The declaration on Wednesday by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that he is not backing any of the 12 aspirants in Ondo state seeking to get the party’s ticket in the governorship primary slated for July 20 has doused tension among the aspirants, party leaders have said .
Every politician in Ondo state knows the influence Tinubu wields when it comes to governorship elections in the state and across the country.
Having established himself as the undisputed political leader in the South-West, Tinubu, who was the only governor who survived the political tsunami which ravaged the South-West in 2003 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), under former President Olusegun Obasanjo overran the region, leaving only Lagos state for the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) had embarked on a mission to reclaim Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun for the progressives.
After the late Olusegun Agagu of the PDP was declared winner of the 2007 governorship election in Ondo state, his main challenger, Olusegun Mimiko challenged the results in the court. It was public knowledge that Tinubu personally assisted Mimiko financially and morally, during his efforts to reclaim his mandate at the court, even though Mimiko denied ever receiving any financial assistance from him.
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After his victory in February 2009, it was also believed that Mimiko will defect from Labour Party (LP), the party which he contested the election to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Tinubu’s party. That never happened.
Angered by his treachery, Tinubu withdrew support for Mimiko and backed Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo state held in October 2012. Mimiko, who has the sympathy of the then PDP government under former President Goodluck Jonathan won again. He later joined the PDP in 2014.
During the 2016 governorship election in the state widely regarded as the Sunshine state, Tinubu was said to have endorsed one of his ally, Dr. Segun Abraham. Abraham however lost the primary to Akeredolu, who became the eventual winner of the governorship election.
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Ahead of the October 19 governorship election in the state, even though Tinubu has not publicly endorsed any of the aspirant, many of the aspirants who believed that he is opposed to Governor Akeredolu’s reaction have been seeking his endorsement in order to have the upper hand in the primary fixed for next week Monday.
The aspirants cleared to contest the primary election are: Governor Rotimi Akeredolu; Mr. Joseph Olusola Iji; Odimayo John; Olayide Adelami; Kekemeke Isaacs; Olusola Oke; Ifeoluwa Oyedele; Olajumoke Anifowoshe; Awodeyi Akinola; Adetula Olarogha; Dr. Abraham Olusegun and Dr. Nathaniel Adojutelegan.
Based on information from some of the aspirants and some party leaders , Daily Independent had reported that while Tinubu is opposed to Akeredolu’s reelection, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state and Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Ogun state are leading the battle to ensure Akeredolu is reelected.
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Asiwaju however refuted the report saying he is not opposed to the re-election bid of Governor Akeredolu but wishes him well in his aspirations.
In a statement made available to Daily Independent titled ‘Re: Ondo Guber Poll May Lead to Crisis in South-West APC’, signed by Tunde Rahman, his media aide, Tinubu also said he has no anointed candidate in the Ondo governorship election and he is not seeking to influence the outcome of the primary scheduled to hold on July 20.
According to him, all he desires is a free, fair and credible primary that is “is run according to the dictates of internal democracy and are devoid of bias for or against any candidate”.
“In the matter of Ondo governorship race, Asiwaju Tinubu has stated his impartiality. As a leader of the party, he has no favoured or disfavoured candidate in the race. Neither is he trying to influence matters behind the scene in any regard”.
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“His hope is that all credible and strong party members who seek the nomination will be able to face each other in a fair contest. Let them compete for the party’s banner openly and without imbalance or slant in the contest”.
“Whoever reaches the finish line before the others, shall be the nominee of the party for the elections later this year. Asiwaju will gladly and actively stand by the party’s candidate to win the general election”.
“It is at that point that you will see Asiwaju in strong action in support of a candidate. When you see him in action there shall be no mistake as to what his objectives are. The APC candidate will have a formidable ally at his side”.
“Thus, the suggestion given by the report that Asiwaju has a favourite candidate is a fabrication of great falsity. Thus, he will not roil if a candidate is disqualified provided that the disqualification is based on a non-biased examination of the factual record”.
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“Interestingly, the party’s Screening Committee led by Alhaji Tumsa has not officially stated that it has disqualified any aspirant. If any aspirant is disqualified, however, such an aspirant has the right of appeal”.
Speaking further, Tinubu said he wishes Governor Akeredolu well and he believes the governor should be given the opportunity to present his scorecard to party members who will then determine if they want him to continue in office or not.
While saying primaries promotes competition of ideas and programmes, Tinubu added that primary should not be seen as a form of disrespect to incumbent governors
“Those who try to pit Asiwaju Tinubu against Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu should also cease their fable rousing. Asiwaju holds good will toward Governor Akeredolu. He believes the governor should have the opportunity to set out his record and resume before party members and let them determine if the governor or another one of our able candidates is the person they prefer to lead the state”.
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“One would expect the governor to have a solid chance in the primaries. Yet, along with the governor, the party has the benefit of numerous capable candidates seeking the nomination”.
“Too many people incorrectly see a strong field of candidates as something wrong. They do not understand democracy and are thus behind the times. Allowing those who feel the civic duty free space to run for office strengthens the party and our overall democracy”.
“There should be competition of ideas and programs. Such competition brings vitality. This does not connote disrespect to the incumbent. It merely exalts the democratic ideal”.
“In the end, Asiwaju is for the party and the candidate chosen by the party, who that will be, the primary will tell us” the statement reads.
Reacting to the statement, Benjamin Akindola, a chieftain of the APC in Ondo said Tinubu has proven that he is a father to all and he is passionate about unity in the South-West. He added that with Tinubu’s position, all the aspirants can go into the primary with utmost confidence that there is a level playing field for all and whoever clinches the ticket will have the maximum support from Tinubu in the October 10 governorship election.
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“We are happy with the statement from Asiwaju that he has no anointed candidate in the primary but will throw his weight behind whoever emerges the party’s candidate. It has really doused the political tension in the state ahead of the primary and has also provided a level playing field for all the aspirants. It also portrays Asiwaju as father who of all who is passionate about unity in the South-West” he said.