Many would have thought that the contest to pick the governorship ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Ondo State for the October polls would be tough and acrimonious.
Rather the process that threw up a one-time president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu was easy and devoid of schism associated with such exercise but it left in its wake bad blood and tension which the leadership of the party is still battling to douse.
An initial move to conduct primaries on Saturday, June 17, was cancelled for some yet to be known reasons but after a meeting of party elders and other stakeholders in the Lagos residence of the ACN Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Owo born legal practitioner emerged over and above all other aspirants said to have numbered about 32 as at the last count.
Though coming as a huge surprise to pundits who are of the firm believe that any other established aspirants in the pool could have been picked ahead of Akeredolu but it turned out that in the end, he was favoured over and above others that jostled for the ticket.
His choice is the climax of years of intensive lobbying of the top hierarchy of the party by aspirants, who had been doing so personally or through their proxies who had continued to besiege the sprawling Lagos residence of Tinubu.
Sources within the party told LEADERSHIP that the party had long settled for the legal practitioner as the ACN’s candidate in the October poll, when the party hopes to unseat the incumbent, Rahman Olusegun Mimiko.
A source said several factors came into place in his choice, ranging from loyalty to the course of the party, zoning arrangement, clout and credibility.
Akeredolu is said to have used his position as the head of the NBA, the umbrella body of the lawyers in the country to help push numerous political agenda of the ACN over time. “What the party did was to reward his loyalty, which has been of immense benefit over time”, the source said.
Another major consideration that influenced his emergence was the need to balance the geo-political equation of the state. Akeredolu hails from Owo, one of the component units of Ondo North Constituency. It was reasoned that since the Akoko speaking people have produced both the senator for the area and the serving deputy governor and the former governor, late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, an Owo indigene should be allowed to become governor this time.
Also, since this was Akeredolu’s first foray into the murky waters of politics, he would be easily be sold to the people of the state as he is seen as carrying little or no baggage that could likely mar his campaign.
The source added, “One advantage that he (Akeredolu) has is that he has never been in politics before, this is actually his first time as a full time politician; so we believe that unlike the others, he doesn’t carry any negative tag with him.”
?It was also gathered that since he has maintained an untainted legal practice over the years, his credibility and record of probity will stand him in good stead.
But a section of the party has rejected the choice of Akeredolu as the flag bearer of the party faulting the process that threw him up as falling short of democratic norms and value.
Specifically, the ACN youth wing, operating under the aegis of Sunshine Liberation Front, has spurned the decision. The group’s director of publicity, Segun Odidi, said the process that threw up Akeredolu amounted to imposition, threatening to fight it to the very end.
Odidi said, “We reject totally the choice of Akeredolu as this cannot lead the party to anywhere. For obvious reasons, the SLF has in the last one year been putting machinery in motion and we have been working tirelessly to ensure that the ACN wins the coming governorship election in the state, but our morale was dampened with this kind of choice.”
About 10 other aspirants have also rejected the choice of Akeredolu and have vowed to challenge the decision in court. Many of the aspirants complain that they were not allowed to test their popularity through free and credible primaries describing the choice of Akeredolu as an imposition.
Time will tell how events will pan out; perhaps all the thorny issues would have been resolved by the top brass of the party prior before the state congress where his candidature is expected to be rectified by members.