Ondo 2016: Dangerous curves For APC

APC National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun

APC National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun

On paper, the All Progressives Congress (APC) sees the forthcoming governorship poll in Ondo as a walkover. The party is puffed up by the belief that the prevailing uncertainty in the leadership organogram at the headquarters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a blessing in disguise for it. Secondly, APC sees the eight years of Governor Olusegun Mimiko as a basket of wasted opportunities. On top of the narrative is the thinking that backed by the federal might, APC would have a ready winning campaign slogan that would convince Ondo voters to join the winning team.

2015 election showed how easily the myth of power of incumbency could be broken. But for Ondo 2016, the scenarios are far from similar. Mimiko has tried to give a good account of himself in the administration of the sunshine state. Yet, even as the governorship election may turn out as a referendum on his stewardship, the returns from the investment in the mainstream by other Southwest states do not turn out to be so tempting.

If the eight years of Mimiko would be placed side by side with the 18 months of the APC, voters may not have much nail biting to do in trying to choose their governor. What that translates to is that the stress would be on the individual candidates. And that is where the APC challenge would prove herculean.

As at the last count, the party parades not less than 46 aspirants, including the pretenders, providers as well as the comedians. Sieving the seeds from the chaff is not usually an easy task. Consequently, thinning down the number would no doubt present a hard bargain for the party leaders. Would they adopt a lucky dip or follow the windy path of internal democracy?

Organising a rancour-free governorship shadow election would be the first curve for APC. What would make the governorship primary very testy for APC in Ondo State is also the challenge of zoning, because if the party falls for the growing sentiment of zoning, which it regards as antithetical to the change mantra, the party would find midway that what starts by dividing will continue to divide. Would the best emerge through zoning? Could APC close its eyes to the geopolitics in the bid to enthrone meritocracy and democracy?

The trickiness of zoning for APC in Ondo is made worse by the nature of its merger ratios. In 2012, the leaders of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had big trouble in their hands over the choice of the party’s candidate. Most party faithful saw the emergence of Wole Olanipekun as a product of imposition and still point to that primary mishap as being responsible for the party’s loss of the governorship poll.

There are indications that chieftains of APC believe that the shortcut out of the challenge of embarking on open governorship primary is to uphold Olanipekun’s right of first refusal by asserting his candidacy in one of the leading legacy parties. Those who moot this plan argue that leaving the door to the APC ticket unmanned would mess up the attempt to infuse party discipline in tandem with progressive politics of the Southwest.

The unstated intention of those plotting a shortcut to the nomination of the party’s candidate is said to be to shrink the possibility of an outsider (joiners) or defectors from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to clinch the ticket. It is an open secret that the ACN landlords are bent on fielding one of its own as the APC candidate, if nothing else, to ingratiate the founding fathers of the party in the zone.

All eyes may be on the APC in the forthcoming governorship, but the party should not lose sight of the many curves on its path to another major political battle with its old rival, the PDP. The governorship primary and the challenge of zoning, both among the senatorial districts and local government councils within the senatorial zones and among the various tendencies that came together to form APC, are by no means no small hurdle for the party.

While the party boasts that it would use the governorship election to test the perceived popularity of Governor Mimiko, the structural defects within the APC could be the party’s greatest undoing. The plans by the major founding political parties, ACN and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to go their separate ways in 2019 have become so glaring that selling APC as the path to mainstream could become incredulous.

With these latent issues, the political situation in the state leading to the November 26 guber poll is made very interesting. This is because while the outgoing incumbent would proudly point at his achievements, the APC may fall into the trap by trying to pick holes in his claims, thereby opening its candidate for distraction and possible diminution.

If that likely scenario unfolds, it would be hard for the APC candidate to market his/her programmes, thereby making Governor Mimiko and his performance the subject of the campaign. In such a situation, the APC in Ondo and its candidate would find itself trying to justify the past 18 months of the federal government.

APC and other parties seeking to stand as third force in the state, including the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Accord Party (AP), seem to be falling for this bait already in their reference to the severe electoral blow suffered by the PDP at the 2015 general elections. They seem to prime their structures and strategies to defeat Mimiko, who parades a record of two major electoral victories so far.

Losing sight of the looming dangers ahead of his party, especially how to select its flag bearer, the state chairmen of APC, Isaac Kekemeke, has been declaring with audacity at every spot that whoever APC fields for the election would be better qualified and therefore able to beat Governor Mimiko’s candidate on the PDP platform during the governorship poll.

However, as the timeline set by INEC for the conduct of primaries from August 18 to September 19, draws near, APC aspirants have started tangling against each other for the party’s flag. Even as the party has ruled out zoning and pledged a level ground for all aspirants, the south and central senatorial districts are looking forward to grab the ticket. That is despite the sentiment of aspirants from the northern district that it is their turn to produce the next governor.

The north seems to be emboldened in that stand on the discovery that the agitation for rotation and zoning necessitated the growing number of aspirants (almost seventy percent of the party’s aspirants). Yet most of the aspirants numbering about 51 are described by observers as including “mere political jokers and entertainers, whose motivation is to swell the contents of their political Curriculum Vitae (CV).”

While the politicking in APC goes down to the rural areas, the emergence of two broad categorizations of aspirants has become discernible. They include the aborigines, referring to those that trace their roots from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the “new comers,” made up mostly of defectors. Defectors refer to those that joined the party after the March 28, presidential election. They are also derided and dismissed as ‘food time visitors’.

Most of the aspirants from the Ondo North senatorial district hail from the homogenous Akoko area, which people are spread in four local government councils. Visible aspirants from there include early risers like Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, Victor Olabimtan and Chief Olusegun Abraham. Legal practitioner, Odunayo Akeredolu and Chief Jamiu Ekungba hail from Owo LGA.

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ACNAPCOlusegun Mimiko
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