Dr. Tunji Abayomi, a human rights lawyer, was a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo state. He recently spoke on Channelstv on the outcome of the exercise saying the process that produced Chief Rotimi Akeredolu was commendable. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, who monitored the session, brings the excerpts:
You said Senator Bola Tinubu was going to impose a candidate in the just concluded APC primary in Ondo state. With what eventually played out, don’t you think you are wrong?
That was the intention as at that time. It was based on a meeting held in his premises with the officials of the party in the state. There was a directive to follow a particular aspirant and to work for that aspirant to emerge. All of that in my view was contrary to the expectations of due process as well as the honour of political competitiveness.
Some people believe that you are just aggrieved because you lost the Asiwaju Tinubu, and you raised that issue in the letter you wrote to him, how true is that?
He also raised that in his letter to me. If you recall, I responded that I have never asked for his support. If I am going to serve the people of Ondo state and I feel this should be the pre-occupation of every aspirant to concentrate on asking for the support of the people of Ondo state. I have only discussed with him twice the issue of Ondo governorship and I cited the two examples. The first time was when he invited me in the presence of a very close friend to him and citizen of Ondo state, Chief Pius Akinyelure to formally notify me of the imposition, you might say of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu who is now the party’s governorship candidate. Of course, I made my position clear. It was a three-hour dialogue or you might say three-hour disagreement. I didn’t change my position that I consider it inappropriate that if you are reading for an exam and before you get into the exam hall, you are told that somebody is first in the exam that you have actually not taken. I consider that inappropriate. The other time was when I was actually confronting him after losing the election despite the energy and resources I put into it. That was the two times we discussed the issue of Ondo state. I have never asked him for any support.
How close are you to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
We are very close friend, quite close.
But why are you always in disagreement with him each time he is not going to endorse you as candidate?
On the two occasions, we have discussed this extensively and the disagreement lasted for a period of three hours. I maintained my position that in my view, it is inappropriate to do that. Now we are talking about it again. My thinking is that the party itself, just as individuals within the party ought to have learnt the lessons of change. One of the lessons of change in my view is to ensure that what we did in the past that led to us losing an election when we needed not to have lost it, now we need to make a difference. It was Abraham Lincoln who said “you cannot bring about change if you walk on a beaten path; you’ve got to burn a path for distinction. I think the distinction we made is to ensure due process, which in any case, across the expectations of almost everybody.
You said Akeredolu was imposed in 2012, this time around, who is imposing him?
When I was raised this issue, we are not in a sense forced to go through due process. We have held a number of meetings in order to ensure that the process is free and fair and free from undue influence. We will not have succeeded to achieve that. Now, we have a primary that raised a candidate. I believe that the primary has done very well in bringing about a candidate. There is no imposition about Akeredolu .
You are close with Tinubu, so can you tell us if there is disagreement with him and Akeredolu?
There is a form of disagreement regarding who should be the national legal adviser of the party. There is a preference that Asiwaju Tinubu has which of course, is not acceptable to Akeredolu; but this is just minor issues in my view. You can disagree with your fiend without becoming disagreeable. I don’t think the issue of imposition was relevant now with reference to Akeredolu.
The primary that saw to the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu as APC governorship candidate, is it a fair process one of the aspirant, Olusola Oke said it is characterised by fraud?
Yes, it is very fair in my view. I can stand tall and talk about it as a free and fair exercise. What Oke said is just a statement, he has to give particulars. It is possible that there were non-delegates who voted at the primary but we are not talking about a perfect situation. Even if non-delegates voted, I will still consider the primary as fair because in a normal election, the mere fact that we have irregularities does not mean the outcome is faulty. The point I am making is that they have to supply evidence to back up their claim. I spoke with Olusola Oke and he told me that 147 names were injected into the delegates list and I said ‘assuming that is true, how are you sure they didn’t vote for you?’ You are talking of knocking off the victory of Akeredolu. In order to do that, you need to show that not just that there were irregularities, but that irregularity is imputable to him. That is the law.
Some people claimed they were picked on the streets and paid to vote as delegates at the primary, what is your response to that?
My response to that is just simple. First and foremost, there is nowhere in the world, under any circumstances that this evidence is considered probative of anything; for somebody to come out and say they were given money to come and vote. That is nothing that is not an evidence of any kind. The second issue is, if you can take money to go and vote, you can also take lesser money to go and lie. So, this is not a serious issue as far as I am concerned. But what I want to say is that the process itself, was quite commendable.