Ondo APC Primaries: Hard Lessons from Rotimi Akeredolu's Historic Victory

Rotimi Akeredolu
The keenly contested All Progressives Congress primary election in Ondo State has left both the inexperienced and experienced political players with life lessons to take home.

This corroborates the view that life is a teacher; the more we live, the more we learn. In fact, learning only stops when one dies.

50 party chieftains reportedly signified interest in the governorship position in the oil rich state. 25 summoned courage to buy the nomination form; 1 aspirant opted out during the screening process and 4 others finally stepped down in alliance with the politician that had the 'Olive oil' on his head - Olusegun Abraham. This left 20 political juggernauts jostling for the number one position of the Sunshine State under an opposition party. What a tight competition!

Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (Aketi) emerged as the flag-bearer of the party with a slim victory of 34 votes after garnering 669 votes in the Saturday, 3rd of September electoral exercise. Chief Olusegun Abraham, the rumoured anointed candidate of the 'Jagaban of Nigerian politics' - Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu finished behind Aketi with 635 votes. Another major contender, Chief Olusola Oke, a decampee from the People's Democratic Party scored 576 votes and Senator Ajayi Boroffice came fourth with 471 votes. Other aspirants shared residual figures.

Aketi, the white-bearded legal luminary enjoyed unprecedented support from the party even in the face of the crisis of imposition and the selling of votes by some delegates which reportedly almost marred the credibility of the electoral process as votes were sold for N100, 000 to N500, 000 according to media reports.

Aketi's emergence is far from sheer luck or mere coincidence as some random social media commenters have myopically asserted. His success was a product of concerted efforts and painstakingly mapped out strategies with selfless sacrifices.

Aketi woke up to the realization of his position as a 'man of the people' overnight, a force of change with the prowess to alter the status quo. Aketi learned hard lessons from his abysmal performance at the gubernatorial race under the banner of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the year 2013.

Aketi was bad-mouthed and taunted about being a product of imposition in 2012. He was accused of being more attached to Ibadan, Oyo State by detractors. His traducers also alleged that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria isn't politically grounded to join the race of the Alagbaka Government House. A prominent politician in his party once called him a 'stranger' in the system who was introduced by powerful hands. Aketi was accused of abandoning the party after the poor outcome of the 2013 gubernatorial election. They mocked him about losing his ward in Owo to Governor Olusegun Mimiko during the election.

But one thing stands in life; there is nobody that is immune to failure. There is no individual that hasn't fallen in his life while pursuing one engagement or the other. The most important feature of winners is their ability to utilize judiciously their past mistakes and experience in tackling future challenges for the purpose of achieving breakthrough. Aketi picked himself up after falling. He looked back at the stone that tripped his movement and resorted to threading that path punctiliously for a second time.

As Aketi said in an interview, he never left Ondo State after the gubernatorial election loss. He oversaw the merger of the party (ACN) with the Congress for Progressive Change and others. Aketi tended to the wounds of his people in the last 3 years and listened to their grievances more.
Aketi conscientiously toured all the 18 Local Government Areas in Ondo not for campaign purposes but to sit with the people's representatives and understand their predicaments. He spoke their languages with them and introduced his gospel of hope to the despondent after the 8 years of misrule by Governor Olusegun Mimiko that has seen the civil servants in the state being reduced to beggars that desperately scramble for rice in public places just to eat and feed their families due to the non-payment of salaries overtime.

Aketi sweated and toiled under the sun and in the rain appealing to the conscience of men, women and even children at the grassroots. Other major aspirants within the APC stuck to the old order of politics. They ignored the people and pursued 'godfathers' in the quest for 'powerful endorsements' which has in the past militated against the performances of promising leaders with proven integrity.
Some others relied on money as they placed price tags on delegates which they effectively met. For example, one of the gubernatorial aspirants, Jamiu Afolabi Ekungba reportedly admitted in public during an outburst that he spent over N300 million to secure delegates who ended up betraying him at the polls.
Some others lived on the rumours of imposition and intra-party crisis to gain political relevance.
Even when the Ondo APC party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke was thrown out of office, gates of the party secretariat in Akure locked, laced with protestation posters and dramatically transformed into an 'Okija shrine' as part of the intrigues of the heat of the approaching primary election which was postponed multiple times, Aketi was calm.

Aketi issued a press statement calling for peace amidst the crises associated with positions of power. He was more concerned about the free and fair conduct of the primary election, the safety of aspirants, delegates and other party members.
The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association was more bothered about he reputation of the party as 'positive change agents' and also setting a good legacy for the younger generation which most politicians have failed to do by using them selfishly to orchestrate electoral violence.

Insiders in Ondo State were predicting a landslide victory at the primary for Aketi prior to the poll before 'tragedy' struck. Strong rumours also reported in the newspapers have it that some aspirants invoked a 'money rain'. Aketi allegedly lost about half of his delegates to the influence of money. They were bought; the current economic recession exposed the delegates and made the work of unscrupulous politicians easier. But Nigerians have always proven that we are not totally corrupt people. Some delegates even in the face of hunger and unlimited cogent needs stood their grounds with a strong focus on the future; hence, the slim but significant victory of the Owo native.

Based on subjectivity, one could say Aketi who is being regarded as the biblical David that fell Goliath (a coalition of Tinubu, Ondo APC party Chairman - Isaac Kekemeke and other party executives who rooted for Olusegun Abraham) was highly favoured by Providence as events played out in his favour.

According to the Vanguard, the protest votes by delegates from both the North and Central Senatorial Districts helped Akeredolu cruise to sensational victory. Ondo people detest the politics of imposition which is a refined 'indirect rule system'. This scuttled the chances of Abraham's emergence as APC's gubernatorial flag-bearer.

Furthermore, what worked for Akeredolu again was that the votes from the four local government areas of Akoko were divided between Boroffice and Abraham. Had the people of Akoko spoken in one voice, Akeredolu's victory would have been the opposite.

Unconfirmed reports also have it that Akeredolu who raked immense support from Owo and Ose delegates enjoyed significant backing from the Presidency as some party bigwigs were bent on clipping the wings of Tinubu in the South-west ahead of the 2019 general elections.

One day, it is hoped that the rejuvenated and highly optimistic Aketi with the legendary American boxer, Muhammed Ali's style of bragging will tell his story and inspire youths who are struggling to recover from the scars of the past. At times, it is imperative to lose today so as to win big in the future which I believe defines Aketi's political journey thus far.

A lot has changed in the last four years. There is a difference between the Aketi of the year 2012 and the current Aketi of 2016.

It is hoped that the party's gubernatorial aspirants are not treated as losers because they were never losers. They never lost. APC won. It is expected that they bury the hatchet, sheathe their swords and join hands with Aketi to uproot the remains of Mimiko in Ondo State by beating the People's Democratic candidate, Eyitayo Jegede (Mimiko's stooge) in the forthcoming November 26 governorship election in the State.

Think Anew! Think Aketi!! God bless Ondo State.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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