes by supporters of the aspirants whenever they meet during ongoing familiarisation tours of their principals, who are visiting party leaders and members across the 18 LGAs.

One of such occasions was the clash between the supporters of Senator Borroffice and that of Segun Abraham in Iwaro Oka-Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of the state last year. Many supporters of Abraham were allegedly attacked by supporters of Boroffice. Though the senator had since denied being the sponsor of the attack, the bottom line is that there was an attack against an aspirant, where many vehicles were damaged and many supporters of Abraham were injured.

Aside from the physical attacks, the supporters had also taken the fight to the social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter and with a series of sarcastic write-ups to discredit any aspirant perceived to be the opponent of their principals. In fact, some state executive members of the party have openly shown their bias towards some of the aspirants, thereby polarising the leadership.

Another controversial issue in the party is the senatorial zone that will produce the candidate. It was learnt that this is also causing internal ripples within the leadership of the APC in Ondo State. A source within the party said the APC leaders were divided over this issue. While some said the party had zoned the candidacy to the Northern Senatorial District, some believe the candidate should come from any part of the state, as far as the candidate is sellable.

The position of some of the leaders is that the candidate that will emerge must be a politically experienced member from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria. This, they said, would ensure that the person would be loyal and have respect for the party authority if he eventually becomes the governor of the state.

A source within the leadership of the party said, “The party leaders both in the state and at the national level know where they are going over the issue of candidacy; they know who they want to be the candidate of the party in the election. When the time comes, the boys will be separated from the men among the aspirants. Let them continue to come out, it is a welcome development for the party, it shows that our party is a beautiful bride in the state now.

“I am very sure the 50 aspirants will not contest the primary, but let the party’s guidelines for the election come out first, some of them will eventually fall by the way side.”

The source disclosed that the guidelines of the party for the primary would prune the number drastically, adding that it was after then that the primary would be held where the “favourite” candidate would emerge.

However, the chairman of the party, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, had insisted that the party had no anointed person among the aspirants. He had said the party would take the necessary procedures to ensure the candidate emerged through a free, fair and credible primary.

He said, “Even though the responsibility of organising primary elections rests on the National Executive Council members, the election will be free, fair and transparent and whoever will emerge victorious, will win fairly, while those who will lose will also lose fairly.

“This would make the election credible as the party would do everything within its power to ensure a free, fair and transparent primary. It is within the rights of any member to support any aspirant of his or her choice, but no individual has the power to impose any candidate on the party, not even the chairman, the deputy chairman or the secretary has such powers.”

It is also believed in some quarters that the APC in Ondo State might be torn apart after the primary, sequel to the intending process through which the winner would emerge, which might be controversial and capable of causing grief among many of the aspirants.

It was learnt that some of the aspirants, who might perceive malpractices at the primary, were already looking out for alternative political parties under which they could run for the governorship election.

Meanwhile, one of the aspirants, Moyosola Niran-Oladunni, during an interaction with our correspondent, reacted to the emergence of the numerous aspirants of the party. He had said the APC guidelines for the primary would definitely reduce the number of the aspirants.

He said, “The party has not even come up with its guidelines for the primary. I can assure you that we have some of these aspirants without tax-clearance. There may be some of them that are not even registered voters yet. There are standard requirements.

“The party will soon set up its guidelines for the primary; that will be the first step towards reducing the number of the aspirants. The truth is that the number of aspirants we have today is good for our party.  I do not know why people keep expressing reservation about the number of aspirants in the APC.

“It is a way of showing the popularity of the party. We have a party in this state that does not have up to five aspirants. What that means is that the people do not trust the party that it has any chance of winning.

“We have internal mechanism within the party that will resolve whatever form of disagreement that comes out of the primary. Let us leave that to the party. I believe we are not going to have any problem with our primary because we are looking forward to a credible primary that will produce a popular candidate.”

It was gathered that all hands are on deck by the party’s leadership to ensure the primary is conducted in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere to avoid post-primary crisis just like it was done in Edo State.

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